Somewhat cheered

February 10, 2008 at 11:25 am 2 comments

Scientist Boyfriend being away last night, there was no-one to distract my from my very important and ironic task of using up valuable energy resources by reading about peak oil online waaaay into the night. I’m turning into a bit of a peak oil nut atm. I am working my way through this blog, as it is really thought-provoking and well-written, and I encourage you all to take a look. Sharon, along with some other brave people, has started the Riot for Austerity, a fantastic and inspiring project where people agree to cut their emissions by 90% (that’s based on the average US consumption, so we Europeans only have to do it by 80-85%…. only…. hah)* to the level recommended by George Monbiot to constitute both a fair share and an amount needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming: that is, not only is it going to avert total catastrophe, but everybody on the planet can live the same way, rather than the fact that most of us are peasant farmers balancing out the few of us that have cars.

The aim (as well as obviously living in a more sustainable and equitable fashion and leaving the planet in a usable condition for our children and grandchildren, which is commonly accepted to be the only sensible way forward) is to prove to government leaders and other naysayers that, actually, it is possible for us to do this, we can make these massive cuts. All the arguments that it’s too difficult and we aren’t ready and we can’t change our lifestyle too much so we need to wait for solar are, effectively, disproved by the fact that relatively normal people can go from average levels of consumption to our fair share and still blog about it. Awesome.

Now, I’ve been aware of this for a while and have resisted signing up, mostly for bad reasons: I can get a bit head-in-the-sand about the drawbacks of living in rented accommodation and use it as an excuse not to do any more. When we move somewhere we’re planning to stay for a long time (and get pigs and have an orchard), even if we aren’t buying, we’ll insulate the loft thoroughly, install greywater harvesting and get a woodburner, preferably one that heats our water and that we can cook on, but to be brutally honest, I am not so dedicated (and solvent!) that I am going to do these things in someone else’s house when we don’t expect to be here more than a couple of years.

My other main reason is that the bf comes from the sort of family where you get bought a car on your 17th birthday, the heating is on 24/7, muddy vegetables are too much like hard work, you shower every day, gardens are purely decorative and maintained by someone else, nothing ever gets mended and having a gadget in the kitchen specifically to peel new potatoes is completely normal. Now, I love his family to bits and they have been nothing but good and kind to me, and as green issues come more into the mainstream, they seem to be taking notice, but nevertheless, he grew up in a very consumption-heavy (I nearly wrote consumptive, but that isn’t what I mean!) environment and he’s been very good to put up with me this far. I don’t want to mention composting loos or cloth toilet paper or going off-grid too early on in the process and risk him running screaming in the opposite direction. I may need him in the future to chop wood or feed the pigs, dammit. 😉

He has gone to visit friends this weekend and even though he’s staying over so he could drink and still drive home,

So, yeah, I have (somewhat voluntarily) reached a brick wall in my personal emissions reduction, and am now just doing what I can to learn skills and do research for the future.

However, the Riot for Austerity has a handy calculator, which avoids some of the shortcomings of normal carbon footprint calculators that I was blathering on about the other day. Firstly, they say you should include the carbon you produce at work, while acknowledging you have less control over it than at home. Hurrah. Consumer goods also come into it. Double hurrah. I think they have a rule that if it’s something to help you reduce further, you get a 50% exemption provided you actually use it, and the same for buying local or sustainable consumer goods: so if you buy a water butt or some solar panels and use them, some of the carbon cost is discounted because of the savings you’ll make in the future, but it doesn’t give you total carte blanche to go and spend £400 on clothes made of organic cotton you’ll only wear once, a la the rather troubling ‘green consumer’ movement.

Now, I had a quick play around using some very rough figures, mainly that I spend hardly anything on consumer goods and most of it this year has been on sewing bits and pieces, that I’ve worked out our electricity consumption is about 35KWh between us a week, we barely use the car and are committed ‘locavores’ of the highest order.

And, well, it turns out that my consumer spending, transport, diet and electricity use are already pretty much within the recommended guidelines!! I don’t really consider myself deprived in any of these areas, so that is a good, good thing! Sure, I can do more to lower my impact on the planet, but I needn’t feel as despondent as I did about my brick wall.

I am fully aware that while I well on the way to becoming a sustainable person in these areas, my gas usage (for heating and cooking) is probably only slightly below average if at all (we keep the house cool, but cook a lot) and our household water usage is probably also pretty average. I’ve gone from daily showers to showering every other day and washing in the basin on the other days, and nobody has complained about the smell yet, but the boy showers daily, and after experimenting at uni with not flushing the loo as often and finding it just made the loo mingy and the bathroom smell, I decided it wasn’t, on balance, worth it. Composting loo and greywater harvesting in the future, yes. Half-measures in the mean time, not in this area. I should calculate our water usage and actually go outside and check the gas meter, really. It’s sunny, I have no excuse.

I really want to build a hay box cooker for the now-soaked ham this afternoon now…..

* Actually, I should clarify: you don’t have to reduce your personal emissions by 90% (or whatever) of what they were, it’s 90% of the US average, so if you’re already at 40% of the average, you don’t have so far to go.


Entry filed under: carbon footprint, energy, peak oil, riot for austerity, water.

Crossing over to the dark side…. Yes! I’m digging for victory!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tory  |  February 11, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Can you help me wiht his? I can’t seem to find the average US consumption figures for gas/water/electric etc. so I can do a comparison of where we are now with where we want to go.

    As far as I can glean, my family is already at about 20% on some things but I would like to make sure. (We are cheapos from way back and it turns out that being cheap is essentially a really green thing! Yay us.)

  • 2. Hamster  |  February 13, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Hi! If you go to that url, you’ll find the figures I was using, and if you input your own figures it’ll come with a handy bar graph of the average, where you are and their target figures.

    This page has the numbers on if you’re better at maths than me!

    Hope this helps.


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The Heritage Crafts Network

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"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

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Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

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