I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: making sustainable living fun for the whole family.
Meet Nhat Ho, our newest Net-Zero Hero! Nhat is an engineer and Vice President at Civilitude, a local engineering and planning firm located in Austin’s Mueller district. Nhat uses his skills and expertise in engineering to serve on the City’s Water and Wastewater Commission, as well as the Joint Sustainability Committee. These groups help advise our City council on environmental policy and resource management. Nhat and his family have adopted a smaller footprint lifestyle, choosing to live near his workplace to cut down on the family’s commute. The family also drives electric, composts at home, and even uses scooters to get around town.
We spoke with Nhat about his commitment to Net-Zero, what his toughest challenges have been, and what advice he has for others. Read more below.
It wasn’t until my family began to compost consistently that we fully realized how much we were sending to the landfill that could be avoided. Seeing and touching the piles of food waste and plastic generated by two adults, two kids, and two cats on a weekly basis is astounding and action-inducing.
Climate change and environmental pollution are urgent and serious problems of the present, not the future. If our carbon footprint was more visible and tangible to us, I believe there would be more urgency in taking action. My wife and I have committed to sustainable living to do what we can to address climate change now, spread awareness to others, and build good habits for our children.
For me, these are the three keys: urban living, electric vehicles, and small business ownership! We chose to live in a small footprint townhouse in Mueller — two stories, 1,300 square feet with no private yard. The tight space forces us to have a smaller trash cart, recycle more, and limit our food waste. The upside is being walking distance from several parks, restaurants, a movie theater, and yoga, which we do often as a family. We also chose to put our kids in neighborhood playschools that we can bike or scoot to, which dramatically eliminates short car trips — especially during peak hours.
When we do drive, our all-electric cars make it exhilarating to enjoy carbon-free-driving. As someone who loves cars and is a proud owner of interesting gas-fueled cars, three years of electric car ownership has convinced me that we are entering an exciting new era. With a 300-mile range highway-self-driving, the Tesla 3 is my ideal companion on a day trip to San Marcos and back — even during brutal traffic. A more relaxed right foot and reduced road rage are priceless! Landon, my four-year-old boy, developed his own unique bond with the 3 by playing Atari games on its screen. Nolan, my one-and-a-half year-old boy, is more entertained by the flapping falcon wings on the X.
I'm very fortunate that I get to choose where I work. Civilitude, our boutique civil engineering firm, recently built our own office building just outside of Mueller, which caps my work commute to a mere six-minute drive. While we loved our last office, our new location will soon make our entire team's work-related driving drop dramatically.
It is humbling and frustrating to think about the sheer amount of work that we, as Austin community members and as global citizens, still have to do to move the needle on carbon neutrality. The challenge is further complicated when we consider the fact that not every person and business can afford to take sustainable actions.
The close proximity between home, work, play, and school have created so much flexibility, and that has enhanced our quality of life beyond our expectation. As exciting as the Tesla is, I find myself grinning ear to ear when taking my son to school on an electric scooter. Walking to the Mueller Alamo Drafthouse for a 10:00 p.m. showing with our friends is such a special experience that the zero-carbon-trip-benefit is just the cherry on top. But, by far, our greatest reward has been seeing the good habits and awareness that our kids have picked up that will help them develop an appreciation for the environment.
We all have bad days where choices that are good for the environment are simply not top-of-mind, but if there are more and more of us who can take action every day, we can all breathe a little easier — pun intended. Before submitting to the traditional thinking that several hours in traffic every day is just the fact of life, I hope people take a moment to challenge the habit and consider compact living. If an opportunity presents itself, take the rail, bike, scoot, or walk, and make it a fun experience.
Most importantly, share with others! I recently visited my uncle in San Jose who has been driving three hours to and from work every day for the past twenty years. Meanwhile, he loves his electric bike, but can't seem to find time to enjoy it. My son and I helped him get past the anxiety of taking the rail to work by doing it together. The direct benefit was that we got to spend quality time together. Beyond that, the thing he used to be afraid of now helps him do what he enjoys the most. My son now cannot wait to show his grandparents the same thing, and that is priceless!
To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.
Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org.