Posts Tagged With: Electricity use

Plugging In

During a long talk with Rick at the beginning of November, during which I was feeling quite overwhelmed with projects and homeschooling and life in general, I decided to go ahead and normalize our kitchen again.  We plugged the fridge back in.

We unplugged the fridge in May of 2011. It was supposed to be a month-long experiment.  We left it unplugged for a year and a half.  So, I guess in that way, it was a total success.  We had a great system down, and we pretty much forgot what life with a refrigerator was like.

I liked it, being weird and different and extreme.  But also, Rick and I were getting to the point where we craved a little normalcy and simplicity in our lives in general.  The fridge was a sort of symbol for me of this crazy, hippie extreme life that I wanted to have.  And, Rick, being super supportive, has come along for the ride, and for the most part, we have that life.

We grow our food or buy from local farms, we have chickens and bees.  I never buy cereal or use paper plates or paper towels.  I’ve made our own laundry soap and dishwasher detergent.  We’ve cloth diapered (3 kids), etc.  You get the point.

IMG_6868

But sometimes being weird can wear on you.  It was wearing on us both (not the fridge, but you know… everything).

One of my good friends talks about how tough it can be to live in two worlds.  You know the two… one in which all your friends only buy gluten-free, sustainably harvested, BPA-free, GMO-free, soy-free, local, handmade, hand loomed, home-grown, vegetarian fed, and free range.  And the other world: the on sale, easy clean-up, big box, double coupon, plastic, convenient, drive-thru, battery operated, disposable one.

I mean, take a kid’s birthday party.  Imagine hosting 25 people but using nothing disposable.  No paper plates or plastic forks or crêpe paper streamers.  Or if you do use plastic cups you feel guilty, even for the biodegradable ones.  The guilt.

So I decided to let go.  Not of everything.  Sometimes I use a paper towel or 100% recycled paper plate.  The fridge was something simple that could go back to normal, not be so weird.

You wouldn’t believe how novel it felt.  Having a freezer inside the house, having room for anything in the fridge.  We hosted Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I let the turkey thaw in the fridge, and there was room for other things.  It was amazing!   (By the way, we also hosted T-day without a fridge, it’s totally doable).

This doesn’t mean I’m going all conventional, back to disposable everything.  But it does mean I’m giving myself more grace.  I don’t need to be perfect or extreme.  I just need to keep trying.

About these ads
Categories: Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Thinking Outside the [Ice] Box

Someone recently asked me how the fridge experiment was going, and I realized that I missed the anniversary of when we first unplugged!  To me, that’s a pretty good sign that the project is going well.  The anniversary came and went totally unnoticed.  I imagined (a year ago) that I’d want some sort of fanfare or some official celebration, but I realize that it is better this way.

Running our home without a fridge has become so much a part of our lives that it’s almost mundane to us.  I forget about it completely until someone asks.

Changing ice jugs is routine.  Although we eat mainly fresh food, I don’t shop daily as many people have asked (I have three kids, people, are you nuts!??!), we love dairy (we regularly have milk, yogurt, cheese, half and half and butter in there), and none of us have suffered from Listeria.

Is it for everyone?  Well… I think that if we can do it with three children, probably most other families could too, certainly most single people.  But I realize that living without a fridge in 2012 is pretty far on the other side of the extreme line for many people.  It hasn’t really been an inconvenience for us at all.

I think the key to making it successful for us has been thinking outside of the box.  Many people we’ve talked to about it say they like the idea, but they could never do it because they prefer fresh food too much or that it’s not possible in an urban environment.  We are doing it in Denver and eating fresh foods (including meat and dairy)!  It is basically like using a cooler when camping. We’ve even gone out of town and left it.

Of course it would not be practical for us at all if we did not have the freezer in the garage where we could regularly get ice jugs.  But we run the freezer regardless.

So how long will we keep going?  Right now, we don’t see a reason to stop.  The only question now is what to do with the refrigerator?  Use it for storage for things prone to pests, like flour?  Make a pantry out of it?  A china cupboard? Long-term food storage area for the zombie apocalypse?  Fireproof safe?

We’re currently taking suggestions on that one.

Categories: Food, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Putting it All on the Line

I am in love.  My clothesline is actually making me happy.  I find the few quiet minutes it takes to hang the clothes up both meditative and satisfying.  Wait.  Did I just say laundry makes me happy?

