Staniford on De-Carbonizing His Footprint

Stuart Staniford has an interesting writeup on his blog today about his ongoing project to shift to a sustainable lifestyle: Prospects for Early Progress in Decarbonizing my Household. He has converted to full-time telecommuting and moved his family from the Bay Area to a rental home in upstate New York. The next step: Green Acres.

So, as of a couple of weeks back, we are now the proud owners of 11 acres, complete with a mid-nineteenth century farmhouse and a medium-sized barn. It’s situated in a valley up in the hills about 10 miles from Ithaca, between two state forests, and surrounded by a land trust nature preserve. Directly on the property, we have a one acre pond, a little over an acre of lawns, 8 acres or so of gently sloping pasture, and a little woodland, mostly riparian right next to the creek that abuts the property, and a stream that runs down to it.

I say the creek abuts the property, because legally it does, and it used to do so in fact as well as in law. However, shortly before we got the house, the beavers decided to divert the creek onto the lowest portion of our lawn by damming the culvert under the road. How long the powers that be will tolerate this situation is unclear, since probably the town’s engineers would like the culvert nice and clear, and the land trust had intended the creek to run on their property, not ours. But apparently the beavers didn’t consult their lawyers or get permits before beginning their midnight construction project.

I’d love to live in a place like that, though I probably wouldn’t get much done besides bird- and bug-watching.

Another thing I love is following Staniford’s train of thought when he explains technical concepts. He reminds me a little of Robert Heinlein, who was great at rattling on for page after page about spacesuits, or the scale of the solar system, or whatever, and making everything really accessible and interesting without dumbing down the content. For example:

The coal stove is a sort of a personal climate destruction machine – it takes in both electricity and coal, and uses the electricity to power an automated feeder mechanism which takes rice coal from a hopper and burns it, somewhere out of sight in the depths of the machine, before distributing the resulting heat via a blower fan. The previous owners avowed that it would burn for four days unattended from a full hopper of coal (they were very proud of it because it heated the lower floor of the farmhouse so cheaply and conveniently).

We did contemplate running this thing for a while until it became somewhat more budgetarily convenient to replace it, but our consciences have got the better of us and we have decided that an immediate project is to replace it with a modern wood stove – less convenient, no doubt, to stack and load wood, but we need the exercise anyway, and it’s ever so much more beautiful to look at a wood fire through the glass of an efficient wood stove with secondary burners. And of course, at least in our area, there’s plenty of trees busy fixing the carbon for future firewood. Not a solution that will scale to everyone, for sure. Not a solution that works for urban areas. But one that certainly makes sense here.

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