Riot for Austerity Footprint Calculator

In this blog and in my book, I talk about the Riot for Austerity a lot. It’s actually my core mission: To spark (or rather, to add fuel to, since it already exists) a grassroots movement of people who are voluntarily making radical reductions in their personal and household footprint.

I publish the target numbers, and explain the reasoning behind them, in my book. You can also find the target numbers and explanations at the intro on the Riot For Austerity Facebook Page and in the welcome files of the 90 Percent Reduction Yahoo email group.

Today, I’d like to share with you another outstanding resource, an online calculator that lets you calculate where you stand in each Riot category and overall. What’s great about having multiple categories is that even if you have trouble reducing in one category, you might find it quite easy to make reductions in another. Life circumstances change, and I find it helpful to revisit my Riot numbers at least once a month. I also pay attention to my daily blips (such as a rare shopping trip for new goods) and monthly/yearly blips, for example, three airplane trips this past year. Rather than wallow in guilt, I simply make reductions in other categories, and over time, with a few exceptions (see “airplane trips” above) have generally managed to hover at or near the overall target value of 10% of the average U.S. footprint.

I want you to use this calculator and enjoy it. Use it for inspiration and goal-setting, not guilting yourself. And join our online communities (both Facebook and Yahoo) to get lots of support and real-life examples from people all over the world, of how they are doing the Riot.

• Heartfelt thanks to Barbara at greenknowe.org for this Riot for Austerity footprint calculator. It lets you quickly calculate your footprint in each Riot category, and your overall footprint averaged across all categories. (The snapshots at the top of this post show my values that I calculated just now.) Surf the rest of Barbara’s website as well; she’s got lots of excellent resources to support your footprint-reduction efforts.

Informed Hope

Someone who really knows what he’s talking about — believes there is still HOPE. The earth is in a death spiral, and radical action is required — but we can do it.

Article by George Monbiot, the climate activist whose book HEAT: How To Stop the Planet from Burning inspired the Riot for Austerity movement and planted the seed for my book DEEP GREEN.

The way humanity got itself into this deadly predicament is that we allowed waste, greed, denial to become baked-in to our way of living. Now, we can make a turnaround so that what’s baked-in to our culture is thrift, sharing, modesty, humility, intolerance of waste.

Also: Humanitarian innovativeness. Compassion. Empathy. Care of all species. A cultural shift so these qualities become infused in every action, no matter how seemingly small. Day in and day out, like the “home front” mobilization of World War II, except that this shift needs to be self-imposed at the grassroots because the higher-ups lack the political will.

Deep-green troops, mobilize! Everything good you do adds up.

Tips, Encouragement, and Community

Tips
I find it very helpful to see the specifics of how other people are implementing a low-footprint lifestyle. And it’s fun to share such specifics! Today’s photo shows me rinsing off the grater after grating carrots and ginger to add to a spicy vegetable smoothie. I catch the food particles and rinse-water in one of those thick waxy plastic bags that are used to line cereal boxes nowadays. (I’ve used this bag over and over for months, mainly as a shopping bag for hot peppers or other small veggies from the farmer’s market). Once the grater is clean, I dump the contents of the bag outside to water and feed the yard. In this way the food particles and water become a resource, rather than a mess that needs to be washed down the drain (and quite probably clog the drain, since I have no garbage disposal nor do I want one — garbage disposals invite people to treat fruit peelings and other resources as waste).

Encouragement
Although I enjoy sharing these kinds of tips (and hearing other people’s), you may have noticed that my posts aren’t focused all that much on “how-to”. Rather, I put more emphasis on mindset. There are two reasons for this:

1) People’s living circumstances, backgrounds, and priorities are many and varied. Rather than share an endless disjointed list of tips that may not be relevant to you, it’s more effective for me to convey a “low-footprint mindset” and encourage you to implement that mindset in your own unique way. You will then, just by being yourself, go on to exert a beneficial influence on people of similar background and circumstances to yours, who I would never be able to reach if I were merely sharing a laundry list of my own green lifestyle tips.

