Jules and I are both just a tad competitive. An eensy amount. It's not as though either of us has ever been caught being overly competitive. Ahem. Or embarrassed ourselves with any slightly out-of-hand competitive behavior. Ahem. Or has to stay away from particular activities as our son gets older so that we don't mortify him with embarrassment from our competitiveness. Ahem-Ahem.
Knowing this about each other, we have decided to channel our mildly competitive nature into something a bit more positive than mowing down other players in community intramural events. We have found the greatness of goal setting and listing things we would like to accomplish. Somehow writing down tasks kicks in our competitive natures and we strive to be able to cross them off. With this in mind, we have decided to Riot.
Riot for Austerity are a group of people who have realized energy efficient light bulbs and recycling just aren't going to be enough anymore. Together, they have pledged and are attempting to reduce their global/carbon footprint by 90% of the average American. According to George Minboit, rich, "first world" (I hate that term) countries would have to reduce their resource usage by 94% to eliminate and begin to reverse the largest effects of global warming. Moreover, in his book Heat: How To Stop the Planet From Burning he states that this is an impossibility without government legislation. In his words, "no one ever rioted for austerity."
IS THAT A CHALLENGE, MR. MINBOIT?!
So, here we are, Rioting for Austerity. The eventual goal for Jules and I is to pull our household as far off the grid as possible. Perhaps in three years, we will be a sustaining entity; an island unto ourselves in our urban metropolis. Once we have our household established as sustaining, we can then begin to fortify and create many more connections in our community.
There are 7 categories in the Riot. We are using these as baselines for us to really accomplish our sustainability. The nice thing about Riot for Austerity is that it gives me concrete numbers to work with. (I'm the linear sequential math teacher of the family. Jules is the free flowing English teacher. He doesn't need numbers, outlines, and plans the way I do.)
Garbage: The average US consumption is 4.5 pounds per person per day. Whoa! There is an eye opener. We are allowed .45 per person per day. That calculates out to 1.35 pounds a day or 40.5 pounds a month. I honestly don't know where we are with this one. We have done a lot to try and diminish the amount of trash we throw away, but I don't know any real numbers.
Heating and Cooking Natural Gas: The average US consumption is 1000 therms per household per year. This will absolutely no issue. Using the fireplace to heat our house we are on 99% wood power. The wood we harvest for this is all downed logs. Our National Forest does not allow for tree felling due to safety concerns and current Old Growth Protection Acts. (This is a very good thing!) Even if our four chords of wood were counted we would be at only 80 therms.
Electricity: The average US consumption is 11,000 kilowatts per household per year. That is about 900 per month. We will attempt 1,100 kilowatts a year for our household or about 90 kwh per month. This seems like a crazy thought during this time of year. Being in a slightly higher latitude, right now the sun doesn't even show up for 12 hours of the day. However, I need to remember come a couple of months the sun will grace us until almost 10 o'clock at night. :)
Gasoline: The average US consumption is 5000 gallons of gasoline per person per year. This gives us 500 gallons a year or 42 gallons a month. Jules' uses 45 gallons a month now. This means that even though I don't drive my car much (if we didn't have the Barracuda, I most likely wouldn't even have it) I will need to not drive it at all! This will be, by far, the hardest category for us.
Water: The average US consumption is 100 gallons of water per person per day. Dear Lord! We are allotted 10 gallons of water per person per day, or 900 per month for our household. We come in dramatically lower than this with our rain barrels. Sustainably harvested water doesn't count and that is over 85% of our usage. Soon we will purchase a Katadyn water filter and pull ourselves off completely other than showers/bathing. We still haven't worked out quite how to do that one. Somehow, just not showering doesn't sound all that great :)
Consumer Goods:This one is admittedly difficult to calculate. The average US household spends 10,000 dollars a year on consumer goods. These would include books, gifts, toys, paper products, toiletries, cosmetics, tools, and household goods. We aren't talking about health care, or mortgage, car payments, debt, and such. Mainly this category is for the other extra "stuff" that you tend to buy. We will be trying to spend only 1,000 dollars this year. Um...yeah....that gives us 90 dollars a month.... probably not going to happen.
Jules and I have agreed to not count the items we purchase which are directly household sustainable goods. Our ultimate goal is not merely to diminish our resource usage, it is to be sustainable with our household/community. Let's not loose the forest through the trees. The Katadyn filter we are planning on purchasing to remove us from city water is 1,200 dollars. However, we will never need to purchase it again and it allows us to completely remove ourselves from the city water supply. The mason jars we purchase during canning season are easily 90 dollars a month alone. However, they are used dozens of times before ever needing a replacement. These items we are not counting. The lids for the jars - which are a one shot deal - fall into consumer spending since they are not reusable at all. So, for us, consumer goods are goods which will need to be quickly replaced.Food: Food is divided into three categories as follows:
Also, donated items don't count since they are completely recycled. Goodwill, Salvation Army, Church Rummage sales, these don't count. The other items which don't count are ones which will be thrown away if not purchased. In these instances, the use or purchase removes the item from a landfill and keeps it in circulation. Luckily, this is most all of our spending.
Used items only count for 10% of their purchase price. If it costs 20 dollars, only 2 count. So thrift shops, Craigslist, Garage Sales, Ebay, etc. fall into this category. In this way you are once again circulating and recycling items back into use rather than landfilling them. This is the other large amount of our spending. We are a total thrift store, vintage family.
#1 Food you grow or purchase locally (within 100 miles) should comprise at least 70% of your diet.After spending the entirety of last year wrangling in our food budget, this will most likely be not very difficult for our family to pull off. Even our bulk flour, beans, oatmeal, and such are all purchased locally. Our chicken, eggs, and dairy products come very close (they are within the our state and the one just north of us). Coffee will be hard for us. We live in the coffee region of the world. We love our coffee.
#2 Dry Bulk Foods transported long distances. This would be the 50lb bags of beans, sugar, flour, that you get in the giant brown paper sack or which you get at the grocery store from the ginormous bin. These are whole, unprocessed foods. Super bulk soup mix which contains gallons of sodium and tons of factory processing doesn't count. This should be only 25% of your diet.
#3 Wet Foods such as conventionally grown meat, oils, milk, juice, dairy products, fruits and veggies, all that other canned, processed, and such should be less than 5% percent of your diet. Currently, this category is over 25% of the average American's food. That is scary to me.
What does this all specifically mean to our family?
Our household resolution over this next year is to fine tune the couple of areas where the Riot has pointed out we are very close and just need to fine tune - water and food specifically. As well as these, there are a couple of categories we are not maximizing our usage within - consumer spending, garbage, and gasoline. Mainly for our family, these will be the areas we are our goals.
Such an undertaking may seem a bit extreme, but in all actuality there haven't been that many changes in our household to get us to this point. The mindset is what has changed the most. Hopefully in blogging our attempts, we will create a "positive ponzi scheme" as Mary Q Contrarie pointed out so eloquently. I am a firm believer that cultural change occurs one small person, one small act at a time. Without the acts of one person beginning, and another following, and another, why would there be need for any kind of legislation? It is important to us that we show our son the power of personal conviction and living by your ideals. We are not thinking we will change the world, but we will change our lives.