Sunday, July 01, 2007

How low can we go? June report

90 Percent Emissions Reduction -- Month 1 progress

We're coasting this month because it's been so cool. Usually we're well into our peak a/c season, the height of our yearly electricity usage, but we're still in spring-type usage.
  • Unusually cool, cloudy (and rainy) month -- easy to keep the air conditioning off. We run it once in the late evening to dry the house out a bit. I set it on-but-warmish overnight and enjoy our bedroom ceiling fan -- I think the a/c might run only rarely because I only bumped it a bit warmer this weekend when I got up and it hasn't run once all morning. (I usually turn it off in the morning but there was some sleeping in happening).

  • Still hanging the laundry to dry, but I was getting a bit desperate for some sunny or at least windy days to beat the humidity! Today we have sun and a breeze, so a load of laundry is airing out -- hurrah!

  • Bought a small, oscillating tower fan. Has kept the living room very comfortable when it's been humid or a bit warm indoors. Hope it will help tremendously if or when our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer arrives.

  • Tweaked the energy saver settings on this Mac laptop (PowerBook G4). Learning to use the screen at a much dimmer setting.

  • Discovered the light wash setting on the dishwasher, a "duh" moment. An 18-month-old unit; we run it full, in the wee hours of the morning thanks to the delay feature.

  • Experimenting with making a full pot of good coffee every 2nd or 3rd day, and drinking cold coffee from the fridge the other days. Started turning off the coffeemaker when brewing is finished, as the resident hot-coffee lover only wants that first cup anyway.

  • Started making sun tea for my husband's iced tea, rather than using the coffeemaker to make a concentrate. Seems to work better when it's not actually raining, though.

  • Discovered that our microwave and our toaster draw the same amount of power in use. Still absorbing this fact.

  • Not sure this will affect our reduction, but it's interesting: I signed up for a time-of-use electricity meter, and that was installed earlier this week. Now I'm very motivated to keep everything low and off in the 1 to 7 pm time frame on weekdays (very high cost at that time). I hope it will lower our electricity cost, and also spur me to keep our use shifted to the overnight and morning hours. When we get our normal hot, dry Oklahoma summer (still hoping), I expect this will reinforce my determination to keep the a/c off.

Natural Gas
In summer our only use is the hot water heater and occasional stove and oven use.
  • Our use might increase a little this summer, though our food costs and miles would go down, because I actually did a baking day this week and would like to do this routinely.
In the warm season I generally avoid like the plague any use of the oven and stove (it heats the house and heats me). I miss homemade bread and other things, and a friend gave me an Amish Friendship Bread starter that needs to be divided and loaves made from it every 10 days... so I'm going to try a planned baking day about every 10 days. That means I'll spend less on breakfast foods, too. As described in an earlier blog post, Friday morning I did my first baking day.

I would love to have a backyard wood-burning oven for such a baking day -- someday.

Not much to report here.
  • I started washcloth "sponge baths" to freshen up, and I'm continuing my Navy-style showers. I found I can use a very small amount of water to wash my face and to brush my teeth. My husband and I flush frugally. We all turn the water off when brushing teeth.

  • The dishwasher and washing machine are run with full loads only, except for the occasional small laundry load.

  • The shower heads are all low flow, and I'm trying to encourage the boys to use less than the full flow.

  • No need to water the garden or other plantings due to the torrential rainfall.

  • Baseball season is over! Beginning this week we're no longer going to the ballfields every weeknight.

  • I've worked to combine errands and to reduce our "out and about" days. We seldom leave our town of 100,000; we have one car; and my husband works two miles away. As a result, our basic daily use is up to me -- to choose our activities and errands wisely, and have a basket of "to-dos" ready near the door to reduce driving miles by getting a bunch done in one trip.

The category with the most potential for reduction... and the least progress.
  • Attempted to keep compostable food scraps; got quickly overwhelmed. I really need a compost pile or a couple of sheet-composting locations asap.

  • I noticed we throw away a lot of packaging materials. I'm about to do my once-a-month grocery and household goods shopping rounds, so I'll have the opportunity to make a lot of decisions about packaging that hadn't quite sunk in last month.

  • I started saving all envelopes that come in the mail with a plain back, for my scrap notepaper stack by the phone. I already reuse all printed paper that has a blank back.

  • I contacted the several catalogs we receive and reduced (one) or stopped (the rest) the mailings.

Consumer goods
Quite mixed.
  • I feel as though we spent more on nonessentials than usual, but this is typically true in May and June for various reasons. We paid for Boy Scout camp and the deposit for church camp. We bought the tower fan, some thrift-store clothing, baseball team photos, and a new book for me -- a very rare thing. I got a cell phone for the first time (cheap prepaid).

  • On the other hand, I browsed in a new yarn store in our once-yarn-poor town, but held firmly in mind my stash of yarn at home :) and I continued my heavy use of the public library.

  • Succumbed to the lure of fast food too often on baseball nights. Must consistently prep food ahead next spring -- the home version of fast food.

  • Baking day, see above, using lots of bulk and many local foods; should lower our food cost and miles for breakfasts.

  • I'm preparing for my monthly round of food/household shopping; time for lots of decisions on food choices, sources, miles, and so on.

  • Bought more goat milk laundry powder and soap, dairy (cream, butter, buttermilk), and some produce through our Oklahoma Food Co-op.

  • Bought other produce only at our town's farmers market (and only homegrown by the sellers).

  • Found a friend of a friend who sells eggs from her home flock and lives a mile from me. I'm getting a couple dozen eggs!

  • Found some local sorghum syrup sold at a rural corner store nearby; will try as a substitute for honey, maple syrup, and molasses.

  • My vegetable and herb plants are struggling 'cause I have waited a really long time to plant them in hopes of sunny days. I still have hope.

  • Last weekend my husband finally got a nonsoggy day to mow the very tall, fully weedy front and back yards; I grabbed two of the full cans of clippings to spread over cardboard and newspaper to start sheet-composting beds. I haven't done it yet because we've gotten so much rain since then that I'd need snowshoes to walk in the yard without sinking ankle-deep in the soil. I still have hope.

By now I'm just laughing at my tired-of-rain attitude!

Should I just brave the rain and marsh-like yard to get going on the sheet composting? Or wait for the weather to break -- supposedly late this coming week? Today was beautiful and I was able to hang a load of laundry to dry. Woohoo!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brave the rain and start sheet composting now. Gardening in the rain can be so much nicer than gardening in the heat. And if you are starting your sheet composting off with layering cardboard the rain will help get things started rather than having to use your hose to soak it all.