Friday, May 30, 2008

Individual alternatives

In the process of preparing for peak oil and climate change, I have been evaluating low-to-no energy alternatives for each of the activities and appliances that we use. Surprisingly, I have found that many of them may be fairly easy to replace. A few, I still have not figured out.

Let's start with the obvious:
Clothes Dryer - clothesline and indoor drying racks.
Dishwasher - Washing dishes by hand
Hair Dryer - Unneccessary, IMHO.

And the not so obvious:
Heating - Energy efficient Fireplace/ woodstove/ cookstove (needs to be super energy efficient to avoid deforesting the rest of the world). Also, super insulation and excellent windows. Plus, wearing lots of extra clothes, moving about, and drinking hot tea.
A/C - Ceiling fans and open windows. Minimal clothing. Lots of shading of your house by trees and vines. Not moving much between 12 and 4. :) Frankly, I don't know if this will cut it here in OK. But if electricity doubles the way gas has, will most people really have a choice?
Oven/Cooktop - Sun Oven. Wood cookstove. Clay oven for bread and pizzas.
Lighting - Solar lanterns. Kerosene lanterns. Going to bed early.
Hot water - Solar hot water.
Clothes Washing - I have it on good authority that there are manual clothes washers/wringers out there. I've never seen one. Also, I hear that a big tub and anything that could be used as an agitator would also work.
Canning food - You can actually can in the Sun Oven! I haven't actually tried it yet though.

And the unnecessary but IMHO highly desirable -
TV/DVD/Stereo - Local entertainment, books, games, walking about outside, lots of alcohol :). Putting on plays and playing together in bands. Spending most of our time in productive activities that can be pleasant such as homebrewing. Or, a small Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy system.

What I haven't figured out:
Coffeemaker- Is there something called a french press? If so, how does it work? I could possibly just heat up my water in the Sun Oven and then use the french press.
The FRIDGE! I mean, yes I know that we can overwinter veggies, and store some in a root cellar (which I do not have yet), and maybe keep a chicken or two in the backyard for eggs, but what do you do about milk and cheese? There are no dairy farmers currently in my area to drop by every day.

What have people always done in cities, for that matter? Did they all just eat at restaurants? Because I can't see apartment dwellers in London in the 1800's being able to cook a lot of food. Did they just buy their food every day and bring it home??

Someone enlighten me! Because whatever they used to do, we need to figure out a way to improve on it and get really local.


Lewru said...

Deep Green:

It won't let me enter the page unless I try it like this:


Alison said...

In places like London they actually kept milk cows underground I believe. In non-rural Scotland when I was growing up we always had milk and coal delivered. The milk came in glass bottles and was brought on an electric-powered milk 'float'. Prior to the electric floats milk and all kinds of other things were brought by horse and cart. There even used to be a "rag and bone man" who came around collecting fabric and more durable trash. Food scraps were composted or fed to pigs. My mom had meat, produce and groceries brought to our house by van once a week when grocery stores were still small local companies rather than the big supermarket chains.

It was only in the 1970's that people started driving once a week to get their groceries, until then they either shopped more often - walked or took a bus - or had deliveries. Cars were very unusual - most families didn't have one and if they did it was for the dad to go to work in. Moms usually didn't know how to drive.

Smaller, more historical villages and towns had, and still have, outdoor markets for local products.

Hausfrau said...

Alison - thanks for the historical perspective! I hope we would be able to ramp up quickly enough to return to that kind of lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

There are several ways to keep food cool, but none is as easy and few as long term as a fridge. The best version I've come across is a pair of large unglazed stoneware (terra cotta) jugs. Place the smaller inside the larger, filling the spaces with sand. Set them so that the mouths are both at the same level. Pour water into the sand filled space between the two jugs. Put food inside the empty inner jug. The water will slowly evaporate through the stoneware keeping the food cool.
A number of foods will also keep amazing well on a shelf in a cool room. cheese and eggs as well as most tree fruit are among these. For milk you will need to either have someone living near the city bring milk in, or have the community own a few milk beasts. Doesn't have to be cows though. Goats and sheep are smaller and easier to keep in tight spaces. If you're planning to store milk for more than a couple of days, Make cheese or yoghurt and sour cream.
As for the coffee.. yes there is such a thing as a french's basically a straight sided glass mug with a metal push down filter doohickey that fits in it. You put your coffee grounds and boiling water in the mug. Let it steep for a few minutes then put in the filter and push down. that pushes all the grounds to the bottom, so you can pour off the coffee without the grounds getting into your cup. yes you could boil the water for it in your sun oven.
Oh and plan on learning to drink dark roasted chicory or dandelion roots, because coffee is tropical and will be terribly expensive when you can manage to get it at all.
Check out Lehmans (Amish goods) and Real Goods for some of the items you mentioned looking for.