Fay Is On Her Way

In today’s economy and even for the future outlook, preparedness just seems practical. If you are always prepared for a disaster then you don’t have to rush out to get supplies, like, right before a Hurricane is coming.

Well for us in the state of Florida, a hurricane/tropical storm is coming. It hit the Keys earlier today and will hit Florida again along its mainland. I really do not need to get anything for this storm, because I think I already have everything I need. I stocked my hurricane box back in June.

There are quite a few disaster preparedness sites to get info from.  This one http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/disaster_prevention.shtml  has a good supply list of food, first aid, and other emergency essentials. This one http://www.floridadisaster.org/  has lots of information. It will help you generate a plan specific to your needs. You just have to enter in your family info and it tells you things like how much water to store.

In 2004, the town I live in, was hit by two separate hurricanes. Frances and Jeanne were down graded by the time they got inland enough to reach us. They hit three weeks apart and caused quite a bit of minimal to severe damage. I remember that one woman was killed by a huge oak tree landing on her trailer. I don’t remember if there were any other deaths.  We lived in a different house then. The major difference being that we were on a well. The street we lived on did not have any city water to it yet. When the electricity went out, and stayed out for four days, we had no water. But we did get quite a bit of rain. So we put garbage cans under the eaves and caught rainwater. We used it to flush the toilets and wash the dishes. Since we knew the storm was coming we prepared by filling a five gallon bucket with water. It was designed to make soda pop in it and had a spigot on the bottom. This gave us “running” water at the sink. We also filled large pots with water for drinking. You don’t have to buy bottled water, but you do need a safe supply and enough to get you through an extended emergency. We are more prepared now because we have a counter top gravity filter that allows you to filter rainwater to drink. It is also a reservoir that holds maybe three gallons of water. It is called an AquaRain. There are other filters similar to this, but this one is made in the USA. Now we are ready for an extended water interruption. Of course it is less likely since now we have city water.

My hurricane kit is a rubbermaid container with things like quick cooking foods, foods that don’t need cooking and snacks. When our power went out with both hurricanes in 2004, we were still able to cook on the gas stove. We just had to light the burner since the pilot was electronic ignition. In our new house we have gas as well. If the gas is interrupted, then we also have camping stoves and a solar oven. I also have things like shampoo and soap, crayons and paper, and band-aids and sunscreen in my kit. I also have two weeks of food for our cat and bunny. I don’t have a hurricane plan for my chickens yet.

I don’t think Fay will prove to be formidable in the coming days. I think we will get a lot of rain and gusty winds. It is possible we could lose power, but unless the winds are powerful and a lot of trees come down, then I bet the power would be restored quickly. Either way though, I feel ready for this and future storms.  

An Entire Year of Rioting for Austerity

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. Sharon Astyk and her friend Miranda were discussing George Monbiot’s book “Heat”, where he discusses the need for industrialized nations to reduce their emissions by 94%. They wondered what a life would be like lived that way, since Chinese peasants seem to be the standard for low impact living. So they challenged each other to reduce there consumption and emissions by 90%, which makes accounting easier than 94%. They did this on their blogs and what do you know, other people decided to give it a try as well. So they ended up being amazed that over 1000 people were interested in joining them. Before March 2007, I had never read a blog. I’m not sure I even knew what one was. I started by reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavin. His blog linked to Sharon’s and The Riot, and that is what got me where I am today.

So today I am revealing what a year of rioting figures look like in our household. When doing the numbers, we figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. Figures can be represented as a reduction of average use or as a percent of average. I’ll list both so as not to confuse anyone. There are seven categories for this project.

Gasoline:  The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000 gallons a year. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. We used 230.72 gallons over a year. That is 19.2 gal/month and is 11.5% of average or an 88.5% reduction . And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November or any other time. So to be completely honest about the whole deal I am figuring up what these flights actually cost in terms of fuel use. I did a bit of research and found that according to one source a long haul flight gets 30mpg/person. Another site helped me figure out how many miles from home to Honolulu. 9,650 miles divided by 30mpg gives me 321gallons per person and with four of us equates to burning 1,287 gallons of gas for our vacation. A vacation I might add was planned and paid for 8 months before the riot began. Then in October my husband took my son to visit his Aunt and Grandmother. That adds another 198 gallons. Then in February our daughter flew to Indianapolis with my mother to go to a wedding and that adds another 73.4 gallons. So the grand total is really 1789.12 gallons. And that my friend brings us way down, or way up to 90% of average use or a 10% reduction.

Electric: The average household uses 900 kwh/month or close to 11,000/year. We used 4983kwh over a year. That is 415.25kwh/month so our usage is 46% of average or a 54% reduction. Many people doing the riot have the option of buying green energy. Wind and hydro give you an additional 75% reduction and solar gives you 50%. We pay for 750kwh of green energy each month, only ours is 5% wind and solar combined and the other 95% is landfill gas. I was never able to figure out what further reduction we should get. If in fact I could get a 50% reduction that would bring our electric use down to 23% of average or a 77% reduction. If it was more of a 25% reduction then it would look more like 35% of average or 65% reduction. 

Therms:  The average household uses 83.3 therms of natural gas per month or 1000 therms over the season,  much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but did heat water and cook with gas. We used 112 therms over the year or 9.3/month. That equates to 11.2% of average or an 88.8% reduction. Having purchased a solar water heater, our future outlook is 4-6 therms per month or about 60 therms per year. This would be 6% of average or a 94% reduction.

Garbage:  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month or a staggering 6,480 pounds per year. We created 157.5 pounds of trash and 402 pounds of recyclables during the past 11 months that I have been weighing ALL our garbage. Recyclables count 80% of trash so the 402 pounds becomes 321.6 pounds. Adding the two together gives us a garbage total of 479.1 pounds for the time period or 43.5 pounds per month. That gives us 8% of average or a 92% reduction.

Water: The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kgallons a month. Over the past 12 months we have used 26 kgallons of water. According to the Riot rules, water for irrigation of food is not counted. We had a drought during our growing season and are estimating we used 6kgal to water the garden. That leaves us with 20kgal to account for. That would mean we used about 1.7 kgal/month which is 14% of average or an 86% reduction.

Consumer Goods. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We easily spent the average amount of money since we purchased quite a few high ticket sustainability items such as a solar water heater, two low flow toilets, a pressure canner, a water filter, a new freezer oh yes and new windows. Having recently moved into a new/older house we have many things to upgrade and certainly not just for cosmetic reasons. A new roof is in our future as well as some new flooring. Not calculated.

Food: Food is a difficult thing to measure. Do you measure by weight, serving or by dollars spent. I never did any of these things because I could not keep track to that degree. So I can only say that our family went from eating a diet of mostly processed foods to one of few processed foods. We mostly buy fruits and veggies that are local and in season or pick directly from our garden. I have been buying much of our food from bulk bins and cooking dried beans and grains from scratch. The ideal that we have been shooting for according to Riot guidelines is to eat at least 70% of your diet from local and organic sources. Then 25% of your diet can come from bulk, dry goods like beans and grains, also loose tea or fair trade coffee. Then wet goods like conventionally grown meat, fruits and veggies, oils and milk should only make up about 5% of your diet. This last category is what makes up the larger portion of the average American diet. We started out at least at average and have ended up making it to 35% local/organic, 50% bulk, and 15% wet, conventional. This is the category we need the most work in. Getting enough local food is hard in a society that doesn’t value it. 

I enjoy calculating our numbers, heck I even enjoyed weighing all the trash. It was just so satisfying to see the difference you could make. Why don’t you try some of the easier things. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.   

The best advice I can give anyone in how to make a difference to our planet is USE LESS. Use less of EVERYTHING.             

June Riot Update

Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. For those who started when the project began, the year has come to maturity. I had not planned on keeping data for another month, but since I did, I figured I would post it. I am pretty sure this will be my last update.

We are a  family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories as follows. 

Gasoline: We purchased 20.1 gallons in June. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 20.1 gal was 12% of average.  

Electric: We used 456 Kwh from  June 12 to July 14 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 50.6% of average. We have started using the air conditioner full time and even though it is not set as high as last year, we are using less energy because we bought new windows last October. Our usage one year ago however was 884 Kwh for the same month.

Therms: We used 6 therms of natural gas from  June 12 to July 14. Our usage is 7% of average. We are only using natural gas to cook with currently. The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, much of it is used for heating. 

Garbage: We created 4 1/2 pounds of trash and 8 1/2 pounds of recyclables in June. We are at 2% of average.  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks. 

Water: We used 1 kilogallons from June 12 to July 14. It went down from 6!  I have not had to water our garden since it started raining June 1st.  The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four or 12 Kgal a month. Our 1 Kgal is 8% of average. Glad to be back to normal.

Consumer Goods-I dropped the ball on tracking this. I think I spent quite a bit less in this area, mostly because we did not need any more toilets. We did spend some money on chicken wire to build our chicken coop. I know we bought a  few more things, but no where near $833 the average family spends per month. 

Food: I think we did really well this month for food choices. I think our purchases ended up with local at 35%, bulk category at 50% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 15%. I have been to the farmers market almost every Saturday and am eating out of the garden as well.

Now that I have a years worth of information, I am going to do a year end summary, to show how our family fared over the course of a year. I said that last month, but have better numbers for this June than last, so will use this years. It isn’t cheating since we didn’t start the Riot till July anyway.

May riot update

I seem to have messed up my original post. I’ll try to fix it when I have time.

April Riot Update

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. There are a growing number of people all over the world, still joining this movement to help halt climate change. What are you willing to do to help save the world as we know it?

I finally have all my numbers for the month of April. As I stated last month, as part of The Riot For Austerity we usually figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories. For two weeks we had my husbands mother staying with us so I will adjust the figures that are per person. 

Gasoline: We purchased 13.11 gallons in April. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 13.11 gallons was 7.9% of average.  Our 11 month cumulative total is 223.02 gallons or 12.2 % of average. And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November. If I add in two weeks of gas allotment for an extra adult, we come down to an even 7% of average, woo hoo!

Electric: We used 315 Kwh from  April 11 to May13 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 35% of average. Our lowest usage was in January and the numbers have been slowly climbing. We jumped from 25% last month to 35% this time. The warmer weather makes the fridge and freezer work harder. And one week before the meter was read we had our water heater switched from gas to electric to have a solar water heater installed. Electric is per household, but we did have an extra member for two weeks.

Therms: We used 9 therms of natural gas from  April 11 to May 13. Our usage is 11% of average. More hot water was used with an extra adult.  The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, since much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but do heat water and cook with gas..

Garbage: We created 14.75 pounds of trash and 20.75 pounds of recyclables in April. Recyclables count 80% of trash so we are at 5.8% of average. If I figure in two weeks of an extra person it brings us down to 5.2%. The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks.

Water: We used 4 kilogallons from April 11 to May 13. It went up from 2. We have been watering our garden since about April 11th. We went five weeks with no rain! The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kg a month. Our 4 Kg is 33% of average. The creators of The Riot say that water used to water your vegetable garden or crops does not count the same as household water use. We cannot separate the two. But I can guess that we used 2 Kg for household and 2Kg for watering. That would take us down to 16% of average. And if I add in the allotment for another adult for 2 weeks we come down to 14.9%.

Consumer Goods. Well during April I was participating in the buy nothing challenge with Crunchy Chicken.  I was not able to truly buy nothing. I bought 24 books from our friends of the library book sale. $16 but counts as $1.60 because they are used. We spent money on a camping trip for spring break, but didn’t buy anything tangible. I did really need to buy my daughter some new tennis shoes for $21.85. Then our big expense/purchase for the month was a new toilet. $347.00.  It counts as half under riot rules since it is infrastructure to reduce usage. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We spent adjusted $326.98 or 39% of average.

Food: This category is always hard for me. I just guess what I think we eat and spend money on and then I double check what my husband thinks. I think we did better than last month with local at 30%, bulk category at 45% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 25%. 

In summary our gasoline use decreased by 2 percentage points, Electric went up 10 percentage points, Nat gas use went up a percentage point.  Garbage had been dropping but went up 2 percentage points. Water use increased by 50% again, increasing 16 percentage points, but really staying the same for household use. Consumer goods is higher since we bought a big ticket item and will be next month since we plan to buy another toilet. And the food category is pretty much the same but with a definite move in the right direction….towards local!    

I have to say that my mother in law was a great sport the entire two weeks she stayed with us. She turned the water off while soaping up and shampooing, she sat outside and read books using natural light and enjoying the warmth(she is from Wisconsin). She gave us money for the farmers market and ate quite a bit of local vegetarian food. She even discovered some new foods she liked. It was a great visit all around!

If my mother in law can have a great time doing this, you can too. So why don’t you take some time to look at your utility and gasoline bills, and see where you fall on the percentage chart. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.                

Wastewater Wantwater

It is difficult thinking up really good titles for posts. If the title doesn’t explain things this will. This post is about how to irrigate your garden or water your plants without taxing one of our most precious resources.

First off I have to say that using fresh drinking quality water to water your lawn/grass is in my opinion a big waste. I am not saying you cannot have grass. We have grass in our yard. We have more grass than I would like, but it came with the house and it is hard to get rid of. We do not irrigate our lawn. It turns brown in the winter and occasionally in the spring when there is no rain, like right now. It has not rained for over two weeks where I live. So consider where you live, how much rainfall you get and what kind of ground cover is best suited to your region. Sometimes, rocks are the best ground cover.

If you just have to have a lawn that needs irrigation then the least you should do is have a grey-water system installed. All the water from your shower, bath and laundry can be diverted to a tank to water your grass. Some municipalities even offer this as an option to hook up to. If you cannot hook up to a grey-water system and you do have a sprinkler system, then use it to its fullest potential. Do not water when it is raining. Water only once a week. Test your system to see how long it takes to fill a tuna can with one inch of water. Only run the system for that long each week. Many people over water their lawns. Use less or no fertilizer and leave your grass long, say 3 inches tall to keep it lush and healthy. It retains the moisture better that way.

If you have a garden, be water wise. Know how often you need to water. Know which plants need more water. Also, water at the right time of day. Our utility prohibits watering from 10AM to 4PM. This is when the water is most likely to evaporate the fastest. Overhead sprinkling is probably the most inefficient method. A lot of the water can be lost into the dry air.  Here are some articles on watering. http://www.doityourself.com/scat/watering

Prepare your soil at the beginning of the season to hold the water longer. Mulch the surface of the beds to help retain the moisture. Using drip irrigation or soaker hoses uses up to 50% less water than overhead sprinklers. Drip irrigation can be specifically designed to water each plant as opposed to the whole garden which would include the paths. Unless your paths are a walkable ground cover, they don’t need watering. Here is a great article on using grey-water in your vegetable garden. http://www.umassgreeninfo.org/fact_sheets/plant_culture/gray_water_for_gardens.html  

The biggest take home message I got from that article is don’t water root crops or leafy greens with grey-water. Also rotate between grey and fresh. There are guidelines on how much to use and what not to put into the water to begin with.

No matter how much rainwater you get annually, I think a rain barrel is a fantastic idea. There are plenty of places to buy really expensive ones or you can make one fairly cheaply.  This site http://www.cityfarmer.org/rainbarrel72.html  has a wealth of information on rainwater collection, rain barrels and irrigation.   We have several rain barrels that we use for irrigation as well as toilet flushing. Rainwater also is excellent for washing hair and clothing since it is naturally soft.     

    

Above is our rainwater collection system we currently use in the garden. We have a 26′ x 12′ shed with a metal and plastic roof. The rain gutter catches the water and diverts it to the first barrel. My brilliant husband figured out that the water would automatically syphon from one barrel to the next with a piece of garden hose that reaches from the bottom of one barrel to the bottom of the next. The hoses have to be filled with water, pinched off in the middle then shoved quickly into each barrel. Takes two people. Also the barrels have to have and maintain enough water to keep the ends of the hoses covered with water, otherwise the syphon action is disrupted. We did it this way because for the short term it was easier than connecting all the barrels together and elevating them to drain one into another. The last barrel is an open garbage can for dipping my watering can into.

                   

These are pictures of rainwater collection up near the house. My daughter is transferring water from a full container into empty ones. She has a lot of fun doing this. We try to collect as much water as we possibly can since this time of year can be very dry. You do have to watch the barrels for mosquito larvae and empty those barrels sooner or use a net to scoop them out and feed them to your fish. Covering the container can prevent the mosquito from laying her eggs in the water in the first place.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.