This isn’t my first clothesline, but so far, it is the best.  Granted, it’s new, so I don’t know how it will stand the test of time.  But I really love the design.  Which is funny.  I actually wanted a traditional, two post with lines stretched between set up.  I envisioned my kiddos running between the sheets as they hung on the lines.  But we’re short on space, so we went for the umbrella style.  And I love it.  Here’s why…

It holds a lot.  A LOT a lot.  Like four or five loads.  Maybe more.  More clothes than I have clothespins for.  All the cloth diapers, inserts and wipes, all the kids’ bedding, all of my clothes and towels, tons and tons.

It spins.  This means that I can hang the whites on one side and the darks on the other.  Then I can rotate it so the whites get bleached by the sun, and the darks stay in the shade.  Awesome.  Also, I can stand in one place, with the sun behind me, to hang and turn the line as I fill each side instead of moving around or staring into the sun.

What are you hanging under there? In the past, I would hang lots of items, but not everything.  I never hung our unders up, for example.  I didn’t want the whole neighborhood ogling my ultra sexy nursing bras.  ;)  But with the new line, that’s just not a concern.

The trick to hanging the tightie-whities is pretending you’re wearing them – they go under all your other clothes.  That’s right, if you don’t want the neighborhood to know if the husband wears boxers or briefs, keep them on the inside.  Those t-shirts and dish towels are totally concealing the undies from prying neighborhood eyes.

Clothesline?  What Clothesline?  I can take it down and put it away if we’re having a garden party or something.  Not that this has happened, but it’s a nice option.  Also I think taking it down in the winter to protect it from the weather will probably make it last longer.

It is pretty and it smells good.  Ok, that is true of drying clothes outdoors, no matter what kind of line you are using.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t still love it.  Nothing smells so nice as sun-dried sheets.  And I really love how laundry looks on the line.  I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I see a full line fluttering in the breeze.

Do you hang your laundry out?  What do you love about it?

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Riot: Where are we Starting From?

Last week, I was feeling a bit discouraged and overwhelmed at the idea of the Riot.  The Riot for Austerity (R4A) sets the incredible goal of reducing your consumption to just 10 percent of what the average American consumes in each of seven categories.

Although I was initially discouraged, I decided to at least look at where we are at currently with our resource consumption.  One of the rioters created this calculator which allows you to see where you are at compared with the national averages.  I was really excited when I plugged our current numbers in.  We are doing much better than I thought, and I found it really encouraging.

Transportation energy:

August 2011:  19 gallons of gasoline per person per month (counting two people) = 46.2% of national average
Average usage for last 12 months: 231.35 gallons per person for the year (19.28 gallons per person/month) = 46.9% of national average

Electricity:

 July – August 2011: 781 kWh = 86.4% of national average
Total usage for last 12 months: 6547 kWh = 59.5% of national average

Heating & Cooking Fuel (Natural Gas):

July – August 2011: 9 therms = 10.9% of national average
Total usage for last 12 months: 451 therms = 45.1% of national average

Garbage guess-timate (we’ll start weighing this month) is 12 pounds per week = 30% o the national average

Water:

Average of April – June 2011: 1,166.67 gallons per person (counting four people) per month = 38.9% of the national average
Actual usage from 9/8/2010 to 6/3/2011: 43,000 gallons, we don’t have a bill yet for the final quarter, so I average 14k more gallons for June – August.  That’s 57,000 gallons for a year.  This is 14,250 gallons per person per year = 39% of the national average.

Consumer Goods:

August 2011 (not counting our new mattress):  New items: $474.24, used items: $5.91, total: $474.83 = 52.8%% of the national average for a household of 2.6 people
Average dollars spent per month for last 12 months:  New: $6630.05, used: $29.04, total: $6632.95 = 60.3% of national average for a household of 2.6 people.  If we average it per person for four people, we’re at 39% of the national average.

For our food, we are right on track.  It’s hard to measure exactly in this category, so we are still mulling over what method we will use to track this.

Overall, we are starting from a good place.  It’s much less daunting to think of reducing consumption from fifty percent to ten, than taking on a full ninety percent reduction.  Rick didn’t seem surprised at our numbers at all, but I really was.  I’m getting excited about this challenge.

