The first year of the Riot for Austerity is over. Whee! *not dead yet*
Pretty much everyone involved seems go for a second year — this was originally a project of reduction over the course of a year, not *for* a year, anyway, but I’m very glad to see that the community isn’t going to wander off. I’m going to keep doing more of the same, but in particular I’m going to track consumer goods more exactly. I’ve made so many medium-to-large “infrastructure” purchases like the grain mill for this project that it didn’t really seem to be a good reflection of my normal spending habits. Now that I’ve reached a new “normal”, I’ll see if there are budgeting areas that I should cut back on.
Here are some general results and reactions for each of the categories. In some cases I was measuring household use, and in others, my own use, as noted by the use of singular or plural pronouns.
Electricity: We’ve averaged out at about 175-200kwh/month, which is about 20% of US average, and a small but significant drop from our own usage this time last year. This was an area where we really didn’t have many places we could cut with our current living conditions, but also not a place where we’re especially wasteful. We now do most dishes by hand and pretty much never use the dryer. The dishes are an ongoing problem (which, for the sake of full disclosure, it was even when we did them in the dishwasher), but drying stuff on the racks is now second-nature.
Water: I *can* use 10 gallons per day if I really try. The toilet is a huge water drain, not even including the fact that it leaks. But in this area, there’s no shortage of water — the only reason to cut down is to gain skills and to save on energy in water purification and transport. So I’m fine with my baseline of about 20-30% of US average.
Food: The fun category ;-) We’ve gone from almost 100% packaged food, with a fair proportion of local veggies from the farmer’s market in the summer, to almost 100% local or bulk. We’re not eating as much local right now, just because the local harvest season is only just now getting underway, but this year we will be eating lots and lots of local food, because we will have a whole CSA share. We have a much better idea of what forms of stored food we will eat and how much of them, and I’m starting to acquire and track longer-term food storage. If we really wanted to, we could eat 100% local meals, with the exception of cooking oil, spices, and salt, and we’re constantly finding more sources of local food. (We can even get Maine sea salt when we run out of the salt we have!)
Transit: Day-to-day transit usage went down a lot after I got the new job, and then stayed pretty constant. I have also stopped flying except for as-yet-to-be-determined emergencies. Transit numbers will go through the roof next year if the Trip to California happens, but that’s *supposed* to be a once-in-a-very-long-time sort of trip. Otherwise, there’s not a lot I can cut — I’m building up stamina to eventually bike to class, but that won’t actually affect the numbers all that much.
Consumer Goods: I wasn’t tracking these exactly last year, and now I’m going to start doing so! I know that I’m already pretty low, and have been dropping from there due to trying to buy as much as possible used, especially clothes.
Trash: We started out below 10% of US average and only went down from there. I still want to find ways to use less plastic packaging and such, but this is not an area that I really need to stress over.
Heat: We used about 275 gallons of oil; half of what we used last year, and about 35% of the US average. There are some things we can try in terms of insulation next year, but there aren’t really any drastic changes left that we can make in our current situation. I am *very* happy about this one — I dislike the cold intensely, so I’m happy that I managed to adapt so well to a thermostat in the mid-50s.
The main thing that I’ve found about the past year is that it all feels so relatively normal now. Each new change is often difficult or at least a bit jarring, but then you adapt. The cold is not fun, but it at least leads to more cuddling. And drying laundry on racks doesn’t take significantly more time so much as it takes a bit more planning, so that you aren’t trying to dry things that you’re going to need four hours later.