Bounty of Nature

When mother nature gives you free food, why waste it! Now how to preserve all those pears. If you have like I do, a tree in your yard that bears fruit, find a way to put it to good use. Give it away. Eat it or preserve it. In times of plenty gather what you can and make the best use of it. Otherwise it all just rots. What a waste.

The pears are washed, peeled, sliced, cored and chopped. Then cooked in a large pot with a little Cinnamon and sugar. The resulting pear sauce is ladled into jars and processed in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Viola… 5 pints of canned pear sauce. Yummy almost free food.

 

These were Florida Sand Pears. Rather hard and a bit gritty, not so sweet. But still free. I have quite a lot of pears waiting to be eaten fresh or made into something first. If you had a huge pear tree, what would you make with your pears?

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.

Independance Days Update for June

I have been lazy about posting my Independance updates. I have only done one prior to this. This is my update for about the past month or more. I don’t think I have the mental energy to update every week. What have you guys been up to?

PLANTED- Rattlesnake pole beans(94)

HARVESTED- lots of tomatoes, 4 veg marrow, one EGG, 14 lbs potatoes, black eyed peas.

PRESERVED- Froze 4 lbs blueberries, Canned blueberry jam and whole blueberries. Made 3 pints sauerkraut, 3 pints watermelon preserves. 2 pints dilly beans.

STORED- 10 more jars of organic peanut butter(purchased for $1 each), 7 bags of rice 5lbs each, granola, pinto beans, couscous, 4 bottles lemon juice, sugar, coconut milk, 18- 1lb boxes pasta(buy one get one free), canning salt and 4 jars salsa.

PREPARED-working on chicken coop, purchased more emergency supplies like first aid kit, got hurricane box together and stored. Bought more canning jars and lids.

MANAGED-reorganised pantry to fit everything in.

COOKED-Peanutty Asian Coleslaw and potato salad

LOCAL-talked about food storage with 2 other people locally

REDUCE WASTE-preserved watermelon rind, eating weeds from garden

NEW SKILL-nothing yet

May riot update

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

No Time To Waste

This appeared on a website called The Daily Kos. My mother reads it every day and sent the link to me. I thought it was so important I wanted to spread the word. To read the whole post click on the link at the bottom.

“Hansen on Warming: We have ONE year.. ONE election (Updated)”

Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 07:25:51 PM PDT

In 2006, the great climate scientist James Hansen famously said

I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change … no longer than a decade, at the most.

Since then, things have gotten much, much worse.  The Arctic ice is melting faster than expected.  CO2 emissions are accelerating.  Global warming is accelerating.

Hansen no longer stands by his estimate that we have one decade to turn things around. He now thinks that was too optimistic.

Today, James Hansen told congress that  we have one year.

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Recycled Art

A friend sent this information too me. Lynne Stein is an artist who uses cast-off clothing to make artwork. It is very beautiful and could be very useful as well. Check out the others who are recycling what they find into art.

BBC – North West Wales In Pictures – Lynne Stein

Now if I could only figure out where to find some clothing that nobody wanted so I could make one of these as well…..hummm.

 

 

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.                

Independance Days

Recently I decided to join a challenge created  by Sharon Astyk who is one of the founders of the Riot for Austerity. Her challenge is called “Independance Days Challenge”. I almost wasn’t going to do it, but I find myself trying to keep up with the Joneses. These are Joneses from a very different sort of neighborhood.

Basically the challenge is all about increasing your personal independance from market society. There are ten things to work on during the week and you are supposed to do atleast one everyday. Now looking at things that way makes it look easier. Here are the ten things.

1. plant something 2. harvest something 3. Preserve something  4. store something  5. prepare something  6. Manage something  7. cook something new.  8. work on local food systems  9. reduce waste               and 10. learn a new skill

So this week so far, I have

1. It rained last fri so I Planted 16 pineapple tomatillos, 4 reg tomatillos, 2 pimento peppers

2. Harvested several cherry tomatoes, several small tomatoes, yellow squash, vegetable marrow, green beans and a pound of potatoes.

