Farm Journal

gentle living in a complex world

ready, set, go…..

I know that I have not updated this blog for a while. It has been a little busy around here. We spent a great deal of the early spring in Madison, Wisconsin — protesting at the capitol. And then the month of April was spent adding animals to the farm (goats, ducks, chicks), building out buildings (chicken coop — still in process), starting seeds, and now putting up fence.

Recently, Sharon Astyk mentioned that she was going to restart the Riot for Austerity starting June 1. The Riot was based on the premise that the average American uses 90% more (and waste a lot more) than that of the rest of the world. So Sharon and I discussed it and we wanted to see what this would look like. Thus we started the Riot (R4A). I did well for a long time, but then through a series of misfortunes and life changes, I stopped rioting. I believe most of us did. We didn’t stop trying, just stopped blogging about it. Heck, I stopped blogging at all.

So, here we are, Sharon and I decided to restart the Riot. (Read Sharon’s post here):
June 1 is the start date. The riot focuses on 7 areas of consumption. Here are the “rules” from our original discussions…


Here are the 7 categories:

1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR. A 90 percent reduction would be 50 gallons PER PERSON, PER YEAR.

-No reduction in emissions for ethanol or biodiesel.
-Public transportation and Waste Veggie Oil Fuel are deemed to get 100 mpg, and should be calculated accordingly.

2. Electricity. Average US usage is 11,000 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR, or about 900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH. A 90% reduction would mean using

- Solar Renewables are deemed to have a 50% payback – that is, you get twice as many watts.
- Hydro and Wind are deemed to have a 4 to 1 payback over other methods – you get 4 times as many.

3. Heating and Cooking Energy – this is divided into 3 categories, gas, wood and oil. Your household probably uses one of these, and they are not
interchangeable. If you use an electric stove or electric heat, this goes under electric usage.

- Natural Gas (this is used by the vast majority of US households as heating and cooking fuel). For this purpose, Propane will be calculated as
the same as natural gas. Calculations in therms should be available from your gas provider.
- US Average Natural Gas usage is 1000 therms PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. A 90% reduction would mean a reduction to 100 therms PER HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR
- Heating Oil (this is used by only about 8% of all US households, mostly in the Northeast, including mine).
- Average US usage is 750 Gallons PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. A 90% cut would mean using 75 gallons PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. Biodiesel is calculated as equivalent.
- Wood. This is a tough one. The conventional line is that wood is carbon neutral, but, of course, wood that is harvested would have otherwise been absorbing carbon and providing forest. There are good reasons to be skeptical about this. So I’ve divided wood into two categories.
- Locally and sustainably harvested, and either using deadwood, trees that had to come down anyway, coppiced or harvested by someone who replaces every lost tree. This is deemed carbon neutral, and you can use an unlimited supply. This would include street trees your town is taking
down anyway, wood you cut on your property and replant, coppiced wood (that is, you cut down some part of the tree but leave it to grow), and
standing and fallen deadwood. You can use as much of this as you like.
- Wood not sustainably harvested, or transported long distances, or you don’t know. 1 cord of this is equal to 15 gallons of oil or 20 therms of natural gas.

4. Garbage – the average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. A 90% reduction would mean .45 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY.

5. Water. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water PER PERSON, PER DAY. A 90% reduction would mean 10 gallons PER PERSON, PER DAY.

6. Consumer Goods. The best metric I could find for this is using money. A Professor at Syracuse University calculates that as an average, every consumer dollar we spend puts .5 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere. This isn’t perfect, of course, but it averages out pretty well.

The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods,
not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car
payments, etc… Obviously, we recommend you minimize those things to the
extent you can, but what we’re mostly talking about is things like gifts,
toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper
goods, etc… A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR

~_ _+ Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual
purchase price. That is, if you buy a used sofa for $50, you just spent $5
of your allotment. The reason for this is that used goods bought from
previous owners put money back into circulation that is then spent on new
goods. This would apply to Craigslist, Yardsales, etc… but not Goodwill
and other charities, as noted below. This rule does not apply if you know
that the item would otherwise be thrown out – that is, if someone says,
“If you don’t buy it, I’m going to toss it.” Those items are unlimited as
well, because they keep crap out of landfills.
~_ _+ Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon
cost. That is, you can spend all you want at Goodwill and the church
rummage sale. Putting things back into use that would otherwise be tossed
should be strongly encouraged.

