Updated: Jan 12
New year's resolutions come in a variety of stripes: lose 5lbs., save money, write more words... Most folks who've done their bit of research have confronted the reality that resolutions don't generally stick. We know it’s easier to resolve to lose weight than it is to say no to that tempting piece of chocolate cake your friend is waving under your nose. But a habit update can bring about positive change over time.
Writing this blog is one way I'm trying to help our household quit our dirty-fuel habits. It requires me to read and research new ways to live, and while a quick carbon diet seems as unattainable as losing those 5 lbs overnight, I have been heartened to discover and implement new strategies along the way.
For example, we’re fortunate in being able to replace our gas-powered cars with electric ones, we've fine-tuned our plant-based diet, and we’ve gotten better about carrying refillable water bottles and reusable shopping bags. As you might have guessed, some of these choices have piled on to the family budget. Even small things like buying organic food or replacing an old appliance can add up. And as the list of costly but more environmentally-friendly options continues to grow, it makes the alternative—continuing to deplete natural resources—untenable.
In an effort to do better, Lee and I have just switched our home heating fuel from fracked natural gas to RNG, or renewable natural gas. In our area this comes from methane harvested from organic materials folks send to landfills. It’s expensive too, but more affordable than electrifying our home-heating system at present.
My environmentally conscious friends tell me this is yet another false promise. And I agree there are pros and cons. I'll start with the cons. RNG sources, landfills and agriculture, are not ideal. First, we should compost organic material rather than send it to a landfill, and we should consume fewer animal products. Even under current conditions, according to a report by CleanTechnica, the production of methane for RNG remains insufficient to cover our societal needs.
"RNG could potentially cover 20% of the methane gas we use today, assuming significant investments in technology and distribution systems that do not exist today – in other words and not anytime soon."
Finally, RNG is more expensive than fracked natural gas. I expect my bill to go from .78 cents per Ccf (a unit equal to the volume of 100 cubic feet.) to 1.2999 per Ccf in the first month. After that rates will vary according to the market.
Still, we think it's worth it. I chose to go with the Energy Co-op because they also provide our renewable electricity, and the company has a long track record of working toward sustainable solutions. According to a Grid magazine article, the Energy Co-op members, founded by the Weavers Way Co-op in 1979, willingly invest in their values. We agree with this idea. For us, paying the extra cost of RNG enables us to eliminate our reliance on fracked gas, which inflicts high environmental and health costs on frontline communities.
One example of the harm fracking causes is the increase in leukemia among young children living near fracking sites. "Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health used the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry, along with state data on unconventional oil and gas drill sites, to determine that children born within two kilometers, or 1.24 miles, of an active well site were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia between the ages of 2 and 7."
While Lee and I are still looking for ways to completely electrify our home, (too many trees for solar and high-cost to retrofit the heating system) it would be nice to know that in the meantime we're moving in the right direction. My hope is that if folks pay a little more for sustainable solutions as they can, then that investment enables companies to finance large-scale production and will bring costs down for everyone.
Like many new year's resolutions, we might not achieve the quick fix, but by continuing to learn and to adopt more sustainable habits, we can improve. What planet-friendly solutions have worked for you over the past year? What do you hope to achieve going forward into 2023?
Happy New Year!