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90% Reduction Achieved

My new favorite type of tomato: The Japanese Black Trifele


I don’t write about the Riot For Austerity very much here. Maybe it’s because I cringe every time I write out the name (it’s a little strange), maybe it’s because I know that some of you might think I’m insane for taking on such a project, or maybe it’s because I’m largely focused on Community Building of late. I will admit that I am not as active member of the group as I was, but I still think it’s a noble ambition and we do continue to reduce our household emissions.


What’s This Riot?

If this group is new to you, here’s the gist of it. George Monbiot writes:

If we’re to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030.

We have seen the maps of CO2 emissions, we know who we are: the US, Canada, Norway, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kazakhstan, Finland, Russia, Japan, Libya, UK, Germany, South Africa, Korea… these are the world’s highest CO2 producers per capita.

Monbiot continues:

Climate change is not just a moral question: it is the moral question of the 21st century. There is one position even more morally culpable than denial. That is to accept that it’s happening and that its results will be catastrophic, but to fail to take the measures needed to prevent it.

Members of the Riot for Austerity have decided to take those measures into our own hands. We are changing our lifestyles and reducing our CO2 emissions by 90% of the American average. With our successful actions we hope to motivate others to do the same, and we hope to show our governments that we can and will make these drastic changes voluntarily. And happily.


Our Family’s Changes

Last year Matt and I considerably reduced our usage of water, electricity, heating and cooking fuel, garbage, and consumer goods. We have been changing our lifestyles for many years, so our starting point last year was at about 40% less than the average American household. But by the time we left Geyserville, we were close to 90% reduction in every arena excepting transportation.

Gasoline. Car driving. That was over the American average. By a lot.

So when we were looking for a new home town earlier this year, we looked for a place where we could reduce our driving. We found a dense, walkable urban neighborhood in the heart of Seattle. And when we were looking for jobs, we looked near our home. I am lucky to be able to work from home most of the time. Matt walks less than a mile to work. We walk to our doctors, dentists, grocery stores, library, gym, pet store, farmer’s market, neighborhood sustainability meetings, and nearly everything we need. I walk on average 2 miles per day!

Plus we live right on a bus line that takes me to our family allotment and many other areas of town.


Did Our Latest Changes Make A Difference?

Well, after four months of living here, I have been able to tally our CO2 emissions using this handy dandy Riot For Austerity calculator. The drum roll please…

The Riot For Austerity divides our usage into 7 categories. Here are our results for each category:

1. Electricity. 90% reduction.

2. Heating & Cooking Fuel. 100% reduction (we don’t use either).

3. Garbage. 94% reduction.

4. Water. 90% reduction.

5. Consumer Goods. 97% reduction (we haven’t bought anything new in a while!).

6. Food. 90-95% reduction. (The Riot calculates this differently, but we are on target).

7. Transportation. 88% reduction.

Yeehaw! Ok, 88% isn’t 90%, but considering that we’re 100% in other areas, I think it’s pretty darn fine.

So there you have it, folks. Since we left Los Angeles a little over a year ago, we have dropped our CO2 emissions by about 50%. You can do it, too!

I know it sounds difficult to some of you, but just remember to do the best you can and keep working at it. It is important. We are changing the world, whether we like it or not. So let’s change it in a positive direction. We can make a difference with our actions. One step at a time!!

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17 comments to 90% Reduction Achieved

  • Here are my scores
    Transport: 73% |
    Elec: 2% |
    Trash: 44% |
    Water: 30% |
    Goods: 1% |
    Food: 20% local, 20% dry, 60% wet |

    I was surprised were I did well, and even more surprised were I could do better. TRansport could be better (now that I found I have a grocery store near me- within walking distance– Electrical usage – I am not sure why I scored so well here. I need to find my old bills to ensure I am putting the right usage. Trash was pretty good- improved since I got my YARD WASTE BARREL-(i.e. compostables) Like you guys, I dont heat or cook with Oil or Gas. Water I do really well at- Consumer goods I am very pleased with – since the strike started I only shop at goodwill, Salvation Army etc. and only for items I must have. Food- here is were I take it in the shorts- I could do better with dry, buying in bulk etc. But a bag of rice lasts me a really long time, same with beans and pastas. I really need to work on the “wet” items!