7. Food. This was by far the hardest thing to come up with a simple metric for. Using food miles, or price gives what I believe is a radically
inaccurate way of thinking about this. So here’s the best I can do. Food is divided into 3 categories.

1- is food you grow, or which is produced *LOCALLY AND ORGANICALLY* (or mostly – it doesn’t have to be certified, but should be low input, because chemical fertilizers produce nitrous oxide which is a major greenhouse contributor). Local means within 100 miles to me. This includes all produce, grains, beans, and meats and dairy products that are mostly
FEED.* That is, chicken meat produced with GM corn from IOWA in Florida is
not local. A 90% reduction would involve this being AT LEAST 70% of your
diet, year round. Ideally, it would be even more. I also include locally
produced things like soap in this category, if most of the ingredients are

#2 is is *DRY, BULK* goods, transported from longer distances. That is,
*whole, unprocessed* beans, grains, and small light things like tea,
coffee, spices (fair trade and sustainably grown *ONLY*), or locally
produced animal products partly raised on unprocessed but non-local
grains, and locally produced wet products like oils. This is hard to
calculate, because Americans spend very little on these things (except
coffee) and whole grains don’t constitute a large portion of the diet.
These are comparatively low carbon to transport and produce. Purchased in
bulk, with minimal packaging (beans in 50lb paper sacks, pasta in bulk,
tea loose, by the pound, rather than in little bags), this would also
include things like recycled toilet paper, purchased garden seeds and
other light, dry items. This should be no more than 25% of your total

#3 is Wet goods – conventionally grown meat, fruits, vegetables, juices,
oils, milk etc… transported long distances, and processed foods like
chips, soda, potatoes. Also regular shampoo, dish soap, etc… And that no
one should buy more than 5% of their food in this form. Right now, the
above makes up more than 50% of everyone’s diet.

Thus, if you purchase 20 food items in a week, you’d use 14 home or
locally produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of
season thing

So, I am back, I am in, and I am ready to go. Are you?

I also blog at my other site  about all of the adventures as a new fish farmer. LOL! (

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5 Responses to “ready, set, go…..”

  1. Sandra Mort says:

    Wow. That looks completely unachievable. I think we use far more local/unprocessed/minimal foot print stuff than most Americans, but I don’t think we could cut out 90 percent of what’s left. I think even 25% would be hard!!!

  2. emme says:

    I can say that there were area that we got to under 90% last time. Each situation is different, however. I think my food print is lower now than then, however, my gasoline may be more difficult now. If nothing else, it makes one more conscience of usage. Plus it helps save money! ;)

  3. emme says:

    Oh, and it is from that of what average americans use. You may already be way under (so, you could only need to cut 20%), etc.

  4. denise says:

    I read this when you posted, and it seemed so unattainable that I read it, but then didn’t comment. We work on always cutting back more and finding where we don’t need this or that or can eliminate/reduce. But NINETY percent seemed…so saying compared to average american use. Ahhhh, OK. So take the average and multiply it times 4 for our family? I’ll have to dig around and see what that all is. I’m intrigued. :)

  5. iñigo says:

    Woa, this is tough, not only for Americans but for every person in “developed” countries. As a European, I use less than an American, but then life is usually so different.
    The only target I’ve come to see as similar is water usage. The Spanish enviroment ministry proposed a guaranteed amount of 60L (about 12 gallons) per peson per day. At home, I use about that much water, so I think this is achievable. Only you shouldn’t include the water you use to water the plants, in case you have them (that I dont), that anyway will be good to reduce all the amount of vegs you would otherwise have to buy.
    I recycle a lot of our rubbish, but then I am unable to reduce the amount of rubbish we generate. For example, I cannot bake so fast or convince my children to eat what I bake :-P !
    So keep the good work up!

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