Friday, 1 February 2008

At Last: 2007 Riot for Austerity numbers

Over at Learning to Step Lightly, Alexah has been diligently posting her Riot For Austerity updates on a monthly basis. In contrast, I've been procrastinating for many months, always telling myself I'll post them when I get one more month of numbers tallied up. And always hoping that the next month would lower my averages. But, this never happened and it's time to face up to the truth of the numbers for 2007.

In a nutshell, we consumed less of some things and more of others compared to 2006. I had hoped to make further reductions in every category, especially since we weren't even actively trying to reduce our consumption in some areas yet in 2006. Halfway through 2007 we joined the 'Riot' and really stepped up our efforts - at least I thought we did.

Here are the comparisons. The first number listed is the North American Monthly Average (NAMA) for a 2-person household, where applicable.

Electricity (lighting, cooking)
  • NAMA: 916 kWh
  • Our 2006 average: 316.7 kWH which equals 34.6% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: 327.58 kWh which equals 35.8 of the NAMA. We subscribe to Bullfrog Power, which is 100% wind power. According to Riot rules, we get a 4:1 credit for wind power, so we do actually meet the 90% reduction target in this category. But it would be nice to reduce the actual kWhs, nonetheless.
Natural Gas (heating, hot water)
  • NAMA: 106 gJ
  • Our 2006 average: 8.93 gJ which equals 8.4% of the NAMA - 90% reduction goal met
  • Our 2007 average: 9.29 gJ which equals 8.8% of the NAMA - 90% reduction still met, but it's close.
  • NAMA: 6000 gallons
  • Our 2006 average: 1600 gallons which equals 26.7% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: 1416.67 gallons which equals 23.6% of the NAMA - a bit lower, so this is good. Using the shower/tap grey water for flushing the toilet seems to be helping.
  • NAMA: 270 lbs
  • Our 2006 average: 15.125 lbs which equals 5.6% of the NAMA - 90% reduction goal met
  • Our 2007 average: 67.41 lbs, which equals 25% of the NAMA - this is a big jump but I know why it went up so much: we took some things to the landfill for some people who would otherwise have had to pay to put in in their city landfill. The good news is that we salvaged quite a lot of what had been originally slated for the landfill and we are using that stuff ourselves around the house and yard/garden.
Vehicle Fuel
  • NAMA: 316 litres
  • Our 2006 average: 308.58 litres which equals 97.7% of the NAMA. This is our Achilles heel - we live in the country and drive to the city for work. One vehicle is a diesel and logs about 600 kms per week. The other vehicle is gasoline powered and logs about 250 - 300 kms a week.
  • Our 2007 average: I only have the figures for my diesel car so far, and we seem to be headed for about the same level of consumption as 2006. The good news is that the second vehicle is now a smaller car instead of a pick up truck, presumably with better mileage, so our 2008 numbers should be lower. But until we move closer to work, or find some way to work fewer days a week, this number will remain too high.
Consumer Goods
  • NAMA: $1667 (US or CDN, they're at par with each other these days)
  • Our 2006 average: $1019.51 which equals 61.2% of the NAMA
  • Our 2007 average: $1010.63 which equals 60.6% of the NAMA - virtually identical. We have started changing what we spend money on more so than how much we spend, as we slowly acquire things like gardening tools, some hand-crank lamps, some good kitchen knives and other things on our list of things to prepare for a self-sustaining lifestyle. This number could well go up, as we invest in rain-collecting equipment, and maybe dig a well.
  • I didn't keep very good track of our proportion of bulk, locally grown, organic foods vs. long-distance/non-organic food consumption, but I do know the former increased, since we had a little garden in 2007 and went to the farmer's market almost every week for fresh produce. I doubt I'll keep good numbers on this actually, we're just steadily working on eating more and more locally as time goes by.

So there it is - we've done alright in some areas and not great in others, although we are at least below average in every category. And I'll try and post these numbers monthly from now on!


DC said...

It sounds like you're doing a fantastic job!

As far as consumer goods go, I think what you buy is important in addition to how much you buy. If you're purchasing quality goods that will last a long time or products that were made in a sustainable way, this has less of an impact than, say, buying diamond jewelry.

If you want to further reduce your fuel usage, one possibility (if you're up for a bit of an adventure) is making biodiesel from waste vegetable oil. This takes a little effort, but it will make your trips in your diesel vehicle mostly carbon neutral. You can buy an expensive kit that will do all the work for you, or you can build your own for a fraction of that cost. My father-in-law made his using hardware store parts for less than $100 (US). He gets waste oil from local restaurants for free, and it costs him about 75 cents (US) per gallon (or 20 cents per liter) to make the fuel.

One drawback besides the time it takes to collect vegetable oil and make the fuel is that you can't use straight biodiesel in extremely cold weather (it starts to gel) -- it has to be mixed with regular petrol diesel. Another is that some people may wonder what you're doing. One day my mother-in-law said to my father-in-law: "Honey, the neighbors want to know if we have something called a 'meth lab' -- is that what you use to make your biodiesel?" So, you might have some explaining to do.


Hi Theresa,
I'm glad to have found your blog too. I'm impressed with your progress on the 90% reduction, and trying to make reductions of my own.

I hope you give those pickles a try - they're delicious!

Theresa said...

dc - thanks, it's a work in progress that's for sure! My husband bought a book on making biodiesel a while back - it seemed fairly daunting. I can see why your father-in-law's neighbors thought he had a meth lab going! That is one of the reasons I bought a diesel vehicle though, to leave open the option of biodiesel one day.

crunchy greenola, hi! Pickle-making is definitely on my to-do list: I recently had the pleasure of tasting a neighbor's homemade pickles and they are so much better than store-bought!

daharja said...

I've just joined the Riot, after uhmmming and ahhing for way too long about it, and have just posted my (incomplete) first set of figures at Cluttercut.

It looks like you're doing well. Everyone has a thorn in their side. So far, ours seems to be water, but we haven't got the results in for a couple of categories yet, so things could be worse :-(

I think the point of the Riot is to DO it, and do your best, and to be aware of what you're doing. Fudging the figures is a pointless exercise.

In the end, everyone who does the Riot should be admired, because their baring their results to the world, and saying "I care, and I'm willin to do my best to change my world." And that is to be admired :-)

Now all we have to do is get our numbers down, keep logging the data, and get more people on board!

Theresa said...

Good for you for joining in on the Riot, daharja! I agree that the point isn't whether or not you make it down to 10% consumption/impact, but to do as much as you can, and show that much can be done!