Our Family’s Paris Accord – A Year Later

All non-hippies or those who don’t enjoy puffed bulgur and braiding their underarm hair may ignore this post.

A year and a month ago, I showed “Before the Flood” to Tex. That coupled with Trumps defection from the Paris accord caused our family to write our own Paris accord and make some large scale changes to how we live. I wrote about the initial progress a couple months in after we received our cargo trike but since then, haven’t offered any updates. Here is how we have been doing on all our environmental goals. We met every single goal on our accord except for the number of car free days.

 

Eating less beef

We have done that. Despite having cattle ranchers as relatives, we have done that, which is impressive. It helps that cousins have started raising pigs and chickens, meaning that my city slicker self has someone to turn to when we start raising our own non bovine livestock. Ultimately, we didn’t feel this change keenly.

 

Using the car less

I will be honest and say that we failed to meet our lofty goal of driving only 15,000 kilometers a year but met our lower goal of reducing our mileage by 6,000 kilometers. Most people put approximately 20,000 kilometers on a vehicle per year and the majority of families have two vehicles or more, meaning that they drive about 40,000 kilometers a year. We have one car and previous to our agreement, had been putting about 25,000+ kilometers on each year. Because of Tex’s work which required him to frequently visit the city and the distance to said major city, we ended up putting 19,000 kilometers on the car which was over a 20% improvement on the previous year. We hope to decrease that next year.

 

Car free days

Our au pair was not a fan of the bike and chose to use the stroller when it was warm and discreetly take the car keys when it was cold. Between this and the significant amount of time we spent living in the big city without our bike so Tex could receive training for his job, it meant that we had fewer car free days this winter than hoped. Our goal was 115 car free days last year. I think we had around 80. Given that we spent five and half months in a city without our bikes, I think that’s pretty good. I absolutely think we will achieve that goal this year as Tex has completed all of his training this year and will remain at home for eleven months this year.

At home, we do not use the car. Even in the winter Tex would pack up our son and ride off to the grocery store. My personal favourite example of Tex choosing the bike over the car was when he took Mini-Tex to see the Christmas lights around town. They were out for an hour and our son came back with his eyes alight and red little cheeks. Boy was he delighted. In the car, our little boy faces backwards so he rarely has the view we do and will often miss things, but on the bike, he faces the same direction so it’s more fun.

Both Mini-Tex and myself will be acquiring neoprene masks so that we can bike comfortably in the winter. This is Tex’s get up in order to get to work on the coldest of days.

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This gear could also be used in the Antarctic or on the moon. Photo Credit : Tex

I should also mention that although I have NEVER received as much respect as a cyclist as I have in our small town- people will regularly move over to the other side of the road to give me a full lane when passing, Tex did not have the same experience in the winter. The amount of snow we receive is so great that it builds up along the roads and takes up about a lane, narrowing the streets. Around about December, Tex was forced to put a pool noodle on his bike to remind motorists to give him space. Since the spring thaw, he’s removed the tube of green foam, but it is still in our shed for next winter. Tex also bikes home from work at 12 AM on occasion, so he needs extra visibility and space.

Tex’s bike’s odometer just passed 800 while our cargo trike passed 1300. If anything, I see us increasing the mileage on our bikes and decreasing the mileage on the car this year.

 

Air travel

This was a sensitive point of shame for me, as air travel is one of the worst actions one can take in terms of environmental impact. I made two unplanned trips home this past year in addition to making stopovers while en route to a conference for Tex’s work- both there and back.

My Grandma passed away in February. One trip was to see her before she died and the other was to attend her funeral. While I am happy that I chose to spend time with my family during the difficult and sad period, ultimately Tex and I have decided that the cost of the travel was far too great for the environment, a strain on our finances and caused a great deal of personal stress for our family, so we will be remaining at home for quite a while. My goal is to fly only once this year for a wedding.

 

Reducing packaging and waste

We bought in bulk this year. A lot, which was a challenge because the bulk products available in town are limited. Meaning that each time we visited the big city, on our way to Tex’s training, we would stop at a bulk store and fill up every single one of our available containers.

I am proud to say that even when we were in the city, I continued to compost. The biggest challenge was finding local hippies. Luckily there was a large garden with a composter down the street from where we rented an apartment. So I showed up one morning and asked very sweetly if I could empty my giant bag of eggshells and vegetable peels into it. Between my short stature, my high voice and my bright clothing choices, I’m often mistaken for someone much younger. So this man, whose door I knocked on, rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and silently questioned himself why a child was holding a bag or organic waste then said “yes”. Boy was I happy.

 

Increasing our dependence and support of renewable energy

The solar panels were installed at the farm last August and have been chugging along ever since then. We have discussed installing more panels when we move there to support the energy required for an electric car as well as an electric furnace.

 

No internet

This isn’t really an environmental move so much as a lifestyle move, although it does mean fewer electronics are plugged in at our home. We got rid of our internet at the end of December and I finally chucked my smartphone in February. I have not regretted either decision once. Tex has a limited amount of data, meaning that if I want to use the internet, I head to the library.

All libraries offer free wifi. All librarians are helpful. Spending more time at a library has NEVER hurt anyone ever and more than likely will result in more reading and learning.

For me personally, no internet means more space to think. My time is not absorbed by social media or random click bait that I am want to fall prey to. I’ve read more books since getting rid of the internet and my smartphone, I’ve felt like a more engaged and attentive parent. But the most creatively rewarding aspect has been the effect it has had on my writing. While I haven’t been posting here, I have been writing up a storm for other projects, a feat I’m quite proud of. Ultimately this has been an excellent choice for me, although it annoys and confounds the living hell out of my family.

