January is now a memory and the numbers are in. As I posted last month, I am participating in Riot 4 Austerity. The group's goal is to reduce participants' personal consumption to 10% of what the average American consumes - or a 90% Reduction. I've taken a few steps forward and a couple back this month. The proof is in the pudding. Or something like that:
1) GAS: 47% of average
We've had a lot of rain and I am not that hard core to walk or bike in the rain - especially with the kids in tow. We can get this number lower in more accommodating weather. There is, however, a residual issue with my beautiful bike and that fact that I just cannot persuade myself to ride it - subject of another post, I think.
2) ELECTRICITY: 65% of average
We've been using the washer quite a bit more because my youngest potty trained (yeah!) this month. With all the rain, we've also indulged in the dryer more often than not.
3) HEATING OIL AND GAS: 6% of average
Four words: freeze your buns off.
4) GARBAGE: 14% of average
This has been the easiest category to cut back in and, if you are just starting to live more lightly, this is a really rewarding place to start. I'm assuming you are already recycling. If not, go back and to start at the beginning of the blog. ;-)
First, get a compost bin and compost all waste from fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells and even paper. Many municipalities subsidize compost bins so you can get one for a steal. Check with your local garbage collector.
Second, ditch the disposables. Get rid of your paper napkins. Use fewer and fewer paper towels and instead turn to dishtowels. Switch out the Ziplocs, juice boxes and water bottles for reusables. When possible, buy milk in a reusable glass bottle. Bring your own bags (including produce bags) to the store. Re-think the rest.
Third, watch the packaging when you buy products and pick those with the least amount of waste. Buy the biggest size available.
Fourth, embrace the joy of light living and haul your now tiny bag of garbage out to the curb, to be the envy (or at least the talk) of the neighborhood.
5) WATER: 12% of average
This will go up as the rain stops and the garden needs water. This is also where laziness (or forgetting to bathe the kids, again) comes in.
6) CONSUMER GOODS: 24% of average
Everything purchased this month was either (1) needed for a repair, (2) dimmable CFLs for two of the last remaining fixtures without CFLs, or (3) needed for the garden. Okay. Maybe I didn't *need* that one really cute metal trellis. Maybe I could have found one on freecycle or made something, but, still, it was made in America and I bought it from a local vendor and, really, I did need a pitch fork and rake.
That said, there is one easy way to get good numbers in this category: don't go shopping! If you really feel the need to shop, hit a thrift store where you can buy unlimited amounts under Riot rules. If you are looking for more ways to cut consumer goods, check out my 10 step program.
7) FOOD: 65% local, 15% bulk, 20% wet/other
In summer, we eat a little more local but this is fairly representative. This is the first month I've recorded food percentages and I could make a few changes in terms of bulk and wet. For instance, I realized I could get cereal for the boys in bulk as I can't get them to eat my homemade granola. Can you believe that? It is so good though, unfortunately, not low fat.
Not too bad for a family of four in the 'burbs. Sure, our numbers could use some improvement - especially on electricity - but I feel like we're living a normal, happy, healthy life without looking too eco-freakish.