Thursday, March 6, 2008

Inchworm, Inchworm

Measure Me A Miracle

So you all know that I joined the Riot for Austerity back in September of last year. For those of you who don't know about the R4A, It is a group of ecologically-minded folks who are attempting to reduce their emissions to 90% of what the Average American uses. It is, to say the least, a daunting task, but it has helped me to stay focused on my sustainability goals, as both the Yahoo Group and the R4A Website have oodles of encouraging folks and helpful information.

Anyswaze, one of the members of the group, Christine, has decided to write a book on the subject. She asked for volunteers who would be willing to speak with her about the challenge and I raised my hand without even thinking. Wish I had. Because, of course, Christine wanted to know my actual numbers. Had I reached the 90% mark? Was I even close? Crap, I thought, I'm gonna be the Biggest Loser of the R4A group. Once again proving that, if nothing else, I can be used as a bad example.

Well, it turns out my numbers aren't as bad as I thought. The R4A breaks your emissions down into seven separate categories: Gasoline, Electricity, Heating/Cooking Gas, Garbage, Water, Consumer Goods and Food. Here's how I did:

Gasoline: 37% of what the Average American uses. Ugh. This is exactly the same percentage I was at one year ago. However, last year Ethan was going to preschool three days a week, at a school one mile down the road. This year he goes four days a week to a preschool 10 miles away. So obviously I have managed to cut out some frivolous driving somewhere. This number should definitely improve when the kids go on summer break!

Electricity: 4% of what the Average American uses. Now before you think I'm typing by candlelight, you should know I get a 4:1 allowance on electricity because I get all my sparks from wind power (And You Can Too!). All I can say is that I couldn't be friggin happier about this number! Last year at this time I was at 23%. I just need to be careful during the summer not to go all crazy with the A/C.

Heating / Cooking Gas: 101% of what the Average American uses. :-( Very sad. Our heating system is so inefficient it makes me want to puke. Our thermostat is set at 65 day and 55 night, yet I still used 84 Ccf of gas last month. Grrrr. Still better than last February, though, when I was at 212%! Yikes!

Garbage: 8% of what the Average American produces. Rocktastic! How'd I get here? I choose my products (and their packaging) very, very carefully, I reduce, reuse, freecycle and recycle whatever I can, and I compost. Also? I just don't buy new shit much. My family of four produces one tall kitchen bag worth of trash each week. Last year? I was at 48%.

Water: 28% of what the Average American uses. That freakin' pre-rinse is killing me! ;-) That, and the fact that hubby loves nothing more than a long, hot shower every. single. morning. I'm working hard on this, but need to find more ways to save. I'm too close to give up now! Last year at this time I was at 31%, but peaked at 84% when I was using the irrigation system in the summer. You can bet your sweet ass that won't happen again!

Consumer Goods: 77% of what the Average American spends. This category is downright embarrassing. I looked at the amount of money we spent on pure crap last year and it was amazing. I didn't give myself the allotted allowance for buying used items (too hard for me to track) but still. That number is just way too high. Our numbers bounced up and down a lot last year, but our average for the past twelve months was actually 151% of the Average American. Maybe I need to re-read Affluenza.

Foods: This category is really difficult for me to track, so I'm just gonna say that I'm doing what I can to buy locally and start adding more "bulk bin food" to our diet. It's a slow process, especially this time of year, but joining the CSA, seeking out locally raised meats, and starting my own garden this year will definitely help.

Well there it is, folks. All my numbers laid out for the whole world to see. Not the greatest, but WAY better than where I was a year ago. Every change I make gets me a percentage point or two closer to my goal. I guess I need to keep making those changes, eh?


jeneflower said...

I know what you mean. I took an online test to see my percentages as well, and even with walking my daughter to preschool everyday and only traveling 4,000 mi. a year in one car I still exceeded the amount of emissions (because of air conditioning and other stuff). The test said that if everyone lived my lifestyle we would need 1.5 worlds worth of resources to sustain it.

organicneedle said...

I must be a little slower than the rest of the class. I have no idea how to figure most of this out. Do they have instructions for the Turtle Math group?

Burbanmom said...

Yup! Just go to the R4A Website and click on Categories. If you get confused on details, check out their FAQ page. Good luck!

Green Bean said...

Funny, I was going to post my Riot numbers tomorrow. Yours look pretty dang good, I have to say. At least compared to me. Gasoline is so hard for me! And our electricity is much worse than yours - we can't get wind powered options here. My utility just offers carbon offsets. Whatever!

Anyway, I think your numbers are looking pretty respectable - for us more "average" Rioters. :)

organicneedle said...

Okay- I found the calculator. Muuuuuuch easier on the ol' beany. I will also be posting mine tom. too.

Brian said...

There's a great site that tries to offer options to help offset your travel and energy usage. They've teamed up with Travelocity and Expedia to help you "adjust" your energy used when you fly, rent a car, etc.

AND, they offer great green tips!!

Anonymous said...

these figures dont look so bad- except for your heating bills - have you thought of moving to brisbane? - our heating costs are zero (we just add more clothes, and argue about buying a heater), and cooling costs just a bit more - we have ceiling fans but no aircon.

we live in the city of the 4 minute shower (including the time it takes the water to heat up) - the govt was handing out 4 minute egg timers that stick to the showerwall...maybe your hubby could use one of those! Also have you considered ditching the dishwasher completely? I wrote a post yesterday about the meditative qualities of handwashing dishes...maybe that the 30 minutes of meditation you need...

daharja said...

Well done for putting your hand up, and well done for doing the Riot.

As I'm finding out, there's always one category that stumps you. Our problem area is garbage - we have two kids in nappies.

I'm now tyring to encourage others to join the Riot - it needs lots of publicity and lots of members!

Wendy said...

Our electric bill went from 25 kwh/day in January to 18 kwh/day in February, and I have no idea where the difference lies. But I'm guessing that we'll be WAY down this summer, once we're not using lights or the furnace.

Other than that, and the consumer goods (our numbers are wicked low since I gave up my credit card ;), we're pretty much where you are.

I was, actually, delighted to see our numbers, because we haven't really been "trying" per se, to reduce, in that it hasn't been some horribly arduous task that has consumed our daily lives. It's just been a few changes here and there, all easily accomplished with just a little bit of thought about what we're doing. I guess the key is the "thinking" part, rather than just blindly reacting.

Kudos to you for joining R4A AND for raising your hand to be counted. I think it's the "average" folks who'll make the biggest difference in getting other people to jump on the wagon.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Ye gods and little fishes! Where do you live? How big is your house? We have the heat set at 65 days and 60 nights and we used 178 freakin' ccf this February. Of course it is a hundred year old house with original windows and all- guess that makes a big difference.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Ye gods and little fishes! Where do you live? How big is your house? We have the heat set at 65 days and 60 nights and we used 178 freakin' ccf this February. Of course it is a hundred year old house with original windows and all- guess that makes a big difference.