Monday, May 05, 2008

Extreme Eco Throwdown

Crunchy Chicken has proposed an extreme eco challenge -- I'm thinking about setting up some goals to participate in this one though it's already well into the first week. I think the idea is, for the most part, to give folks who have never lived in a rural area without water or electricity, the chance to see that it can be done. Other parts of the challenge are really eco-friendly changes. Here's what I'm planning to do:

1. No plastic - I avoid plastic as much as possible, but there are some exceptions -- buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store. Also, chips are always in plastic -- so, no chips for May. No tortillas, either, since those come in plastic. That doesn't seem right. I will continue to use things that are in plastic containers at home. Cat food and cat litter are in plastic bags -- can't get around that (World's Best and Feline Pine are both in plastic; bentonite clay is in cardboard).

2. No paper products - I'm not giving up toilet paper. Too late to cancel magazine subscriptions for May. Not giving up tampons (those are cotton, anyway, right?).

3. No driving - I don't drive very much these days. My goal is to leave my car parked in front of my house and I have been finding myself feeling very territorial about that space, and get upset when someone else parks in MY spot.

I keep a car book -- I record every the date, quantity and cost of every gas purchase along with trip odometer and odometer readings. I also throw in oil change dates, brake pad and other work. I've done this for almost all my cars. I've had this car since January 2004 -- this year, I have bought gas once each month, compared to twice a month last year and about once a week the previous two years. I'm probably doing 25% less driving than last year, and easily 50% less than 3-4 years ago. Last month I had a goal to not drive or use my car for three weeks. I ended up driving once or twice.

I might drive one day a week to collect big heavy things and transport things to the boyfriend's house (5 miles away) or going into San Francisco late at night when public transportation is not feasible. The rest of the time I carpool, bus, train, run and walk. I will get on my bike more this month though - I'm getting fat, so more bike is good.

4. Local food only - I currently focus on buying local produce -- at least local to California when it comes to things like avocados and other fruit. As a vegan, I try to buy things produced locally, but sweeteners, tofu, nuts -- those aren't always available within a 50 or 100 mile radius as local produce. Going locavore is enough of a challenge for vegans!

5. No garbage output - I already have a very minimal garbage output. It consists of cat poop in bio bags, and any non-recyclable plastic from cat food, litter or other acquisitions (like 20 glass and metal spice jars which all had plastic shaker inserts that I had to toss).

6. No excessive water usage - having grown up in Napa County during a very bad (like 10 years bad) drought, I'm already a very conscious water user. I will go back to filling a pot of hot water for washing dishes instead of washing them under running water (lazy!). I'm a pretty short showerer -- and I swim 3x/week so it's hard to give up showering at the pool or manage that kind of water. I could easily carry two 5-gallon buckets of water 1 mile. A mile is a very short distance. I've carried four bags of groceries weiging 40 pounds back to the office from Whole Foods before. It's the advantage of my size, I suppose.

7. No electricity - again, with the drought and the fuel shortage in the late 70s, I was strongly imprinted with "shut off the light." I lived in a house for many of my formative years that had no electricity -- we used a generator and we used battery powered and kerosene lamps. I am very conscious of electricity consumption. My job depends on my access to the internet, so I'm not going to give up electricity for the computer. I do shut it off during the day, and shut off the power strips when I am not home. When I am not heating my apartment, my electric bill is $25/month (I wish my landlord would install legal heat!). I'd say that's pretty good. I'll pull out my solar powered camp lantern and use it at night to light my reading and general movements at night, along with candles. I will continue to blow dry my hair at the pool and at home because if I don't, I end up with ear infections (it's mostly a way to get water out of my ears after swimming).

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