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Running Down My Resource Usage

February 10, 2009

The Warmth of a Fire, originally uploaded by goldenstatephoto.

When we started “rioting” I (N.) thought it would help us lower our bills and energy usage but we seem to be going in the wrong direction…

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 253 kwh and this month it was 531 kwh. Since we are billed on a half month schedule this is the residual of Christmas lights and guests but I’m still amazed at how we could have used this much. The other major contributor is the space heater for our foster kittens. We found one with a temperature control so it isn’t running continuously but it still runs a majority of the time to keep their closet at 70 degrees or higher. Apparently we should have been keeping them as warm as 80 degrees but that seemed a bit much to us. We are going to keep using the heater until they are at least 8 weeks old and are better equipped to handle lower temperatures.

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 35.24 therms and this month we used 205 therms. We kept the heat around 65 when we have guests and 55-60 for ourselves. We are actually showering at home less but our water isn’t getting as hot and I think our water heater is dying on us. I imagine that would impact our numbers… I’m not really sure what else we can do to reduce this.

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.

There has been a drastic reduction in our recycling now that I’m paying more attention to packaging. Our regular trash has stayed steady at a bag every 2-3 weeks.

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.

By ourselves we meet this goal but we’ve had a lot of house guests that aren’t into 5 minute showers so our usage in January probably went up.

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 didn’t make a lot of purchases in January. I scored some great work clothes at a thrift store and used the money I made from selling excess stuff in our basement to buy myself a used sewing machine. The only things we purchased new in January were odds and ends craft supplies for my toy swap and some work clothes for J. He gets a clothing allowance from work to purchase from a specific vendor so there isn’t a way around it unless we want to come out of pocket and that doesn’t make much sense.

7. Food
I’ve purchased even more of food from local sources, it came be a pain so I’m shopping less often. But this seems to save us money and force me to plan even further in advance so it’s a win win situation.

I’m not sure what to do about our energy usage. We are lowering the temperature back to 55 and make sure we are only using necessary lights and appliances, otherwise everything will be unplugged. Other than those items though we are making great progress towards sustainability. I’ve achieved one of my new years goal to purchase a sewing machine and learn how to use it so I can do basic mending and repairs on our clothes. Next I want to learn how to knit socks. It’s probably not the most efficient use of time or money (yarn can be very expensive) but I think it’s a neat skill to have.

One Comment leave one →
  1. lizzie permalink
    February 12, 2009 8:09 am

    I learned how to knit socks about five years ago. I went into our LYS when it was quiet and one of the sales girls gave me a little tutorial; I sat at the table and she helped me between customers. It is really easy when it is explained to you. I didnt need to sign up for a class or anything; they are nice but can be quite expensive. I have knitted about 35 pairs now and wear them all the time in the winter. Sock yarn is great and there is such a good selection out there. Good luck in learning it – it is a great skill !

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