Friday, 22 February 2008

90% Reduction - Corrected Natural Gas Usage

I sure am glad I read other people's blogs - it's keeping me on my toes! And a lesson in humility is never a bad thing.

I was visiting over at Learning to Step Lightly yesterday and in perusing her natural gas usage numbers I noticed a large error in my own calculations. I've been mistakenly touting our household as having achieved a 90% reduction in our natural gas usage, for both 2006 and 2007. I was proud of this, proud about how frugal we were in our house, even before jointing the Riot For Austerity. In fact, just the other day I turned the gas fireplace on because I was a bit chilly and thought I could comfort myself with both the warmth from the fire and the knowledge there was some 'slack' in our numbers. So what the heck eh? Turn on the fireplace.

Well, it turns out I made a miscalculation when I was converting Therms to gigaJoules, and put the decimal point in the wrong place. I thought the average North American household used 106 gJ of natural gas per month, but it turns out the average is only 10.6 gJs per month! Our 2007 average of 9.29 gJs/month is under this, but just barely! So instead of thinking we were only using 8.8% of the North American monthly average, we were in actuality using 88% of it. Time for some re-assessment here. I'll have to cloak myself in a sweater rather than in smug self-righteousness.

I'm fairly certain the rest of the numbers are I've posted in the past are correct, but if anyone notices any strange anomalies (past or future), please let me know!


DC said...

We'll let you off this time, but you're going to have to stop using your gas fireplace for the next decade to make up for your indulgence. Seriously, it's not that big a deal. You're doing such a fantastic job in the other areas. Really, the effort you are making is more important than the actual numbers. In some ways the Riot is really unfair because people who live in mild climates, have existing short commutes to work, have long growing seasons and can afford to buy solar roofs and other more expensive sources of green energy have huge advantages without making any sacrifices. If I had some land in Hawaii, I'm pretty sure I could meet all the reduction targets and live as comfortably as I am now without that much work.

You should be proud of your accomplishments.

Theresa said...

Thanks dc :)

I'm mostly ticked with myself not because of the amount of gas we're using, but just because of this tendency I have, that I don't like to admit to, which is being secretly proud or smug about something, and then secretly judgmental. I've been trying to work on changing this about myself, and finding this error was a reminder to myself that I've got more personal work to do in this area. And I didn't want to let myself off the hook and not post about the error and my misplaced pride. I won't be punishing myself (or others in the house here with me!) by never turning on the fireplace again, but when I do turn it on it will remind me of this lesson!

About the reduction target itself, I agree: the awareness and effort are more important than the numbers. In my relatively northern location, it's really not very realistic to shoot for a 90% reduction in natural gas use for heating. But on the flip side, I don't need to use any A/C in the summer! And I don't have to turn any lights on in the summer either, since it's light outside from about 5 am to 11 pm here from May-August . So I'll just keep doing what I can, whittling away here and there, knowing others elsewhere are doing the same.