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Home Sweet Climate-Friendly Home

With the cherry blossoms blooming in February, climate deniers are having a tough time of it. While global climate solutions are beyond the capacity of any one person, there are still impactful things that you can do to make your home and neighborhood a climate friendlier oasis—without breaking the bank.

Go solar!

Did you know that over 93% of the energy generated by Pepco, DC’s electric utility, comes from gas, nuclear, and coal sources that generate greenhouse gas (GHG) and contribute to climate change?  Thanks to DC’s many incentives, more than 56% of DC’s energy is generated from solar. In addition to being a renewable energy source, DC’s solar programs can save you money on your electric bill, generate lucrative solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), and provide you with a federal tax credit that together can pay for the investment in four to five years. Don’t have the money to pay for the panels upfront or rent your home or live in an apartment or condo? DC has programs for you (https://doee.dc.gov/service/solar-initiatives) including free solar installations for qualifying residents through the Solar for All program (https://doee.dc.gov/solarforall).

Reduce your food waste – and compost!

According to the DC Solid Waste Diversion Report 2019-2022, the District generated an estimated 64,000 tons of organic waste—food waste, leaves, and yard waste—in 2022.  When landfilled or incinerated (as DC waste is), organic waste produces roughly equal parts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), a GHG 28 times more impactful than CO2. While we await a District-wide residential composting program (the Department of Public Works (DPW) is currently piloting such a project across all eight DC Wards), you still have several options:

• food waste (including meat and dairy as of 2024!) can be dropped off for free at farmers markets across the District.  See https://zerowaste.dc.gov/foodwastedropoff for locations and times.

• food waste (but no meat or dairy) can be dropped off at one of 50 community gardens across the District through the Community Compost Cooperative. You’ll need to take a short training course and help mange the compost to participate.  See https://dpr.dc.gov/page/community-compost-cooperative-network

• composting in your backyard. The DC-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has some excellent resources for community and backyard composting along with tips for avoiding and eliminating rats. https://cdn.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Oh-Rats-How-to-Avoid-Rodents-at-Community-Composting-Sites-2.pdf

• compost your yard waste. Call 311 (or use the app) to schedule a pick up and place yard waste in the large brown paper bags available at most hardware stores.

The humble (and rat proof) home composter helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provides excellent organic fertilizer for your yard and garden. Photo credit: C. Plume

Swap out your gas stove and furnace.

Matt Gravatt is chair of the Sierra Club DC Chapter and a Capitol Hill resident. He notes that swapping out your gas stove for an induction model or installing highly efficient heat pumps for home air and water heating is one of the best things you can do to improve air quality in your home. Gas appliances release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals directly into your home. Fortunately, there are a lot of cleaner options on the market at various price points. Matt notes, “The costs of these appliances are coming down while the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) offers tax benefits that help offset the costs. Since these appliances are highly efficient, making the switch to all-electric could reduce your utility bills.  This handy calculator from Rewiring America (https://homes.rewiringamerica.org/calculator) can help homeowners and renters understand the credits and incentives available.” The DC Council is considering legislation, the Healthy Homes and Residential Electrification Amendment Act of 2023, that would help 30,000 low- and moderate-income households across DC electrify their homes at no cost.

Replace – or improve those old windows.

The US Department of Energy estimates that 25-30 percent of a home’s heating and cooling energy is lost through windows.  It can be expensive to replace windows, so if you’re not ready to shell out the money, storm windows are making a comeback and can provide many of the same benefits as energy-efficient windows at about 1/3 of the cost.

Still looking for climate-friendly ideas?

Keya Chatterjee, ANC 6A Vice Chair and Board President for the Sunrise Movement Education Fund, is a huge proponent of fossil-fuel-free lifestyles and has a solar-powered all-electric home where she line dries her clothes. “Sustainable lifestyles are a great way to save money, improve your health, and get closer to nature. Plus they are contagious! I remember being one of the very few parents biking to school with my preschooler back in 2013, and now we have so many parents participating in Hill Family Biking (hillfamilybiking.org)! Similarly, if you start line drying your clothes and talking about how much longer your clothes last, you might inspire a neighbor to do the same, who might in turn inspire another neighbor, and so on and so on.”

Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Sierra Club DC Chapter and an Admin for her neighborhood BuyNothing group.  Perspectives expressed are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization

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