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
One of the tasks of rural life is gravel road maintenance. I don't have a tractor so I do small bits by hand. The task in this section: remove the center hump and allow for water to shed off the down-hill side. 2 days, 3 hours. 1 more day and 1.5 hours should get it done. Excellent exercise!
Feeling grateful for the green moss and flowing creeks that I get to visit on my trail rides.
A small, energy efficient laundry machine for a tiny house or other small space.
In the early 90s there was a television show called Northern Exposure and in one episode one of the characters was debating getting their own washing machine. They were resistant because they enjoyed the social aspect of going to the neighborhood laundromat. Why use natural resources for a tool that could be had in a communal setting? As a conservation-minded, community-oriented activist that resonated with me.
Fast forward to 2022 and I’ve been living in my tiny house for 12 of the last 14 years and it was only yesterday that I finally did a load of laundry in my own washing machine. In previous years I either used a laundromat in town or I’d wash when I visited with my folks who are also nearby neighbors.
I’ve thought off and on of getting my own washing machine but in a small tiny house the choices are limited. My folks are planning to move and rather than automatically revert to a laundromat in town I went looking again to see what might have changed since I last looked over a decade ago. I was surprised to find that there are now fairly small top loading washing machines optimized for small spaces. They come in several sizes but in general, compared to a standard washing machine they’ll do a small to medium load. I decided to try one of the larger options in the hopes that I’ll be able to wash a small blanket when needed.
I’ve only done one load of laundry but thought I’d offer up a mini review. Obviously this doesn’t speak to the longevity or durability but I think I can comment on the effectiveness and usability . The machine I purchased has left and right sections. The left side for washing will take up to 18lbs and the right side for “drying” via a spin cycle takes up to 8lbs at a time. I did a medium load with was pretty typical for what I need to do: a few hand towels, wash cloths, socks, a couple pillow cases, a couple t-shirts, a sweatshirt, padded cycling shorts, and some underwear. I could have done a full load and added in a towel or a few more t-shirts. I’ll have no problem doing a full-sized sheet and a few clothing items. A small blanket should be fine to wash, not sure if it will fit in the spinner.
Some of these machines drain via gravity and require that the hose be level with the machine to drain out the water. The machine I bought has a pump and so the hose can be elevated to a sink to drain. I did a 10 minute wash cycle with soap then drained it and did a 10 minute rinse. The machine offers a forceful, efficient movement of the water during the washing process. The water after the soap cycle was obviously dirty and the water after the rinse cycle was clear. I divided the load into 3 for 3 different 3-4 minute spin cycles. The result was exactly what I hoped for: clean stuff that was fairly dry. Given the colder weather I hung most of it up to dry on a clothes line in my tiny house.
These are fairly energy efficient, maxing out at 280 watts so could be used with a solar/battery off grid system without too much drain for an average load. Assuming it holds up for several years I’ll consider it well worth the $200 cost.
An unexpected and very pleasant surprise this morning! ￼ Add a mocha,￼ the Vince Guaraldi Trio Peanuts Greatest Hits￼ and a purring cat to my lap: 😊
Made my favorite fall/winter soup today: ￼Curry pumpkin-coconut -vegetable. Cube 2 to 3 cups of raw pumpkin without the skin and boil for 30 minutes “. Blend or mash it in the boil water. ￼ Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of curry powder, teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and a tablespoon or two of salt, garlic, a sautéed onion and 3 cups of frozen mixed vegetables. ￼ Simmer for 15 minutes then add one can of coconut milk and 2 to 3 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas and simmer for another 15 minutes.￼
The end result is sweet and spicy and super tasty !