Airdronian Samantha Shannon and her family are one of eight families who are competing in a nationwide challenge. The Live Net Zero Challenge centres on different competitions over 14 weeks which spur the families to reduce their carbon footprint by as much as they can. The winner of the challenge, which is presented by Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada with support from Scotiabank, will win a $50,000 cash prize.

This week's challenge is all about commuting. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, the family has stowed their car and has opted to use their electronic bicycles.

"We've gone out and got some cargo trailers and some little bike trailers for the kids to pull behind so that we can get places like the grocery store in Genesis Place," she explained. 

Although some would assume that using an e-bike for all transportation needs may be cumbersome, Shannon said that her husband has enjoyed his rides to Genesis Place so much, that he refuses to use the car, lest he gets stuck in afternoon traffic jams.

"We are very, very fortunate here in Airdrie to have such excellent bike paths. I get places much faster than if I had to take my car. Because our kids' swim lessons are usually around rush hour when everyone's trying to commute home from Calgary; with the e-bike, we can just take the pedestrian bridge over the highway, and we're back and forth within five minutes."

Shannon, who has been working on a two-year-long documentary about a net-zero retrofit for her house stumbled upon the competition by happenstance, though it seemed like a perfect match in eco-friendly heaven.

"I get to look at my kids and say we're doing the right thing to save the polar bears. Those are all very valid reasons [of] why we're doing it. But I think the biggest thing for me - is that we're securing our family's future."

But commuting is only one challenge of 14 set out in the competition. Other challenges in the coming weeks among others, include home improvement, heating and cooling, and holidays. However, Shannon may very well have a leg up in the competition when it comes to the home improvement and utilities portion of the challenge. While the family received $5,000 of seed money as part of the competition, the Shannons were already well into their home renovations.

On Tuesday afternoon, her home became the second home in the city to have a geothermal exchange heating unit installed. While she noted that her yard may look a bit chaotic, what with trenches and plenty of construction material on-site, garnering the attention of passersby and neighbours, once the installation is complete, her home will heat at 400 per cent efficiency. The family will also not have to worry about utility bills and sky-high rates.

"All of this has been financed through pulling the equity out of our mortgage, as well as using the Greener Homes Loan; we've calculated our interest payments into all of our calculations," she said. "Given the raise in natural gas fees, we actually work[ed] out, [that we're] paying less for our geothermal unit, than if we were to hook up to a natural gas contract today."

When asked if her kids are enjoying the challenge thus far - especially with school starting, Shannon said she is very lucky as her children's school is very close to home, so the kids' routine is as it always has been - getting to school the old fashioned way- by walking. However, she said that they are quite excited when the e-bikes are out and they get to go for a spin. As far as the $50,000 grand prize is concerned, she said that a large lump sum of money like that would go towards their mortgage payments.

"It [would] definitely help us amortize this a little bit quicker, and makes that affordability calculations a little bit easier to swallow."

The Airdrie family is the only Alberta family participating in the challenge. 

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