Household Challenge Week 5 check-in:

Editor’s note: The Municipality of North Cowichan has chosen five households who will compete to see who can lower their energy use the most over the five weeks from Sept. 21 to Oct. 26 in the Community for Climate Household Challenge. The Citizen is checking in with the participants each week for tips, tricks and to find out how it’s going.


Noni Battye, Maple Bay Waste week. We’ve done really well with our garbage, dropping about 2.5kg over the course of the challenge.

Maybe it’s because we’re back to school so our garbage weighed more in the Week 2 when it was picked up as it still had items from while we were all still at home. Now we’re not at home as much so are we really using less or just putting it in different garbage bins? I’d like to think we’re more aware of where we’re putting our waste. Our cats have even helped out by taking more of their waste outside as the majority of our garbage weight is from kitty litter.

We’ve always had more recycling than garbage. Missing a week (or more often, not having enough to put out) of garbage isn’t a big deal. Miss one recycle week and we’re in big trouble. As a family of six, we put out three to four full garbage cans of recycling every two weeks. There is some frustration of having to sort out the soft plastics, Styrofoam, and glass to take separately to the recycle depot.

Our kitchen organics is as full as it’s ever been as we have been harvesting our garden and getting it processed. The next challenge we have set ourselves is to sort out a spot in the yard where we can compost our fruit and veggie scraps to add back into our garden.

Tyrone Mills, Somenos Well here we are at the end of week five. The focus of week five was on waste reduction. This isn’t just about garbage, but all forms of waste.

Wasting energy: during the challenge we reduced our energy consumption by 56 per cent.

Wasting water: in the past five weeks, we reduced our weekly water consumption by 44 per cent.

Waste… I wasn’t weighing our garbage before, but we have averaged 8kgs per week in wet diapers that we are now composting, rather than throwing in the trash. Did you know it takes 500 years for a "disposable" diaper to decompose?

Over the past five weeks, we’ve made some good friends, learned a tremendous amount, shared some great ideas and feel so much more connected to our community.

The challenge may be over but for our family this is the start of a lifelong journey. Our front yard is becoming a permaculture garden, we are adding solar panels to our roof and our attitudes about water have been changed forever.

Many thanks are owed to the Climate Change Advisory Committee and the Municipality of North Cowichan for this incredible experience.

Franya Jedwab, Tamara Leigh and Gabriel, Crofton This week the topic was waste reduction, and within this we focused on reducing our food waste and recycling, as well.

We were mindful about portion-sizing for meals and in meal-planning, as well as in our grocery purchases.

For example, when buying meats, it is waste reducing to purchase locally-sourced meats from Quist Farm that come in brown paper packaging, versus Styrofoam and plastic-wrapped meats.

We have also been planning out our winter garden in order to reduce our food consumption footprint and eat healthy, home-grown foods. We are just about to plant our garlic to harvest for next year and this is something the whole family enjoys participating in.

We feel so fortunate to have been involved in this challenge and each one of us has learned an incredible amount. This will have a lasting impact as we will continue to reduce our consumption from now on.

Heather Taylor and James Tousignant, Chemainus My focus this week is on plastic bags!

You know, all those bags on the rolls in the produce section for containing your fruits and veggies so they stay together? And we seem to collect more and more bags from buying bulk items such as dried fruits, grains and nuts. We have less use for these bags since we’re no longer needing them for dog poo (since building the dog poo septic)! We think we’re doing better buying bulk, but it’s still using plastic bags.

I don’t throw them out and so they collect in my kitchen drawer – piles of them. I have decided to stop using them, or at least stop using new ones. My plan is to reuse these bags for when I buy my bulk items and/or even better yet, to use mason jars when buying bulk stuff. I discovered The Community Farm Store has mason jars just for this.

Household Challenge in a (Cowichan Valley hazel) nutshell….

We became more mindful of our energy footprint.

It was fun! I learned lots. I do feel more connected with

my community.

Best part: The Energy Meter.

She has taken on a personality all her own!

Most challenging: Eating (and drinking) only totally local food for one day.

Biggest difference: There were several. 1. dog poo septic, 2. tubs in sink for doing dishes, 3. using dish water for garden and flushing toilet, 4. limiting toilet flushes to less than for per day, 5. turning off lights, 6. decision to buy ductless heat pump and return the oil furnace.

Surprised by: 1. The change in my stress level when I decreased my driving speed to 80-90 kph, 2. The pleasant bus ride to work and back Chemainus to Duncan, 3. Jim’s growing enthusiasm in the challenge.

And…a few OOPS!

Forgetting to re-set the fuse after turning down the temperature of the hot water tank, so having only cold water for five days, until we finally figured out why!

Unplugging the hot tub for the weekend which then took more electricity to re-heat it.

Increasing electrical use by using the oven, to cook baked apples during my "local only" meal – what I made in bonus points there I lost in increased hydro use! And I did that twice! Toaster oven (uses way less energy) has risen in stature significantly for me.

I hope North Cowichan does this again next year!

Winners of the challenge will be announced at the North Cowichan council meeting on Nov. 6.