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Ok, it's official - I'm joining the Riot For Austerity.
This is what it's all about:
The aim is to cut your emissions and use of resources by 90% of what the average American uses. Apparently if we all did this, there'd be enough of everything to go around, and we could avert the worse of what's in front of us with climate change. The basic idea is that even though we CAN take more, we choose to only take our fair share of everything, so that we leave our kids and grandkids with a better world, a better future. Sharon Astykjoined with several hundred others to prove that ordinary people like us really can live on 10% of the average amount of resources, and that by doing so we also, in many ways, end up with a much nicer life.
Sharon et al have made it easy for us by calculating exactly what is our fair share in every category - water, rubbish, petrol, gas, electricity and food. I used their calculator to work out what I'm currently consuming. Some of what I've got here is a rough estimate - I'm still calculating actual usage to be sure.
Target is 10% for each category.
Transporation fuel - I've used 12% of the US national average.
Electricity - 9% of the US national average - YIPPEE
Gas/Kero for cooking and heating - 23% of the US national average
Rubbish - 7% of the US national average - YAY I'M AHEAD
Water - 24% of the US national average.
Consumer Goods - 30% (I really have no idea if this is accurate or not.
Food - I'm aiming for 75% local sustainable/homegrown produce, and I reckon we're on about 30%
- Aiming for 25% bulk/dry goods, all organic, and I think we're on target for this one
- Aiming for just 5% "wet goods" ie meat, milk, processed food, conventional produce, but I'm guessing we use 45%
Now for some comments on each category...
Transportation. I cheated - I only counted what we use when we're in Melbourne. We've worked really hard to cut our car use, learn to ride bikes and catch PT and live local - I'm proud of us. BUT for my work, to perform The Grimstones, we tour so much. Just this year we have flown to Italy/France, to Darwin, Brisbane, Townsville, Adelaide, and we have driven also to Adelaide, to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, to NSW and to several places in Vic. Our work use of resources is terrible in this regard. If I focus on that it means I need to give up The Grimstones in order to succeed. So - give up The Grimstones or abandon the idea of the riot? I'm thinking the riot will take me steps in the right direction, as is worth persuing. For now I will focus on our home usage, and I will count our work usage as separate.
Electricty - no cheating here. But I still reckon we can get it down further. And we are having new solar panels installed soon, and regardless of what the Riot For Austerity target is for Electricity, my personal target will be to see if we can only use what we generate.
Gas and Kero - Even though we are way under what the average American uses (and probably average Australian), I feel a bit unhappy to be so out of target, without a foreseeable way to cut back. Kero we would be very hard pressed to use less during winter as it's for heating, but long term goal is to double glaze our windows, which might help. The other option is toughening up and being colder. Yikes. We use gas to cook and to heat our hot water. Since we cook just about all our food from scratch, we use the stove and oven a lot, often for long stretches to make big pots of stock etc. I don't want to reduce how much we cook. At this stage a woodstove doesn't seem viable for us, living in inner city, but I will think about it more. The rest of the gas is for hot water. Right now we have one bath a day, with a few inches of water in it, and all three of us tend to share it. Then the water goes on the garden. We don't want to have less baths because our vegies desperately need the water. Due to legal situation here with incredible water restrictions, we are not allowed to put freshwater on the garden except for two tiny stingy measly sessions a week at ungodly hours. However we can put as much bath-water on the garden as we like. I could disobey the law - would anyone know? But it is truly the biggest treat and luxury to enjoy that water first by having a soak in it. And that's where the gas comes in - to heat it. We do have solar hot water, but it doesn't work very well. It does mean we don't use as much gas compared to if we didn't have it.
Water - due to the legal situation I mentioned, we need to use our water in the house in order to put it on the garden. I think if you didn't count the bath/vegie water, we would be well under the limit for water usage. We don't have to count irrigation water for the Riot though because growing your own food always means less water is used to produce it. We get low produce yields most years, I think because we are too stingy with water. This year I'm going to try being a bit more generous and see if that helps. A longer term plan is to somehow get the water from the washing machine and dishwasher out onto the garden too.
