Here's how the Johnson family made a plan to Go Carbon Free - and lowered their direct impact 100% and saved over $3,000 a year.

The Johnson Family Plan

The Johnson family has been concerned about climate change for a while.  Recently their daughter, Sue came home from school with an assignment to calculate the family's impact on climate change.  After Sue completed the assignment, the Johnsons were surprised at their impact.  They started reading a bit and learned about how important it is that we address climate change soon.  

They wanted to know how they could help and started looking for solutions.  They were worried it would be difficult or expensive and were dreading the news.  However what they found was that they could make a few changes over the next few years and that it would not only reduce their impact - it would also save a lot of money.  

Here are the steps they included in their plan to Go CO2 Free:

Choose Green Electricity    Cost = $120/year, Climate impact lowered by 20%

The Johnsons considered solar panels, but they didn't have enough sun exposure so they chose to sign up for a Green Electricity program through their utility.  This was a bit more than their basic electricity rate and cost $10/month.

Switch to Electric Vehicles    Upfront cost comparable to average new car purchase (or lease), Savings from lower fuel/maintenance costs = $2,000/year.  Climate impact lowered by 45%

The Johnsons have 2 vehicles and use both for commuting.  Joe commutes farther, about 50 miles round trip/day.  Suji commutes closer to home, around 20 miles/day.  Joe's car was in need of replacement so they switched one car to an EV right away for Joe to use for commuting.  This created a savings of $1,200/year right away in fuel costs and even more in lowered maintenance costs.  They planned to switch Suji's car out in 5 years when it was in need of replacement.

Install Electric Heat Pump Heating    Upfront cost: Water Heater, no extra cost, Space Heating +$1,000 (over conventional system install), Annual operating costs +$100.  Climate impact lowered by 13%

The Johnson's water heater was in need of replacement right as they started looking into solutions.  With their Green Electricity, they decided to install an electric Heat Pump water heater.  It was about $300 more for the install, but they received a rebate from their utility for the install and their bills are about the same as with their previous gas heater.  Their new water heater also came with great wifi controls which allows them to save even more money through smart programming.  They planned to replace their central space heating with an electric heat pump heating system in 8 years.

Choose Electric Appliances    Upfront cost:  +$500 for one time electric outlet install, annual operating costs +$20.  Climate impact lowered by 2%

The Johnson's only other gas use in their home was their gas clothes dryer.  They added to their plan to switch this out to an electric model in 6 years when it is up for replacement.

Fly Less and Offset Air Travel    Upfront cost:  $48/year for air travel offsets, Savings from reduced air travel miles $1,500/year.  Climate impact lowered by 10%

The Johnsons would generally fly twice a year, once for summer vacation and once over the holidays to visit family.  They decided to lower their air travel for a few years until a safer airline fuel alternative was available.  They reduced their air travel to once/year by choosing to vacation closer to home every other year and to visit family every other year, on the years they vacationed locally.  They offset their remaining air travel through contributing to a wind farm project in their state.

Recycle More and Eat More Sustainably    Annual Savings $120 from reduced garbage bin size.  Climate impact lowered 10%

The Johnsons set a goal to reduce their garbage by 30% through reducing, reusing and recycling.  After taking a look at all the things their local curbside recycling program took, they found out that they could actually do even more and reduced their garbage by 50%.  With this reduction in garbage, they were able to reduce their garbage bin size and saved $10/month, the same amount they were paying extra for Green Electricity.  They also reduced the meals they eat with beef, finding new creative recipes that included more beans, grains and low impact foods.

Energy Efficiency    Upfront cost $1,000, Annual savings $1,000.  Climate impact - lowered emissions before actions above implemented.

In order to lower their impact as they transitioned off of fossil fuels as well as save money, they also chose some energy efficiency actions.  They installed a programmable thermostat, lowered their energy use with the Be Cool and Heat Wise tips, added an extra layer of insulation in their attic, installed smart power strips and lighting controls and started walking or biking with the kids to school rather than driving every day.

The result - the Johnson family will be 100% Carbon Free in 8 years from all their direct climate emissions.  At the end of the 8 years they will also be saving over $4,000/year.

And they have met some new neighbors and had fun in the process.  They joined a team and worked with their neighbors, sharing tips and resources on actions.  They were the first on their block to install an electric heat pump water heater and have shown it off many times!  Twice a year their team comes together for a potluck to share updates and celebrate achievements.  They are encouraged at how much their team has accomplished and hopeful that we have a path forward on climate change.  Their goal now - to shared their experiences with as many friends and family as possible and inspire more families to action.