How can we mitigate global warming?


#1

While there is debate raging on in the non-scientific community about whether anthropogenic global warming is a reality, popes and bishops have called us to take the prudent course of mitigating it, even if we personally are not convinced it is happening.

I'd like this thread to address sensible ways we can mitigate global warming -- reduce our greenhouse gases -- and not as a place to discuss whether or not AGW is happening (there are plenty of threads on CAF addressing that).

For starters I'd propose ways in which we can become more energy/ resource conservative/efficient and go on alt energy when feasible. Things like "reduce, reuse, recycle, etc." My own experience tells me we can reduce substantially without lowering living standards or productivity. My husband and I have done so over the last 22 years, reducing perhaps over 60% of our GHGs from our 1990 levels cost-effectively, while actually increasing our living standards a bit.

Already someone on another thread has informed us that the "check engine" light in our cars may indicate gasoline is not burning efficiently, causing local pollution problems and contributing to AGW. Another person on another blog mentioned how shaking out clothes before putting them in the dryer shortens drying time and reduced energy use. There are a myriad of sensible solutions that if practiced wide-scale could make some difference. It is not necessary to do everything, only the things that suit the personal situation of the person, including their recreations (which we all need to avoid going berzerk).

Also, I think many solutions not only reduce GHG emissions, but reduce other environmental pollutants and problems (such as non-renewable resource depletion), and many save money -- so it becomes a win-win-win-win situation.

There are also "downsides" to many solutions, so it is good to try and figure out if on balance they do more good than harm, or if there could be solutions to the problems the solutions raise.

BTW, I am against food-to-fuel biofuels, Cap & Trade (mainly bec it would be ineffective), and many ill-conceived geo-engineering schemes. I'm not opposed to larger GHG reduction schemes in general, but tend to prefer volunatry personal/family measures, which in the final analysis will be the main way we solve this problem, if we decide to solve it.

On a final note, I think it is within Catholicism to live a more simple, detached life, focused more fully on God, than on not-God things. As a lay Carmelite (OCDS), this is a position dear to my heart -- even though my life is cluttered with not-God things, and I have a long way to go on my spiritual journey.

Bless you for any suggestions or debate over various solutions.


#2

Are you sure the Holy Father has specifically called catholics to "mitigate global warming" or is that your interpretation of more general calls to be good stewards of creation?

If you could provide specific quotes it would bolster your claim.

Thanks.


#3

Here are a few sources for starters:

Today the ecological crisis has assumed such proportions as to be the responsibility of everyone…The…‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions…”
–Pope John Paul II, “Peace With All Creation,” 1990,
vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/peace/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19891208_xxiii-world-day-for-peace_en.html

If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation…Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace…Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us…Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change… attention also needs to be paid to the world-wide problem of water and to the global water cycle system, which is of prime importance for life on earth and whose stability could be seriously jeopardized by climate change”
– Pope Benedict XVI, “If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,” 2010, vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091208_xliii-world-day-peace_en.html

“We believe our response to global climate change should be a sign of our respect for God’s creation”
–U.S. Bishops, 2001, “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good,” U.S. Conf. of Catholic Bishops, usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/global-climate-change-a-plea-for-dialogue-prudence-and-the-common-good.cfm

“Even though energy resources literally fuel our economy…we need to ask about ways we can conserve energy, prevent pollution, and live more simply.” --U.S. Bishops, “Global Climate Change”

"…our response to the challenge of climate change must be rooted in the virtue of prudence…[M]ost experts agree that something significant is happening to the atmosphere. Human behavior and activity are…contributing to a warming of the earth’s climate…Consequently, it seems prudent…to take steps now to mitigate possible negative effects in the future.
– U.S. Bishops, “Global Climate Change”
I know there is much more and esp BXVI has repeatedly called for action on climate change, and in fact both he and JPII have themselves been working on reducing the Vatican’s GHG emissions by installing solar panels, etc.

Hope this helps. And bless you for asking.

I’ll be posting some of my ideas re how to mitigate shortly.


#4

I'll be posting about more specific GW mitigation measures we've employed, but here's how I approach it and other environmental problems -- through THE LITTLE WAY OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALING:

We are faced with enormous environmental problems that kill people, and destroy property and wildlife. Everyone needs to help solve these.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus teaches us the Little Way of Spiritual Childhood. She felt she could not perform the big mortifications of the saints. We also feel we cannot go back to a lifestyle without cars and modern conveniences.

