Cider Press Hill

The 90 Percent Project

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across an experiment in conservation. It's called the Riot for Austerity 90% Emissions Reduction Project. With a name like that you know the person who thought it up has a sense of humor. But how interesting, indeed. The idea is cut [our] emissions by 90% of what the average person in the US consumes - the approximate amount people in the rich world need to reduce by in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. The eventual goal is to reach the 94% that George Monbiot calculates would represent a fair share of the world’s emissions for Americans, but we’re starting slow.

We’re doing this for several reasons. First, because it is necessary - if we want to bestow a decent world on our children, we have to cut our emissions, and much harder and faster than any government has proposed. The reason governments do not propose it is because they believe it is politically infeasible. So we want to present our leaders with as many people as possible who will stand up and say “I did it. Our nation can too.” We’re excited that people want to join us, and we invite anyone who is ready to participate!

It's an ambitious project and I've been mulling over whether I want to join up or not. The rules of the game say that we are allowed 50 gallons of gasoline per year per person, 100 therms of natural gas per year, 10 gallons of water per person per day, 90 kWh of electricity per household per month (yikes!), and a couple other categories of savings.

The idea is to try to reach these goals by the end of a year. The thought in the back of the mind is that, eventually, we won't have a choice.

Beyond global warming, I also have concerns over Peak Oil which is coming, like it or not. There is a lot of question over when it will arrive -- next year, ten years or twenty years -- but not much question about if it will arrive.

Of all the solutions that are tossed around in the media and by government types, the one thing we don't hear about is conservation. It's a dirty word. Asking people to cut back is unthinkable. Unpopular. Even politically suicidal. Most of the solutions being proposed are simply replacements for what we already consume and come with a high energy cost. Truthfully, I don't think that's feasible, either.

I think we're on a runaway train. We're having an orgy of consumerism where we're always looking for the next thing to acquire. The bigger the better -- houses, cars, toys. More and Bigger is the American way. Like Darth Cheney says...our way of life is not negotiable. Well, not until there's no choice in the matter, anyway.

That just isn't a moral way to live. The idea of I've Got Mine And I'm Entitled To It Because I Deserve It (and it's there to take) is killing our planet. Those of us who are living in a first world nation are wealthy by much of the rest of the world's standards. If we have running water (or even water), enough food, electricity, and a solid roof over our heads, we're doing okay. The rest is icing on the cake. But we take for granted that "enough" will always be there and if our salaries are large enough, we are entitled to much more. What happens in the ambiguous "over there" doesn't really seem to be our problem. And we're generally not gifted at thinking too far ahead about what we're facing.

But what happens when we begin to run out of the things that make enough and more than enough possible? Like oil, for example? It is running out. Almost all the major oil fields in the world are beginning to decline, some more precipitously than others. The world is run on oil. Our economies are based on oil. Our lives are made possible by oil. Everything is connected to oil -- the fuel we put in our vehicles, the fuel we use to heat our homes and cook with, the lights we use, the plastics we use, the foods we eat, our medicines, the cosmetics we smear on our faces, the toiletries we depend on, the clothes we wear, the materials needed to produce the alternative energies that we think will save us, our infrastructure, our computers even. And that's just the really short list. What happens after we use it all up in our orgy of consumerism...because we're entitled and we earned it and it's the American way?

Our planet is finite. It doesn't provide inexhaustible resources. There is an end to it somewhere. It's probably a lot closer than most of us want to think. And yeah, that's pretty awful scary. But I don't think the planet really cares if we deny it or not. What is, is.

I think we were provided with the intelligence to husband our resources. But somewhere along the line, we've decided to ignore that. I don't think there is anything written in the bylaws that excuses us for stupidity and greed.

For the past several months, I've been rather pleased with myself for the amount of energy I've stopped using. With regard to electricity, I was really pleased with myself for whacking our daily usage down to 6 or 7 kWh per day. With the lad home, we're clocking something like 7 or 8 kWh per day on the old meter. That's down considerably since the lad's first week home. He is now careful and has been pretty agreeable about it.

But then along comes this new challenge. The 90% challenge. I had a pretty funny response to it. First I read the rules and thought, "What a cool idea." Then I read a little more carefully and thought, "This is nuts. No one can do this." Then, to my surprise, a little bit of anger. And then I reminded myself, "Within my child's lifetime (and possibly mine), there won't be a choice."

And then I stopped. The word choice reached out and grabbed me again. Our choices, whether for justifiable or unjustifiable reasons, are still the choices that we make.

It is about choice, isn't it? Rather than thinking that it's impossible to cut that much use, I turned it around. If I only have 3 kWh of electricity to use each day, what would I choose to spend them on? What's the most important to me?

If I only have 10 gallons of water to spend a day, what do I want to spend them on? What's the most important to me?

