CHAPTER 4. CALCULATING YOUR RIOT NUMBERS
A Few Pointers:
—> As you look at the target values and calculate your own numbers, remember you’re aiming for 10% of the U.S. average, not 10% of your current level.
• Since you’re on a green path, your footprint might already be quite a bit smaller than the U.S. average in some or all categories.
• You may be well on your way to a 10% footprint already.
—> Don’t be surprised if you find it easy to reach 10% in some categories and not in others.
• It’s an ongoing effort.
• Think of the multiple categories as multiple opportunities to reduce your footprint.
• Also, it’s typical for the numbers to fluctuate over time as you’re faced with different life-circumstances, such as: a new job in a different location, having kids, needing to care for an aging parent, and so on.
—> Tackle one category at a time, or start on all of them at once, whichever you prefer.
• Either way, know that you’re doing good for yourself and for the planet.
—> Note that some of the numbers are figured per person.
• Water is one example; garbage output is another.
—> Some are per household.
• Electricity and gas fall into this category.
—> Keep in mind that those of us who’ve been in on this since the beginning have 10 years’ head start on you!
• Many of us took a year or more to achieve 10% in even one category.
• Many of us have at least one or a few categories in which we have not yet achieved the 10% target.
• Don’t beat yourself up; just focus on the overall purpose.
—> Have fun! When the people around you sense that you’re feeling energized and enthusiastic about something, they’ll ask what you’re up to and might even want to join you.
• This is a great way to get your spouse, kids, friends, neighbors, and co-workers involved.
• You can even turn it into a friendly competition!
Okay, are you ready? Here are the seven Riot categories and target numbers. Note: This is an extremely abbreviated version of the Riot description developed by Sharon Astyk and Miranda Edel. You can find the original, full-length version online, either on the Riot for Austerity group (Facebook) or the 90 Percent Reduction email list (Yahoo), both mentioned in the appendix.
1. Gasoline: The average American usage is 500 gallons per person, per year. A 90 percent reduction would mean you’re using 50 gallons per person, per year.
Notes: Public transportation and waste veggie oil fuel are calculated at 100 mpg. There’s no extra credit for ethanol or biodiesel; calculate them the same as gasoline. If you rideshare, you get to multiply your miles per gallon by the number of people in the car (unless you’re getting a ride from someone who wouldn’t otherwise be going that way; then the gallons consumed are all yours).
Don’t worry if you’re at the U.S. average or higher in this category. In some places it’s virtually impossible to avoid owning your own car and driving everywhere.
Here are some things you can do:
Consider moving to a more walkable place, where you might not even need a car. Do you like the place where you live? If not, seriously consider moving. Life is too short to live somewhere you don’t like. I realize that’s not an option for everyone; you might be caring for an aging parent; you might be underwater in your mortgage. Still, keep your attention on resolving the situation, and something will emerge.
If you like where you live and want to stay put there, you can see if your employer would let you telecommute—or you could find a way to make a freelance living by working online. You could also start a business that serves people in your local area. (For example, if you live in a rural area, you could set up a store, a taxi service, or an in-home eldercare service to serve the immediate area.)
For the longer-term good of your community, you could get involved with your local government and work on recruiting small businesses and other services that would make your community more resilient and less dependent on long-distance driving, without losing its rural character.
In most places, it’s possible to make at least some trips on foot or by bicycle. If you haven’t bicycled in a long time, I suggest you take a bicycle safety course. Many bike shops offer them, or you could take a course online. Read “How Not To Get Hit By Cars” on Michael Bluejay’s website referenced in the appendix. Walking and cycling are great ways for family members to spend time together while getting exercise and running errands. They’re also excellent ways for an individual to have time to think. A lot of creative ideas seem to come to me while I’m walking or cycling.
You can coordinate with neighbors to save car trips by consolidating errands. If you have simpatico neighbors, you might even be able to share ownership of one vehicle.
Finally, you may have noticed that this category makes no mention of air travel. Monbiot considers air travel to be out of the question. Regarding this, I have some thoughts and practical suggestions in the next section, where I talk about my numbers.
2. Electricity: Average U.S. usage is 11,000 kWh per household, per year—or about 900 kWh per household, per month. A 90% reduction would mean using 1,100 kWh per household, per year or 90 kWh per household, per month.
Notations: If you use solar power, the Riot gives you a 50% reduction. So, for every 100 kWh of electricity you use, count it as 50 kWh. For hydro and wind, the “discount” is 75%: Every 100 kWh counts as just 25 kWh toward your total.
The low-hanging fruit, in regard to power consumption, is home heating and cooling. Climate control constitutes almost 50% of a household’s energy footprint. If you want a huge instant reduction in your footprint, switch off the heat and air conditioning and let each occupant handle his or her own heating and cooling. This can be accomplished with personal heating and cooling devices such as socks, hats, blankets, and warm drinks for heating; and lighter clothing, fans, and cold drinks for cooling.
Not ready to go that far? Fortunately, you can keep your heat or a/c running and still reduce your footprint greatly by using insulation, window shades, door-sill barriers (a lot of your expensively heated or cooled air can escape through that gap under the door), and adjusting the thermostat by even a few degrees. Fans also help enormously, not only with cooling but also with circulating warm air in the winter. I used to be skeptical that such things really made that much difference, but I’ve heard of huge variations in people’s electric bills as a result of these low-tech, low-cost measures.
Other ways to reduce electricity for heating and cooling are living in a smaller place; or only heating/cooling the room you are actually using. Caution: You can’t do this by just closing ducts—it’s bad for your central air system. It needs to be done with space-coolers and heaters. (“Mr. Electricity” Michael Bluejay michaelbluejay.com is my main go-to site for such important facts.)
Another way to reduce your summer cooling footprint is to take a page from the permaculture design book (see permaculture references in the appendix) and create a living shade structure: put a trellis in front of your window and grow edible fruit vines and flowers up the trellis. Putting a barrier between the sun and your window reduces solar gain much more than an inside window-shade.
Conversely, if you live in a place with cold winters, make sure you don’t have vegetation or anything else blocking the sun from coming in your windows in wintertime; that sunshine streaming in is a prime source of free heat! It can be bitter cold outside and still feel toasty warm in a sunny south-facing living room. (If you live south of the equator and happen to be reading this book, you would, of course, substitute “north-facing” for “south-facing” and vice-versa.)
Experiment with the thermostat and use low-tech personal comfort devices (a cold drink or ice pillow on a hot night; a sweater or a cup of tea on a cold day). Unglamorous and plain as it sounds, that old 1970s-era image of Jimmy Carter donning his sweater in the White House pretty much sums it up.
Heating and cooling a room is very energy-expensive, compared with heating or cooling one’s own body. And it has the added advantage of empowering every member of the household to take charge of his or her own comfort.
If you live alone in a big house or apartment, an instant way to lower your energy footprint for home heating and cooling is to get roommates. The footprint for home heating and cooling is shared among everyone. Some people say they could never live with roommates (which is why they live alone in spite of how expensive it is), but the prospect of significant money savings from splitting expenses with others might sway their opinion in favor of trying roommates.
A few words about tiny houses, buses, trailers, and other portable dwellings: They’re neat, but they can be expensive to heat and cool for their size. Insulate as much as you can. Other than that, try to situate near trees, buildings, or other structures that help mitigate temperature extremes.
After air heating and cooling, other significant components of your electric consumption are the water-heater, clothes-dryer, lights, and refrigerator.
Consider not using a dryer, or save it for long rainy spells; otherwise use a clothesline or drying rack. Sun-dried laundry smells clean and fresh; many people, including myself, are passionate devotees. If you live in an apartment and have no clothesline, there are many different styles of drying-racks which you can use on the balcony (if your HOA managers aren’t fanatics who disallow all signs of human life from the balcony) or set up near a window. Your more delicate clothes will definitely thank you for using the air-dry method.
A great way to reduce your electric water-heater usage is to wash clothes in cold water rather than hot or warm. According to Michael Bluejay, who gets his data from reliable sources such as the Department of Energy, 90% of energy used to wash clothes is from heating the water. Says Bluejay: “Washing your clothes in hot instead of cold for a year wastes more electricity than leaving the fridge door open 24 hours a day for a year.” Wow, who knew?!
Another way to reduce the electricity you use for hot water is take shorter showers. (By the way, in his essay “Forget Shorter Showers,” radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen contends that there’s no use cutting our personal consumption as long as the entire system has waste and dysfunction baked in.(7) I don’t buy that argument. Yes, we should keep up our efforts to address waste and dysfunction at the infrastructure and policy level by signing petitions, engaging with companies and elected officials, and so on. But our personal habits are a key element also; they influence the system by sending signals to the energy companies and manufacturers. It’s not an either-or; it’s a both-and.)