St. Therese, though, was determined to become a saint. She read, "Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it." Following this, St. Therese in childlike simplicity offered God all of her small deeds of ordinary life, and placed all her trust in God to help her scale the cliffs of perfection and avoid temptations. This is the Little Way. "Not everyone can fast, or wear hair shirts, or spend hours in prayer," she used to say, "but everyone can love!" One thing alone is needful: all must be done for love of God.

What is needed to solve the big environmental problems is a life of many small deeds done out of love for God. We need to offer many small prayers to help us understand the problems and find solutions, and then more prayers to carry out our actions in daily life.

We need faith that our small deeds will, with God's grace, amount to more than a meaningless drop in the bucket, letting Jesus multiply our fish & loaves; Mother Teresa said it doesn't matter how big or small our good deeds, as long as they are done out of love, our love makes them infinite. We need hope that we will one day be rejoicing with God in heaven, so we need not be too concerned with worldly riches, comforts, and status. We need the charity of joyfully sharing God’s bounty and beauty with others around the world and in the future by helping to save the Earth.
This is what helped me some 22 years ago get on the little way path of doing mostly small things, occasionally big things, and now after 2 decades we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions (and much other concomitant pollution and resource waste) by over 60%, cost-effectively, saving us $1000s, and without lowering our living standards, even raising them. It was fortunate that my husband was willing to go along, but only if it didn't entail sacrifice....so I now I can reassure people there is nothing to fear, and much to gain in our environmental actions.


#5

That's better. CAF threads tend to degenerate quickly without good citations, thanks!

Personally, I prefer the older label "conservationist" over "environmentalist." The ethos predominant pre-60's was one of recognizing that human activity often had a negative effect and looking for ways to mitigate that effect. Today's 'green' movement largely functions as a replacement for Calvinistic protestantism and replaces the morally 'depraved man' with no good remaining in him with the ecologically 'depraved man' who is more a scourge on the earth than the crown of creation. Google VHEMT if you doubt me! (I'm only fairly sure it isn't satire)

I'm not convinced that green technology is the solution. I tend to think we DO need to alter our lifestyles significantly. Specifically, I think we are a ridiculously wasteful consumer culture. The amount of disposable junk and stuff we throw out is astounding. Take cars. Yeah a Prius or Volt is great on paper. But what would be a lot better is if people would learn to MAINTAIN their vehicles and learn how to make than last 250,000 miles instead of junkyarding them at 150k (current average). Much of that happens due to stupidity and neglect on the part of car owners. I promise you that my junkyard rescue 1995 Saturn that now gets 40 mpg in my commute will have a lower total environmental footpring than a shiny new Prius. Mine was about to be scrap metal, so rescuing it generated ZERO manufacturing wastes. A new Prius contains north of 60# worth of refined nickel in the batteries, which generates over 120,000# worth of toxic mining tailings. Real green.

This is just an example of how it is our consumption oriented culture and economy that is polluting the planet. Nobody is working to address that, which is a sad shame.


#6

I think the problems the conservationists and preservationist saw in the late 1800s was diminishing wilderness (with its tremendous beauty and spiritual uplift and inspiration); they thought about us and wanted us to enjoy it. It fills my heart to think they thought about us, and makes it all the more important that we think about our future generations.

By the 1960s there were rivers that went on fire from dioxins, etc. Pollution was choking and killing LA (now it’s much better). So of necessity to protect human lives the focus shifted to pollution and the 2nd wave of environmentalism was born. Now we’re in another phase, the 4th wave (I think the 3rd one came around 1990, but was snuffed out). By the late 1980s we had done okay in reducing the most egregious local pollution (tho there are still plenty of local enviro problems to address), so just when we thought it was safe to live in the world again, come global environmental problems, like the ozone hole and global warming. I’m thinking if we solve these global problems, and that is a huge IF, surely there will be some other problems future generations will have to solve.

Today’s ‘green’ movement largely functions as a replacement for Calvinistic protestantism and replaces the morally ‘depraved man’ with no good remaining in him with the ecologically ‘depraved man’ who is more a scourge on the earth than the crown of creation. Google VHEMT if you doubt me! (I’m only fairly sure it isn’t satire)

Wow, that is perceptive. I was raised Presbyterian, and the little “Interfaith Council on Climate Change” that some church women started up in IL was mainly Presbyterians, and two Catholics – me and the president of the local Sierra Club chapter. Also a Jain and a few other denominations (all women, except the Presbyterian pastor). And we met at a Presbyterian church.

