Friday, June 01, 2007

How low can we go?

One of my favorite, most-challenging bloggers is Sharon of Casaubon's Book. She and another blogger, Miranda, have concocted the most amazing challenge: the 90% Reduction challenge or the "Riot for Austerity"!

This year-long adventure is open to everyone interested in making big lifestyle changes and discovering the possibilities. The goal is to show by example that Americans and others who have such a wealthy way of life that most of the people on our small world cannot fathom it... can actually downsize, simplify, and reduce our consumption in a radical way -- and still enjoy life!

I decided to join the reduction challenge for the support, ideas, and challenge to go deeper, though my own goals were somewhere between modest and moderate. Here is my baseline, our household's starting line, where we are right now. I'm not providing the USA averages or the full text of the 90% reduction challenge in each area; for all that good stuff, go to 90% Rules. Here we go!


Baseline for 90% reduction challenge

The 7 categories:

1. Gasoline.
I haven't figured our actual baseline yet, but my guesstimate is that we typically use 344 gallons of gasoline per year (11,000 miles at 32 mpg), or about 86 gallons per person per year (divide by four people). This is 17% of the USA average (500 gallons/person/year), but if we only count the adults, we would be at 34% of the USA average.

2. Electricity.
Our baseline is 59% of the USA average, and 49% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month usage to date is 6,447 kWh, including 4-for-1 accounting* for the 200 kWh each month of wind power we purchase from the power company. Before the wind power swap, our baseline was 75% of the USA average, and 62% of the Oklahoma average. Our 12-month actual usage to date is 8,247 kWh.

* Wind power: We buy 200 kWh per month of wind power, which according to the 90% rules counts as 1/4 of the amount in typical power. So we can use all 200 kWh in place of 50 kWh of combustion-generated electricity, and then a 90% reduction for us would be 200 kWh wind plus 40 kWh other.
But I needed to figure our baseline with wind. Hmm; 200 kWh/mo x 12 = 2400 kWh/year of wind power (we have never used less than 360 kWh/month, so I count all of the wind power). A quarter of that is 600 kWh/year of typical power. Take out 2400 from our baseline and put in 600 in its place, and our baseline becomes 6,447 kWh for a year.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy.
We use natural gas.
Our baseline is 44% of the USA average, and 65% of the Oklahoma average . Our 12-month usage to date is 44 decatherms or 440 therms.

4. Garbage. A 90% cut would be 0.45 pounds per person per day.
I still need to figure out approximately how much garbage we create each day. We "recycle" a lot of plastic; most of it by bulk is milk jugs.

5. Water.
Our baseline is 47.7% of the USA average. Our 12-month usage to date is 69,700 gallons. Divided among the four of us, that is 17,245 gallons each for the year, or 47.7 gallons per person per day.

6. Consumer Goods. A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars per household per year.
I'm still thinking about what our baseline actually is. We do a lot of borrowing and making do, acquire thrift store and hand-me-down clothes and items, and very occasionally buy new items. Hmm.

7. Food.
a. Food you grow or that is produced locally and organically.
Our baseline: most of our meat, dairy, and eggs is in this category; produce is limited right now (mid-spring) but in the growing season we typically buy local and often organic; our whole-wheat flour, wheat berries, and pecans are in this category too, and sometimes peanuts. My laundry soap and stain remover are locally made. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 40% for us by dollar amount or item count.

b. Dry bulk goods transported from longer distances.
Our baseline: our non-whole-wheat flour, rolled oats, rices, oils, pastas, beans (canned and dry) are long-distance travelers, as well as some of our produce. Definitely coffee, tea, and spices. Perhaps year-round this category has been about 15% for us.

c. Wet goods (meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk, etc) conventionally grown and transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also, regular shampoo, dish soap, etc.
Our baseline: almost all personal care items and household cleaning items are in this category, though the cleaning items are vinegar, baking soda, liquid dish soap, and dishwasher detergent. This category is full of our fall & winter vegetables (frozen and canned), breakfast cereals, breads, most condiments, most nuts, chocolate and cocoa, and so on, and so on. Probably year-round this category has been about 45% for us.


That's our baseline. Soon I'll write up my basic plans and expectations for each area. Go check out Casaubon's Book (Sharon's blog), Simple Living (Miranda's blog), and Sharon's other site, Our Victory at Home.

No comments: