That’s the goal I’ve set for myself for reducing my personal usage of petroleum products and other fossil fuel gluttony in the next few months. 10%.
Living where I live, working where I work, I can’t stop driving. We can’t completely change our home heating needs. It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to cut out plastics entirely without major lifestyle changes.
But I’m determined that I won’t keep going as I have been. I’ve worked with vague goals and good intentions for a long time, but I’m not getting all that much closer to breaking my addiction. I need a specific goal, with a concrete number. Like 10%.
I’ll start with things that I can easily monitor: home electricity use, heating oil, and gasoline. I’ll check our bills for the past year for comparison. For gas for the cars, I’ll have to make a rough estimate of consumption, as I haven’t saved all of our receipts. (I intend to keep better track now.) For other things, like plastic use, I’m still planning to make changes, but I may be less able to estimate a number.
Seeing as I probably won’t get reach the 10% goal immediately, I’ll set a deadline. Let’s say by the end of 6 months. Oh, hell. Let’s say 3 months for electricity and gasoline use. By the end of September. For heating oil the real test will be the winter. For each month, I’ll have to evaluate more-or-less based on the month of the previous year.
Below I’ve broken down my plans into short-range and longer-range ones, and I’ll tell you a bit about what we do now.
The starting point
I don’t know our actual usage is yet. We are a family of 4, living in an 8-room house with drafty 20-year-old windows and an oil furnace for heat and hot water. We use lots of electric appliances and electronics, do lots of laundry¹. We have 2 window air conditioners that we use in the summer, and living in New England, we use heat several months of the year. We drive a fair amount: we live 9 miles from public transportation, 3 to 8 miles from stores and services, 20 and 45 miles from our workplaces. Most of our friends live far from us, and our families are even further. We buy food and beverages in plastic packaging, and the kids have lots of plastic toys.
Efforts we already make/have made:
- We drive small cars. (mileage in the 26-30 mpg range)
- We often work from home
- We use the window air-conditioners fairly sparingly (we don’t have central air)
- We replaced most of our lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs
- When we had to replace our furnace, we chose a more fuel efficient one
- Our washing machine, dryer and dishwasher are energy efficient models
- We use reusable bags for groceries, and increasingly, other shopping
- I consider packaging when shopping, and favor goods with less plastic.
- We reuse the plastic bags and containers we do get as much as possible.
- I try to buy local produce
- I get much of the kids’ clothing second-hand
- we recycle plastics
- We do other kinds of recycling, composting, reusing, and reducing that probably add up
Short term plans:
- Check last 12 months for electricity, fuel oil, and gasoline usage
- monitor current usage
- make better use of informational resources like the ones from my electric company
- buy more local goods: goal of 50% of produce for summer/fall
- Select electric company provider which uses renewable energy sources
- adjust our usage of…
- Check to see what is plugged in or turned on that needn’t be
- Turn off lights/don’t turn them on
- Get better nightlight for bathroom and/or hallway (we leave a light on for Phoebe at night)
- Line dry more clothes (goal of 1 load in 4)
- Change temperature of fridge
- better monitor use of air conditioners
- Use only cold water for laundry under ordinary circumstances
- Time my showers, and reduce time and/or temperature
- turn down the heat in the winter, especially at night and when we leave the house
- be less lazy about weatherizing our windows, doors and other draft sources
- Take train for at least some commutes (at least 1 in 4)
- avoid using the air conditioner in my car
- better combine trips for recreation and shopping/errands
- have occasional family train trips rather than driving for recreaction/visits
- get programmable thermostats
- Replace windows or get storm windows
- consider getting ceiling fans installed
- Evaluate purchasing habits
- Move closer to public transportation (as well as closer to work & friends)
- Investigate alternative heating and cooling methods, such as geothermal and solar
- Get a more fuel efficient car: hybrid or electric (I’m determined that the next car we buy will be one–I’m liking the Leaf)
- Grow some of my own food
Other green choices I can make along the way:
- Buy gas from companies ranked higher for social responsibility. (The ranking page has been updated, by the way. Sunoco is still highest ranked, and Hess is next. BP is now near the bottom. Near the bottom mind you–there are still companies that rank lower!)
- Take the stairs more at work and in public buildings (I need more exercise anyhow!)
- Invest in green technology
- Paint my house green.²
I know that these things aren’t enough³, and I don’t plan to limit my efforts to my personal use. I plan to take actions in the public sphere as well: by speaking out in support green energy initiatives, through grassroots organizations and voting. I will support stricter regulations in the oil industry. I intend to participate in bringing about greater energy conservation and awareness in corporate and industrial environments.
This has been a follow-up to my post Petroleum Junkie⁴. If you made it this far, you might also be interested in several recent posts at Momcrats: Where do we go from here?, Baby, You Can Drive My Car., Where Do I Go From Here? A List of Proactive Steps and Planes, Trains Automobiles & BP Boycott: All a Red Herring.
¹ Loads of it, even.
² Just kidding.
³ You may have noticed that I haven’t set any goals as far as reducing my air travel. I noticed that, too. I just can’t go there right now. But I promise not to buy a private jet.
⁴ Sorry this post is so long. I’m very wordy. I’m trying to cut down.