2) I firmly believe that the best asset is a positive attitude. (I’m not talking about phony “positive thinking”; I’m talking about a positive attitude that’s firmly rooted in practical reality.) To help you cultivate a positive attitude, I offer a lot of encouragement. After extended observation I’ve come to believe that encouragement is really the main thing most people need. Most people I talk with nowadays are attempting to live their own version of a green lifestyle already, and they just need some emotional support to keep going. Although “green” is a hot buzzword these days, low-footprint living is still counterculture, especially in the USA. And choosing a lifestyle outside the mainstream, even for noble reasons, takes a lot of stamina and courage. Thus I offer you steady doses of encouragement.

Community
Besides tips and encouragement, people need a tribe; a community of likeminded people. This goes double for people choosing a path outside the mainstream. I’m attempting to create a community around my book and blog. But I also want to be sure you all know about the Riot for Austerity community online. We have two main channels right now:

• The Riot for Austerity group on Facebook has been our main channel for the past few years.

• Recently, one of our longtime members pointed out that Facebook is rather high-bandwidth and therefore high-footprint. And so we’ve reactivated our email group, the 90 Percent Reduction Yahoo Group. This group started back around 2007 but went dormant after our Facebook group was launched. As of last week, our Yahoo group is active again!

Join either or both of these groups to connect with a wide variety of people from all over the world who are practicing the 90 Percent Reduction lifestyle (also known as the Riot for Austerity). You’ll get far more information and inspiration than I alone can provide. You’ll find good company and get a feel for just how committed our little grassroots movement is.

One of the longtime members of the Riot movement started a Self-Introduction thread on the rekindled Yahoo group as a practical icebreaker. So far in this thread, I’ve seen low-footprint pointers on home insulation, water savings, bandwidth conservation, weddings, and more. (A couple of different members each shared their own version of how they were able to have the wedding of their dreams for $100!) It’s lovely to hear personal stories and get a feel for the many and varied versions of a low-footprint life.

See you in the community! And thanks so much for allowing me, and this website, to be a part of your resource base for low-footprint living.

Electronic Decluttering: Online Footprint (Part 2)

(Part 2 of a 2-part post)

Internet use has a very large energy footprint. Most of that energy is consumed by remote servers and other equipment, making it complicated for everyday people to calculate their personal internet footprint. In this post I share some simple tips for reducing your online footprint, without having to perform any calculations or track down any numbers.

***IMPORTANT NOTE: Online footprint is a work in progress for me, and I’m finding out I may be one of the worst offenders! I’m learning that this blog and website may have a huge footprint, which of course is unintended. I am now looking into the scope of the problem, and how to address it.*** UPDATE 11/3/18: My tentative conclusion is that this website does not have a particularly large footprint. I’m still awaiting more information from my webhosting service. That said, I was immediately able to cut the bandwidth of my site in half just by reducing the size of the uploaded photos to match their display size. HUGE reductions in bandwidth and storage space can be achieved by reducing the size of photos.

According to some experts, internet use now accounts for as large a share of the world’s carbon footprint as airline flight! As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, the internet infrastructure industry can reduce its footprint considerably by eliminating inefficiencies; for example, servers running when they don’t need to.

But the real power lies in our personal everyday choices. So how can we as everyday people do our part to reduce the internet’s footprint? How do we even calculate our share of it? The electricity used to power our household computers and devices is a tiny drop in the bucket. Most of the energy cost of the uploading, downloading, streaming, and cloud storage we do is external and invisible to us.

One Riot for Austerity member suggested that we use online time (hours per day) as a measure of our internet footprint. For a starting point, I googled and found:

The average American spends 24 hours a week online, says Technology Review. This is up from 9.4 hours a week in 2000. 17.6 of those hours are at home, up from just 3.3 hours a week in 2000.

Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, according to CNN. But this includes non-internet devices such as TVs too.

I spend an average of 5 to 7 hours a day on the internet. Probably 90% of that time is related to my work. Since I don’t have a TV or DVD player, all of my screen time is laptop or smartphone.

In the past few days, since starting to focus on the topic of online footprint, I’ve cut my actual internet-connected time to about 3-4 hours a day just by being more deliberate: I disconnect the wireless connection unless I’m actually doing something such as uploading a blog post, or interacting on Facebook. I’m experimenting with composing blog posts offline. I really notice how much online time I was using just gazing and surfing idly, or hitting the refresh button.

Another possible measure of internet footprint is how much cloud storage we are using. KOOFR, a cloud-storage company, posted an article on how much cloud storage an average person might want. KOOFR says 10GB will be enough for about a year — assuming you only want to back up the photos you’re taking with your phone, and that you upload an average of just 3 photos per day and one 1-minute video per week. Obviously some of us do a lot more than that! The KOOFR article also has a handy chart showing the storage requirements of various kinds of files including movies, music files, documents, and ebooks.

I don’t have any of my devices backed up to the cloud (I use memory sticks to back up crucial files), but of course my blog and YouTube channel live on the cloud, as does my Facebook and other social-media presence, and some email messages. I’m currently in the process of calculating the cloud storage used by this blog, and by my YouTube channel.

And yet another measure of our internet footprint is the bandwidth we are using. If you have a data plan on your smartphone, and that data plan has a limit, it should be pretty easy to know roughly how much bandwidth is being consumed by your uploading, downloading, and streaming activities. I haven’t yet determined whether there’s a similar way to find the total for a laptop or other computer.

As for how much electricity our online habits are using, this paper from ACEEE reports that “the Internet uses an average of about 5 kWh to support the utilization of every GB of data.”

It’s hard to know exactly how many gigs we’re consuming, since most of the consumption is externalized. The paper goes on to say, “Only 38% of those costs are borne by the end-user, while the remaining costs are thinly spread over the global Internet through which the data travels; in switches, routers, signal repeaters, servers, and data centers … This creates a societal ‘tragedy of the commons,’ where end users have little incentive to consider the other 62% of costs and associated resources.”

Powerful stuff, literally! Huge potential for footprint reduction.

Based on my research so far, here are a few suggestions for reducing your internet footprint:

– Set out to cut the number of hours you spend online per day. Think about what you would most like MORE of in your life: more time, feeling more focused and less distracted, being more present with others, spending less time sitting down and more time moving around — and with those goals in mind, you’ll find it easier to reduce online time.
– Close browser tabs when you’re not actively using a site (this affected my computer RAM usage, and affects streaming bandwidth as well).
– Be very deliberate and selective about your consumption of videos and other high-bandwidth media. Even in the case of content that you consider really worthwhile, try just reading the transcript (if available) rather than watching the video. Some people actually find this faster and retain the information better.
– Invite others to watch media with you – spread the footprint over more people! This also helps alleviate another major problem associated with our long hours in front of electronic screens, namely, loneliness and isolation.
– Some apps and sites, such as YouTube, allow users to set video viewing quality. Choose the lowest possible resolution.
– Have an “Internet Sabbath” day. I’ve been doing this on Sundays for awhile and the world hasn’t come crashing down.
– Turn off router and modem at night, or whenever you usually sleep. I’ve found this helpful because I used to be one of those people who would reach for her smartphone as soon as she woke up in the morning, or couldn’t sleep at night, etc. Nowadays, I go outside and look at the moon til I get sleepy again. Or count sheep or whatever. Or sometimes enjoy a realtime chat with one of my night-owl friends who I wouldn’t usually get to talk with!
– Decide to refrain from taking your smartphone or other device with you to certain places, such as church, restaurants, social evenings at friends’ houses, etc. Or if you have to take it with you, keep it turned off.
– Cut the data plan from your smartphone. I sharply reduced my internet use a few years back when I did this to save money. I used to check email and social-media sites constantly; now I can only do it when I have a wifi connection. It felt strange at first but I soon got used to it and enjoyed suddenly having hours of free time (as well as saving about $40 a month).
– Whatever reductions you pursue, take care that they don’t end up increasing your overall footprint and defeating the purpose. For example, if you start to take a lot more long-distance trips to visit friends and family as a result of quitting Facebook, or if you end up missing out on work opportunities because you dropped off the radar of your online communities, that’d be something to look at.

