North Cowichan’s Household Challenge an eye-opener, say winners

And the winner is….the environment.

But seriously, of the five households that have been participating to see just how low they could go in energy usage and environmental footprint, the winner of the first Community for Climate Household Challenge is the Mills family.

Tyrone and Agnes Mills and their children Emilia, six, and Alan, six months, reduced their consumption by 56 per cent to take the top prize.

The family went above and beyond in setting up a dog feces septic system as well as composting part of their son’s diapers, along with walking and carpooling.

"We thought we were doing all that we could, but participating in the challenge opened our eyes," said Tyrone. "By spending time with our Transition Cowichan mentors, Sandy McPherson and Alan Philips, we learned new ways of doing things and have made changes without impacting our lifestyle a whole lot. In the spring, we plan to go ahead with solar for the house and are transforming our front yard into a permaculture garden."

For their efforts, the winning family received a six-month food supply from Makaria Farms.

The second prize, a three-month food supply from Tatlo Farms, went to Heather Taylor and James Tousignant, and third prize winners, the Battye family, received a gift basket with a variety of goods including a $100 certificate from Makaria Farms.

The other participating families were three-person family Franya Jedwab, Tamara Leigh and son Gabriel in fourth place and single-person family Sheila Jones in fifth.

Taylor and Tousignant reduced their energy use by almost 80 per cent and plan to install a ductless heat pump in the future.

In terms of water usage they were also winners.

Ladysmith leads the way in the Valley using on average 246 litres per person per day.

Taylor and Tousignant handily beat that, reducing their use to between just 90 and 118 litres per day.

"The household challenge may be over, but certainly the work and the challenge to just continue doing what we’ve been doing is ongoing," said Taylor.

She also said she hopes the municipality does the challenge again next year.

Since 17 families applied, it’s not out of the question, but both Mayor Jon Lefebure and climate change advisory committee chair Kate Marsh said it will depend on the new council.

The Battyes are both teachers and have brought what they’ve learned into their classrooms. They also have plans to install solar panels.

"It’s been an amazing learning process," said Lefebure. "I don’t think we knew what to expect."

Marsh heard from people in the challenge that they were getting responses from community members.

"They’ve become kind of ambassadors," she said.

Marsh said she’s impressed with how the challenge has brought people together into a community around important issues.

"I hope that that will grow," she said. "I’m very excited about it."

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