Got me thinking… Weber’s THE PROTESTANT ETHIC & THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM. I was confused at first, bec Calvinism was supposed to lead to capitalism, not environmentalism. But then I got back to my early learnings. The Parable of the Talents was stressed…and we know what happened to the person who didn’t invest his. I began to understand that it was a Calvinistic orientation (plus my new calling to Carmel in the late 80s and a desire to reduce my sins and imperfections–and a newly found understanding that “thy will be done” applied to me, not just other people) that made me understand I had to be a good steward of my talents and God’s creation. Of course, Catholics are also supposed to do that too.

But I wouldn’t go so far as to say Calvinism leads to anti-human sentiments (at least not for me). I am, however, very aware of our fallen nature, and have argued against the Matthew Fox types. How else can we explain environmental problems, except by ole Adam and Eve doing their wrongful thing. Then there’s Cain, and I guess we all bear his mark. If it weren’t for God’s saving grace and redemption through the blood of Christ we’d be in a fine mess.

I’m not convinced that green technology is the solution. I tend to think we DO need to alter our lifestyles significantly. Specifically, I think we are a ridiculously wasteful consumer culture. The amount of disposable junk and stuff we throw out is astounding. Take cars. Yeah a Prius or Volt is great on paper. But what would be a lot better is if people would learn to MAINTAIN their vehicles and learn how to make than last 250,000 miles instead of junkyarding them at 150k (current average). Much of that happens due to stupidity and neglect on the part of car owners. I promise you that my junkyard rescue 1995 Saturn that now gets 40 mpg in my commute will have a lower total environmental footpring than a shiny new Prius. Mine was about to be scrap metal, so rescuing it generated ZERO manufacturing wastes. A new Prius contains north of 60# worth of refined nickel in the batteries, which generates over 120,000# worth of toxic mining tailings. Real green.

This is just an example of how it is our consumption oriented culture and economy that is polluting the planet. Nobody is working to address that, which is a sad shame.

Okay, we just bought a Volt 2 months ago (after 43 years of our marriage in used, beater cars). I was able to convince my husband it was a luxury car, since we don’t know the difference, and having saved $1000s from our many environ measures over the past 43 years (like living within a mile or 2 from work), we were well able to afford it…and I did an Excel spreadsheet and figured it would pay for the difference of the other car he wanted (a Taurus) in about 7 years. I would not have insisted we buy a Volt, except our electricity is 100% wind-powered, so we’re driving on the wind now. It had earlier figured it was never worth it environmentally or economically to buy a Prius or other hybrid.

But REUSE is a very important principle, right after REDUCE, and I greatly applaud you for your 1995 Saturn; that is a real environmental measure that helps the world. And I just found out about the EV batteries yesterday, the pollution from rare earth mining in China; I just hope driving on the wind (reducing local and global pollution that way) will more than offset the harm from our battery. And I hope they get their act together about reducing that rare earth pollution.


#7

What "Ecological Crises’ is there? In the USA the air is cleaner than its ever been the water is cleaner than since the river in Cleveland caught on fire-now the Govt says its OK to eat fish caught in the river.
The Eco jihadists want to squeeze every last breath from our capitalist system.
The average car today puts less than 10% of the pollution into the environmnt that a car in the 1980’s did.
The only way to keep improving the environment is to keep having enough money as a society to do so.


#8

[quote="rdscheirer, post:7, topic:277681"]
What "Ecological Crises' is there?

[/quote]

If you sincerely pray to God, He will reveal to you the problems,...and also provide solutions.


#9

As a Physicist and Surgeon I am a cut and dried kind of guy. I drive an SUV that is solar powered- how you say?- well millions of yrs ago sunlight was stored in the environment and ended up underground as petroleum - we extract the stored solar energy from the earth and use it to power our cars and economy- I use Solar power to fuel my car.