3. Preserved quart and pint of veg marrow pickles, and a quart and pint of Daikon radish kraut. Took all tomatoes from last year or older out of the freezer and made 6 pints spaghetti sauce.

4. stored 2 extra bottles vinegar, 3 extra bottles soybean oil(organic at $1 each!), 3 extra jars peanut butter I also went to 3 thrift stores and bought 11 canning jars, two 8 packs of candles, 2 pair of shoes for my son, four still in package pillow cases and kitchen curtains. Purchased case of pints and case of quarts, lids and rings, emergency candles and a mantle for my Alladin lamp.

5. prepared, well I bought salt to make more pickles, researched sites to buy a pressure canner and then bought the canner.

6. managed-I went through all the non-canning jars and paired them up with lids, organised panty

7. cooked something new- Made salsa fresca

8   local food – discussed gardening with a new friend                   

9. reduced waste- brought home 3 bags and two boxes from the dumpster, mostly clothes

10. learned a new skill- canned spaghetti sauce for the first time

Saving water in the kitchen

There are quite a few ways to save water in the kitchen. First, lets look at where water is used. There is food prep, cooking,  clean-up, and miscellaneous use.

A great way to make the water in your kitchen do double duty is to have a grey water system. It can be as rudimentary as washing vegetables in a dish pan and then carrying the dish pan outside to water plants. Here is a great post on grey water. http://thesustainablehome.blogspot.com/2008/04/safe-use-of-household-grey water.html Another method for capturing grey water is a funnel called Envirosink that is installed behind your sink and allows you to run the water till it is hot or cold, and capture that water for reuse. You could also pour water into it from containers like your dish pan. The Envirosink can be directed to a collection tank for processing or direct use.

When preparing food for meals, be aware of how much water you use. If you do not have an aerator on your kitchen tap, get one. It should slow the flow to 2 gallons per minute. When vegetables or fruits get washed, wash them in a dish pan or large pot of water. Don’t let all that valuable water run down the drain. We keep a five gallon bucket near our sink so we can pour water into it throughout the day and empty it onto trees, bushes or plants. Don’t use running water to defrost foods. Let them sit in the fridge overnight or use your microwave.

If you cook food by boiling it such as pasta, vegetables or eggs, let the water cool down and add it to your compost pile or garden. If you have ants or weeds in an unwanted location, the hot water water will kill them both. When cooking, chose your pot size wisely. Too large a pot will not only use more water than necessary, but use more energy to heat up as well.

When cleaning up, don’t throw all those food scraps and peels down the disposal, start a compost pile. If you are in an apartment or have a really good excuse for not composting, use that grey water from washing your veggies to run the disposal. Think creatively. There is a big debate about whether or not dishwashers use more or less water than hand washing. Well my answer is sometimes more and sometimes less. What it boils down to is exactly how much water is used in total for each method. Some people pre-rinse all their dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Don’t do this if you have a new D/W. I do this because we have an 18 year old D/W. I only use about a gallon of water for all the pre-rinsing. An older or non energy star D/W can use 14 or more gallons per load. Whereas an energy star model will use more like 8.5 gallons/load. So, if you could measure how much water you used to hand wash dishes, it would have to be less than your D/W used to be saving water. One method for hand washing, if you have the sink room, is to have a basin for the initial de-grimming of the plates. Then a basin of warm soapy water. Then a basin of warm water to rinse. The first two basins could hold as little as one gallon of water. The rinse basin may need three. This gets you five gallon/load. So not only did you save water, but you saved electricity as well.  If you hand wash in basins, you can save the water, if you use a D/W you cannot. Just remember to use biodegradable soap. [Edited to add: When using a dishwasher always run a full load of dishes.]

The last couple of miscellaneous thoughts about saving water in the kitchen are, first, don’t let the water run till it is cold to get a drink. Keep a pitcher of filtered water in the fridge. And lastly, but may be the most important is to fix any and all leaks as soon a they are discovered. A leaky faucet can waste thousands of gallons of water per year. If you can’t fix it right away, keep a container under the faucet. As long as the container is clean, the water will be clean enough to use.

« Older entries