Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some more Riot numbers

For those of you who have missed it, we are Rioting for Austerity. A little explanation in case you are still confused as to what we are trying to accomplish.
In his book _Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning_ George Monbiot observes that we lack the political will to make change happen, and says, "no one has ever rioted for austerity." So, there exists a group of people, connected through online blogs like this one who are attempting to do just that. We are attempting to do what the politicians tell us is impossible and unwanted. Our thinking is if we can get a thousand people to 10% of the American average for resource consumption without any help from the government, imagine what we can do with a little help. And as front runners we can help answer the questions that are going to crop up. So, in a sense we are the guinea pigs for the most important question my generation will ever face, "Can we live and be happy with less?" I think the doing with less is going to happen whether we want it or not; the being happy part is a bit more tricky. The great thing about being one of the guinea pigs is I can take my time about it and do some trial and error. I hope to find out that we are still decreasing in all the categories, but I'm guessing it won't be that easy. So, here's the progress report.

Since I'm in my third trimester I'm starting to count the baby as part of the household. Is this cheating? *shrug* I don't know. :-) I feel like there are so many things right now that he is already influencing, that the numbers would be inaccurate without counting him. So, there's the full disclosure for this Riot update.
If you are new to this Riot thing and curious about where I'm getting my percentages, I recommend you check out the calculator that I'm using.

My goal to figure out the bus system did happen. I even get a free ride on the bus since I'm a state employee right now. Bonus! Dave and I still car pool most days, but sometimes I'll bus home if I get off early. We try and combine errands so we rarely go out driving just to go to one place. We pick up groceries at the store once a week on our way home from work. I am also trying to teach Dave how to hypermile with our manual transmission Civic.
So, we are down a tiny bit to 8 gallons per person per week. It's still pretty high at 83% of the American average, but we are still going down.

We used 541 kWh in November, which puts us at 60% of the American average. As I suspected, the darkness of winter caused an increase in our electricity usage. We have to turn on more lights in the morning and more lights in the evening to get the meals cooked and to quietly entertain ourselves. I've also got my grow light hooked up in the basement, and we run an electric heater for 20 minutes a day during our showers. *shrug* I know it'll go down again in the summer when there's more light. I'm just a little stumped as to how I can get it any lower at this point. I have a few friends who are interested in a group purchase of a Kill-a-Watt meter. Maybe that will shed some light on the issue. I have thought about shutting off the fridge, it's old and huge and ridiculously inefficient. Sadly though, we live in a rental house and I have no way to modify a space into a cold room. The food would have to go outside, and while it might save us some money, we'd lose money to heat costs because I'd have to unseal the back door. We'd also run the chance of losing food to the dog-sized raccoons that patrol the neighborhood. I'll try and find solutions to these problems this summer and talk the husband into turning off the fridge next winter. Maybe I can find some of the 2L bottles I was using for heat sinks in the garden, freeze them at night by the front door, and toss them in the fridge for the day. That might be an easy way to offset the magnitude of inefficiency I have to deal with.

Natural Gas:
We used 62 therms in November. O_O eek! That's 75% of the American Average. I was really hoping we were doing better than that. We keep the back entryway and basement closed off and unheated. The windows are double paned and pretty new, The house thermostat is set at 63. Sadly, we don't have a programmable thermostat, but again it's the problem of renting. The landlady said they had recently re-insulated the attic space, but maybe I should get Dave to stick his head up there and do a quick measure. I don't think I'll be able to talk him into turning down the thermostat any more, he already complains it's too cold. This one I'm totally stumped on.

Not much change here. We send our veggie scraps through the worm bin since the compost outside is frozen. We recycle everything. We throw away kitty litter, a small bit of plastic packaging and food that goes bad before we get to it. I'm getting better about that last one, but it's just something that takes practice. Plus, I'm a young cook. There are still occasional meals that are not to my husband's taste. (That's his nice way of saying something was a disaster) For instance the meatloaf saga of two weeks ago. :-D :-D This category went down a tiny bit, the weight of output was about the same, but since we are 3 now instead of 2 our percentage is better. 4 pounds per person per week. 13% of the average American.

*Sigh* Our usage for the past two months has been consistent at 600CF per month. That works out to 1496 gallons per person. Which is lower than at my last check in. But, it still puts us at 50% of the American average. I'm almost positive our slow progress in this area is my showers. I would bet money on it. I take boiling hot showers every morning and they last at least 10 minutes, some 15. My excuse is it's the only reason I'm able to move since it feels like every joint in my body is expanding. (They probably are.) Hopefully, after baby comes I can use stretching exercises instead of hot water to relax my muscles and cut my showers down to 3-5 minutes. But, right now I can't even see my toes, much less touch them and my hot showers are the only thing I got. Perhaps a more modest goal is in order. I'll time my showers for a few days and try and reduce them 25%.

Surprisingly I think we are down in this category. Although if you look at the numbers for 4th quarter retail sales, we are clearly not the only people spending less. Unless I'm forgetting something, we spent 200$ last month between presents for nieces/nephews and spending some of our received money on things like shoes. And I spent 200$ this month on cloth for the cloth diapers. That puts us down at 24%, a very modest 3% drop from the last check in. Hopefully we can get the car seat and stroller used next month and drop a little more.

This one has suffered from our current reliance on WIC checks. WIC checks require me to buy milk, eggs and cheese with "no special claims" i.e. no Rbgh free milk, no local brown egges, no organic cheeses. And I get to buy juice on the WIC check, but not fruit. *roll eyes* We are still eating off the onions and garlic in the basement and the preserved veggies in the freezer and cabinet. But we are eating way too much meat, and it's definitely not local. Our diet has changed so drastically with these checks I'm not even sure I can do a good estimate. So lets just call it bad.

So an overview:
Progress made in the categories of goods, water, trash and transportation.
Problems with food,natural gas and electricity.
Goals are to cut my showers down 25%, try freezing bottles to help the fridge, reduce our meat intake, check attic insulation and do a household evaluation with a Kill-a-watt meter.

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