Something even more encouraging… my mom told me after reading my last post on the R4A, that although she’s not interested in rioting herself, she’s starting thinking of ways she could consume less.   And that is the point of the riot.  A few people making extreme reductions in consumption can show others that maybe they can make some small changes too.

Categories: Sustainability | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Riot for Austerity: My Insanity Knows No Bounds

Have you heard of this?  Sharon Astyk, who I have mentioned  few times before, posted last month about the Riot for Austerity.  Back in 2007 a bunch of people made it their goal to live on 10 % of what the average American consumed.  TEN percent.  Ninety percent less than what everyone else was doing.  It was a movement that grew to several thousand people and crossed 14 countries.  It was a huge goal.  Sharon is doing it again, and I’ve decided to join her.

Apparently my crazy knows no bounds.  The Riot focuses on consuming 90% less than the average for seven categories: transportation energy, electricity, other fuels (like natural gas or wood), water, garbage, food and consumer goods.  This is huge.  Read the goal details in her post linked above.

At first, I was really excited about the Riot.  Heck yeah!  I can do that!  I unplugged my fridge, for goodness sake.  I’m an extremest rock star!  And Rick has always laughed at my crazy but come along, I’m sure I can get him to go for it!  We can bike everywhere.  We can totally do this!  I will start September 1st!

And here it is, the beginning of September.  And I’m totally freaked about it.  Rick is so not on board.  Ten percent is such a crazy low goal.  We are slated to drive 240 miles one-way to pick peaches in the next couple of weeks and Rick has two hunting trips planned.  That sinks our transportation energy in the first two months.  What the hell was I thinking – I can’t do this.  Why must I put my family through these crazy experiments.  Henry is going to grow up and be able to one-up all his friends by saying, “Yeah, well, my mom wouldn’t let us have a fridge.”

Thankfully, Sharon was smart enough to create a facebook group, which has been great for ideas and support already.  No, Rick is not yet on board.  Yes, if I count the miles for the peaches and hunting, our transportation gets blown, right off the bat.  But a lot of people are starting this off without their whole family being on board.  And as the group pointed out, no one else is counting their food costs in their transportation budget.  The tough thing about the riot, besides the obvious of course, is that it makes transparent the otherwise hidden costs of the way we consume.  So we spend 25 gallons of gas to get a year’s supply of peaches or meat.  That cost is in front of us.  The cost of fuel to get peaches shipped from another state (or country) is hidden.  But it’s still a real cost.  The cost of commercially produced meat in fossil fuels is not very clear to most consumers at the grocery store.  But there is a cost and it’s high.

When I posted my peach/hunting debacle and sudden discouragement to the group, Sharon’s response was “Maybe one of the questions to ask is, “even if we’re not going to change this this year, what would we do if the cost of gas did exceed the other costs? What would we do if we felt we couldn’t? Are there are other ways to do this?'”  Those are very real and hard questions.  Lots of people asked if there were closer orchards or ways to  split the cost by getting peaches of others while we were there, which we’ve done in the past.

Perhaps my favorite response was a quote though, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  -Voltaire

It is so easy to get discouraged before you even get anything off the ground.  I thought I was ready to start cruising the house for things to unplug and start taking sponge baths, September first.  But I realized that with three kiddos under five years old and a husband not yet on board, maybe I should use September to evaluate where we are at.  How much are we using in all of these categories?  Where is our real, low hanging fruit – things we can do now, painlessly that will cut our energy consumption (using a clothesline, for example)?  Also, Maybe I should cut myself (and my man) a bit of a break.  I’m not the only one still waking up a couple times a night with the baby.

Then Apron Stringz jumped in.  She beat me to the punch with a Riot post (see I’m still not even back on the blogging ball yet).  And she announced her Quiet Riot idea, which I love.  I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’m not necessarily going to Quiet Riot, though I’m reserving the right to go back on that too.  I really want to see if I can hit that 10% benchmark.  But to get there, I’m going to take my time.  For my family’s sake, I am going to cut myself some slack.  September will be the evaluation month. I know I can’t do this all at once (none of us can).

More on this to come… my mind is reeling a bit, both with ideas and little inner battles.  Stick with me, and don’t judge me, please.  I know how crazy I am.

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Unplugging the Fridge: Cost vs. Inconvenience and Project Review

Nice Jugs!

