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What’s in your can?

November 14, 2008


oscar the grouch, originally uploaded by sunshine indoors.

J. and I haven’t started to Riot for Austerity yet mostly because we are chickens. The first time I checked their website and saw that they aim for a 90% reduction in their consumption and usage I thought we could never do that. It felt so hard, so insane to even try. But that was almost a year ago now and when I took at look at their numbers this time I started to wonder how close we are. Some categories I know we aren’t going to master like gasoline since we both travel for work right now. It’s definitely a goal of ours to decrease these miles and in our personal lives we have managed to cut out a lot of driving simply by living in a neighborhood where almost everything is walkable and in a city (Philly) that has a very robust public transit system. The other area we haven’t really focused on is consumer goods. Our goal for the holiday season is to make much more conscious and sustainable choices.

For those of you that don’t know all the categories. I cut and pasted directly from the Riot site.

1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR. A 90 percent reduction would be 50 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR.

As previously mentioned I’m not calculating this because of our work usage.

2. Electricity. Average US usage is 11,000 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR, or about 900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH. A 90% reduction would mean using 1,100 PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR or 90 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH.

Last month we used 148 kwh so we are more then half way there.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy – this is divided into 3 categories, gas, wood and oil. Your household probably uses one of these, and they are not interchangeable. If you use an electric stove or electric heat, this goes under electric usage.

Natural Gas (this is used by the vast majority of US households as heating and cooking fuel). For this purpose, Propane will be calculated as the same as natural gas. Calculations in therms should be available from your gas provider.

US Average Natural Gas usage is 1000 therms PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. A 90% reduction would mean a reduction to 100 therms PER HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR.

Last month we used 11.38 therms. A 90% reduction would be 8.3 therms per month so we still pretty close. Our water heater is natural gas and old so I’m sure that reflects in our numbers. I’m not sure how else to reduce this in our current situation, we really need to be cooking more not less and this shows a month we didn’t use the heat at all… We will work to maintain our current usage unless anyone has suggestions for further reductions.

4. Garbage – the average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. A 90% reduction would mean .45 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY.

This we have accomplished between eating our leftovers, vermicomposting, reducing the amount of stuff and therefore packaging we aquired and of course recycling. In three weeks we didn’t even fill a regular tall garbage can. I finally took the bag out because it was starting to smell.

5. Water. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water PER PERSON, PER DAY. A 90% reduction would mean 10 gallons PER PERSON, PER DAY.

We don’t get a water bill since it’s covered in our rent but I would say we are either at or below this. The two big ways we did this was taking shorter showers less often (no we don’t smell) and washing our clothes less frequently. Clothes get work a couple times or more (in the case of dress clothes) before being washed. This cuts down on laundry and dry cleaning.

6. Consumer Goods. The best metric I could find for this is using money. A Professor at Syracuse University calculates that as an average, every consumer dollar we spend puts .5 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere. This isn’t perfect, of course, but it averages out pretty well. The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods, not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car payments, etc… Obviously, we recommend you minimize those things to the extent you can, but what we’re mostly talking about is things like gifts, toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods, etc… A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR.

Yeah so… we are no where near this but we have cut out buying DVDs, CDs, magazines, etc.

7. Food

We aren’t where we should be. We have cut out all convience and highly packaged food but we need to work on growing more of our own and otherwise buying organic and local.

Obviously we still have work to do but in less than a year these goals went from completely impossible in my mind to being achievable. While we aren’t there yet we are significantly below the average American in almost every category and that makes me feel really good. If you are new to being green please don’t get intimidated. Start with little things and keep progressing, the next thing you know you will be doing the big things without even realizing it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2008 6:29 am

    I’m excited to check out that website. Mr Chiot’s and I try really hard to reduce our amounts of consumption in all catergories. We both work from home so that reduces our traveling & gas costs, but it increases our electric/natural gas/water consumption. But we’re well under all the numbers for average household use above, so I’d say we’re doing pretty well on that.

    One place we do really well is garbage production. We only generate a small grocery bag of garbage each week (that includes all of our business waste as well). Everything else gets recycled or composted. We’re even taking steps to elimiate a lot of our recycleable waste by buying products in bulk and making our own products. I’m hoping companies start offering reduced packaging on products for those of us that are conscious about the waste we produce.

    We try to reduce consumption and waste in our businesses as well by using digital mediums for most documents & product deliver. And when we do need to use paper we try to use recycled products.

    This summer we also starting growing a lot more of our own food, this eleminates even more transportation costs and packaging. Next year we plan on adding even more fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetable beds to our gardens making them even more productive.

  2. November 14, 2008 11:00 am

    Nice graffiti man!

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