I’ve decided that’s it’s about time I start tracking my consumption habits ala the Riot for Austerity initiative. The Riot for Austerity is an online community of people who are all striving for a 90% reduction in their emissions over the average American to help stave off our global warming crisis. Follow the link over to the site for more info and details if you are interested in participating. They can explain it all far better than I can.
There are 7 areas of measurement which I will describe below and detail our figures in these areas. Most of my figures are estimates based on the best idea of our usage I can scrounge up.
1.) Gasoline-The Average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year per person (166.67 per month for a 4 person family). Our goal is then to get our figure down to 50 gallons per person per year. So this family unit is allowed to use 200 gallons in a year, or 16.67 gallons per month.
For the month of December we used 100 gallons of gas. Using half your yearly allotment in one month is certainly not a good way to start this program. December did however include a trip to Arkansas, which puts our usage higher than normal. Our normal usage is one fillup of each car per month, so we might still possibly be able to make the goal in the end. We’ll see.
Our usage was 600% higher than the amount required, but 40% below the national average.
2.) Electricity-The average American uses 11,000 KWH per year (916 per month). The Riot goal is 1,100 per year, or 91.6 KWH per month.
Last month we used 862 KWH, so I don’t think we’ll be much below a normal American. However, our house is completely electric. I’ve been battling this usage for years now and I seem to be stuck. I can’t get it to decrease below the 800 level. I’m switching over to renewable power through the power company when they open up tomorrow, so per the rules, I get to reduce my number to 1/4 of the normal figures, in the future months.
Our usage was 941% higher than necessary but 5.8% below the national average.
3.) Heating and Cooking Energy-Natural Gas-Average American uses 1000 therms per year (83.3 per month). Riot goal is 100 therms per year(8.33 per month).
My cooking energy is included in my electric bill above. Additionally, we use corn to heat our house, which isn’t in the Riot computations, so I did some quick math to determine what our usage is. Try to follow me here:
We use approximately 1 bushel of corn per day to heat our house. That means we use 11.760M BTUs of heating energy per month (as corn has 392K BTUs per bushel and assuming 30 days in a month). I averaged three types of wood and determined that a cord of wood has 21.56 BTUs. Converting our corn energy to wood energy means we use .54 cords of wood per month. I treated corn like unsustainably harvested wood which means that 1 cord of wood is equal to 20 therms of natural gas. Our Riot figure is 10.8 therms.
Our usage was 29% higher than necessary and we are 88% below the national average.
4.) Garbage-The national average is 4.5 lbs per day. The Riot amount is .45 lbs per day.
I missed trash day so I’m not sure what my garbage usage is. I take a punt on this until next month when I can accumulate some figures. We usually have 1 to 1.5 bags of trash per week so we’ll see what that ends up being.
5.) Water-The national average is 100 gallons per person per day. The Riot goal is 10 gallons per person per day.
Our usage is 40.5 gallons of water per person per day.
That puts our usage at 400% of what is necessary and 60% below the national average.
6.) Consumer goods-The national average is $10K per house per year. The Riot goal is $1K.
According to our credit card bill we used $1,004 last month for things that seem to fit in this category. Since we may have used a different payment means I am adding 10% to this figure to ensure I’ve captured everything. That means we’re at $1,104. I’m shocked by this figure. I thought we were pretty tight with our money, so I needed to break this down in to groupings to figure out what happened.
Merchandise/Retail (Wal-Mart/Target/Drug Store/Netflix/Book Store, etc) expenditures were $529.97.
Restaurant meals (I consider a consumer activity more than food because food costs are such a little part of the cost of the item) were $213.48. Part of this figure is from our travel during this time. We’ll see what happens next month.
Home Improvement (I don’t agree that taking care of one’s home should be counted. If you don’t take care of your home you won’t have one, but, it’s not excluded in the rules) was at $289.28.
Additionally we spent $53.58 at the post office and $26.11 on car repair.
So, where does that leave us? We are at 132% of the national average and 1320% of the monthly Riot goal. I think it’s fair to say that there is some work to be done in this area. The most interesting thing is that I always thought we were spending less than most people because we certainly don’t have all the nice “stuff” that others have, but I guess we’re worse than the average person! Gah! What the hell did we spend it all on?
(In case you’re worried, we put all our activity on our credit card and pay it off each month. Our method of budgeting it to watch the balance on the credit card each month. If it is lower than the target we carry on. If it’s higher we cut back. It’s always paid off each month. This is much easier than trying to do it by hand)
7.) Food-You have to read the rules on this one to understand it. They are a little detailed.
So where are we? Hell if I know. I know this; all of our milk, cheese (unless I get something fancy), butter, oil, meat, eggs and veggies are local. I just ran out of onions so they are no longer local. Carrots and celery aren’t local either. Most of the time if I can’t get a fruit or veggie locally we don’t eat it.
Rice is bulk. Flour is small bags of organic flour (the local flour costs a fortune) and bulk flour (organic still). Beans are half local and half organic dried, but usually in packages of 4 lbs or more, and most I’ve had for a while. Lentils are organic but not bulk. Spices are not local, bulk or necessarily organic. Neither is yeast or salt.
My best guesstimate is that we are at least 70% local, probably higher. We’re also probably 15% wet goods and 15% bulk items.
For example; yesterday’s meal plans.
For breakfast I had malt-o-meal with marshmallows. Lunch was a quesadilla with cheese, sweet potato and pinto beans in it. Snack was an apple with peanut butter. Dinner was cheese pizza. Malt-o-meal and marshmallows are wet goods, as is the tortilla in the quesadilla and pizza sauce. The cheese, sweet potato, pinto beans, ham piece, jalepenos, apple and peanut butter are local. The flour, yeast, salt, spices in the quesadilla, and spices on the pizza are bulk items. I don’t know what the exact percentages of all of this is, but I’m comfortable with the makeup of this all.
I hope you enjoyed this exercise. I’ll be posting once a month with these figures so we can track our progress.