Experiment with the temperature of your showers as well as their duration. You might find you don’t really need hot showers, especially in the summer.
Lighting is a significant electricity-user also. I compared light-bulbs of different wattages: One 100-watt bulb that’s in use 20 hours a day for 30 days, consumes 60 kWh per month. For a 60-watt bulb, that number is 36 kWh. For a CFL or LED bulb, the number drops to just 9 kWh per month.
I was surprised at how one solitary 100-watt incandescent light-bulb could potentially use up about 75% of my entire Riot target for electricity, if I were not careful to turn it off when leaving the house. And of course, most households have far more than just one light-bulb!
For a lot more detail about electricity and potential savings, visit Michael Bluejay’s “Mr. Electricity” website. You’ll find pie charts, data tables, and extremely thorough tips, including the pros and cons of different kinds of appliances such as tankless water heaters, etc. You’ll also discover how much money you can put in your pocket by making green choices. If I could only bookmark one energy website it would be this one! Bluejay goes into so much depth that it’ll save both you and me a lot of time and effort if I simply refer you to his site, rather than try to replicate his level of detail in this book. (And if you find his site helpful, which I’m sure you will, please show your support: click on his advertiser links, share his page, email him a thank-you. This goes for all the other websites and other resources I link.)
Most electricity is generated by burning coal or natural gas, so reducing electricity usage gives high payoff in terms of reducing your carbon footprint. Also, the process of generating electricity requires water, so when you reduce your electricity consumption you also reduce your water consumption.
3. Heating and Cooking Energy: The Riot divides this into three categories: gas, wood, and oil. (Electric stove or electric heat goes under electric usage.)
• Natural Gas is used by the vast majority of US households as heating and cooking fuel. Calculate propane the same as natural gas. U.S. average natural gas usage is 1000 therms per household, per year. A 90% reduction would mean a reduction to 100 therms per household, per year.
• Heating Oil is only used by only a small percentage of US households, mostly in the Northeast. The average U.S. usage is 750 gallons per household, per year. A 90% cut would mean using 75 gallons per household, per year. Biodiesel is calculated as equivalent.
• Wood: Locally harvested wood, deadwood, and trees that had to come down anyway, are all deemed carbon-neutral and you can use as much as you want. If the wood comes from far away or isn’t sustainably harvested, 1 cord is equivalent to 15 gallons of oil or 20 therms of natural gas.
You can see your therms on your gas bill. If you don’t have a gas bill (for example, if your landlord pays the gas), then I suggest the following two-step process. First, calculate the electricity consumption of each appliance. Michael Bluejay’s “Mr. Electricity” website gives details for each appliance type. Once you’ve got those numbers, convert them to therms. I found a kWh-to-therm calculator online at unitconversion.org
I realize this method is a bit cumbersome, but you don’t have to calculate the consumption for every last little appliance; just do it for the biggies: the air conditioner, heater, dryer, and water heater. But if you want to be really thorough and calculate the number for every single appliance and other electricity-using device, by all means go for it!
One thing that’s really exciting to me about this category is that people in some geographic regions have the opportunity to generate a significant amount of heat for home heating and cooking by using a carbon-neutral source, such as deadwood or trees that were being cut down anyway. In my part of Florida, that’s not much of an option, as most homes here don’t have woodstoves or fireplaces; however, in some parts of the North American continent, woodstoves and fireplaces are in common use.
4. Garbage: The average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage per person, per day. A 90% reduction means 0.45 lbs of garbage per person, per day.
The easiest way to reduce your garbage volume dramatically is to keep food out of the garbage can. Think about it, the heaviest stuff that goes into your garbage is typically food scraps. The easiest way to do that is compost your food scraps. Just think of a compost box as Mother Nature’s recycling bin!
This also virtually eliminates smell and sliminess from your trash cans. As a bonus, because the trash becomes so dry and lightweight, you can stop buying trash-can liners. If you really feel you need to line a trash can, make a bottom-liner out of newspaper or cardboard. It’s more than adequate to absorb any liquid or goo that might still find its way into your trash cans. I line my wastebaskets with cardboard from boxes that have been discarded at curbside. Many cities now are offering incentives for citizens to compost. Some are even mandating it.
Another heavy (and bulky) category of trash is yard clippings, leaves, etc. Keep those out of your garbage can; they don’t belong there. Yard clippings and leaves aren’t trash; they’re compost or mulch.
