Saturday, June 09, 2007


Over the past week, I've tried to come up with a baseline for the 90% challenge that I've decided to take on. (Matt is sort of taking it on.) Because we are not in control of and cannot track progress in some of the categories, we are not going to be able to do the whole challenge, but I still think it will be fun to see how low we can go in the other categories. Here is where we stand now.

We are allowed 50 gallons each per year or .137 gallons each per day. According to the challenge rules, public transportation can be calculated at 100 miles per gallon. That means we are allowed to go 5000 miles per year or 13.7 miles each day on public transportation. We don't have a car anymore, so this is almost the only kind of transportation we use. I have seen a few sites that say that air travel is roughly around the same mpg per person. I know that I am going to be going to KC by air this winter, which is approximately 2400 miles round trip. If I don't want to bust my 90% allotment, I'll only get about 7 miles each day on public transportation. (Of course, that doesn't count all the gas I'll eat up once I get to KC, which has no public transportation to speak of! And it's 33 miles just from the airport to my mom's house!) I think this is entirely doable since I don't really go that many places, and I don't take public transportation every day. It's 5 miles round trip to Mary's house and 3.5 miles round trip to Twist Image. Anyway, enough rambling about gasoline.
Baseline: On a daily basis, we already use 90% less than the average American uses.

We are allowed 90 kwH per month. According to our latest electric bill, we used 125 kwH last month. One caveat: the laundry machines are communal for the building, so I can't track that energy usage.
Baseline: We currently use 86% less than the average American uses. Woop!

We are allowed 100 therms or 283 cubic meters per year or 23.5 cubic meters per month. This one is tricky because we don't pay for (and are not in control of) the natural gas that is used for heating the apartment or for heating the water. We only pay for cooking fuel. I only found a couple sites that broke down natural gas usage by category, and they were not really in agreement. So I'm going with 10%. That means we are allowed 2 cubic meters each month for cooking. The latest natural gas bill I could find was from January, and we had used 14 cubic meters of natural gas. I'm not sure if this is something we'll be able to adjust that much. Also, if 2 cubic meters sounds way off to anyone, please let me know!
Baseline: We use roughly 30% less than the average American uses.

We are allowed 6.3 pounds of garbage and .9 pounds of recycling each week. In the past four days, we've accumulated 5 pounds of garbage and 3.25 pounds of recycling. At that rate, we'd have 8.75 pounds of garbage and 5.7 pounds of recycling, or 14.45 pounds total. I know that a great deal of our garbage is cat litter/poop and vegetable scraps that could be composted. Because we live in an apartment, there is nothing we can do about the cat waste. The vegetable scraps are a different matter. Our friend MA has a compost pile. There are various places in town that accept scraps for community composting programs. We could try a worm bin. I am confident that we can and will improve a great deal in this category. We should also try to buy in bulk more and remember our cloth shopping bags to cut down on the amount of packaging we trash/recycle. One bit of progress already: today we brewed beer. We would have to throw away 4.5 pounds of spent grains and hops, but instead, I saved them and will get them to a compost pile soon!
Baseline: We throw out/recycle 53% less stuff than the average American.

We are allowed 20 gallons each day. Unfortunately, we can't track this since we are not billed for our water usage. I have a feeling that we are most certainly not down to 10% of the average, but I don't think we use as much as most people either. We certainly don't shower as much as normal people! :) Brewing beer uses a whole lot of water. We probably used at least 20 gallons just to make a 5 gallon batch of beer. I know that at least 5 of those gallons were unnecessary. (Yes, you know what I'm talking about, Matthew!) I'm sure that as we get more brewing experience, we will streamline our process in terms of time, energy and resources used.

We are allowed $1000 per year or $83 per month. We don't spend a whole lot of money on things other than edibles for us and the cats, so I figured we were doing pretty well on this one. Then I added up how much money we spent on consumer goods this past month, and it was pretty eye opening. This last month, we spent approximately $450 dollars on clothes, a brew pot, curtains, a diva cup (which is totally awesome!), and a book by Karl Marx. At least half of that was on the clothes, and Matt and I are definitely not the most fashionable people you'll ever meet! I got a "job" and needed some new duds for that, and Matt caught the shopping bug. The last time we bought clothes before that... I honestly can't remember. However, for the sake of being fair, I'm going to count all of the money we spent for our baseline. After all, we have spent a lot on consumer goods in the past year, since we moved to a new city and had to buy a lot of furniture, etc. And it didn't all come from Craigslist.
Baseline: We currently spend 46% less than the average American on consumer goods.

This is a tricky category. We are supposed to aim for 70% of our food being local and organic, 25% being dry bulk items, and 5% being the rest. This is very hard to approximate. What do you do about bread that is baked locally (or even in our own home!) but made with olive oil from Italy? What about the beer we brew? It uses lots of water and natural gas to make, but in turn, we re-use the same bottles and don't have to transport it anywhere (or package or advertise). In light of these concerns, I've decided to revamp this category a bit. We are now going to aim for 70% of food being local -- organic or not. I believe that while organice, sustainable growing practices are extremely important, eating locally and in season is even more important. This 70% will include anything we make at home (bread, beer, yogurt, etc) even if a few of the ingredients are not local. The other two food categories are basically the same.
Baseline According to last week's grocery list, our groceries were roughly 45% local, 10% dry bulk, and 45% everything else.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Congratulations on a great 'beginning' - I am very much looking forward to hearing more about further reductions over the next 51 weeks..