Living with a sustainable carbon footprint does not mean you never go anywhere or have any fun. It just means you pick your fun carefully. That means finding the mountains close to home. We are lucky in New York State to have the Adirondacks just a few hours drive away.
And Robin and I are even luckier, because two years ago we bought a few acres of land in North River, connected to the Garnet Hill cross country ski trail network, and built a small ski cabin there. We designed the cabin to be off the grid and off of fossil fuels. It’s one open room with sleeping lofts at either end, a wood stove for heat, and a composting toilet Because there is no plumbing, we don’t have to heat the place when it is empty. Four solar panels charge three marine storage batteries, wired to a twelve volt electric system for lights and small appliances. Instead of house current sockets, we have USB sockets to plug our phones and tablets into to charge.
Our cabin is nestled in a stand of red pines, in a larger stand of spruce and firs. All those evergreens give a distinct north woods flavor to the place, with a mountain ridge peeking over the trees. Friday afternoon we drove up in our Prius, stopping along the way to pick up some bees for Robin’s apiary. Saturday was a splendid Spring day. Robin tended to her beehives all morning while I cut, split, and stacked more wood for next winter. In the afternoon, we went for a hike to the top of nearby Moxham Mountain and lay in the sun at the summit gazing across the valley to Gore Mountain. Saturday evening we threw another paella party for our friends in North River. We awoke to the rain on our tin roof Sunday morning – no matter, it was a nice morning to look through the windows at the mists, linger over a long brunch of waffles cooked in our woodstove, catch up on reading the Sunday Times, and finally go for a walk when the rain let up. Sunday evening I experimented with this kit I got to make pizzas in a barbecue grill (not quite designed right for our grill, so the bottom was blackened even though the top was a bit doughy). We stayed over Sunday night, and rose before dawn for a quick run before driving back downstate in time for Monday morning meetings.
It’s about a three and half hour drive from our house to our cabin – 210 miles each way. Running the cabin and living in it is zero carbon, since we light it with solar energy and heat it with dead and down trees from the land. We een cook on the wood stove – though we have a propane camp stove as backup. The round trip in a 50 mpg hybrid takes about eight gallons of gas. Split two ways, that works out to about 80 pounds of CO2 emissions for each of us – ten trips a year is less than half a ton of CO2 – so this luxury fits just fine in my four ton carbon budget. (Yes, I know, building the cabin used fossil fuels – but that emissions get spread out over the fifty year life of the cabin, so they will be pretty minor).
Getting to the cabin and the gas water heater and stove at home are my biggest remaining fossil-fuel dependent habits. Our cabin is a bit beyond the range of our electric vehicles at this point, but in a couple of years, when the Tesla Model 3 hits the road, even getting away to the mountains for the weekend could be completely carbon free.