Monday, November 10, 2008

Riot 4 Austerity

My husband and I took a big step yesterday. We agreed to track our expenses in three categories - food, consumer goods, and gasoline - for the next two months. Then, on New Year's Day, we'll begin the Riot 4 Austerity challenge (in these categories). The goal would be to decrease our impact to 90% of the average American, which would be only $1000 in consumer goods, most food local and organic, and 50 gallons of gas per person, per year. I don't know how close we'll get, but the journey will be worth it even if we can only get 30 - 50% down.

We have already been working on our energy efficiency for several years, but lately I've felt that we lacked focus, lacked urgency to our efforts. Yesterday we watched this speech by David Suzuki (42 minutes, but well worth it) and finally got the kick in the pants that we needed.

We have already spent a lot of effort on retrofitting our 60's home to be more energy efficient, and I've calculated that we use about 75% less electricity and heating than the average American household. Here are some steps we've taken:
  • Installing the Geothermal Heat Pump
  • Adding cellulose insulation in our attic
  • Sealing HVAC ducts in the attic
  • Purchasing Energy Star fridge and washer
  • Replacing 80% of light bulbs with CFL's
  • Weatherizing windows and doors
  • Replacing drafty single pane picture window with double paned argon window
  • Replacing old rickety ceiling fans with newer ones we would actually use
  • Using the Sun Oven to cook when possible
  • Improving energy habits

We've also been working on growing our food in our garden, buying local food, buying used goods, etc. But we've never "officially" tracked expenses or participated in the Riot. I think we've done far less than we could if we focused our efforts.

Now we are ready to move on to this new challenge, one that might be more difficult than just applying technology and making small changes to our habits. Luckily, the Rioters grant a 50% exemption for any item that improves preparedness for peak oil, a 50% exemption for locally produced consumer goods, and a 90% exemption for any used item. So, I think we're up to it! We better be, if we want our son to grow up in a healthy and sustainable world.

If anyone is interested, check out the Riot 4 Austerity page. They are very supportive, informative, and interesting. It's not about being judgemental and strict - they just want to inspire you and help you on your journey towards sustainability.


Rhea said...

Very exciting to hear the changes you are making. I will keep an eye on your blog to follow the progress.

Theresa said...

I've also found that tracking my consumption in the 7 Riot categories was really helpful. We managed to get about 60% down overall, although that doesn't really describe our situation accurately. For instance, we got our garbage output down by over 90% but our gasoline/diesel consumption was only 10% down since we live so far away from work. All the best in your Rioting efforts - it is an eye-opener, for sure!

Anonymous said...

Does the "consumer goods" category cover things like your heat pump, fridge, etc.?

Hausfrau said...

Hi ECTH - I'm not sure - I will have to check the details of the rules. At the very least it might get a 50% grant.

That's a good question because we also wanted to put in wood floors and new (or used - just not TILE!!) countertops next year. That would completely blow the CG budget! I wonder if we could find used home-remodeling products? I know there is a Habitat for Humanity resale store that has things like leftover tile, salvaged doors and things like that.

Melinda said...

Welcome to the Riot. ; ) We started a little over a year ago, and found that it was easier to reduce 90% than we thought it would be. We just kept working toward it, and finally calculated and found that we had hit the mark! Very exciting, especially considering that we are still reducing more, still learning more! But now we're able to concentrate less on our own reduction and instead spend our time reaching out within our community.

I wish you all the best on this journey, and feel free to ask questions from us if you need help or anything. Not that we're experts of course!! but it does sometimes help to find out how others did this or that....

Wendy said...

I have to say I'm a little envious that your husband is on the "wagon" with you. Every time I mention participating in challenges like the R4A my husband rolls his eyes at me.

To his credit, while he says he's not interested, he has been actively participating in reducing our consumption. He's more likely to compost everything, where as, sometimes I get lazy. And he's not a bit upset that I don't spend as much money on "stuff" ;).

Hausfrau said...

Wendy - It's only taken a year or so of periodically mentioning R4A to get him constant discussion of peak oil and climate change... and then Suzuki's speech pushed him over the hump! It will be very, very helpful to have him on board.

vickycp said...

Along the lines of tracking expenses/spending, I found the book "Your Money or Your Life" very helpful. For just over a year I have been tracking our spending and income and organizing them at the end of the month into catagories. Then, as the book suggests, look hard at what you are doing with your money and decide if it is worth 'the life energy' that was needed to make the money that bought the things. The monitoring becomes easy and quick after a month or so and it is enlightening. It would merge well with R4A tracking.
We've unofficially been rioting for about a year (not enrolled, but tracking). I'm happy to say that our gasoline consumption has fallen from around 65 gallons a month to around 25 (I know, it still kind of stinks, but we are 17 miles out of town). Combining trips, bike commuting, catching a ride with neighbors and making it fun to be home has been the trick.
My husband, who does the scheduling at his job, has made it so the folks who commute 50 miles one way can come in only 2 days a week instead of 5...every little bit helps. It is also kind of fun to tell people you are going to miss such and such event because you are rioting...leads to good discussions.