#10

You are such an inspiration lynnvinc -

One of the ways we have chosen to make a personal change to mitigate global warming is by going vegan, springerlink.com/content/053gx71816jq2648/


#11

[quote="4elise, post:10, topic:277681"]
You are such an inspiration lynnvinc -

One of the ways we have chosen to make a personal change to mitigate global warming is by going vegan, springerlink.com/content/053gx71816jq2648/

[/quote]

That's really great. I strive to be vegan, but often backslide (my husband is a seafood eater, and is always trying to get me to join him). I know vegan is better for my health, bec when I was a near total vegan for some 10 years I felt a lot more energetic, and people noticed my hair looked great. I think it was also due to the juicing we did (which helped my husband a lot after heart surgery).

Now I'm getting back into a vegan diet again and feeling better again.

However, we can't expect others to jump on board -- meat just tastes too good. But both for health purposes AND environmental care it is wise to reduce meat consumption. Also it allows more food to go to the under-nourished of the world (they say you can feed 7 vegetarians on the same land as one meat-eater). And an added bonus -- we are kinder to animals.

We could propose for Catholics meatless Fridays; or meatless Tuesdays and Fridays (for the sorrowful mysteries). In India the more religious Catholics practice abstinence on Tues and abstinence & fasting on Fridays (year round). However, China and even India are really increasing a lot in their meat consumption.

Another food that involves greater greenhouse gases is rice, but since my husband is from South India we eat rice every day (at least I got him onto brown rice & a reduced portion).

It's sort of like this, there are many things we can do to reduce our environmental impact, and we can pick some things and others we can pass on. Like my husband who is on a low cholesterol diet -- he has given up meat, and takes his "cholesterol quota" in shrimp (which he really loves).


#12

[quote="lynnvinc, post:6, topic:277681"]
...Okay, we just bought a Volt 2 months ago ....

[/quote]

And there's nothing wrong with buying a new car, mind you. The key is to treat it right and maintain it meticulously. There's no reason a modern car can't go 250,000 miles in its lifetime. Our family minivan has almost 200,000 now and it drives like new still. The key is preventive maintenance and responsive repairs when something does go wrong.

I'm convinced this is much greener than buying a new "green car" every 5 years and doing nothing but oil changes since problems will only surface for the NEXT owner.


#13

We’re planning to keep our Volt up until we pass on. We bought it saying, “This is going to be our last car.” The $8,000 battery has an 8 year or 100,000 mile warranty. When we told them in 8 years we only expected to drive maybe 50,000 miles at most, and asked how long does it really last (figuring maybe 50,000 miles), he said it was made to last the lifetime of the car, even for 250,000 miles.

Another thing we really like about it, is the little green ball that goes up or down if we accelerate or decelerate too fast. It helps us “hypermile,” so we’re getting 41-42 miles per charge (well above the 35 mile range the EPA calculated). Of course, come summer the AC will cut into that, and the couple of cold days when we used the heater cut into it a lot (some 4-5 mile reduction). The screen also tells us what our tire psi’s are, which also helps with mileage. People can do these things without the Volt indicator screen, and I knew about hypermiling, but previously was not really following it much.

I also noticed on the freeway if we go above 58 mph, the little green ball stays above its center (optimum) place, using up more mileage, and remembered how in the 70s the national speed limit was reduced to 55 mph to save oil during the embargo.

So I’m changing my driving habits, and it is having a good effect on me, like a personality change – from jack-rabbit starts and slamming on the brakes stops, rashly weaving in and out, speeding and cursing the slow-pokes (putting lives at risk) to gentle hyper-miler :slight_smile:


#14

We also engage in some high GHG & pollution activities (such as our research trips to India, which are more about visiting family and friends and avoiding professor burn-out, and only about a week’s worth of actual research), but we find many other ways that we can reduce. I’ve heard homes are better places to look to reduce than cars.

However, cars and homes are big investments which last a long time, and if one is happy with theirs, then they don’t have to change. If they’d like to, then they can plan years in advance for their next home closer to work (and more efficient in other ways), and their next car to be more efficient. Or their next job in a state that offers alt energy electricity. That was on the “pro” side of my list when we found jobs in Texas and moved from IL…that we could get onto Green Mountain’s 100% wind-powered electricty.

We had been driving our 1998 Taurus for some 10 years. (After an accident in which our previous Civic was totalled, my husband had wanted more metal around him, even tho the DOT had the newer Civics as safer than the Taurus…it was just psychological.) I kept thinking, I hope our Taurus lasts long enough so that some (safe) plug-in hybrid or EV comes out, since a regular hybrid just doesn’t make much environmental and no economic sense to us, since we only drive about 5,000-6,000 miles per year, and our next car would be our last car. I had been dreaming about an EV for over 20 years, and at one time considered joining the Fox Valley EV Club in IL and making my own conversion (but no time).

