National Geographic : 2009 Mar
could we come to a lifestyle the planet could handle? If it turned out we couldn t do it, per- haps we could at least identify places where the diet pinched and gure out ways to adjust. So we agreed to shoot for 80 percent less than the U.S. average, which equated to a daily diet of only 30 pounds of CO . en we set out to nd a few neighbors to join us. John and Kyoko Bauer were logical candi- dates. Dedicated greenies, they were already committed to a low-impact lifestyle. One car, one TV, no meat except sh. As parents of three- year-old twins, they were also worried about the future. "Absolutely, sign us up," John said. Susan and Mitch Freedman, meanwhile, had two teenagers. Susan wasn t sure how eager they would be to cut back during their summer vacation, but she was game to give the diet a try. As an architect, Mitch was working on an o ce building designed to be energy e cient, so he was curious how much they could save at home. So the Freedmans were in too. WE STARTED ON A SUNDAY in July, an unseason- ably mild day in Northern Virginia, where we live. A front had blown through the night before, and I d opened our bedroom windows to let in the breeze. We d gotten so used to keeping our air-conditioning going around the clock, I d almost forgotten the windows even opened. The birds woke us at five with a pleasant racket in the trees, the sun came up, and our experiment began. Our rst challenge was to nd ways to con- vert our daily activities into pounds of CO . We wanted to track our progress as we went, to change our habits if necessary. PJ volunteered to read our electric meter each morning and to check the odometer on our Mazda Miata. While she was doing that, I wrote down the mileage from our Honda CR-V and pushed my way through the shrubs to read the natural gas meter. We diligently recorded 16 | CORDLESS PHONE: 36 | OIL FURNACE: 14,380 | VCR: 64 | CABLE BOX: 182 | ELECTRIC RANGE: 628 Peter Miller is a senior editor at National Geographic. Photographer Tyrone Turner s last feature for the magazine was on New Orleans a er Katrina.