Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 146 - Taking My Measurements

Tracking My Progress on The 90% Reduction Challenge

A few months back, I wrote about the Riot for Austerity - a challenge to reduce my emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses, within one year. Now, three months into it, I'm going to post my results for the whole world to see. Some of the numbers surprised me and a few are downright shameful. Of course, posting these measurements is not as ego-pounding as revealing my physical measurements, so feel free to point and laugh. I won't be offended. I rarely never am.

I'm going to assume that most of you reading this blog are like me and are just too lazy to click the link above, so here's a recap:

The 90% figure is borrowed from George Monbiot's plan to avoid reaching a tipping point, beyond which temperature rise will run out of control and major ecosystems will collapse. In Monbiot's book, "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning" he has presents his views on how to avert this disaster. To avoid hitting the "critical threshold", he says, the world’s total carbon emissions must be reduced to 60 percent below current levels by 2030—a target that would require the developed world (that's you and me, friend) to reduce emissions by 90 percent, in order to compensate for growth in China, India and other developing countries.

In the Challenge there are seven basic categories for reduction: Gasoline; Electricity; Heating and Cooking Energy; Garbage; Water; Consumer Goods; and Food. There are a lot of rules on how to calculate your savings, so that we all measure our success with the same yardstick. You can check out all the rules, averages and factoids here.

So how do I measure up so far? See for yourself...


The average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline per year. I didn't count hubby in on this one, since he has a company vehicle and I don't have access to his information. Instead, I just counted me, the kids and the minivan. So our monthly average American allowance would be 125 gallons.
Over the past three months, we averaged 20 gallons per week, or 86.6 gallons per month. For gasoline consumption, we are at 69% of what the average American uses. :-( Not the worst, but definitely needs improvement! Again, we don't have access to public transportation where I live but I still need to find ways to reduce this.


The average American household uses 900 kWh per month.

Our usage last month was 490 kWh, so for electric consumption we are at 54% of what the average American uses. BUT! Since we utilize wind power, we get a 4-to-1 payback on our usage!

This little bonus means that our usage would actually calculate out at 122.5. That knocks us down to 13.6%! WOO HOO! Of course, the a/c went off that month, but to quote Edna Moles "I never look back darling, it distracts from the now".

Heating and Cooking Energy

The average American household uses 1000 therms per year, 83.3 therms per month.

Our usage last month was 47.15 therms, which puts us at 56% below average. This is scary since October wasn't even really that cold. This is why I'm trying so hard to keep our thermostat low, shut dampers, find leaks, etc.!


The average American generates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. We have four people in our household, so the average for us would be 126 pounds per week.

We are averaging roughly 60 pounds per week - 47% of the average American's trash output. Can definitely be improved upon. I just need to be more careful about the products I buy.


The average American uses 100 gallons of water per person, per day. With four people in the house, that puts our monthly average at 12,000 gallons.

Our average water usage over the past two months was 3.5 ccf per month. Multiply 3.5 by 748 and you get 2,618 gallons per month. This puts us at 21.8% of the average American! I'm actually pleasantly surprised here! I thought we would be MUCH higher, but I guess all my little changes are starting to add up! :-)

Consumer Goods

The average American household spends $10,000 per year on consumer goods. So our monthly allowance would be $833.33.

I took the four months of July - October (since I have all the records, including credit card statements), and our average monthly consumer goods spending was $697.50. This puts us at nearly 84% of the average American. Not good. This definitely needs to be lowered! I can't imagine what my percentage will be after the holidays. Oy!


This one is nearly impossible, even for a nerd like me, to quantify. The Riot says we should be at 70% locally grown, 25% dry bulk goods and 5% all else. Just looking in my pantry, I'd guess that my averages are more like 10 / 25/ 65, respectively. Pathetic.

I'm hoping to really improve on this next spring. I'd like to have a small veggie garden in the side yard and hope to nut up and go downtown to the farmer's market. Of course, it's always easier to eat locally during the summer months, so to make this a year-round endeavor, I'll have to do a TON of canning and freezing.


Well, I didn't reach 90% in any category, but then again, I didn't really expect to. Honestly, I was pleased just to see that all of my numbers were less than the average American!

Taking the time to look at my numbers has inspired to work harder towards achieving the 90% goal. It showed me that the cumulative effect of my small changes can actually have a pretty big impact. I am hoping that my next update will show even more improvement!


Vera said...

That's interesting. I'm going to have to gather our last few bills and figure out how we are doing. I think the worst one would probably be the consumer goods.

Green Bean said...

I've been meaning to figure out our percentages too. I think for gasoline and electricity we are close to you, natural gas we're at or about 10% (of course, now that the natural gas powered heater has come on, that's out the window). I've been struggling with water but making no head way. We'll see. I'll try to get organized after the holidays and get my numbers together. The good news is that we're all making progress in the right direction - even if it is not 90% yet.