Challenge: Families try to reduce carbon footprint

The Cool Thurston Campaign, in western Washington's Thurston County, is encouraging people to learn how to calculate how much greenhouse gases they emit each year and reduce it.

Rather than working alone, participants will form "ecoteams" among neighbors, co-workers, church members or other groups, said Barb Scavesse, one of the Cool Thurston Campaign organizers. "The social network makes it fun and helps members support each other," she said.

Wendy Tanowitz, a member of a local ecoteam, has taken several steps to shrink her carbon footprint: she's reduced vehicle trips by consolidating errands; replaced 10 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents; and turned lights and the computer off when rooms and the computer aren't in use. Tanowitz also is ready to hire a contractor to improve insulation in the crawl space under her home.

She thinks her annual greenhouse-gas emissions, which she calculated at 27,000 pounds, will be down to 23,000 pounds in a year.

"It feels like the right thing to do," she said. "It feels better to not be consuming so much."

The Cool Thurston Campaign shares some common goals with The Olympian's yearlong "Green Steps" project. In the project launched last fall, two Olympia families -- Rick and Barbara Murphy and Stacia and Dwight Hollar, along with their three children -- calculated their carbon footprints for the past year and will keep track of carbon-reducing activities for 12 months to see whether they reduce their footprints.

"We haven't made any huge strides, but we've done a few things," Stacia Hollar said of the family's progress after three months. So far they've:

Increased recycling enough to reduce the city garbage service from a 60-gallon can every two weeks to a 35-gallon can. The big difference is increased food-waste recycling, she said.

Reduced driving by having Dwight Hollar take the bus to work two or three days a week, compared with once a week last year.

Increased use of cloth bags for grocery and retail shopping.

Stopped using an inefficient freezer in the basement and increased efforts to unplug electrical devices not in use.

The Murphys have done a couple of things that have reduced their energy bill, including replacing older, energy inefficient window blinds with insulated blinds, making sure the laundry and dish-washing loads are full, and turning off the stereo and television components when they're not in use.

"Our monthly electric use is lower compared to last year," Barbara Murphy said

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