Friday, August 19, 2011

Riot for Austerity Base Numbers

The Riot has begun! We have a facebook group and everything! Technically it started on August 1st, however we were still on vacation and I had not (until today) had a chance to pull all the numbers together. You can read more about the Riot here, but the general idea is to bring your usage down to 10% of the national average. Here are the categories, where we are at, and what we hope to accomplish.


The average American uses 500 gallons per person per year. We have four people in our family and currently use 18.3% of the national average. My husband works from home, and I am a stay at home mama. We also live in town, so getting to the grocery store/farmers' market is not far away at all. Our family, for the most part, live at least an hour away, so we tend to use a lot more gas when we are visiting them. I don't foresee us making fewer trips to see our family, so my hope is that we can make fewer trips to the next closest city where we tend to drive if we are bored :-) I would love to see us walking everywhere, not going anywhere besides downtown to buy what we need, and I think that is possible, the question is whether or not we are willing to do it. Right now, with two small children, it is not very easy to walk to the grocery store and get groceries and then walk isn't even easy to drive to the grocery store to get groceries with two small children :-) And in the winter it would be next to impossible with the amount of snow we get, and the fact that our town doesn't clear sidewalks. But, we are so close to that 10% goal, I think we could definitely cut back a little bit more on frivolous drives around and hit the goal.


The average American household (2.6 people) uses just about 11000 kWh each year, and 908 kWh per month. We use about 350 kWh per month or ~38.5% of the average, and our family is a family of 4, plus my husband works from home. I'm not entirely sure we will be able to go much lower than this once winter comes. We can't dry our clothes outside in the winter as it is a little too cold for them to dry and we prefer non-frozen clothing :-) And I expect it will go up a bit as we do use a space heater from time to time to reduce our oil consumption. I do try to unplug things when we are not using them, and have most of our electronics on surge protectors which I switch off when we aren't using them as well. I do use the drier still, when I am in a pinch for diapers. And I don't foresee my husband letting me unplug the fridge...I might have to watch this one closely.

Heating and Cooking Fuel:

Well this category is a doozy for us. We live in Maine, and most people in Maine use oil to heat their homes. We are no exception to that. We also have oil for hot water. We have an on-demand water heater, so that is less of an issue than the heat of the house. Our house is old, and not entirely well insulated. We did buy a wood stove to install, however we need to install a chimney before we can install the wood stove, and unfortunately that has not yet happened! Currently we use...wait for it...160% of the national average for heating oil. I think this is mainly because the majority of America either uses gas or electric, and they don't need as much heat as we do in Maine :-) That being said, we keep the heat around 62 during the day in the winter and 58 at gets mighty chilly...but we layer. I don't think we will be able to go much lower than the 1200 gallons/year that we currently use. My only hope is that we will be able to get a chimney and wood stove installed. And even if we install the wood stove, we will still use oil for hot water...which I think ends up being 25 gallons of oil/month between dishes/washing diapers/showers/baths.


According to the EPA the average American produces 1600 pounds of trash/year, or around 30lbs/week. Currently we produce about half of that. I am confident that I could learn to compost and find out about recycling with our trash pickup. Hopefully we can really get our amount down to the 10%. Composting would provide fertilizer for my garden in the summer. The problem is that composting isn't quite possible where we are located...instead it just seems to I don't know how the winter months would work with composting.


Apparently the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water EACH DAY. I was a little surprised it was so high. We use 31.25 gallons per person per day, or about 31.2% of the national average. As long as we are using cloth diapers and watering a garden, I don't think we will get this down much lower.

Consumer Goods:

Here is a place where we are doing quite well. We have no money to spend, so we don't buy anything extra. :-) The Average American spends $11000/year on non-essentials, ie not food, housing, insurance, energy. I don't really know how much we spend on non-essentials each year...because we just don't buy anything except for Christmas and birthdays. Apparently we are about 14.4% of the average. Luckily used goods count for only 10% of what you spend, score! I definitely think we can get down to 10%, and possibly even further if we buy more from the thrift store :-)


The last category is pretty good as well. It is separated into three sub-categories local-sustainably grown, dry bulk goods, and wet goods/conventional. We currently do about 75% of our diet as local, 5% as dry bulk, and 20% conventional. We need to get our conventional down to 10%, and I think that can easily be done if I plan my meals a little better, and center them more around what I buy at the farmers' market. And we may actually use even less than 20% conventional currently, but I haven't had a chance to really go through our meals and figure it out. I am spending a lot of time preserving now, so hopefully between that, the farmers' market and our summer/winter CSA shares, we will be in good shape.

Overall, I am really happy with our starting numbers - besides oil which can't really be helped. How do you feel about your consumption and the ability to do with less? Do you think it is crazy to try and live in such a way? Any tips for reducing? If you would like to join the Riot, you can go here and request to join the group.

1 comment:

  1. You've given me a lot to think about! Currently, my husband and I "do what we can," but I know there's more we could be doing. Thankfully, since I work at home, I don't have to drive to work and we recycle and compost so we only produce about one grocery bag's worth of trash every week. I'll have to go look at my bills to see how we're doing on water and electricity. I'm a little scared! :-)


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