Monday, July 16, 2007

80% reduction in CO emissions

Simple living reuse and reduce have started in June to reduce their emissions to 90% of what the average american uses. I have copied Sharon's text and made amendments where possible. Go check out how she is doing.

As a way of comparing what we can achieve, we have decided to join the experiment and comment on how its going here in the UK. We may be deluding ourselves that we are reducing our emissions and yet it is useful to continue on this path and support eachother.

I have therefore taken Sharon’s list and worked on 80% reduction. Not all figures are available so if you can add to them in any way, feel free.

1. Transport and petrol/diesel consumption
The amount of miles driven by a car is averaged at 10,000 miles per year. An 80% reduction would reduce that to 2000 miles per year. That is a tough target when you live in the country but I am going to check it out and report back on how we are doing with that one.

2. Electricity. Average UK usage is 4900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR,( it is 11,000 KWH per household in the USA) . 80% reduction would mean using 81 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH
• Solar Renewables are deemed to have a 50% payback - that is, you get twice as many
• 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.
• UK Average Natural Gas usage is 20500 KWH gas PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. An
80% reduction would mean a reduction to 4100KWH PER HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR
• Heating Oil . I cannot find any figures for the Uk so if you do, let me know. I am making a
guestimate here ( we do not have oil in this house)
• Average US usage is 500 Gallons PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. A 80% cut would mean
using 100 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. Rubbish collection - the average UK generates about 1.64kg of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. An 80% reduction would mean 328g 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. No idea on the UK average so I am going to stick with the American average here and limit it to 8 gallons per person per day ( in our household that would be 40 gallons)
6. Consumer Goods. The best metric Sharon 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 ( 80% cut therefore is £ 400 per year per household in the UK)
• 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.

I am going to go with this and find a way of reporting the facts for the downshifting household. I will need to put my thinking hat on that one.

7. Food. Sharon says : 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 either *GRASSFED* or produced with *HOME GROWN OR LOCALLY GROWN, ORGANIC 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 local.
#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 pund, 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 purchases.
# 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.
Ok, let me know what you think and if you are still in!

lets stick to this formula and really check what we buy, where it comes from and how we are supporting the locally produced factor.

All in all a tough target to meet and I am not certain that we are going to succeed on all fronts but I am going to give an accurate reflection of what is going on in this household and how we deal with the practical issues of reusing, reducing etc. Are you coming with us ?

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