Saturday, June 02, 2007
"Americans Are NOT Stupid" video and more info on Low Impact/what it means to me.
Low Impact Info:
Here are the 7 categories: (lifted and abridged from Casaubon's Book):
1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR. We're using 14 gallons/week now with Em working (not counting vacations or trips to Shreveport) That's 728 gallons/year right there. So, we'd be right about avg for the 2 of us adding in vacations if Em worked all year. Of course, he doesn't work all year, so we might be less or might be more with vacations. Gasoline is something we're not going to address until the Mustang dies. On vacations, we rent a car with better mileage, but outside of driving less (which we already do), we'll just have to live with this gasoline hog until its death.
2. Electricity. Average US usage is 11,000 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR, or about 900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH. I think we could get this down to 400/mo, so that's a 56% reduction. Much below that just isn't possible, I don't think. I'll keep looking at it weekly and correlating what we did that caused the increases/decreases in kwh, but with the heat of the summer coming I don't see how we can go below 400/mo.
3. Heating and Cooking Energy - US Average Natural Gas usage is 1000 therms PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. I'm still trying to get a handle on what we use. Our heat is natural gas and we have a gas stovetop and hot water heater. I was struggling for the unit term, but if it's therms, we only used 1 last week and 2 the week before. I'll look at the bill when it comes to see what I'm missing; we can't be that far below average. Must be that we use tons in the winter and I don't know because I've never paid attention to the utility bills.
4. Garbage - the average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. We recycle two bins of paper/glass/metal/plastic/cardboard per week and have one pretty small bag of stuff that's totally awful for any dump. Maybe this is an area in which I can encourage my local retailers to make a change. We're omnivores and our local groceries tend to sell meat products wrapped in plastic around a styrofoam base. I need to be more outgoing regarding how offensive this is compared to just seeing the meat in the meat counter and having it wrapped in freezer paper.
5. Water. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water PER PERSON, PER DAY. Water is an area where we've conserved for a long time, but maybe not to the extent I'm experimenting with now. The reason was that it's expensive here in North Texas.
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. The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods, not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car payments, etc... Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual purchase price. Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon cost.
What I haven't seen mentioned in this category is charitable contributions. I use Coupon Mom as a cheapskating tool, but I also agree with her that since I'm able to save money on MY stuff, how about using a little bit of that money saved to help the poor and homeless people...so I buy stuff to send over to the Arlington Mission. I was reminded of this today because we bought a bunch of canned chile and pork'n'beans yesterday using coupons combined with a sale at Kroger. I bought them for the mission. Em likes chile, so thought we should keep that and thought that as much as we all like pork'n'beans we should keep that, too. So, we compromised; we're keeping half and giving away half. Point is, though, charitable institutions who feed hungry families versus institutions who feed hungry walk-ins need staples and staples tend to involve packaging and purchases.
7. Food. There are a number of things involved with food, so a number of ways you could cut your food impact. Only time you get 0 impact is when you grow your own or buy something grown organically in your area. The further away the food originates increases the impact. At least that's the theory. I'm, personally, not convinced that (for instance) a cantaloupe flown to Texas from Costa Rica has a greater impact than one that's been trucked to Texas from California and there are a whole lot of other issues involved in making decisions on what products to buy from what country or even buying anything from other countries. Getting into all that, though, is mixing environmentalism with politics.
Food is also the one area where impact can't be gauged by how much money was spent. One would think that food you've grown, for instance, would be cheaper, but unless you have access to free seeds, free manure, etc. you might find yourself spending considerably more for the one cucumber you grew than you would have spent getting a cucumber from sack'n'save that was grown locally. Might be that there's an added entertainment value or value for contribution to happiness, which reminds me to remind you to watch that video that Colin put up today on NoImpactMan.
Since we're old (60+), we're members of the AARP, which some of you might recognize as one of the strongest lobbies on Congress because there are so many of us these days. This month's newsletter discusses ecotourism and (as I maybe referenced slightly above) I think there's a whole lot more involved with saving the planet than confining ourselves to a particular radius surrounding our homes.