I've been participating in the Riot for Austerity for 6 months now - with the aim of reducing my use of resources to 10% of the average. Mostly I'm using US averages since I don't know Australian averages. I can't believe half a year has gone by. I can see now as the months pass the new habits I've been trying to create have settled in and are becoming more routine - much of what I'm doing doesn't feel like a big deal any more.
I've averaged my use of everything over the last 6 months and here's the results:
Target is 10% of the US national average for each category, or less.Transportation fuel - 8%
Electricity - 14%
Gas/Kero - 7%
Rubbish - 4%
Water - 16% til 1 March then 0%
Consumer Goods - 12%
Food - I'm aiming for 75% local sustainable/homegrown produce, and we're on 73%
Now for some comments on each category...
Transport - I think we've finally got this one sorted. We are riding our bikes heaps, walking more, catching public transport to most places we go, and only taking the car when we really need to. It feels like the habit has settled in. This figure would be higher if I counted my work - as it is I count Melbourne-based work but not distance touring.
Electricity - This one is a bit confusing because my actual aim is to use only what we generate with our new solar system, but right now there's no way of knowing what we generate. Actual figures for the second half of the year should be lower because we have stopped using our old composting toilet that has a heating plate in it, and a fair bit of electricity has been used over summer to preserve food - dehydrating, bottling etc. In winter maybe we can use less. I'm also hoping to turn off our back fridge once the weather gets cooler and that will help our usage too.
Gas/Kero - We haven't used any kero this year. We have used two bottles of gas in 6 months. The first one took 8 weeks, and the second one took 15.5 weeks. I suspect the first one may have had a leak. We have definitely reduced our gas use a bit though.
Rubbish - I have stopped counting rubbish. Overall our average is about 4% but this doesn't include the vast amount we carted off to the tip in order to install our water tank.
Water - Our water usage, averaged over 5 months, was 16%. Much of this went onto the garden. On the first of March we disconnected from mains water - yay! Since then we have used only tank water which we collected. I hope we will be able to survive only with tank water from now on.
Consumer goods - I found out the average Australian household spends $15,000 per year on consumer goods. Our actual expenditure has been 12% over the last 6 months, not counting a couple of things we bought strictly for health reasons, and not counting some fairly major home improvements like the water tank. If we didn't count the things I bought to help me with this riot, our expenditure would be 7%. I've needed to buy quite a few tools & safety items such as bike safety vests, bike trailer, bike racks, chicken wire, etc, to help us become more sustainable in our lifestyle. I don't count things I buy specifically for my work.
Food - I'm aiming to purchase as much of our food locally as possible. I count anything coming from Victoria as local but I heavily prioritise purchases of items much closer to home. If you average all our food purchases over the last six months, 73% of them have been local, 10% have been bulk goods, and 17% have been "other". It's been pretty challenging making the change to local eating, but finally it's feeling easier. Our biggest difficulty is that the farmer's market is only once a fortnight, and if we miss that because we are working, such as happened for both markets in February, then we don't have another good place to buy local food. Now things are improving as I'm finding other sources of local food: another once a month market on an alternate Saturday, a local food co-op where I can get a box of vegies and fruit weekly, another little weekly produce market. We are becoming good at eating local food - the main issue is shopping. I also try to grow as much of my own food as possible. I estimate I grow 80% of the vegies that we eat, but this only works out to 27% of our overall consumption as we consume a fair bit of milk, cream, eggs, meat and fish.
So what's next for us? I think I need to focus on reducing our electricity use a bit by tracking it weekly and aiming for 42kw per week. Everything else is good - I just need to maintain it all!