Believe it or not, it's been a year since I started the Riot For Austerity - the project where I aimed to cut my use of resources down to 10% of what the average person uses. Here are my final figures:
Gas and Kero 12%
Consumer goods 12%
80% local sustainably produced food, 5% bulk dry goods, and 15% unsustainable produce.
Excluding food, which isn't counted the same way as everything else, my overall resource footprint is 7.6% of the average. I'm pretty happy with that.
A few comments on each area.
We've made big lifestyle changes to get our transport down to 9%, and in many way this has been one of our most challenging areas. With other areas when we change our habit, the new way seems to stick. We have to constantly renew our commitment to bike riding, walking, public transport and living local in the face of ongoing temptation to use the car. But we are doing well. We'll have to remain vigilant to maintain this. I have to point out though, that our transport use is 9% at home for personal transport. I'm not counting our tours for work, although I should.
To get electricity down to 6% we've got in the habit of switching off at the powerpoint (mostly), ditched several appliances, changed to 100% wind power in terms of purchased electricity, and installed a new array of solar panels on the roof. I'd still like to see our electricity consumption to drop so that we are using only the amount we generate.
Our gas and kero usage is significantly lower than what it was thanks to our new solar heater, which meant we only used one tin of kero this year, instead of the five we usually use. In summer we reduced gas usage by cooking on the rocket stove and having fewer baths. In winter though, despite our commitment to austerity, I'm just not prepared to use less gas than we do now. So either I write it off by saying the extra 2% of gas is balanced out by us being under in other areas, or else we work on reducing our summer usage with more rocket stove cooking. This summer we'll probably be able to do that, since we won't be working as hard as we did last summer, I hope.
I stopped counting rubbish a while ago, and 7% is a fairly generous estimate. I suspect we're closer to 4% actually. I'd rather be a rubbish free household, but to get there requires more consumer changes which are pretty tricky. Maybe we'll get there eventually. This doesn't count the several skips of dirt we sent off to landfill in order to install our water tank.
Water is the best one! Our new water tank has given us total independence from the Melbourne water supply. It makes me feel secure and I really appreciate having water that hasn't had any chemicals added. We tested it to see if we had city air pollution in it, but it came back as safe.
Getting consumer goods down to 12% has been a big challenge. I'm impressed we've gone so far. To be honest I'm not sure we can hold it at 12%, though I'll try. I've enjoyed the make-it-myself attitude this has cultivated, and the resulting value of the things I've made. I'm not going to try and go lower than 12%. I'm happy with second hand purchases for most thing, but the bulk of our new-buying has been birthday presents for each other. We tend to spend over $100 on each birthday and it feels really special. Some things are wearing out/running out though, which are going to make it harder to keep purchases low. Many pens are out of ink, including art pens which I intend to replace. My computer and phone aren't going to last forever, though I may be able to go second hand with these purchases. We'll see.
Six months ago I realised the thing I hated most about the riot was tracking food purchases. It seemed so time consuming. I decided to stop counting, but stay focussed on our new local-food habits. This has worked well for me. I shop fortnightly at the farmer's market and buy most of our food there. I receive a wholesale milk, eggs and cream delivery every week, which I resell to my friends at cost price. Paula buys dry goods, mostly in bulk, from a shop near our place, and non-local treats from our local shopping strip. We've dramatically cut our use of tins and packaging this winter as we've been eating all the food I preserved last summer. The bottled tomatoes are exquisite - tinned tomatoes are no comparison at all. The summer fruit has been a real treat too. We don't eat out much - we used to have more meals at a restaurant but frankly the taste of the food just doesn't compare to homecooked food from the farmer's market our our garden, so it loses some of its appeal.
And now for the biggest part of the riot challenge: to keep our use at 10% or less for the rest of our lives. Gosh. It's hard to think that far ahead. Many of our changes are probably permanent, and don't really feel difficult, though I do long to buy a bit more stuff.
In practise though, I feel like I've only just started on my sustainable-lifestyle journey. There's so much more I'd like to do, to help us become more self-reliant. Upcoming projects:
I'd like to make a solar attachment for my dehydrator, so that I can dry produce this summer without needing electricity.
Next winter I want to try again to turn off our back fridge.
I want us to get the hang of cooking on the rocket stove regularly. It's a bit much for Paula so I'll need to get more involved in managing the fire.
I want to make candles again, and make enough on the rocket stove in summer to get us through the winter.
I want to produce my own fabric from scratch, which I'm working on with my angora rabbit.
I want to raise our own meat, and keep bees for honey and pollination.
I want to create a greywater filtering system to clean the water that comes from our kitchen sink.
I want to become a better gardener so that my garden really feeds us for most of the year. Right now it's only feeding us for about half of the time.
Overall though, I'm rapt with this project. It's made me feel better about living on this earth, less guilty, more at peace with myself. My life feels more meaningful than it did a year ago, when I started the Riot. Working on tasks like food preservation, gardening, and making things instead of buying them have been enjoyable and gentle paced. They leave me in a good, healthy state, mentally and emotionally, unlike other work such as shopping or computing, which leave me drained and empty.