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Trash Talkin’

December 6, 2008


Trash Talkin’, originally uploaded by snowdog?.

Well I’m not sure if this post will officially make me a rioter but it is my second riot post and while I didn’t want to put my numbers out for the world to see here they are. I’m disappointed because I used more electricity and heat (shocking right, what with it being winter and all…) then last month. I knew the numbers would go up but I was hoping they wouldn’t jump quite so much. Anyway here is the breakdown.

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

I’m not really tracking our usage since J. has a 1 1/2 hour commute each way and I travel throughout the northeast for work. I know our numbers will be sky high. Outside of work we are committing to drive less. I average about 10 miles a week running errands and I try to do all of that in one trip.

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 and this month it was 172 kwh. This number went up because it’s getting dark earlier and I’ve been traveling less which means I’m using lights and my computer at home during the day. We asked for a solar lantern for Christmas to use instead of a regular lamp at night. I’m making sure my office equipment is unplugged when not in use and we are watching less TV in bed. I’m used to falling asleep with the TV on and even though I set the auto timer it’s still a waste.

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 and this month we used 34 therms. I’m astounded. We keep the heat at 55 all the time, I feel like I should be wearing a snow suit in my own house. We are also cooking/baking more and with the wet weather using the dryer more frequently. I really wish we had a wood burning stove and a smaller house. Last year in Colorado we were able to go without heat most of the winter and simply throw on a sweatshirt to keep warm. But we were living in a 700 sq ft apartment insulated by other apartments on three sides. Now we live in a 1500 sq ft row home in Philadelphia. Even if we had the heat at 68 I don’t think it would feel warm.

4. 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.

We end up with about 10 lbs every 2-3 weeks. I think it’s great but we were recycling a lot. I’m not saying recycling is bad but it does still take energy. Now, thanks in part to our worms, that our regular garbage is under control I’m going to focus on reducing our recycling. I need to get back to buying more from bulk bins.

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 are holding steady at the 90% reduction.

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.

We are nowhere near this and I don’t know that we will ever be but we are much more aware of our spending. Now is certainly a time when people are told to “buy, buy, buy” but we’ve managed to keep are purchases pretty low. We’ve purchased gifts for three sets of parents, five siblings, and two “angels” for less than $150. $43 went to local foodstuff in Vermont, $57 was spent on sustainable, organic but not local kids toys, $20 was spent at a big box store for household goods, and $25 was spent on Ebay for jewelry. We would like to spend some more in donations in our family members names but we’ll see. For ourselves we are going to go out to dinner and a show one night. We are going to use money we raise from selling stuff on Craigslist to fund it and have already made $65. I did try to find the items I bought on Black Friday used but every person I contacted end up flaking out on me.

7. Food

Our Thanksgiving was about 50-60% local I think, all the side dishes were made from local ingredients. It renewed my commitment to purchase local. Since I don’t like going every week (it costs to park and an hour in traffic) I’m going to shop every other week. This should also reduce my bills. I’m still on the hunt for a good place to find food in bulk bins. I don’t mind if it’s a bit farther away since I would only go every month or so, I just need to find someplace!

Budget: This has nothing to do with rioting just something I’m trying to be more aware of. We don’t do a lot of random spending or eating out so it’s not as easy as cutting out that “daily latte.” We canceled my cell phone since I have a work phone. The cancellation fee was $170 and the monthly bill was $70 so it’s going to take time for us to really save money. We don’t go out to eat a lot but occasionally we order in because “nothing sounds good” so I’m trying to keep more staples on hand to make easy quick meals. J. packs his lunch everyday and he’s cut out buying soda. So I’m not really sure what else we can do. We aren’t buying clothes or shoes anyway. But even if we did need something I’ve been buying used for awhile now.

We kept all our receipts this month our expense are donations, food, cable bill, gas/electricity bills, phone bill, parking/tolls, pet supplies, craft supplies, random (I’ll explain). The big one is groceries and while I’ve reduced this from $400 a month to $350 I think I could cut it down more. Parking is a sporadic expense but I do have to pay to park at Reading Terminal where the Amish stands are, that’s $3 a pop which is another reason to go every other week. Tolls are an unfortunate part of our life and cost us between $150-$200 a month. J. has to commute to NJ and that means toll roads. We’ve done what we can to reduce our phone bill and since my company pays our internet and home phone we get a decent deal on our cable. The random spending was J. buying stuff for his participation in the National Guard. They were necessary but one expenses.

Our goal is not to live a totally austere life but to live within our means and when we do something or buy something it’s special. I’d rather go out to a nice dinner (a real date night) every month or so versus take out pizza once every couple weeks. I would rather check books out from the library and watch movies on netflix so that we can go see a show or spend a day in Lancaster without breaking the bank. I don’t believe in being miserable but I think we are too used to having everything we want that nothing is special, nothing is truly appreciated or valued. I think by cutting down on the day to day stuff we will really appreciate what we have.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. randomreader permalink
    December 15, 2008 6:49 pm

    Random vegan blog surfing brought me here… if you are this carefully monitoring your footprint and consumption in environmental impact terms… which is amazing by the way, you are an inspiration… why don’t you simply become vegan and then occasionally indulge in dairy and or meat if you must? To make those lives and animal body productions truly meaningful, as opposed to routine, if you can’t give it up altogether? One of the absolute best parts of being vegan, to me, is ducking the carbon footprint guilt that clearly bothers you too. Plus, its pretty easy for a very creative person like yourself not to go crazy with specialty (mostly soy) products, and just actually cook whole foods with a local focus when you can. And in your search for bulk bins… you won’t find cheaper and better ones than the bean bins! Cheers out there.

    • badhuman permalink*
      December 15, 2008 6:55 pm

      I’ve thought about veganism and it is certainly an option but I prefer to continue to eat dairy and meat not only because of personal preference but because doing so wisely means I will also be supporting local farmers. Eventually I would like to own our own farm land where we could at least have some chickens. Animals and the land actually have a very symbiotic relationship that benefits both so I don’t have a problem with eating animals or animal products in general it’s the inhumane way many animals are treated in factory farms that bothers me.

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