  • Since I’m at 96% reduction for my transportation, I’ll give you 2% of mine :) .

    I’m good everywhere except water. I’m at 40%, that’s an average of 40 gallons a day. My mom keeps telling me that I must have a leak. She’s very frugal with water, having always had a limited supply and can’t imagine using that much water. I can’t either actually!

    But I have a very large, old washing machine, an old toilet, and I wash my hands a lot (have to a lot at work and can’t break the habit at home). I tried hand washing my clothes for a month this summer but lost track of whether it was doing any good. I’m going to try again this winter when the heat is on and I can line dry and not have smelly clothes.

  • Congratulations!

    I am definitely on the PATH towards reducing, rather than being there already… since I have no way of measuring my water usage, electricity usage, etc…. I just try to use less. My water usage could come down a lot. The showers in my dorm are definitely not low-flow.

  • I just check our Riot numbers, and it’s a bit better than I expected.

    Transport: 23%
    Elec: 111%
    H&C: 15%
    Trash: 25%
    Goods: 26%
    Food: 45% local, 10% dry, 45% wet

    I believe the Electricity is high due to A/C in the summer. I only have access to summer bills right now, but our Electricity use is significantly lower in the winter without the A/C running. We do keep the temperature down relatively low in the winter, so I think the H&C number will go up a bit in the winter but not by too much. My goal for the year or so has been to be below 50% in everything, so we’re doing relatively well right now. I guess we still have a bit of work to do on the Electricity and Food categories.

  • Very inspiring. Good for you. I think I am close to 90% on all but electrical. I’ve never been sure how I should calculate this with my heat and cooking being electrical too. I welcome any advice on this.

  • Congratulations! That’s really impressive. I’m still working on transportation as my major issue, but at this point I don’t think moving is a good solution. I have high hopes of getting out of the car someday, until then I’m stuck somewhere around 50%.

  • Rosa


    I need to get out the bills and do the calculation for us. I’m sure we’re not down to 90% though.

    I have to say I really like the “Riot for Austerity” name. It manages to evoke anarchism and monks, for me.

  • Congratulations! How do you get away with no heating and cooking fuel? Does that just mean that it’s all electric?

  • Wow, your results are outstanding!

    I was just thinking about this challenge the other day. I share Crunchy’s question.

    My results came in at:

    Transport: 37%
    Elec: 11%
    H&C: 88%
    Trash: 10%
    Water: 64%
    Goods: 87%

    On the food, I really have no idea, so I don’t have any type of calculation. I also wasn’t sure what “consumer goods” entails, so I included EVERYTHING — all clothing, household goods, personal care items, hobby items (mostly wool for knitting and spinning addictions and related tools), toys, gifts, etc.

    But I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same thing if you have not purchased anything new in any of those categories in four months (can you pass some of your anti-consuming tendencies my way please?).

    And does trash include recycling? I didn’t include that in my calculation. (I think it would double our percentage.)

    Yet the variables make it impossible to compare some of these categories apples-to-apples. There is one target for fuel and water — surely easier for a household of one person in an apartment than a family in a home. The usage of water will vary in a semi-arid climate like mine (a lot of the water goes to our gardens, as viewers of our lawns this summer could verify) from someone in the rainy northwest. Someone in a mild climate will automatically have lower heating/cooling costs.

    But the Riot for Austerity did a lot in making me examine our consumption habits and change things — so that our electric bills for 2008 have been the lowest ever, every month, for instance.

  • I have no way of accurately measuring anything but I’ve cut down on waste, water, and electricity.

  • Rob, Not bad at all! The wet items are difficult for a lot of people. Keep growing stuff, and shopping at that Burien farmer’s market!!

    Deb G, You’re so kind! Thanks! : ) That does seem like a lot. But the toilet is a big one – old toilets use a LOT more water than the newer ones. You should think about replacing it. I know there is a land of misfit toilets out there somewhere, but boy do they use a lot of water! If you don’t want to replace it, put some filled plastic water bottles into the back of the toilet. You’ll save several gallons a day! And yeah, the old washing machines use a lot of water, too. : (

    Stephanie, Thanks! Take short showers. ; ) And you can do a lot to reduce without knowing exactly how much you’re using. But you know that!