A few weeks ago, I posted on what we had saved for the first two weeks of our fridge-less project. I got some interesting responses!  Some of which made me realize that not everyone who is a current browser on my blog fully understood what we were doing.  I had a hair-brained idea to see if we could live without a refrigerator for a month.  No reason.  Not really to save money (though I knew we probably would).  More like, I just wonder if we can?

I got a lot of “I’d love to do that, but I can’t live without my [insert favorite cold food or drink item here]” comments.  That was never the point of our experiment.  More like the opposite.  How could we unplug the fridge and still eat and drink all the things we like to have?

So if you’re a newer reader and have not followed since the beginning of this project, which we started in May, or if you just can’t remember that far back (I know I can’t!), please read my first post about it.  It summarized the old and inefficient fridge we were using, and some of what we thought we were getting into.  This post explains how we are keeping food cool.  Yes we still have milk and yogurt and cheese and meat.  And we use the chest freezer in the garage.  I have two boys, a preschooler and a toddler.  And they love them some yogurt.  ;)

One of the more interesting comments I got after that post a couple weeks ago came from a reader on Facebook.  She said:

I watched “No Impact Man” with my yoga class and we had a discussion afterwards about the movie and in particular the getting rid of the fridge part. Even though they were “saving electricity” in their apartment, they were using someone else’s electricity to procure the ice they were using, not to mention that spoilage was possible by not keeping cold foods at a safe temperature, especially considering they had a baby in the house. Most of us in the yoga class came to the conclusion that we *could* go for a time without a fridge – I’ve done it myself after several hurricanes for up to 3 weeks – but the energy that shutting off most new energy efficient refrigerators actually saves is often negligible.Your family saved approximately $4. You didn’t say in your blog post, so I have to ask: was $4.00 worth the extra trouble and inconvenience?

So first, I want to talk about the inconvenience.  Here’s what is currently in the “icebox” (the freezer compartment of our unplugged refrigerator):  A gallon of milk, a quart of half and half, a half gallon of yogurt, four kinds of cheese, a tub of cottage cheese, lemon juice concentrate, fish sauce, homemade jam that’s a little too runny at room temperature, peanut butter (so I don’t have to stir it every time), green onions, grapes, a pound of butter, hoisin sauce, ginger, my bacon grease container, half a bottle of bleu cheese dressing, and mustard.  Oh, and two one-gallon jugs of ice.  Normally there would also be mayonnaise, possibly some orange juice, and usually some carrots and celery, but I need to go to the store.  Meat for tonight’s dinner is defrosting on the counter.

To keep all of this cold, I walk out to the chest freezer in the garage each morning (usually while I’m on my way to get chicken food) and swap the half-melted ice jugs for two completely frozen ones.  I also grab meat for that night’s dinner and a pack of peaches or frozen veggies or whatever I’m going to use later in the day.  Pretty simple, and we didn’t change our diet or menu at all.  The only thing is that I now buy only one gallon of milk instead of two each week, or it will go bad too soon.  I don’t go to the store more often, we just are drinking less milk (but this hasn’t been an effort, not sure how it’s working actually?).

We did leave for the weekend at the end of May, and that entailed a bit of planning for the condiments we left behind, but it really wasn’t a big deal.

Next, cost.  From May 1 to May 18, we saved $0.31/day or $5.58 for the month compared to the previous year.  That was 15.5%.  Unlike No Impact Man, we were still running our chest freezer in the garage, regardless of the experiment, so this was a true and actual savings, since we run our own freezer year round, and we ran it last year as well.

Now it’s been a full billing cycle.  From 5/18/11 to 6/17/11:

This Year Last Year
Average Daily Temperature
62°
64°
Gas/Therms per Day
0.57
0.38
Gas/Cost per Day
$0.71
$0.59
Electric/kWh per Day
12.67
18.52
Electric/Cost per Day
$1.53
$2.29

Translation:  We saved $0.76 per DAY over what we spent last year!  For a month, that’s $22.80 in electricity.  Um – math people, correct me, but is that really 33.2% !?!??!?!  REALLY!??!?!  Whoa.

Is it worth it?  Um, yes, 33.2% savings over a year in electricity is worth a daily trip to the garage freezer to swap out ice jugs to us!  That amount of money would put a decent dent into buying a newer, more efficient freezer (which would really save us a lot more, since ours is from the 1980’s).

