"Carbon Negative" at Inn Serendipity
The realities of climate change offer a refreshing approach to thinking global and acting local. For over a decade, our energy conservation efforts, installation of renewable energy systems, commitment to local food systems, use of various organic growing practices and forest stewardship (at the Inn Serendipity Woods cabin property) has provided an opportunity for Inn Serendipity to tackle climate change.
Some of our solutions come by way of technology: electricity generation on-site with a 10 kW wind turbine and .7 kW photovoltaic system is in EXCESS of actual annual needs, with more than 3,000 kWh surplus on average each year. We also have a 2.28 kW photovoltaic system on the roof of our cabin place, generating renewable energy in EXCESS of actual annual needs, with more than 1,500 kWh surplus on average each year. Our solutions also come by way of personal actions, behavioral and lifestyle changes, and, more recently, purchasing various carbon off-sets through Carbon Fund and Trees for the Future. We've been able to go "carbon negative" -- sequestering or taking more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than we emit -- as a result of numerous changes, strategies, technologies and practices. As of 2006, the various steps taken have not only allowed our operations to be carbon negative, they also provide incredible cost savings, increased our degree of self reliance (harvesting our own energy; growing much of our own food), and leverage the power of business to make the world a better place in an economy that's supporting ecological systems, not destroying them.
Through our speaking, writing, photography and work with such organizations as the MOSES Rural Women's Project, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) -- hosting the world's largest renewable energy and sustainable living fair -- and Renewing the Countryside, we focus our efforts on sharing, connecting and fostering a more sustainable future. Our books, including Rural Renaissance, now in its second printing, the award-winning ECOpreneuring, and Farmstead Chef provide both inspirational stories and practical how-to information to assist others in living and working in a climate-neutral way -- today. Not, as the politicians like to say, sometime in the future.
Overview of our Journey to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from 1996 to the present:
- Estimated net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 100% over 11-years to become "carbon negative".
- From a home/farm/business once using 15,984 kWh/year of electricity to one that uses less than 9,000 kWh/year from exclusively renewable energy sources both on site as well as through our public utility, Alliant Energy's Second Nature 100-percent green energy program. Reduction of electricity use through conservation, energy efficiency and solar thermal systems.
- Electricity generation on-site with a 10 kW wind turbine and .7 kW photovoltaic system is in EXCESS of actual annual needs, with more than 3,000 kWh surplus on average each year sold to utility on an annual basis (which our community then uses).
- Electricity generation on-site at our Inn Serendipity Woods cabin property with a 2.28 kW photovoltaic system which produces in EXCESS of actual annual needs, with more than 1,500 kWhs surplus on average sold to utility on an annual basis (which our community then uses).
- For those carbon emissions we were unable to avoid when we travel, especially related to transportation to conferences or for our business, we offset these emissions through the Carbonfund.org Foundation.
- Trees for the Future carbon sequestering program with "Trees for Travel" certificates that offsets impacts of guests' travel to Inn Serendipity. The Trees for Travel program also supports community-based conservation and development. To date, about 5.1 million pounds of carbon dioxide have been sequestered through our participation in this program.
- Shift from #2 fuel oil for heat to EPA certified air-tight woodstove burning local, seasoned hardwood.
- For long-range travel, our VW Jetta TDI (diesel) is fueled with biodiesel blends secured locally during warm season months. For local short trips during the warm seasons, an all-electric CitiCar is regularly used, recharged by a .5 kW off-grid photovoltaic system on site. The PV system also recharges our electric lawn mower and is used for various other electric needs on the farm.
- Farming Practices at Inn Serendipity Farm
By growing organically, using minimal tilling and seeking to maximize organic matter in the soil through crop rotations and application of compost, it's estimated by the Rodale Institute that such practices may sequester as much as 667 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year. Inn Serendipity Farm currently has about 1 acre of organic cultivation, sequestering a conservative estimate of about 500 pounds of CO2 per year, plus 4 acres of pasture grasslands on the farm, estimated to sequester about 1 ton of carbon dioxide per acre per year according to the Farmers Union Carbon Credit program. More than thirty conifers have been planted at the edge of the west, north and east boundaries of the farmstead for wind breaks and buffers. We estimate that our farming practices when combined with the thirty trees planted as wind breaks around the farm offset the approximately 20 gallons total of gasoline used annually for our limited use of a rototiller, chainsaw, gasoline powered lawn mower at the cabin, and DR brush mower.
- Forest Stewardship and Pasture at the Inn Serendipity Woods Cabin Property
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen." Therefore, our sustainable forestry practices offer numerous opportunities to help reduce our carbon emissions through:
- 20 acres managed forest law under a stewardship management plan that includes timber stand improvement practices. Depending on practices, age and species of trees and various other factors, forest enrichment practices may sequester as much as 5 tons of carbon dioxide per acre. Our conservative estimate is 60 tons of carbon dioxide sequestered in total per year (20 acres x 3 tons/acre = 60).
- 3 acres conservation reserve program with a new tree planting (afforestation) of 550 trees in former cropland. Depending on practices, age and species of trees and various other factors, afforestation may sequester as much as 5 tons per acre. Our conservative estimate is 6 tons of carbon dioxide sequestered in total per year (3 acres x 3 tons/acre = 6).
- 7 acres un-mowed pasture grassland. Pasture grasslands are estimated to sequester about 1 ton of carbon dioxide per acre per year according to the Farmers Union Carbon Credit program. Therefore, a conservative estimate of carbon sequestration would be 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
- Total estimated carbon sequestration at Inn Serendipity WOODS cabin: 71 tons
Eventually, we hope to participate in the Chicago Climate Exchange by selling carbon credits to those seeking to buy carbon credits under "cap-and-trade" schemes to address climate change realities.
We continue our efforts to further expand our carbon sequestration efforts, now recording our activities annually, and purchasing carbon offsets as needed.
We are revising estimated carbon sequestration rates based on new information and research as it becomes available. Please let us know if you can share new insights, research or breaking information that can provide a more complete representation of our carbon footprint.
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7843 County P
Browntown WI 53522
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