    Lori, Not bad starting numbers! The elec is probably the A/C… and maybe computers & tv? Will be interesting to see how much it goes down in winter. Turning off computers, tvs, etc at the power strips will help, replacing all your bulbs with cfls (you can donate the incandescent bulbs to charities)… those are the quick changes. And food… you’re getting better and better, just keep at it!

    Katecontinued, Crunchy Chicken, Cheap Like Me,That is a really good question. The question has been asked by many Riot members with no real good answer. We have electric heating & cooking. So theoretically, I think we should be able to be alloted extra electricity to compensate. But for whatever reason, others don’t agree (those others are generally heating with wood stoves using coppiced wood, so their fuel doesn’t count… something I personally don’t agree with, as it has health and CO2 implications…. but I digress!)

    Fortunately, we have been able to lower our electric use to 90% anyway. Having a small living space makes a huge difference. We also only heat the room we are in, cook a lot in our toaster oven, have cfls in every light, use our laptops rather than desktops whenever possible, don’t watch tv and rarely watch movies, and generally try to use as little electricity as possible. And we freeze our buns. ; )

    crstn85, Moving isn’t for everyone – LOL. That was one of several factors that went into our moving. But once we decided to move, finding the city & neighborhood depended upon our ability to lower our gasoline usage. I completely understand being stuck. Try to make up for it in other ways, if you can!

    Rosa, Thanks! Very interesting that you like the name! And interesting… anarchistic monks… hmmm… makes me chuckle.

    Cheap Like Me, Consumer goods includes pretty much all of those things. Here is the definition of each category. It lists consumer goods as “gifts, toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods, etc…” That was a good refresher for me, actually, because I forgot about the toiletries. I guess we’re not at zero. I’ll have to revise that a little – we’re at about 97% reduction.

    The word on recycling is… no concrete word. I asked that, too. Some say yes, some say no, some say it should be in between. But clearly garbage is worse than recycling, but recycling isn’t perfect…. Yeah. Dunno, sorry! Wish I did.

    And I know, there are certainly issues with the calculator, and personally I think one should be able to average all seven categories together to get 90%. So I can make up my extra AC usage by getting rid of my car, for example.

    FYI, we in the northwest also go through droughts, about every other year – because climate change is giving us less snow in the mountains. Snow is where we store our water here. : (

    For all its faults and idiosyncrasies, though, I agree with you: it sure helped us have a concrete way of measuring, and a goal to set.

    Aradia, Good for you! Yeah, many of us don’t have a way to measure exactly. But you can look at how much your toilet puts out per flush by doing a search for the model online. And do the same thing for your showerhead: how many gallons does it use per minute? And the dishwasher, and then measure your sink water usage by putting a bucket underneath the kitchen sink and temporarily opening up the pipes. This is how we’ve done it.

    Electricity, you can buy a Kill-O-Watt meter to find out how much electricity each of your appliances output, and then do some sort of math to get a rough estimate….

    Or you can just keep reducing and working toward living a sustainable life, and whenever you do have a way to measure it, you’ll find out!

  • [...] I tell people Matt and I have reduced our carbon footprint to just 10% of the American average, many people respond: “wow, how did you do that?” – while giving me a look as if I am [...]

  • [...] We achieved our goal of a 90% reduction back on September 24, 2008, and we’re still there! I don’t write about the Riot For Austerity much, because it has become a way of life now, and I don’t think about it much anymore. We have redefined normal. [...]

  • I couldn’t possibly provide numbers for this if I tried. Our water and heating is centralized so we get no bill nor any indication of usage.

    I just started taking the bus and just taking the bus back and forth to work puts me over the transportation limit. Wowsers! I really thought replacing the bulk of the driving with the bus would do wonders for my numbers but it only cuts it in half.

  • [...] as I head in the right direction. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished this year. I have reduced my carbon output to just 10% of the average American. I have figured out the next steps in my [...]

  • [...] members of the Riot For Austerity, we’ve calculated our carbon emissions for nearly a year now. Through a lot of hard work, we’ve [...]

  • [...] We also worked to reduce our carbon footprint to just 10% of the American average. [...]

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