I must say that Mini-Tex misses music. Any grandparents out there are permitted to buy him children’s soundtracks, or his most coveted music- the Frozen soundtrack. Aside from that, a paper map in the car has replaced Google maps, in addition to an increased sense of direction on my part.

A year later, that’s where we are. I can’t wait for the environmental goals we will reach in the coming year.

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Horrible Thigh Discoveries, Cut Backs and Pride

We’re two months into our family’s Paris Accord. In June, my husband and I pledged to reduce our family’s carbon footprint by putting more kilometers on our bikes, fewer on our car and changing our consumption habits. Those were some pretty big promises, so let’s see how we’re doing.

On the bike odometer front everything is fantastic. When we initially purchased our Nihola Family bike, given how late in the season it arrived, we thought that 500 kilometers was an ambitious number. Just before I sat down to pen this post, the odometer read 633, based on our current usage of our cargo trike, we estimate that we’ll hit 1500 kilometers before the snow flies. Mini-Tex has actually started referring to the Nihola as a “car” because he’s in it so often, whereas our actual car sits ignored on our driveway. Funny enough, Mini-Tex recognizes the other cars on the road as cars though too.

As a mode of transportation, I LOVE the Nihola. For me, being able to lean over the handlebars and check in with Mini-Tex while riding is worth the extra money we paid over getting a cheaper cargo attachment for the back of the bike. The front holds at least a week’s worth of groceries in addition to our son. My personal favourite moment was when Tex arrived home with the bike packed to the gills with food. “Don’t worry” he assured me “I belted in the milk”. Tex had used the extra seat and Y-belt attachment to secure the 4 litre jug so it wouldn’t bounce around, hitting our son during the ride home.

There is one drawback to all the biking we’ve been doing. I was settling myself in for a relaxing hot bath when I looked down and realized there was more of me. I wasn’t pregnant, I hadn’t gained weight, but my thighs were HUUUUUUGE. “Tex!” I called from the bathtub, my voice panicked. My husband burst into the bathroom, shoe in hand, poised to obliterate the offending spider that had caused my scream. Upon a negative inspection for any insects he looked at me questioningly. “Are my thighs bigger?” I asked hoping for a no or at least a lie. “Ummmm, you could use a lower gear” my husband kindly suggested. So if you hear a giant rip tearing through cyberspace, don’t worry, your computer is fine, it’s just the sound of my shorts giving way. Aside from that, I’m enjoying our new lifestyle.

Onto the next bike; Tex pledged to ride 400 kilometers. This is the part of our accord that makes my heart swell with pride. As an avid pedestrian and experienced cyclist myself, I knew eschewing the car for other modes of transportation would be a breeze, but for my “man-van” loving husband, the dramatic change in lifestyle could be viewed as an inconvenient hurdle added to both sides of his long work day. True to his nature, when Tex decides to commit to an idea, he jumps in with both feet. The last I checked, his odometer read 196 kilometers, well on the way to 400 before the end of October, and this is in addition to the 30 kilometers my husband put on my bike, riding back and forth to work while he was servicing his ride. At his job, he’s being called “The New Alex”, a former coworker who rode through rain, sleet and snow. Tex loves the recognition and the extra workout as he’s dropped ten pounds in a month. In summary, the biking aspect of our agreement is going swimmingly… er bikingly?

Cutting down our usage of the van was another section of the accord that I anticipated being a challenge for Tex. Often for our jobs, especially Tex’s, we are required to make the 700 kilometer round trip commute from our town in the middle of nowhere, to the nearest metropolis. With a goal of driving only 15,000 kilometers in a year, those types of trips add up fast. Tex quickly recognized this and started investigating opportunities to carpool. In addition to already carpooling to the metropolis twice, Tex took the bus when he was in the big city. His enthusiasm and willingness to search for alternatives means of transportation have impressed me immensely and made my heart swell with pride. It makes me feel hopeful for what our family will accomplish in the coming months and hopefully years.

In terms of our consumption of goods and foods, publishing the post “Trump is Not Your Tragedy: Make Your Own Paris Accord”, expressed my thoughts and feelings about the environment and my personal goals to my extended family. It’s opened up discussions and I feel like my choices are better understood and respected, whereas before my family might have brushed them off as “Unwashed’s silly hippie-isms”.

Personally, I’ve been searching for ways to use more local products and to cut down on packaged goods. Unfortunately most of our packaged food comes from Mini-Tex’s snacks. So I’ve been baking up a storm, and then watching as Mini-Tex crumbles the healthy mini muffins in his toddler fist, throws the crumbs on the floor and then asks earnestly for “fish, fish”. As I have no interest in watching my son starve to death or return to exclusively breastfeeding (an option he would love), so I cave and hand him some of Pepperidge Farm’s best.

We still have a number of changes on our radar. Tex discovered a local flour mill, so we’ll be biking there in the near future. I heard through the grape vine that a farmer around here has local eggs so I’ll be following that trail as well. Tex is also contemplating applying for an elk tag, which would provide us with lots of local red meat that has a significantly lower carbon footprint than cattle because the animals exist naturally in the wild.

So that’s where we are. Do any of those points inspire ideas in your family? Are you enjoying biking or walking in this beautiful summer weather? Do you have any green suggestions for us?