Riot for Austerity: Month 5

Riot for Austerity fist with Thermometer

“Rekenen,” Dutch: to count

Am I reckoning month 5 already – or only? Sometimes it seems like we’ve been doing this all our lives, other times it’s like we only started yesterday. It shows that we’re not totally “in the habit” yet. I’m 16 (!) days late in reporting. Also, this month is ugly: our consumption went up on several counts, because of our seedling setup in the basement (electricity) and our co-houser (water), but mostly because we were less vigilant with our consumer goods purchases.

Gasoline: 16%

Between us we consumed 19 gallons. That’s 6.3 gallons/person, that’s:

15% of the US national average.

This is getting better every month, and better days are ahead as the weather gets warmer and drier and we can look forward to hopping on that bike!

Electricity: 13%

We pruned the house of all the suckers, but still our electricity consumption went up from 371 KWH last month, to 484 KWH.

It makes for 13% of the US National Average.

Considering we have an extra person staying at our house as well as over a hundred seedlings under lights and above heatlamps in our basement (*), and that all our electricity comes from wind, it’s maybe not too lamentable.

Heating oil and warm water: 109%

The days are slowly warming up and the Freeze Yer Buns challenge is over, (though it’s going to freeze again over the coming weekend). Our heat is still on (at 62 F during the day, 58 F at night), but I’ve shut off the heat and opened the windows on several more days, and we no longer heat the Annex, the part of the house we are working on.  It has shown in our consumption (67 gallons of oil this month against 79 gallons last) and it’s giving me some hope.

109% of the US national average

Heating oil is definitely our weakest point. Now, as we approach the time of year when the boiler will only come on for heating our water, we need to start working on alternatives. Quite a few of them are under review: several solar hot water systems, as well as better insulation of our hot-water tank and the pipes.

Thinking a bit longer term, I’ve ramped up my lobbying for the wood stove, especially now that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Part III, Section 1121, Energy Conservation Incentives) promises a tax credit for the installation of efficient stoves. And then there are the plans for a greenhouse wrap-around, which will act as a solar wall and solar thermal collector next winter…

Garbage: 10%

We’re making less and less household garbage each month, and are well in the range of the 90% reduction. Work on the part of the Annex is still ongoing, though I believe most of the demolition is done, and we’re looking mostly at building from now on.

We salvaged quite a few good two-by-fours and other pieces of wood, one of which is already shielding our third compost bin from the wind and rain. Once the trash company comes to pick up the leftovers, we’ll weigh in.

Water: 19%

Our water consumption is up by way too much since last month. We consumed 580 gallons a person, which makes for

19% of the US national average

It was a shocker, because that’s up from 14%. Sure, the seedlings drink quite a bit, about 2 gallons a day, I should say, between all of them, but that hardly accounts for a 605 gallon jump!

I know the problem: our co-houser takes a daily shower. DH and Amie and I were trying to compensate for his extra usage by showering less, but this month, it turns out, our co-houser sometimes took two showers a day. I’m such a non-confrontational person, it took me so long to discuss it with him that in the end he was the one who brought it up. He is very open to reducing (he’s helping with “pruning the house” – a constant effort for which he devised a neat game – about that soon!). He was shocked that his consumption counted for so much, and now we’re back on track.

Consumer goods: 51%

This is where it gets ugly. We splurged this month. It hurts after being so victorious last month.

I had to buy gifts (got craft materials) for two birthday parties, clothes for Amie (we’re usually in a reliable hand-me-down pipeline: don’t know what happened), and materials for our Annex (that cost will go up drastically next month as we enter the building phase).  (Our purchases for the cold frame I will, as per usual for any garden-related costs, not count.)

Our biggest expense however was books. I bought that wonderful and expensive set, the two volumes of Edible Forest Gardens, and we spent quite a lot in our favorite bookstore, the Brookline Booksmith, on that memorable weekend.

Altogether that makes for

51% of the US national average.


Food: ?

I’m referring to an older post for my reasons for not reckoning this category. We sinned a bit here too: got take-out twice, and made a large order of coffee ($65: gack!). DH on his trip had no choice but to eat out a lot…. I’m not even going to ask him for the bills!

We’re working on our garden, of course. Slowly we’re nudging the food deficit into the black…

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