Whether or not you’re a gardener, composting is a great way to reduce your garbage, and a great service to the planet. Joseph Jenkins’ The Humanure Handbook is an excellent guide to composting, even if you don’t feel ready to do the “Humanure” part. The book is straightforward, humorous, and packed with all the supporting scientific data you could want.
If you live in an apartment, it may be difficult or impossible to compost. You might consider setting up a bin at your school or church. You could also ask a neighbor who lives in a house if he/she is interested in composting. If so, you could help him or her in exchange for being able to compost your food waste. Cardboard and other paper can also be composted, thus further reducing your trash volume. Of course, in many places, cardboard and paper are recyclable.
If your city doesn’t have a recycling program, it’s tough because all your food containers and other packaging has no alternative but to go in the garbage and add to its weight. Always try to buy the least-packaged foods and other items possible. Thankfully, a lot of manufacturers seem to be really cutting down on their packaging these days.
Good news for scroungers: If you’re throwing away something that you’d originally diverted from the waste stream (such as a sweater being thrown away by a friend, or a TV you scavenged from the dumpster or curbside that turned out not to work so now you’re throwing it away), it has zero footprint and doesn’t count in your waste volume.
5. Water: The average American uses 100 gallons of water per person, per day. A 90% reduction means 10 gallons per person, per day.
If you get a water bill, it’s easy to see how many gallons you consume. Otherwise, you can approximate it. For the bathroom, multiply the flow rate of your shower-head by the duration (minutes) of your shower. Your sink water usage should be negligible, unless you’re always letting the water run while you shave, wash your face, or brush your teeth (which you’re not doing, right?).
A fun way to limit the duration of your shower and encourage all family members to take ownership of their water consumption is to set up an outdoor shower stall in your backyard. Then give each family member a solar shower bag. This provides free hot water that has been heated by the sun. Each family member is responsible for his or her own bag. Kids have fun seeing how the sun heats up their shower water! (And you have fun not having to pay for it in your electric bill!) An added bonus is that the water goes out onto the ground rather than down the drain, so it doubles as irrigation water.
If you use a washing machine, the number of gallons per load is probably indicated on the appliance. If it isn’t, you can look up the make and model online or call the manufacturer to get the consumption rate. Older models might use 30 gallons per load or more. A lot of the newer, more eco-friendly washers use only 15 gallons of water per load. I’ve even seen little countertop models (some hand-cranked rather than electric) that look as though they only use about five gallons. If you wash your clothing by hand (most people generally don’t, but if you do), you can use a tub or pot to collect the water, allowing you to meter how much water you’re using. (For extra eco bonus points, empty the pot outside to give your trees and shrubs a drink.)
For kitchen faucet water, your faucet might have the flow rate indicated somewhere on the unit. Or you can use a pot to catch the water while you’re washing a dish, washing your hands etc. This allows you to measure exactly how many gallons you’re using.
The 800-pound gorilla of household water consumption occurs on the exterior of the home; I’ve seen estimates anywhere from 40% to 60% of a household’s total. If you have a yard and water it, but you don’t get a water bill (for example, if you’re a renter, and water is included in your rent), you could ask your landlord for the total number of gallons used by the apartment complex and divide that out to get a rough estimate for your portion.
You can reduce outdoor water usage by cutting your lawn less often. Try cutting it once every two weeks instead of once a week, for example. Additionally, if you leave the grass clippings in place rather than raking them up, the ground retains more water and doesn’t need to be irrigated as frequently.
If you have money to spend, replace the lawn with native and water-wise plants (if you haven’t already). If you have little or no money to spend, a low- to no-cost idea for reducing your yard’s irrigation needs is to convert part or all of your lawn to mulched ground. In many locations, tree-trimming companies or the power company will bring you free mulch by the truckload. Before you put down the mulch, spread sheets of cardboard, fabric, or old canvas that’s otherwise headed for landfill underneath it. This will retard the growth of grass and weeds while still allowing water to penetrate. Edge the mulched area with stones, logs, or other materials to make it look neat and deliberate. You can add plants over time as you get the funds, or as friends have clippings or plants to share. Often you can find transplantable plants that people have put out with their trash at curbside.
