One of the many reasons I decided to move to Costa Rica with my family was to escape the lifestyle of American consumerism and commercial debauchery. I wanted to live in a country where we could reduce our carbon footprint. In the last two months, it has become very evident that we definitely have reduced our consumption and waste as a family of 4.
Our home in Texas was a monstruousity of 3,700 square feet with 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, air conditioning and central heating, a huge water heater, and every electrical appliance you can possibly imagine. We moved from that ecological nightmare to a small house that is approximately 1,600 square feet. Also, we don’t have air conditioning or central heating here in Monteverde. We have electric showers which are also much more energy efficient than an electric water heater. We have a gas stove fueled by a propane tank. In my old home, we had about 18 light bulbs in the master bathroom alone. Here, I have about 18 lightbulbs for the entire house!
Driving and Flying
In Texas, Chris drove a Prius and I drove a Mazda 5 “micro-minivan”. Our cars were energy efficient compared to the rest of our peers who drove massive luxury SUVs, but we paid Mother Earth back with our flying. Both of our jobs required us to fly quite a bit. We also took at least 2 vacations per year that required long flights. Those of course were the perks of having good yuppie jobs where we made decent money, but we were killing the planet. Because of the change in our professional lives, including the reduction of our income, we will be flying much less while we are in Costa Rica. We also don’t own cars here. We walk everywhere! We take a cab 1-2 times per week and when we travel outside of Monteverde we take the bus.
Food and Diet
A big chunk of the pollution on this planet comes from industrial animal farming, which means that veganism and vegetarianism are the most socially responsible ways to live and eat. Chris and Tristan eat meat, but since I do all of the cooking, they eat less meat than most Americans. Their meat consumption has been further reduced here in Costa Rica because we do not eat out as often was we used to. Also, essentially all of our produce, dairy products, and bread are locally grown or made.
Recycling and Waste
We recycle as much here as we did at home, and we produce a lot less trash here because we don’t buy as much stuff. We also compost all of our food waste in Costa Rica as is the local custom, which we did not do in Texas.
Our Carbon Footprint is Reduced by Half…..at least
I was curious to see an objective measure of the reduction of our carbon footprint since moving to Monteverde. I used the carbon footprint calculator from the Nature Conservancy because it was the easiest one to use. The caveat is that this calculator does not take into account if you live outside of the USA. So I made my “new” calculation as if we still lived in Texas. In reality, I bet we have actually reduced the number by a little more, since the majority of the energy in Costa Rica is hydroelectric. Texas tends to like its fossil fuels. There are other carbon footprint calculators out there where you can factor in the country of residence, but they are not as user friendly. For example, instead of asking you how big your house is, they ask how many Kilowatts of electricity you use per month.
So here is what I came up with:
I am much happier with our personal emissions now that we live in Costa Rica. I also know that even if we move back to the USA, we will take into account the practices that have become part of our lifestyle here. I will not go back to using paper towels, dryer sheets, napkins, and ziplock bags. I could not live in a huge house anymore.
I encourage you to calculate your carbon footprint and think about small changes you can make to reduce it.