Rubbish - well isn't it nice to be ahead of target? I still wince at all the plastic that goes into our rubbish bags, and I wince at the fact that we use plastic bags for rubbish, but Paula is really not open to another solution here. The low rubbish production is a happy result of the fact that we cook all our food from scratch and don't buy processed foods.
Consumer goods - this one really needs work. Well I'm assuming so, but I haven't calculated it accurately so 30% is a guess. Still, with a budget of $1000 every year we would be hard pressed to cover the stuff we like to buy. Say we spent $400 on household goods (think toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, gardening tools, peatmoss for our composting toilet etc), then we'd have $200 to spend on each person for clothes, toys, books, homeschool etc. We spend way more than that on Jesse - probably $400 a year on clothes because I'm a sucker and like to dress him like a doll, and another $300 on toys and homeschool materials. I could probably buy the books I like and occasional clothes in my $200 allotment but I do have a bit of a taste for unfortunately expensive things - a computer which tends to die every three years from overuse, Birkenstock shoes every couple of years to replace those that have worn out, last year I bought a thermomix which was unbelievably expensive. Paula doesn't buy that much stuff but when she does buy new clothes sometimes they are pretty expensive, and I bet her goods go over $200 a year too. The problem with the $$ method of calculating this is that it encourages us to focus on cheap stuff, and most of the cheapest stuff we would buy is made in nasty sweatshops overseas and/or shipped here from China. Paula and I both buy a few expensive pieces of clothing made by local Australian artists, and frankly I think that's a far better way to spend the money if you can afford it. Also this year we are finally getting paid for 2 years of unpaid work, and we've got some home renovations in the works. Some of them will help Riot goals like a new water tank. But building an extra room is probably not a Riot goal - it's a luxury.
Food. We shop in a way that is fairly Riot-friendly and we only step into a supermarket very occasionally. We stock up on bulk goods every now and then, and I reckon it's about 25%. They're all organic. Paula goes to the Vic Market and buys organic fresh food, mostly in season, every week. They don't publish food miles though so it's hard to know which items are truly local (I'm counting within 200km) and which comes from further away. The 5% of "wet goods" that we are aiming for doesn't feel very achievable right now. We get raw milk from 320km away (it's nearly local, right? though we have just discovered another brand that's from 235km away), meat and fish from god knows where (gotta find out more about this), the best quality butter from Queensland, and I mail order quite a few wholefood supplements such as cod liver oil, B.E.Grainfield liquid, Swedish bitters and more. I notice the riot guideline that health is not counted, cos they don't want anyone getting sick or not looking after their health for doing this. The things I take/eat for my health are the things that mean I don't need to buy medicines and other health products I used to spend a lot of money on. If you look at it in this way, then I wouldn't count raw milk, raw meat, bones for stock, butter from Queensland, cod liver oil or the other supplements as part of my 5% wet goods. They'd be health items. And if you looked at it that way, I reckon getting down to 5% would be quite achieveable for me. Is that cheating? I suspect my entire ramblings here are descriptions of how I plan to cheat. Here's what I plan to actually DO to improve our food situation to make it more sustainable:
- focus on our vegie garden this year, especially on making sure I harvest all the produce we possibly can and don't waste any. Part of this means eating from the garden as much as possible BEFORE going shopping.
- find out more about which foods are truly local at Ceres and Vic Market and buy them instead of stuff that comes from further away
- buy extra local produce that is in season and preserve it for later in the year - ie dry my own fruit, dry extra vegies, make chutneys and fermented foods, try making vinegar.
- look into raising our own chickens and rabbits for meat/stock - this is a longer term plan as I am TOTALLY squeamish about it.
Well, that's where we're at. Can I convince you to join me? You're allowed to join even if you think you won't make the targets - everyone doing as best they can will be a big step in the right direction. So please, pretty please, I need a riot buddy or several - send me an email or comment here to tell me what you'll do!