I have NOT formally committed us to that challenge. However, it is fun and educational looking at our numbers vs the nationwide average. Riot4Austerity if you are interested in comparing your own energy usage.
In electricity usage, we are 66% below average; we also are signed up for our electric provider’s Solar Partners program and get 45% of our electricity from renewable sources. We pay extra for it, but supposedly the extra money is funding for future renewable plants.
In water usage we are 80% below average; I am AMAZED that the national average is 100 gallons per PERSON per day! How in the hell does one person use that freekin’ much water??? We don’t use that much even in the height of summer when I’m watering some of my garden beds twice a day, for crying out loud!
Garbage we unfortunately have a lot of, even though we’re still well under the national average of 4.5 pounds per person per day. We have no recycling program in our area, and the carbon miles I would expend going to Phoenix specifically to drop off recycling wouldn’t make sense. We have about 3 trash bags a week of garbage, about 50% of which COULD be recycled if we had it available. We compost most of our vegetable matter, either by putting it in the compost bin or by giving it to the chickens.
Heating gas: we use propane and the conversion is .91 times the gallons of propane. We use about 350 gallons a year, so we are at approximately 68% less than average. I actually expect our usage to go down further as we are no longer using the furnace, and we converted to a pilotless ignition stove. The one propane sucker we have that we presently cannot control is our water heater, which has a pilot light that necessarily is on all the time. But HOLY CRAP those reflector pans that you put on the stove REALLY WORK. I have had to relearn how to cook on our stove — the temperatures are so high with the heat turned down that we are using probably 50% less propane for each meal than we used to.
Gasoline is one that we are way over average on; we live at least 35 miles from everything, and even farther from our jobs. We do try to conserve by combining trips, and only going to town once a week if possible. I really don’t see this changing unless someone invents a truly green car that runs on sunshine and happy thoughts.
Shopping: well, I am a thrift store addict, and buy much of what I wear from thrifts. However, powering down requires purchases of things that are not electric or power dependent, and most of that requires new purchases, so here we are still over the average of $1000 per person per year. Plus, DH can’t take meals with him when he goes to work — they would get mashed in the baggage compartment for one, and two they wouldn’t hold up for a week at a time in a hotel room. So he eats out a lot. I do try to take my own meals, and to use my own silverware, so that I’m not making more garbage at work than necessary.
Food: we buy in bulk from a coop devoted to fair trade practices, we buy local and organic when possible, I try to cook and store as much as possible. We still have meat as a part of our evening meal many more nights than not, but we both love Middle Eastern and Indian food, and we are eating more and more with meat as a garnish to the rice and sauces. We are still eating stuff preserved from the garden last year, and I plan to expand our plantings manyfold this year. There’s just no comparison in taste, and I love knowing that what we are eating came in large part from our own labors.
So. How do you compare? We have a long way to go. In fact, I may just sign up officially for the r4a project. It couldn’t hurt, even if we never get to the target areas.