Garrett Park Conservation Action Network




in Action











by Pat Aufderheide and Steve Schwartzman
10908 Clermont

We have made some choices in our home recently, especially at the urging of our son Gabe, to lower our carbon footprint. They go along with some longstanding choices we've made for simplicity and recycling, which have been driven by other concerns, such as our budget and dislike of shopping. These are choices that accord with our lifestyle values generally. Our choices don't seem to us to require any more effort from us than other, more consumerist choices, which might involve us going to places that are noisy and disturbing, making hard purchasing choices, spending money that requires us to work harder, or be in traffic more. We can easily see that other people might make different decisions wisely. We can tell you about how easy or difficult any of ours are to implement, but we are not evangelists for these choices. We believe that any significant global climate change problem-solving must be at the level of national and international policies, particularly policies that provide economic incentives to revalue energy inputs. We think that carbon cap-and-trade policies are a top priority.


Our bikes, our feet and the Metro take us to work and on errands all week.

Pat has a foldup bike to put on the Metro during rush hours (you must have a bag for it too).

Panniers on the bikes carry an astonishing amount of groceries without making it difficult to bike. Two panniers and a basket carried four people's food for a week (although that was with one trip a month for a big shop with a car for things you can store). For two people, it's a snap.

We like our car for heavy stuff and long trips, and it tends to have one or maybe two trips a week when the kids aren't around.

BUT....We squander every last carbon saving from our domestic arrangements and exceed any reasonable individual carbon budget on our frequent air travel for work.


Rain barrel—this used to be part of the raft Gabe and his friends made to go down the Potomac one summer. We use the water to water the garden.

Unkempt lawn—this is just the sad result of neglect. We use a hand mower, and if we mowed more often, it would be a perfectly workable solution. It's not a big physical challenge to use a hand mower, especially for such a small amount of turf. But if you don't keep on it, you'll have to sickle, because the hand mower doesn't cut high grass.

Decayed lawn furniture—No justification. Every large-item pickup it's a question about whether it should go away.

Garden in back—this has partly been maintained by high-energy teenagers, and has offered over the years a decent but not great yield—probably covering costs. It's been more about entertainment and education. Also it cuts down on the turf. The soil is awful, so we put in horse manure (aged for a year in bags in the garage) that we get in Rock Creek Park stables.

Compost in back—we don't do much more than dump non-meat waste in and let it rot, and then put it on the garden eventually. You could be much more efficient with compost. But this is easy, and works well enough.

Clothes line: We rarely use the dryer, even in the winter (although sometimes we hang clothes inside, on the banisters and chairs). You do have to shake out the towels if you don't want them to be stiff.


We wash clothes in cold water and hang them out to dry (or on the banister).

We wash them in half-Borox, half-Tide.

We ask ourselves if clothes, napkins, tablecloths, towels, sheets etc. need to be washed.


We use cloth napkins and towels mostly. We do have some paper towelling for occasional uses.

We try to keep cleaning agents to natural, mostly vinegar, although we're still using up some of the chemical stuff we had five years ago (!) when we switched over. We have a formula of ammonia, borax, and a dab of detergent to make up dishwashing liquid.

We don't use paper plates or plastic glasses. We have an extra set of glasses and plates for parties.

Local and organic priorities on food purchases (less easy in the winter!)

Less packaging is better (MOM's, on Nicholson lane, is a great store for this).

We have reduced the amount of meat (high end of food chain) that we eat, but we still eat meat.

We're down to one small bag of garbage a week, thanks to the expanded recycling of Montgomery County and choosing less packaging. We hate the idea of anything going into the landfill.


We have a contract for 100% wind energy from CleanCurrents. Originally it cost a smidgen more than the regular, but now is pretty much the same.

We have two air conditioning systems, one for the first and one for the second floor. This wasn't an energy choice, but a requirement of retrofitting. But it works out great; we almost never turn on the first floor a/c.

We have an all-house fan for the hot but not unbearable days. It draws cooler air from the bottom of the house to the top.

The former occupants installed pretty good windows.

We put in insulating blinds in the kitchen and on the second floor. These trap air and create a barrier that keeps heat from outside out in the summer and heat from inside in, in the winter. We're saving up for more of them.

Recycled furniture, tools, appliances. Friends, thrift stores, family, rummage sales. Not originally an ecological decision, just cheaper and easier than having to buy new, but we'll count it.

Energy-star appliances, when we buy them new (e.g. dishwasher, stove, frig).

Florescent lights.

Power strips, so we can turn off appliances.

Water heater gets turned down when we leave for a while.

We sometimes make a trip to Montgomery County's hazardous-waste reycling. Electrical appliances/computers/plugs create a problem.


Hemp and cotton shower curtains (easily washed, with nice hooks that make them easy to hang up again).

Recycled (i.e. cheap) toilet paper.

Toilets are the new, lower-water-use kind. They work fine.


We try to recycle paper (especially scratch paper from the office) when we computer-print or leave notes for each other.

We use recycled printer cartridges, from the Cartridge World folks near Shoppers. They're cheap too.

We try to use re-useable gift bags or to decorate gifts with recyclable materials, e.g. colored cartoons from the newspaper. This is a tough choice, since it means not buying the GPES gift wrap.

We try to buy reuseable holiday decorations rather than paper ones.


Conservation: the Quickest Route to Sustainability