Climate Matters: Try the 30-Day Low Carbon Diet and save


37th in a series

Saving energy costs fast while reducing your carbon footprint appealed to Middlebury’s first Low Carbon Diet workshop participants. The groups never imagined how hard and easy it would be to shave 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from their households in 30 days. 

This highly empowering program was sponsored by the Middlebury Area Global Warming Action Coalition. I facilitated several rounds of the diet more than 10 years ago, and many of us still have plenty of pounds of carbon to trim. It’s a program I will offer again beginning March 6. “Low-Cal Diet?” How about “Low-Carbon for Life?”

You learn what your household’s biggest energy and carbon hogs are by measuring your carbon footprint, and then target something you’ve been wanting to do and get it done, like driving or flying less, eating lower on the food chain, scheduling an energy audit, or arranging for a heating system replacement appraisal. Many participants were grateful to learn how a carbon footprint is calculated. 

According to the Low Carbon Diet Program, a group of five- to eight households agree to meet consistently once a week over a month for an hour to motivate each other to take energy saving actions listed in the “Low Carbon Diet” workbook by David Gershon of Empowerment Institute. I offer other materials, such as Efficiency Vermont advice and energy-related tax incentive or rebate applications.

“Changes are hard. I know how long it took me to remember to bring a cloth bag into the store,” one participant told me. “This program helped motivate me to keep trying.”

Another told me: “My electric bill dropped significantly after two weeks of participating in the program. I was surprised at how easy and cheap some of the things were to do like putting air filters on our faucets.”

“The Low Carbon Diet educates, motivates, and delivers energy savings in just 30 days.”

The Low Carbon Diet shows how to dramatically reduce your CO2 output through eco-friendly actions organized into lifestyle practices and household systems. By making simple changes in daily actions, you’ll learn to reduce your CO2 by 15%. Those who are even more motivated can become carbon neutral and help their workplace, schools, and community reduce their carbon footprints and save energy costs. 

Even if you think you’re doing a pretty good job with energy efficiency and carbon reduction, the workbook and meetings with others help raise your consciousness to further reduce your carbon footprint. At about 14,000 pounds of household carbon used, one participant found himself challenged in reducing the 5,000 pounds specified by the diet. His proved to be a valuable perspective for the group. In fact, all participants brought different aspects of energy efficiency and expertise to the weekly meetings. Many valued this aspect of the diet most; it’s a marvelous community-building experience. 

As facilitator a decade ago, I was highly motivating to get work done. I completed air sealing in my attic recommended after an energy audit I had completed. I had already insulated my basement, which the audit listed as my top priority and largest energy saver, but I had procrastinated on getting the rest of the work done. The diet helped nudge me to finish the work, and I could definitely feel the difference in my home.

I awakened to global warming and the need to take personal and local action from a Vermont Earth Institute small group book discussion led by Paul Bortz; I subsequently joined him in founding the Middlebury Area Global Warming Action Coalition in 2003. That evolved into the Middlebury Energy Committee we know today, on which I served for many years. During those early years, we hosted an “Efficiency First” campaign aimed at tackling low hanging fruit that could yield rapid energy savings and offered the low carbon diet and, later, the home energy challenge, in which neighbors helped neighbors identify heat loss in their homes and taught effective measures to reduce them, like sealing attic hatches. 

In recent years, the Middlebury Energy Committee has calculated a carbon footprint for all town-owned buildings, facilities and fleets on several occasions, and gave a progress report last month to the selectboard. From the report, we learned that we are flat in reducing our emissions. The Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County shows a similar trend — a “non-trend” that we must begin to move in the right direction. We need each other’s encouragement to keep moving forward. Resolve to measure and reduce your carbon footprint. Try the Low Carbon 30-Day Diet or one of many excellent online carbon calculators.

Be in touch about joining a Low Carbon Diet round at [email protected]. My series of four free weekly workshops will begin on Monday March 6. I’m eager to help you measurably reduce both carbon and costs in 30 days.


Laura Asermily serves on the Walk/Bike Council of Addison County and Middlebury Public Health and Safety Committee toward improving our health and mobility options and reducing our transportation carbon footprint. You see Laura dressed as the Yellow Banana on the first Wednesday morning of each month waving to those on Court Street at Mary Hogan Drive to celebrate children who walk and roll to school.

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