A final suggestion: If you’re using the internet for work, social activism, civic engagement, connecting with loved ones, and other beneficial purposes, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Do what you reasonably can to reduce your footprint, but also recognize that the internet is a tool of modern life, and it’s done a lot of good to spread social movements and help people stay connected. And it’s expanded the possibilities for teleworking! Rather than quit Facebook, stop blogging, and so on, we’d do better to boost the QUALITY of our online time in terms of emotional wellbeing, beneficial impact on other people, and so on.

A couple of examples from my own life:

• Not having an internet connection at home could be an option for me someday, but I’d have to write a lot offline and then go to a public wireless network to upload a batch of material all at once. That would take discipline and might improve the quality of my work — or it might just make life inconvenient and I’d end up posting less, thus limiting my ability to support people in their efforts to reduce their footprint.

• I may delete my YouTube channel. For the moment, pending further research, I’m simply suspending new uploads to my channel. The videos take a lot of energy (my personal energy, not just fossil), and the quality is less than professional. I suspect that my writing and my in-person education services are reaching people more effectively. But I could find out that I’m mistaken.

The Riot for Austerity sets targets for reducing one’s consumption by 90% of the U.S. average in various categories such as electricity, water, gasoline, and consumer purchases. No Riot category exists for internet usage. Calculating the U.S. average and setting targets for online footprint will be new terrain.

I’ll let you know what else I find out about my internet footprint, and how my reduction experiments go. Research I still need to do: Calculate the footprint of this blog, and also of my YouTube channel. My blog webhosting service, Dreamhost, has first-rate tech support, and I’ll let you know what I hear back from them after I email them with my various questions.

Also, I invite you to keep me posted on your journey! I apologize for the inconvenience of not allowing comments on this blog, but comment-spam takes so much time and energy to deal with (even with a spam filter), I’ve decided to keep comments turned off at least for now. I look forward to your emails though.

Further Reading:
Internet Energy Consumption Report from ACEEE: “This paper is a thought-piece on the how’s and why’s of end-to-end, IT energy use. It will pursue questions like: What type of equipment is used to get a MB from the data-center to your desktop? Is multi-tabbed browsing the IT equivalent of leaving the refrigerator door open? How much energy does it use? How much does it cost; and who pays for it?”

Greenpeace article on how much energy the various video-streaming services use, and the percentages of renewable energy that power them.

Article on bandwidth of video-streaming services vs. audio: video-streaming takes up much more bandwidth than audio-only music-streaming. This article shares ways for users to control their bandwidth consumption (which, depending on your data plan, can help save your wallet as well as the planet!)

Electronic Decluttering: Online Footprint

(Part 1 of a 2-part post)

One of the more knowledgeable, longtime participants in the Riot for Austerity recently brought up the topic of online footprint. She pointed out that the energy cost of video streaming, cloud storage, high-data-usage platforms like Facebook, and so on is far more than people realize.

She rightfully questioned why we were sitting around, ONLINE, discussing the pros and cons of replacing old refrigerators, while ignoring the footprint of our internet use.

The electricity required to charge and power our laptop computers and mobile devices is just a drop in the bucket. Most of the footprint of our internet usage is invisible to us as end-users. For example, there’s the constant maintenance and replacement of server equipment, the air-conditioning required to cool those vast banks of servers, and of course the electricity used by the equipment itself. Calculating one’s individual contribution to the total footprint of the internet is a bit tricky, but surely not impossible.