When the diagnosis came back 4 months ago that it would cost much more to fix the Taurus – it was leaking in many many areas – than it was worth, I started working on my husband about the Leaf and Volt, but never in a million years thinking he would agree to it.

I turned to prayer, and that did the trick and produced a fantastic miracle from on high – he agreed and we bought it. Praise be to God! After 20 years of waiting, hoping, wishing, and praying I finally have an extended range EV. It’s still hard for me to believe that such miracles are possible in this day and age. I heard that other miracles are easy for God, but when it comes to changing other people’s wills, that’s more difficult, since He gave us free wills.


#15

Here are two interesting developments:

[LIST]
*]Plastics put solar on the verge, again: wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2012/03/plastic-solar
*]This is something very low tech but interesting – solar cookers made from reflective car windshield shades: solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Windshield_Shade_Solar_Cooker
[/LIST]
http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20070405190239/solarcooking/images/1/10/Windshield_shade.jpg

Both seem to be most helpful for poorer nations and peoples far from the grid.


#16

[quote="lynnvinc, post:1, topic:277681"]
I'd like this thread to address sensible ways we can mitigate global warming -- reduce our greenhouse gases -- and not as a place to discuss whether or not AGW is happening (there are plenty of threads on CAF addressing that).

[/quote]

[LIST]
]Compost* We live in a condo with no private yard, but we still have a composter tucked behind the bushes near our front door. It yields roughly a 10-gallon bucket of compost per year that we spread around our unit's landscaping and truck over to my in-law's landscaping.
]Trip planning* We try to plan errands so driving around randomly. We also bike or walk as much as we can.
]Landscaping* I deliberately bought the unit I did because of a massive camphor tree on the east side, and the spring after I moved in I got permission to plant shade trees south and west sides. That, coupled with trellised vines along the west wall, really cuts down on when we run the A/C.
]Live small * Our home is 800 sq. feet for two adults, two (part-time) kids, and two cats. Every room serves at least two purposes (the kitchen also is the laundry room; the second bedroom is my step-daughters' bedroom when they're with us, is my husband's dressing room, etc.)
]Do without paper* We don't own paper napkins, toilet paper, menstrual pads, or paper towels. Yes, cloth products do need to be washed and washed in hot water, which brings me to
]High efficiency appliances* :)
]Reduce plastic use* I started making my own household cleaners partly because I didn't like buying plastic bottles every time I went shopping. I avoid buying something packaged in plastic if I can get something similar packaged in paper that I can compost. I've got three or four old plastic bottles that I've re-used for years for household cleaners, body wash, shampoo, and the like. It's pretty amazing what you can make with vinegar, baking soda, tea tree oil, and a Burt's Bees Shampoo Bar.
]Solar* We invested in a solar oven and from April - November rarely use our electric oven. We also have wooden laundry racks and let sunshine dry our laundry as much as we can.
[/LIST]

Things I Plan to Do:

[LIST=1]
*]install a laundry rack in the bedroom/office ceiling to dry clothes on rainy/foggy days
*]install an attic wrap
[/LIST]

Things I Wish I Could Do:

[LIST=1]
*]paint my roof white or have a landscaped roof
*]install a living wall/vertical garden on my west- and south-facing walls
*]use public transportation to get to and from work
*]grow my own vegetables and herbs
*]keep chickens and a goat or two
[/LIST]
Luna


#17

[quote="lynnvinc, post:13, topic:277681"]
...the couple of cold days when we used the heater cut into it a lot (some 4-5 mile reduction).

[/quote]

Fat lot of help I am now that winter seems to be over, but you will likely use a lot less battery juice running the heated seats in winter than the cabin air heater. A tip for next year!


#18

[quote="manualman, post:17, topic:277681"]
Fat lot of help I am now that winter seems to be over, but you will likely use a lot less battery juice running the heated seats in winter than the cabin air heater. A tip for next year!

