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90% reduction

May 25, 2007

A plan was hatched over at Simple Reduce and Casaubon’s Book to attempt/aim for a reduction of personal greenhouse/carbon emissions. Based on something George Monbiot said about western industrialised countries needing to cut emissions by more than the IPCC’s recommendation of 60% worldwide reduction. 60% is not enough Mr Monbiot argues.

Furthermore, when you look at the issue global equity needs to be addressed. Why do we expect worldwide participation when the world’s richest countries are the ones who are the largest emitters? Don’t get me wrong, I think all countries should come on board but very simply, why should a village in Africa cease using a water pump so that someone in the Australian suburbs can use air conditioning? Need v luxury?

This week it was reported that Australia’s emissions are rising and this in no way includes the emissions of the coal we ship to the rest of the world. I find this both troubling and depressing……

So armed with a calculator and some utility bills I was on a mission. The rules/parameters are here

What is listed below are the Australian averages as best I could find them and my household’s energy usage (the baseline figures). The project aims for a 90% reduction based on national averages. Before I go into the stats, I must say whilst I knew how much we were paying for water, energy etc., I’d never really dissected use to this level of detail. Money is really not an indicator of what things cost .

Is a 90% reduction achievable…. we’ll see.

1. Petrol. Our state average is 1200 litres per person. 90% reduction would mean 120litres.

Based on our current usage we are using 780 litres per person. It’s already 35% lower but needs work! We have a very fuel efficient car ( little, little bet 4.8-6 l/100kms) and my husband car pools to work. My classes are in Sydney (24okms round trip twice a week) – train for me as a start.

2. Electricity. Average use 8000kWH per household. 90% reduction would equate to 800kWH per year.

There is a credit for green power which would allow for some increase between 2 to 4 times this amount. My green power is from a combination of sources so I’ll go for the middle – 3 times. Brings it to 2400kWH.

Our use is 7111kWH. 12% less than the national average.

I was surprised by the electrical use because I’m extremely vigilant…CFL’s, no standby power, nothing with flashing displays….. I’ll have to investigate further. More than 40% of that use is for our hot water system. We have discussed changing it but have decided to wait until it ceases to work before making any changes. Unfortunately solar hot water is not a option for us , as our site too shady so it’ll be a heat pump or less preferable option of gas.

3. Heating and cooking

For this we use natural gas. The average is between 31-42 GJs per household. I’ll pick the 36.5GJs as my figure. 90% reduction equates to 3.65Gjs.

Our use 31Gjs. This figure is an estimate as we haven’t been connected for a full year. We are about average here in our use so we will be reducing, reducing.

4 Garbage – Australian average is between 1.2 -1.6 tonnes per person I’ll make 1.4 tonnes – 1400 kgs. 90% reduction equates to 140kgs.

Us – 200 kgs per person (estimate) which is 84% of the average and near the goal…….all I can say is Compost + worms……..

5. Water. Average water use per person is between 300-900 litres per day. Given that most of the country is in drought and most cities have water restrictions I ‘ll go for the lower figure of 350 litres per person per day. 90% reduction equates to 35 litres per person.

Us- 175 litres per person. That’s a 50% reduction. We will get our use down further once our rainwater tanks have been installed (5 weeks or so). The tanks were purchased a while back and have been waiting for my husband’s holidays. The water will be used primarily for our garden. Also have a Suldi valve to install for grey water. All should cut our use substantially.

6. Consumer goods. Couldn’t find any reliable figures here, so will use the US figures posted by Miranda + Sharon.$10,000 on average per household. 90% reduction equates to $1000.

Us – We would spend about $5000.00 and a large part of that is my tuition and books. Requires some further work.

7. Food – 70% local + organic, 20% dry bulk, 10% wet/processed/travelled long distances.(AIM)

Us – 50% local/organic – this is helped in large part by our garden (and my mother’s!) 35% Dry bulk – mostly bought from the local co-op. 15% wet/processed/travelled long distances – most of this is organic dairy products.

So here we go. June 1 start for a year + the rest.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2007 3:16 pm

    Hi Nada
    Thanks for doing the hard yards on the conversions for these figures. These really are hefty adjustments. I have noticed that on my bills my usage has consistently been going down compared to the years before, however the bills are definitely more expensive. I think these kind of reductions that you are making are really smart,…some people might see it as whacked, but I really do think that it is going to happen anyway, so you might as well figure out how to live on less now, rather than get hit with the taxes later.
    Congrats and good luck!

  2. May 28, 2007 12:17 am

    Oh whacked…..yeah, I sometimes think that too. I think we’ll be lucky if we make 90% reductions in all categories. I think the analysis of use and the resulting mindfulness will be invaluable.

    I’ve had the reverse with the electric bill….we have decreased our use and our bills are cheaper despite the 100% green power surcharge. Go figure? They have increased the electricity charges recently and more are on the way. The Sydney Futures Market has seen an increase in the futures rate for electricity by 90% since January 2007……this is what you learn when you can’t sleep and find yourself watching Lateline Business!

    If those traders are speculating on increases, someone thinks money can be made, so I’m sure they are on the way!

  3. May 28, 2007 3:38 am

    Books-as-consumer-goods would have to rank under ‘highly recyclable’ for the most part, wouldn’t you say? Certainly compared to, oh, an iPod, a book is likely to last w-a-a-a-y longer with a higher utility yield for longer as well. And tuition… well that’d be a first for education being a minus factor…

    I think a large part of what might be considered ‘consumer goods’ would be things like Playstations and electric waffle-irons and I can’t see you being a big spender in those areas.

  4. May 28, 2007 4:36 am

    Books….the incentive for law books to buy 2nd hand is two-fold….yes you buy goods already in existence but they are also about half the price. I’d like to say to law publishers, “we aren’t lawyers yet so what’s with the price gouging?” Even current editions 2nd hand are pricey!

    No Playstations or waffle irons here but tuition is still spending. I think you count it but at substantially reduced rates, as it’s supposed to be for the common good. Common good – there’s an old fashioned concept!

    I’ve gotten into using the libraries I have access to for books. One basic reason is that buying more books meant that I needed more space to put them in….and that’s not happening anytime soon.

  5. May 30, 2007 9:57 pm

    I like the ‘distributed’ model of book owning. A whole bunch of people own a few books each and they loan them out to each other. I have about a zillion books I could lend to you… (I’m sure there are a dozen you’d find readable!)

  6. May 30, 2007 11:14 pm

    Thank you! My problem is that I find everything readable especially when the things I should be reading are constitutional law books and books about real property. Interesting but sometimes they do send you to sleep!

    The shared model is a great thing.

  7. June 5, 2007 4:31 am

    What a lovely idea!
    I’d love to know my books were out there, doing good work rather than gathering dust. But I’m not quite up for the site (I can’t remember its name) where you leave your book somewhere (eg a park bench), register it online, and trust that the world will make sure it travels right. “What about rain?” I think. What if someone finds it that isn’t into non-fiction. Or isn’t into [*GASP*] reading???

    Maybe someone should set up a book register that’s like a virtual library. Probably someone already has.

  8. June 5, 2007 4:51 am

    PS The park bench thing is

  9. June 5, 2007 5:00 am

    yeah, I joined bookcrossing but it all seemed involved PLUS there weren’t that many books I really wanted to read.

    I should have another look at the site and maybe I will collect/leave a book on a park bench!

  10. June 20, 2007 4:41 am

    there is a reduction challenge on starting this week. It goes for three weeks. You might find some helpful info there.


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