Another major culprit in water consumption is, of course, toilets. Older models can use as much as eight gallons per flush—yikes! Fortunately, most newer toilets these days seem to be the 1.6 gallon-per-flush variety. Still, the water usage adds up! One way to cut down on toilet water is to follow the old “If it’s yellow, let it mellow—if it’s brown, flush it down” rule and only flush after pooping. Not everyone can stand the smell of multiple batches of urine sitting in the toilet, even if it’s in the name of great water savings; however, this is one way to get closer to that 10-gallon target.
The best way to avoid flushing the earth’s limited supply of potable water down the drain is to use a compost toilet. If you’re in an area that allows compost toilets or doesn’t expressly forbid them (in many places the laws are vague), you can cut your water use to a tiny fraction of the average by using one. The best resource I know for setting up a compost-toilet system is the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. It’s a great read, mixing humor with solid science. Jenkins calls out our culture’s fecophobia (“possibly inherited directly from Queen Victoria herself”) and explains in readily understandable terms the science of composting, including composting human poop. After having my eyes opened by this superb book one day back in 2004, I set up a simple composting system that same day.
Because I’m not clear on the regulations where I live now, I use a regular flush toilet and will continue to do so unless compost toilets become legal in my area. Joseph Jenkins is truly an eco-hero in my book. I’ve given away more copies of the Humanure Handbook than I can count. Even if you’re not ready to try humanure composting, you might find it interesting to read about it. Knowing a safe reliable way to take care of sanitation even if utilities go down is a good way to boost your household disaster-preparedness.
Be sure and give a copy of Jenkins’ book to your city government leaders too! Compost toilets are now being used in some public facilities, including state and national parks. Humanure compost toilets certainly offer a solution to one financial and logistical bugaboo of local governments, by providing an alternative to expensive and failure-prone sewer infrastructure.
6. Consumer Goods: The average American spends $10,000 per household, per year on consumer goods. This does not include the mortgage, health care, debt service, or car payments. I’m talking about clothing, gifts, toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods, etc. A 90% cut comes to $1,000 per household, per year.
Goods purchased from thrift shops or church rummage sales are assumed to have zero carbon cost because you’re diverting these goods from the landfill. For used goods purchased from previous owners, assign yourself 10% of the purchase price. For example, if you buy a sofa on Craigslist or at a yard sale for $50, you’ve spent $5 of your Riot allowance for consumer goods. The reasoning behind this is that used goods bought from previous owners put money back into circulation that is then spent on new goods.
A lot of people these days, seemingly representing every income bracket, love to get stuff from thrift shops and garage sales; particularly clothing and toys as well as everyday household items like pots and pans. People (even people who aren’t particularly green-minded or financially constrained) seem to get a real kick out of it, not only for the huge money savings, but also for the quality and aesthetic appeal of older goods. I wouldn’t be surprised if the thrifting craze was contributing to a significant reduction in the average American’s consumption footprint.
Another good way to reduce your consumer-goods footprint is to, whenever possible, choose used smartphones and other devices rather than new ones. Recycle your electronics; many repair shops will do this for you.
Also, there are many so-called “necessary” products you can do without, such as: trash-can liners, paper napkins and paper towels, sandwich bags, fabric softener, and specialized cleaning products (tub and tile cleaner, glass cleaner, etc.). Many people have discovered that plain old vinegar and baking-soda are excellent all-purpose cleaning products. Add a drop of essential oil for scent, if you like.
You can greatly reduce your use of dish liquid by diluting it. I can make one 99-cent bottle last six months or more.
You can even do without shampoo and conditioner! Yes, believe it or not, there is actually a “no-shampoo” movement. It might sound gross, but many “no-‘poo” adherents swear that their hair has never looked or felt better. This may be due to the fact that the natural oils in their hair aren’t being stripped away. Some people find that their hair stays clean just by rinsing it with water. Baking soda and vinegar are also great for cleaning the hair and scalp. Whichever one you use, dilute it: a couple tablespoons of baking soda or vinegar to two or three cups of water. Not quite ready to try a no-shampoo or baking soda/vinegar method? No worries, just dilute your shampoo. You’ll save a lot of money and trips to the store. You’ll be surprised at how far a bottle of shampoo can go. In fact, the amount of shampoo remaining in a bottle that most people would deem to be “empty” can provide several more hair-washings—just add water to the bottle and shake it up.
