I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the home restoration. The big projects left to complete are growing smaller. Of course the gardens won’t be complete for awhile. There’s some landscaping to do, the butterfly and bee garden to plant and expansion of the edible areas of the garden but I don’t count that as home repairs.
As the work winds down I’ve been assessing the environmental cost of this rehab. I can honestly say that I’ve accomplished what I set out to which was to bring this sad house back to life using as much used and free materials as possible. While a lot of paint was used to brighten the rooms I was able to do most of the upgrades using found or used materials. Even the dry wall I needed to patch walls were free to me, scraps from another person’s remodeling. Only one light fixture was purchased new (the bathroom fixture).
Less than I thought ended up in the landfill. The living room carpet did as it was stained and soiled from dogs and never cleaned but the rest of the carpeting was given away on Freecycle. The bathroom tub and surround along with the old toilet did end up being collected for disposal but that’s all that was thrown out.
The old laminate flooring from the kitchen was given to someone else who could use it. The cabinets that were removed from the kitchen and a small one in the bathroom found new homes.
I collected so much furniture from curbside finds that I joke that the amount I threw out was more than offset by the amount I saved from the landfill. I’d like to believe that’s true.
With a bit more time to focus on other projects my attention has returned to sustainable behaviors. I have more trash now than I did when living in the studio apartment. Some will be reduced now that Little Guy is in the process of potty training (those diapers add up quickly) but the rest of the trash is tiny juice boxes and food wrappers left here by the children. My garbage has grown to one small bag (the size of single use bag used to carry home store purchases) every two weeks. I need to make some changes to eliminate those now that I have the energy to dedicate to this practice (of bringing disposables) I allowed to happen.
In the introduction to Hooked: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume Stephanie Gaza points out:
Americans spend more for trash bags than 90 of the world’s 210 countries spend for everything…..we consume our average body weight – 120 pounds- every day in extracted and processed materials.
I find those statements shocking! When people talk about first world problems purchasing trash bags would be one of them we could eliminate with a bit of work.
For years, I’ve been trying to reduce my footprint down to the lowest figures I could without feeling deprived. Using a couple of carbon footprint calculators I was pleased to discover that my figures weren’t bad compared to the average American but that’s never been enough for me.
Then I came across Riot for Austerity, a webpage no longer being updated. The goal of Riot for Austerity was to reduce our emissions to 1/10th of what the average American uses, bringing our emissions equivalent to that of a Chinese peasant.
The project allowed a year’s time to make the necessary adjustments to reach that magical 10% figure. In some ways 1/10th will be easy for me, others quite difficult.
For example, gasoline for automobiles isn’t a problem as I don’t drive. Considering the added trash brought into my home (I counted all trash as my own) I still have this goal met.
I have decided to take on the challenge set by Riot for Austerity for one simple reason. We, as a nation, need to reduce our emissions by 90% immediately if we have any chance of slowing down climate change and having a future for future generations. If I can make it look easy to those around me maybe, just maybe, I will inspire others to make cuts where they can.
If you would like to challenge yourself to reduce your emissions to 1/10 of the average American here is a summary of the details of the challenge. All figures are per person, unless otherwise noted. If you live with others adjust the figures accordingly for each additional family member. For more in depth details of each category refer to 90% rules.
Here are the 7 categories:
1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR. A 90 percent reduction would be 50 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR.
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
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..
- 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. (for other types of heating and cooking refer to link above)
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.
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.
6. Consumer Goods. 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… A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR
- Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual purchase price. That is, if you buy a used sofa for $50, you just spent $5 of your allotment….. This would apply to Craigslist, Yardsales, etc… but not goodwill and other charities. This rule does not apply if you know that the item would otherwise be thrown out….Those items are unlimited as well, because they keep crap out of landfills.
- Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon cost. That is, you can spend all you want at Goodwill and the church rummage sale. Putting things back into use that would otherwise be tossed should be strongly encouraged.
7. Food. Food is divided into 3 categories.
#1 is food you grow, or which is produced *LOCALLY AND ORGANICALLY*….. Local means within 100 miles to me. A 90% reduction would involve this being AT LEAST 70% of your diet, year round.
#2 is *DRY, BULK* goods, transported from longer distances. That is, *whole, unprocessed* beans, grains, and small light things like tea, coffee, spices (fair trade and sustainably grown *ONLY*). This should be no more than 25% of your total purchases.
# 3 is Wet goods – conventionally grown meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk etc… transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also regular shampoo, dish soap, etc… no one should buy more than 5% of their food in this form.
Thus, if you purchase 20 food items in a week, you’d use 14 home or locally produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of season thing.
I am sure I will face many choices, some more difficult than others, but it’s time I had an actual goal to strive for. More changes are in the works but I’ll stop here for today.
Do you think you would feel content or deprived living with the guidelines set by Riot for Austerity?