And, from an environmental standpoint, the matter is quite urgent: Data-center web servers, such as those used by Google and Facebook, contribute just about as much to greenhouse-gas emissions as air travel, the Guardian reports. The data-center sector and air travel each generate about 2% of the total volume of greenhouse gases.

And, IT as a whole now accounts for 10% of electricity use worldwide, according to this article in the Register. “Although charging up a single tablet or smart phone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year.”

Yikes! Can it really be true that my one-hour video chat with a friend in faraway Tokyo consumed as much electricity as two refrigerators use in a year? Sounds crazy but it could be true. What’s not in dispute is that we ordinary people have, as the article puts it, “very little idea of the exact footprint our habit for lolcats, frequent emails, brand new fondleslabs and streaming video takes up.”

Since the data-center industry as a whole has such a large footprint, any reductions that sector can make would obviously be very helpful. Data Center Knowledge published this article offering suggestions for greening the industry. The suggestions include identifying inefficiencies in existing power and cooling systems; utilizing free outside air and water sources for cooling whenever possible; and targeting “zombie servers” — servers that run even when it’s not required. These zombie servers are a little-known source of waste, which can account for up to 30% of all servers! Data Center Knowledge also suggests the industry take various steps to optimize usage of network assets.

Now, what about us as individuals? How can we get a handle on that “habit for lolcats, frequent emails, brand new fondleslabs and streaming video”? It actually might not be as hard as it seems, since a lot of people these days are noticing the personal costs of online addiction and are voluntarily limiting their usage via “internet Sabbaths,” self-imposed hour-per-day limits, and so on.

In Part 2 of this 2-part post, I’ll share some options for measuring one’s personal online footprint, and reducing it.

The Fridgeless Experiment

In a recent post I mentioned that the refrigerator is the largest consumer of electricity in my house. Since I don’t use air-conditioning, heat, water-heater, or a clothes dryer, or any electronics other than phone and laptop and occasionally a tiny speaker, the fridge accounts for probably 80 percent of my electricity use.

One summer some years back, while I was living in an RV in Austin, Texas, I experimented with going fridgeless. I blogged about it in the Austin EcoNetwork newsletter, and am pasting the text of that article here for you. I wrote this back in 2011.

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One of the eco-focused online communities I belong to is the 90PercentReduction Yahoo Group. Participants are dedicated to reducing their personal eco-footprints to 10% of the U.S. average. In this challenge, which for most of us is really more of an ongoing adventure than a state of arrival, we employ various simple yardsticks. And (in what one list member dubbed “Mister Wizard Science Experiments”), we tweak our daily living habits on a trial-and-error basis, each one of us serving as our own lab rats.

The other day, one list member announced her decision to experiment with going without a refrigerator in June. Other list members, who either live fridge-free full time or have conducted short-term experiments in doing so, chimed in with helpful suggestions.

Tried-and-true strategies include reducing or eliminating perishable foods from one’s diet; digging a root cellar; and using the grocery store as your “external cold storage drive.” Of course, not all of these strategies will work in every climate or living environment. For example, if you don’t have a grocery store in walkable or bikable distance.

Beyond the practical tips for living fridge-free, one list member also pointed out that today’s refrigerators consume relatively little electricity, so doing without a fridge might not be such a meaningful exercise. As a permaculturist, I adhere firmly to the design principle, “Obtain a yield.” Reducing electricity consumption by even a watt here and there is a good thing for the planet, but in order for doing without a fridge to be worthwhile for people, they need to be getting something out of it. Personally, I have obtained significant yields from my Fridgeless experiment. These yields and some of my research findings are summarized below. My Fridgeless experiment (in the summers of 2009-2010 in Austin) gave me many yields including:

• enhanced resilience: I learned how I would cope, and help others cope, if the grid went down;
• the satisfaction of adopting a practice that, were it adopted by enough other people, would significantly reduce demand now being served by coal and nuclear;
• tastier food: Produce that’s been chilled loses much of its flavor;
• good skills of organization and food management.