[/quote]

Thanks. We did use them once in Feb, but since we never ever had such, even up in Wisconsin and Illinois in sub-zero temps, I had thought it a waste to have that as an add-on (it came with some package that included some things we did want). I even laughed at the salesman -- heated seats in the Rio Grande Valley, which only gets below 50F a few weeks of the year, and hardly ever below 40.

BTW, I noticed that you are in the W. Chicago area. If it's anywhere Naperville, there is a passive solar home there a friend, Ken Woods, built in the early 80s at 1264 Harvest Court; he sold it in 2004 and then passed away in 2008. He was an engineer/architect & one-time president of the IL Solar Association as well as the Fox Valley EV Assoc. The home is for sale now, but under an offer. I'm thinking you may be able to see it, since they are taking other offers. It's 3BR/2ba, with a finished basement (where he had his office, drawing board, etc).

Here is a link, with pictures: trulia.com/property/1090394005-1264-Harvest-Ct-Naperville-IL-60564

This is a picture of the north side, which is the front of the house:
http://thumbs.trulia-cdn.com/pictures/thumbs_4/ps.11/a/f/5/2/picture-uh=f6adf71a674e98a64833deece5434117-ps=af52e028e51f4a77c29c91cfe290b27a.jpg
In the front (north) there small windows and landscaped berms and garage. In the back (south), it had sliding glass doors in the dinning, living and 1 bedroom (looks like they changed these to smaller windows), with dark tile floors to absorb the heat (looks like these were replaced with wooden or fake-wood floors), and decidulous trees outside to shade the house in the summer. It had beautiful upholstered styrofoam? inside shutters on the windows (don't see them now). He had a separate shed on the east side that housed the highly efficient gas heater+water heater; he had to do that bec the house was so well insulated and air-tight he couldn't have combustion inside, except for an efficient fireplace, with a 4-stage air-filter intake to bring in cleaned outside air. He said it cost him about the price of a gas light to heat his house during the winter. I think the people who bought it earlier had little idea about its true worth or intent.


#19

That’s really great and inspirational. I was also doing composting and some bicycling up north, and need to get back into these.

For printing/writing paper, I get it at the university library and use the other sides. I’ve noticed in recent years they are giving students the option of double-sided printing and copying, so I have to sift thru to get the sheets with blank sides, but that’s not too much trouble, and I’m very happy the library and students are becoming eco-conscious, which is a form of “other-conscious,” which our Church expects of us.

In a way a lot of eco-advances are just going back to how things were done some 50 or 100 years ago. For Earth Day I sometimes put on display a “solar dryer” – a rope and clothes pins, or if space permits my clothes drying rack, on which I hang some cloth napkins, hankies (for drying hands in public restrooms), and diapers. We weren’t blessed with children, but I used to baby-sit many decades ago and all they had then were cloth diapers; you have to hang on tight when flushing the toilet :slight_smile:

It’s so weird how the anti-environmentalists make us out to be neopagan-atheist-communist-baby-killers. Maybe they should actually meet some environmentalists before they hurl their epithets.


#20

Lynn, just like catholics aren't all the same, neither are conservationists (environmentalists, if you prefer). You can hardly deny that there are rather a few 'watermelon' eco-activists out there (green on the outside, red on the inside).

Passive solar is greatly under-appreciated. It's hard and expensive to build it into mass produced builder homes, but I did quite a bit on ours. Our major window frontage faces south, slightly east for maximum sun in the cold winter mornings. That cost nothing extra, I just had to pick the lot carefully and stick my nose into the orientation of the house on the lot. We upgraded the eat-in kitchen floor to ceramic tile with cement backer in the sunniest spot. Gets TOASTY warm on sunny January days and greatly reduces furnace run time.

It costs almost nothing to equip a new house with a sealed combustion box furnace that draws combustion air from outside and has a power vented exhaust instead of the gravity flue. Even hot water heaters now have power vented exhaust, but they don't offer outside combustion air draw for some reason. I'm not fussed. You don't want to seal the house TOO tightly or air quality becomes horrible in the winter. Combined, these two allow me a house with no chimney at all, eliminating a major source of escaping heat.

You really don't want to put any plumbing outside the main house in this climate. Might be a nice idea in Texas, but it would be a nightmare here. Not this year, but we have to design for -30degree Farenheit nights.

I'm really hoping they perfect the affordable solar panel integrated shingle by the time my current roof is worn out. I have the perfect exposure for about 8,000 watts of solar juice. Not at today's prices though.


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