Net-Zero Challenge Family

September 22, 2022

Slow fashion blogger (and Vita Daily contributor!) Jen Pistor, along with her husband and three daughters, are participating in a very cool Canadian Geographic challenge that will see them “compete” with four other families across the country in a series of carbon-reduction-themed challenges, with a goal to cut their household’s carbon emissions, reduce their spending on energy and share what they learn along the way in their journey to live net zero. We chatted with Jen to learn more. —Noa Nichol

Photo by Karly Krobath

What is this challenge all about, and how did you get chosen?

The challenge is called the #LiveNetZero Challenge with Canadian Geographic. Five families across Canada are competing to see who can bring about the greatest reduction in their household carbon footprint. The challenge began on September 19 and runs for 10 weeks. Each family has been given $10,000 to use toward the changes we intend to make within the five areas. Live Net Zero is an opportunity to teach Canadians how to reduce their household emissions through their homes and lifestyles. Like many families, we have already made many changes over the years to help lower our impact on the planet. This contest felt like the perfect opportunity to push ourselves further. We decided to make a submission video, and we were one of the lucky families selected.

Break down for us what you and your family must do to compete/win, and what the ultimate goal is. Are there specific challenges you must complete?

There are five bi-weekly challenges for us to compete in. Each challenge has an area of focus for us. The five challenge areas are: commuting, electricity use, home envelope, heating and cooling, and a holiday challenge. A bonus Thanksgiving challenge will be coming up soon! Our goal is to see how we can go greener in each of these areas. Some actions might be walking or biking over driving while other challenges could be making changes or upgrades to our homes. We want to find real ways to lower our carbon footprint.

When it comes to greenhouse gas/carbon emissions, energy consumption and other such activities, how are Canadians currently doing … and what needs to change, and why?

This is something we have been learning a lot about thanks to the team at Canadian Geographic. We’ve learned that Canada is one of the top 10 global emitters at less than 2 per cent of global emissions. Even though this number sounds relatively small, we need to keep in mind that if we excluded all the countries emitting less than Canada from the climate conversation, there would be 180 countries not in the conversation and not doing their part. Canada has set an aggressive target to reduce GHG emissions by 2030. In order to hit the 45 per cent reduction goal, it will require all of us to start taking steps now to reduce our GHG emissions. Through this process so far, I’ve learned that 23.8 per cent of Canada’s total energy consumption is used to power our homes.This generates 18.8 per cent of the country’s GHG emissions. Households also generate direct and indirect GHG emissions through commuting, food, travel, recreation, goods and services. This shows the impact individuals can have if we work collectively to make these changes.

Can you share with us some of the simple daily swaps you and your family are putting in place, while competing, that the rest of us can implement easily into our lives as well?

Our first challenge, that we are currently competing in, is the commuting challenge. A few things we were already doing are that we went from two to one vehicle back in 2020, my husband and I both work from home, and we live just a block from our kid’s school, so we walk everyday. Our challenge has been to see where we can do more to cut back our car use with three busy kids who are eight and five (twins). A few changes we have made have been:

  • Getting our groceries delivered. Studies have show that you can cut your emissions in half by having your groceries delivered over our individual trips to the grocery store.
  • Carpooling. With our kids all being smaller and needing car seats + the last two years of the pandemic, carpooling has not been an option. Now, that our oldest only requires a booster seat, we have added in a carpool day with a friend for one of her soccer days.
  • Walking for those short trips. Getting in the car is just so quick and easy when running an errand. I’ve been working on walking instead for those closer to home errands.

As we go through each of the challenges over the 10 weeks, I’ll be sharing more about what we’re swapping out and doing differently over on my Instagram page.

Besides the chance to win an electric vehicle, why is taking on this challenge important to you, in a bigger picture sense?

Eco anxiety is real and there are so many things in our world that feel completely beyond our control. As a Mom of three, I want their future to feel hopeful. I want to be able to show them, and normalize, doing things not because it’s easy, but because it’s the better way to do something for people and the planet. Our kids already enjoy helping out with recycling and going thrifting. Thrift shops are like regular stores for them and secondhand feels just as new to them as any other clothing, toys, or books. Our family is trying to be a part of the solution and we are learning along the way. 

What message do you hope to give other Canadian families through this platform?

I believe, we all play a part. We all live on this lovely planet, and we all need to be finding those tangible things that we can be doing to make positive change.  We can’t wait for future generations to fix the problems we are currently facing. I hope by sharing what we are learning along our journey will inspire others to start making changes in their own lives. I truly believe in progress over perfection, so whatever small change we can start today, is a step in the right direction.


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