At least these two things are places where I can make changes now. Hard choices, but possible.

But I am less sure with regard to gasoline use. Funny that. This is also about choice and I'm no more inclined to make the hard choices than the next person. Now, I have a 7 year old car that just turned 50,000 miles two days ago, so I am not a profligate gasoline spender. But according to the rules of 90%, I should only be using 100 gallons of gasoline a year (at least until the lad is no longer part of this household or a dependent). I've already spent 15 of them this month. It was a choice we made for the lad to work two or three towns away rather than in this town for three dollars less per hour. That was a conscious choice based on some good reasons. But the planet and remaining quantities of oil in the ground really don't care about our good reasons, do they? What is, is. Nevertheless, I don't think we're going to undo that choice. It seems to be an important one. So I guess what that means is a lot more walking for activities close by that I used the car for before. And a lot more careful planning and combined trips.

Natural gas use, though. That's a problem. I don't heat my house with gas except for a couple of times in the autumn and spring. It's almost entirely used for hot water and cooking. My use last year was 465 therms. And according to the rules of 90%, I'm only supposed to be using 100 therms? Sheez. If I turn my hot water down any lower, we might as well be taking cold showers. If I could eliminate pilot lights, that would help. They use about 70 therms per year, each (I called my gas company and asked). I have three. That's something to work on over the next year. It's still about choice, but a bit more difficult because the choice involves whether to replace wasteful appliances. Of course, I also consider what I'd do if I didn't have a choice and gas was rationed. Someday that may happen. I'd rather figure it out before that happened.

So, yeah, I think I am going to join the 90% challenge and see where it leads. I have a feeling it will be an interesting, frustrating, experimental, and even a surprising year of good choices, bad choices, and some downright nutty ones.

Posted by Kate on 05/31/07 at 12:48 PM



Wow thats a lot to take on. It will be interesting to see how it pans out. I know we wouldn’t be able to do it. I would have very dirty, starved children lol. Six people in one household? The only thing gas in this house is the heat. The washer, dryer, Stove/oven, AC, and water heater are all electric. Wouldn’t you just loooooove to have my bill? I know once we move out of here our utilities will probably be almost half what they are now. A certain person (whom I know you know who I am talking about) in this house is the biggest waister of utilities I have ever known. (But hey when you don’t pay the bills what the heck) Said person runs the dryer several times a week for at least a half hour to get wrinkles out of a shirt instead of ironing it. Opens a window in the middle of winter because, oops they turned the heat up to 70 something degrees and forgot so now it is too hot for them. And that is just a couple of examples lol. The dryer thing just sends me over the edge tho. I will trade you the lad for a couple of month in exchange. No?Didn’t think so. Dang!

Posted by justme on 05/31  at  03:18 PM

You might also consider taking the New Hampshire Carbon Challenge. Lots of great ideas for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that save money as well. Plus, they have these wonderful profiles of “Climate Heroes”. I really like this site.

Posted by Heather on 05/31  at  11:48 PM

Yes, J, it’s a lot to take on, though it will require being more organized. That’s a GOOD thing. Don’t know how close I’ll get to any of the goals, but any decrease is an improvement on right now.

And I cringe to think of using the dryer to take out wrinkles, even though I’m pretty sure that I did that in the way long ago. But now? Holy cow, that would drive me over the edge, too. It does make a difference who’s paying the electric bill, doesn’t it? smile

Hi Heather. That is a cool site. Lots of usable information and I tried the carbon calculator, too. It said that my household is dumping about 19,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere, but I can pretty easily reduce it to 13,000. After that, I think it’ll be much harder, but something I’ll keep working on over the next year. Thanks for the link. I liked the heroes profiles, too. They offer a lot of inspiration.

Posted by Kate on 06/01  at  06:13 PM

You have written about “The 90% project”.

Our planet can still provide Food to all people. It cannot provide Consumer Goods to all people. If we want to save Environment we will have to stop production of most Consumer Goods.

In this context I want to post a part from my article which examines the impact of Speed, Overstimulation, Consumerism and Industrialization on our Minds and environment. Please read.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.
Subject : Environment can never be saved as long as cities exist.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow any of these links :


Posted by sushil_yadav on 06/02  at  04:24 AM

I’m afraid the 50 gallons per year wouldn’t even cover a vacation and the holiday trips to grandma’s house.  But such a goal might inspire me to walk more.

Posted by Adam on 06/04  at  11:22 AM

Yes, I was thinking the same thing, Adam. Just taking the lad to school or bringing him home a couple of times during the year uses almost that much gasoline—about 20 gallons per round trip. We are definitely a society designed for automobiles and travel. It’s not going to be easy to get around that, but I think we’ll have to figure out ways around it eventually.

Posted by Kate on 06/05  at  12:44 PM

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