Here’s another tip for reducing consumption in this category: “Use down” your existing stuff. The typical American household has whole garages and pantries filled with “backup” stuff. One of my sideline businesses is cleaning houses and helping people declutter and downsize, so I see this stuff up-close and personal. Extra bottles of detergent, extra paper products, extra bags of this or that are often stored in excess. Use it down and resolve to stop buying so much that you forget what you’ve bought. Using down your stuff is like getting free stuff. You’ll enjoy not having to go to the store for a while. People buy in bulk to save money, but you don’t save time or money if you then end up needing a bigger place to hold all your stuff. Sometimes you end up spending a lot of time looking for stuff, only to have to buy new anyway because you can’t find the one you already bought.
I once went about a year without having to buy a single new pen. I didn’t realize how many extra “backups” I’d accumulated, to the point that my box of stationery supplies was bulging and disorganized.
7. Food: The Riot divides food into three categories.
The first category is food you grow yourself or food that is produced locally or organically (or mostly – it doesn’t have to be certified, but should be low-input in terms of fossil fuels and other resources). The Riot defines “local” to be within 100 miles. This includes produce, as well as meats and dairy that are grass-fed or produced with locally grown organic feed. It would also include locally caught wild fish or game, berries and edible weeds you forage, and so on. Chicken produced locally but fed with conventionally farmed corn from a faraway state, is not local. A 90% footprint reduction would involve this category constituting at least 70% of your diet.
The second category is dry, bulk goods that are transported from longer distances—such as: dry beans, grains, and pasta. You can also include small, light things like tea, coffee, and spices if they are fair trade and sustainably grown, and if the tea is bulk rather than in little bags. Otherwise, include those items in category #3. Aim to have category #2 be no more than 25% of your total purchases.
The third and final category is wet goods—such as: meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk, cheese, and eggs that are industrially produced and/or come from far away. Also include processed foods like soda and snack foods. Right now, this category makes up more than 50% of the average U.S. diet. The Riot target is to buy no more than 5% of your food in this form.
Example: Out of 20 food items purchased in a week, you’d have 14 home-produced or locally produced items, five bulk dry items, and only one processed or industrially grown/faraway item.
There’s a lot of potential for footprint reduction (not to mention fun, and good eating) in the food category. Overall, it may quite possibly be the most promising category for eco-transformation, since all humans have to eat. There are many avid gourmet locavores even among the segment of the population who aren’t particularly focused on reducing their footprint.
The low-hanging fruit (pun intended) in the food category is growing some of your own. Fresh produce weighs a lot (because of its water content) and is perishable, so its transport has a relatively high footprint. Therefore, whatever you can grow at home or buy locally will go a long way toward reducing your footprint. Food gardening seems to have become increasingly popular over the past few years. I suspect that many of you already grow at least some of your own food and get much of the rest from your local farmers’ market.
Another low-hanging fruit in this category is to reduce your meat intake, especially conventionally farmed beef, since it requires a lot of land to raise cattle. I’m an omnivore, but I’ve significantly increased my percentage of vegetarian and vegan meals. I’ve been surprised at how many delicious vegan and vegetarian meals I can come up with.
Most of the food recommendations that are good for the planet are the same old ones you’ve heard before, and they’re the same ones that are good for our personal health. To summarize, you should eat more fiber, reduce intake of processed foods, limit salty and sugary snacks, eat local and in season, eat more slowly so you don’t end up eating after you’re already full, and eat with friends or family instead of eating alone.
Here Are a Few More Notes to Assist Your Riot Practice:
• I suggest you calculate your numbers and write them down as your baseline. You might find it helpful to use the super-handy Riot calculator, posted by one of the more active and longtime Riot participants at http://www.greenknowe.org/r4a/
• Re-calculate your Riot numbers anytime you feel the need or desire. I re-calculate them whenever there’s a significant change in my life circumstances or routine.
• In creating this guide, I’ve erred on the side of conciseness. Rather than bog you down with minutiae, I just want to get you started with a “reduction mindset” and some tips on the highest-payoff areas. For more detailed guidance and a supportive community, please join me and others on the Riot for Austerity Facebook group. The Yahoo group is also an excellent resource. Though the group hasn’t had much activity for a while, you’ll find an embarrassment of riches in the archives.
• In trying to figure out ways to reduce your footprint, keep in mind that simply having a set of concrete targets, which the Riot provides, will get you far. I know it made a world of difference for me! I once heard of an experiment where households ended up conserving a lot of electricity simply by having their electric meters located in the front hall rather than behind the house. “Out of sight, out of mind” … and having that meter in plain sight made the residents more mindful. They naturally found themselves doing little actions that added up to significant savings.