Will we keep it unplugged?  As it stands, Y.E.S.!!  Now, admittedly, this is the first week of distribution from the CSA, so we’re not sure how all of that will be handled once the major produce really starts rolling in.  I am 35 weeks pregnant, which means I can expect to be less available to handle food preservation duties for a few weeks.  But Rick and I make a pretty good tag team.  There’s no law that says if the going gets tough (or we’re just plain going crazy), we can’t plug back in to catch up.  But I really don’t think that will happen.  I will, of course, tell you if it does.  Full disclosure here. The plan for now is to keep going without it.  Feels kind of liberating, actually!

So what do you think?  Would you be willing to try it?  Any ideas of how we could improve?  Do you think it’s worth it?

Also, I think I linked to nearly all of them, but just in case, here is the entire series of posts covering our Unplugging the Fridge experiment.  Happy reading! 

Categories: Simple Living, Sustainability, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , , , | 19 Comments

Wanted: Fridge-Sitter

Ever wonder what happens when you leave town for the weekend, and you have resolved not to plug in your fridge?  Probably not, huh.

Last weekend we wanted to take a spur-of-the-moment mini trip to the mountains.  It was the last weekend we had free before we hit the end of June-holiday/birthday craziness, and then it would be July and the baby would be due at any time.  My mom was a gem and said we could camp in their motor home for the weekend.  So we went for it.

I basically packed up the whole icebox into a cooler.  I put in the ice jugs, the quart of milk we had left (I put it into a jar instead of the big jug), the half and half, the cheese, some green onions and the pork chops we’d planned to cook.  All that was left in the icebox was my jar of bacon grease that I save to cook with, a jar of mayonnaise, some celery and a few other random condiments that required the cold.  We packed all of these into a smaller cooler with ice packs.  And then we took the shelf out of the freezer compartment, and put the little cooler in to stay the weekend without us.

The verdict?  Everything in the little cooler/freezer compartment/condiment and bacon-grease-preserver thing-a-ma-jiggy stayed cold.  The whole weekend.  Everything we took with us in the cooler for the weekend got used, with the exception of the last of the milk, which soured due to us neglecting the expiration date and then leaving it in the heat without replenishing the ice (since we’d used everything else by then, we forgot it).  So, yay.  A weekend away, a full three days and two nights, without plugging in a fridge and nothing but the neglected milk going bad.

So, if you decide to be crazy like me, rest assured that you can preserve your condiments without a fridge for a weekend, without changing ice packs or inviting your neighbors to see just how nutso you really are, if you use a good cooler that you don’t open ever until you’re ready to unpack it upon your return.  ;)  Heh. Longer than a weekend, you should probably make other arrangements though.  Either use those condiments up, give them away, or resolve to make peace without them, I’d think.  Or you can invite the same neighbor that is collecting your eggs for you to fridge-sit.  ;)

Categories: Food, Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

No Fridge = Saving Money?

So – we went the whole month of May without a fridge.  Was it hard?  No.  In fact, it was surprisingly easy.  Kind of undramatic actually.  In my last update, I mentioned that we’d continue the experiment for at least a full billing cycle from our electric company to see how our energy saving (if any) was adding up.  This month’s bill showed up, and although it wasn’t a full cycle, we’re seeing some savings at least.  From 4/18/11 to 5/18/11, this is what our bill looked like:

This Year Last Year
Average Daily Temperature
49°
49°
Gas/Therms per Day
1.03
0.90
Gas/Cost per Day
$0.98
$0.84
Electric/kWh per Day
14.27
15.76
Electric/Cost per Day
$1.69
$2.00

Note: if you’re curious, Nick over at Northwest Edible gave a great explanation of watts vs. kilowatts vs. watt hours, last week.  It was a bit over my head, but good info. 

Obviously we’re using less electricity than we did last year (wonder why we’re using more gas though?).  But it’s not a full billing cycle yet, since we started this project on May 1st.  We’re going to keep it up at least one more month to see what we get.  But so far, I’m happy that there has been some impact already… if I’m doing my math right, that 31 cents works out to an average savings of 15.5% per day.  (!!)

Categories: Simple Living, Unplugging the Fridge | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Proudly powered by WordPress Theme: Adventure Journal by Contexture International.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,429 other followers

%d bloggers like this: