My take on a personal climate impact assessment and plan. 🌍
As others have noted in recent similar threads, I'm not suggesting that personal action on climate is the primary or only action needed. Far from it! I'll continue to be a loud-mouthed advocate of action at every level possible. In the past I've helped organize and joined in on a variety of direct actions. As far as I'm concerned we should have immediate short, long-term and ongoing climate strikes with the aim of shutting down business as usual. But while I support collective direct action I'm also a fan of personal direct action because as individuals we all add up. The US is collectively 300+ million people. If those 300 million people made a real effort to make changes, well, they add up to an entire country of people making a change. Lastly, the fastest way to make such direct impact is simply conservation. It can be done by anyone today. No barriers other than a lack of effort.
Before I dig in on details, a note about the context. I'm single, no kids, work from home. My tiny house is in a rural setting with nearest town/stores about 8 miles away.
So, my take is, let's do this and stop making excuses. Here's my PEAAP (Personal Environmental Action Assessment and Plan)
Local transport for home supplies and groceries
I have an older, 2007 Toyota Matrix, gasoline. At my current rate my mileage for 2023 will be around 110 miles, about equal to 2022. In 2020 and 2021 my miles were closer 200 each year as I was making more trips to town for a home-bound family neighbor who I shopped for. Going forward I'll keep my present course which amounts to 1 trip to town every 7-8 weeks. When I do drive I focus on efficiency. Slow acceleration, coasting, etc.
I've got several extended family/neighbors within about a mile that I visit and this is either done by foot or bike. I'd thought/planned to switch to a bike for grocery runs to town but I have 2 dogs and a cat so for now I just plan my grocery trips to coincide with resupply of their food which typically get's purchased in fairly large bags.
I don't do air travel (or much travel really) so no flying to report other than two trips back before 2001. I've taken Amtrak and were I to need to travel any distance in the states I'd look to Amtrak if possible.
I've been living in a 200 sqft tiny house for most of the past 15 years. It's located under mature trees in an area that is predominantly shady due to a pre-existing woodland which helps a great deal during the summer. Location is Missouri so fairly hot and humid.
Heating is currently an electric oil radiator and on average is kept at around 62° F daytime, 58° night. I'd like to get this down a bit lower. I bundle up in the winter, it's easy and cozy. Also, I'm in the habit of going for at least one dog walk a day, often two. And in the winter I find that after a walk I'm warmed up for at least an hour after. In addition to the heater I have a heat tape that is used to keep pipes from freezing in the small, covered space where my water pipes enter my cabin.
I also have a well house that has to be heated when outside temps drop below and stay below a certain temperature close to freezing. I've made this far more efficient in recent years, It's a small space. I use a fan and an electric oil heater. I've got a remote thermometer and smart plug. When the temp in the well house drops below 34 the heater and fan go on. When it hits 38 they go off. Also, heat tape for the pipes in the well house to keep pipes from freezing in the outdoor section.
During the summer my cabin is cooled by a mix of fans, outdoor air when possible. Once it get's hot enough outside that I can't keep the cabin below 79° I use a window AC at which point the average temp is around 77°. As much as possible I monitor and adjust. When it's cool outside I turn off the AC and open windows for fresh air, especially at night. It's a balancing process that also includes monitoring humidity. When the AC is on I find that a two fans easily allow me to be comfortable at 77°.
Cooking is mostly a microwave or small electric induction cooktop. I also have a small propane stovetop/oven for power outages and a small amount of baking in the winter. A small refrigerator/freezer for food. It's not mini but perfect for full time living and one person.
No hot water though I do use hot water to shower in a neighboring cabin that belongs to my sister and brother-in-law. I don't shower nearly as often as most people.
I have a mini wash machine for laundry, hang to dry.
I have a solar panel and battery for charging my iPad, iPhone and a set of USB string lights. It's also what I use to charge 4 batteries for a lawn mower which is used for various patches of grass. I'm generally not in favor of grass lawns and mowing but am currently trying to manage/remove an invasive plant, lespedeza, that has to be mowed. The alternative is to let it take over any open area which would be a signifiant loss of native species. So, I'm mowing minimally in areas that require it for foot traffic as well as to remove lespedeza.
My current average use of electricity is about 9 kWh per day which could come down a bit but probably not too much as that's mostly heating and cooling and I think I'm going about as far as I can go.
I've been mostly vegetarian for the past 33 years. Exceptions to that include occasionally eating some fish from the lake near my cabin. For a short time I also ate small amounts of venison when hunted by family. And when I come across leftovers from family I'll eat that whatever it is. I'd rather eat it than see it wasted.
In the summer I avoid cooking in the cabin as much as possible. I'll use the microwave but if I want pasta or anything that needs to significant time I'll do it in my little outdoor kitchen. Much of my summertime diet is easily done with no cooking.
In the winter I cook as much as I need as any residual heat helps keep the cabin warm.
Beverages: I stopped buying any kind of drink that comes in plastic, glass or aluminum. Currently I buy the following drink related products: pre-ground coffee, bulk spices for tea, paper containers of cocoa, soy milk and non-dairy creamer both of which come in lined paper cartons. Currently experimenting with composting those.
My primary rule of food consumption is to only purchase food that comes in steel or paper. I do allow for food that comes in plastic bags such as popcorn kernels, bread and tortillas. All other food comes in paper/cardboard or steel. This has allowed me to cut consumption of plastic to near zero. Exceptions to this: coffee which comes in a kind of vacuum packed plastic and vinegar that comes in plastic and is used sparingly.
In general I look for ways to reduce packaging for food and other household products. Example: I consume a LOT of peanut butter. After saving up quite a few wide-mouthed glass jars that peanut butter comes in I started buying bulk peanuts in 20lb bags. Every 10 to 14 days I just blend a new jar of peanut butter as I use them. It's minimal effort and 10 minutes at most. That leaves 1 plastic bag that I use over the course of several months to collect what little trash I have.
Personal hygiene and household products
Bar soap that's packaged in paper covers 99%. In the past I've very sparingly used dish soap in a plastic container but have cut this to near zero. I have a jug that I've had forever and only use it when I must. Toothpaste and deodorant both come in throw away packaging. For laundry I use the laundry strips.
Clothing and footwear
I almost never buy new clothing. Underwear, that's about it. Most of my current clothing is just stuff I've had for years or stuff that was given to me by family that were cleaning out closets. I've had to buy 2 pair of jeans over the past 5 years. Currently I've got several pair of boots that were donated by above mentioned family. Other shoes I've purchased. I walk A LOT so over the years I've gone through what I expect is more than the average consumption of shoes. That said I wear them until they are, literally, falling apart.
This is the area of personal consumption that I most need to improve.
My current flat screen LED tv is most certainly going to be my last. It's 4 years old but at the moment my plan is to not replace it. Instead I'll use an iPad or secondary computer display as a tv instead. That's what I'm doing currently and it works fine.
My day-to-day computer is a 13" iPad Pro. It's the 2021 model and I expect to use it for at least another year or two, possibly longer. I'll keep current iPhone for much longer. I have a Mac Mini (2021) that is usually turned off or, if on, is functioning as a file server. It will likely be the last "computer" I buy as it's a device I have as a back-up for work should the iPad fail for some reason.
My plan for electronics devices going forward, as it's been in the past, is to minimize frequency of upgrades as much as possible. I don't have a hard rule on this.
I'm using far less than the average citizen of the US but still using more than the average used in many countries. Just having a refrigerator, window AC and heater put me in a category above most of my fellow humans and thus, more than my share in the global context. That said the vast majority of my fellow humans are using far less than their fair share. There's a balance to be found somewhere far below the average energy/resource consumption in the US but also above the lowest.
Others posted in recent weeks: Michael's PEAAP