What I learned:

• If I don’t use a fridge in summer, I need a really good varmint-proof box such as a sturdy cooler etc. Well, in this climate, hardly anything is varmint-PROOF, but varmint-resistant is essential.

• One function of a fridge is air circulation. Veggies in a box without air circulation don’t keep as long. If I had stayed in that RV, I would have turned the space formerly occupied by the fridge into a screened food-storage box that would be designed to draw cool air upward. (This would optimally be located on the north side of the house, which mine was.)

• The giant mutant cockroaches of Texas LOVE grapefruit. As in, will gnaw holes in the peel to get to the juicy fruit. I found this out the hard way so you don’t have to. [shudder]

• Sauerkraut that takes a week to make in winter, can be ready in a couple days in summer.

• In a hot climate, pickles are very helpful, just as spices are, for digestion and appetite.

• Being able to walk to a grocery store is a lifesaver. Their fridge becomes my “external storage drive,” so to speak. (Note: Of course, that externalizes part of my footprint, but there would be some net energy savings thanks to economies of scale.)

• Feral foods such as nopalito, lambs quarters, etc, that grow all over wherever you live, are also a lifesaver.

• And of course you can always be growing a bit of your own. Even if you’re a pathetic brown-thumbed gardener like me, you can always be growing SOMETHING. For me, that “something” is most often sprouts in a jar!!!

• Present-day Americans refrigerate a lot of stuff that doesn’t need refrigerating. (Actually I knew this before.)

• Sometimes a listserve post can become a blog entry, that might embolden and inspire others to conduct their own “Mister Wizard Science Experiments” in fridgeless living …

By the way, in my current home in Florida, we have four adults and one teenager sharing a refrigerator. I don’t need the fridge much, but like it because it lets me keep fresh cream for my coffee. And a final note: In winter, even in Austin, I found I didn’t really need a fridge at all, so I just quit using it.

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Postscript: Reading this article, and noticing the electricity consumption of the large old fridge in the house where I now live, has rekindled my interest in fridgeless living. The article by Karen Hendry, posting on the Survival Sullivan website (see “Further Reading” links below), has renewed my inspiration also. I may or may not go fridge-free long term, but it sure is liberating to have this means of further reducing my footprint. And to be someone who doesn’t worry much about power outages!

The last few paragraphs of Ms. Hendry’s article sum it up nicely:

Having a fridge is perhaps the epitome of our privileged, gluttonous North American lifestyle. In many countries around the world, people live without the convenience of a fridge and they manage just fine. Will you have to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate a lack of refrigeration? You bet!

There won’t be a cold drink waiting for you after you finish work, but you’ll get used to that. You will also only be able to cook smaller meals that won’t result in leftovers, but you will be eating fresher food, smaller portions, and less junk (like ice cream). This means you will be living a healthier lifestyle and be more motivated to reduce the amount of food you waste.

Hey, you can always try it for a month and see what you think. Your fridge will always be there if you decide you can’t live without it.

Further Reading:

• Excellent article by “Survival Sullivan” on how to live without a fridge. The site is prepper/doomer-oriented, and although I don’t prefer to maintain that kind of mindset day in and day out, Survival Sullivan offers a wealth of practical advice for anyone looking to cut their footprint while also “planning for the worst.” My preferred strategy of planning for the worst is to build resilience (as opposed to, say, hoarding massive stores of packaged food and other supplies). Learning how to live without a fridge (even if you prefer to use a fridge in your everyday life) is a prime example of building resilience. SSullivan’s article is very detailed and extensive; even has a segment about making homemade bacon!

• To my surprise, after retrieving the file of my article “The Fridgeless Experiment” from my hard drive, I actually found my article still up on Austin EcoNetwork’s website!
By the way, AEN’s website is another good one to bookmark. There’s a critical mass of eco-expertise that’s well-reflected in the various blogs on the site. I also find the Jobs section inspiring, and the news of new local businesses such as a snow-cone business . Glimpsing the rich social/economic/business ecosystem of another city, particularly one like Austin that’s had a lot of success in “greening up,” can expand our awareness and help us raise the bar for what’s possible in our own hometowns. Think bicycle-based composting businesses, and a shaved-ice food truck called SolarSno, which is powered entirely by off-grid solar energy.

RIOT update: electricity

Caveat: This post was originally written for fellow members of the Riot for Austerity, a grassroots movement of people voluntarily seeking to reduce their eco-footprint to 10% of the U.S. average. If the numbers or the actions described seem extreme to you, don’t worry. The way I’m going about reducing my footprint is only one of an infinite number of possible ways. I just thought some of you might be interested in seeing actual numbers and details of one household (mine) that often achieves the 10% target or nearly so, at least in the category of electricity. Anyway, whether or not you participate in the Riot for Austerity, try not to get too hung up on numbers or momentary fluctuations; it’s really about the big picture and the long run.

This past March I moved into a house. The house has a very large fridge. (Until then, I had been living in small apartments with modest-size fridges.) The fridge, by itself, seems to consume an average of about 2kwh per day.

When I’m living by myself in this house, my electricity consumption is 60 to 75 kwh per month, which is about 7 to 9 percent of the U.S. average. (In the small apartments where I lived before, it was 45 to 60 kwh per month, or 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. average.) The average electricity use of a U.S. household is 900kwh/month.

Since I don’t use a/c or heat, don’t have a washer/dryer, and keep the water heater turned off, the remainder of my electricity consumption is mainly from 1) cooking, when I cook indoors (electric burner, electric stove); 2) electronics (internet router and modem, laptop computer, smartphone, sometimes mini speaker for listening to music).

Yesterday I consumed, by myself, a whopping 4 kwh! If that level were to be sustained over the course of a month, that would of course put me over the Riot for Austerity target of 90kwh. The culprits, best as I can figure, were:

1) unusual amount of electric cooking – I plugged in the monster stove (which I usually keep unplugged) that came with this house, and used its oven to bake bread pudding from a bunch of petrified-stale baguettes I had forgotten about in my freezer — an endeavor that, together with some stovetop cooking I did, probably cost me 1 kwh; and

2) several hours of listening to music with my laptop and mini speaker, which was probably 500 watts total.

Conclusion: If I want to be well under the RIOT target, I need to keep using the solar oven as my main cooker, which is what I’ve been doing all summer. Also it would be good to build a little rocket stove. And, do something about the fridge.

I don’t intend to buy a new fridge, with all the footprint that entails, but I may look into buying a used fridge, or seeing if there’s a neighbor with a smaller fridge who might want to swap fridges with me!

Another interesting RIOT note: This spring and early summer, I had a housemate. Despite not being interested in conservation, he was onboard with my lifestyle because it allowed me to offer him a room for super cheap. So he tolerated the lack of a/c and so on. With both of us in the house, we typically used about 126 kwh in a month. Pretty cool, as that is still a mere 14% of the U.S. average! One month we used just 101kwh! (He happened to go out of town a lot that month.)

(Oh, and early on, when I first bought the house and had not yet switched off the water heater, we consumed 137kwh in the first month of the housemate living in the house with me. Although the “huge” number freaked me out at first, I had to laugh at myself once I realized it is still just 15% of the U.S. average. Not bad!

These are some promising results, with great implications for 1) those of you green-minded folks who share living space with people who aren’t particularly eco-minded; and 2) extending the low-footprint-lifestyle movement to people who aren’t particularly eco-minded but who are concerned about their finances, health, and so on.)

Postscript: A fellow member of the Riot suggested that I should go ahead and buy a newer fridge, which could cut my electricity use from refrigeration in half. I balk at buying new stuff, but am on the lookout for a used fridge that is smaller and more energy-efficient than my current one.