Sunday, September 16, 2007

Riot for austerity

So, the Riot for Austerity challenge is to use one tenth of what the average American uses. A pretty extreme challenge, but they're not dogmatic about it as they say:
"the goal is to reach a 90% reduction (or the best each of us can do) *AND KEEP IT THERE* after 1 year."

I don't think we'll ever get to the goal they've set, but we're doing better than 'average' in some respects. They say that the average American household uses 900 kwh of electricity per month. So far this calendar year, we've averaged about 750 kwh per month, even though we've had the central AC on for the last three months. The next couple of months are usually fairly low ones for our electric bills, so that should bring the average down. We've already replaced almost all the lightbulbs with CF ones. My next move to reduce our electricity use will be to buy another indoor drying rack and get a washing line set up to dry laundry outdoors.

Apparently "the average American generates about 4.5 lbs of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY." I weighed our trash before going to the dump this weekend. I don't usually weigh the trash bag, but I could tell as I lifted the bag that it was a lighter than average trash week. We had 2.5 pounds of trash TOTAL for the four of us for the week. We also had 7.5 pounds of paper recycling, and about 9.5 pounds of plastic and glass recycling. (I forgot to subtract the weight of the container for the glass and plastic so it was probably a little less than 9.5 pounds.) There was some other glass and plastic that was not included because they were returnable bottles with deposits on them. Any food waste that we could put in the compost bin we did, and I didn't weigh that. I'm not sure if it counts as trash anyway, but I suspect the other recycling does because many communities still don't offer recycling opportunities. So I took less than 20 pounds of stuff to the dump/recycling center - about 16% of the 126 pounds of trash the 'average' family of four creates.

There are many areas of our lives that we could make less wasteful, but it looks as though we're off to an OK start.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What a funny-looking donkey!

Several years ago, dear husband and I were driving to see some friends in northern Vermont when I saw an animal at the side of the road. There was a couple who had gotten out of their car who were quite close to it, taking photos. I said, (to my eternal embarrassment), "What a funny-looking donkey!" No, it was NOT a donkey - it was a female moose.

I was confused because I was not that close to the animal but it was standing fairly near to the people who were photographing it and looked pretty tame. So now it's a family joke that I can't identify animals, and even when we see animals like giraffes someone will say: "Ooh, look at the funny-looking donkey!" I can in fact now identify a moose (and a giraffe) quite easily, but I do occasionally have difficulty with other animals. The first time I saw a coyote, I was sure it was a long-legged fox. I knew that coyotes live around here, (I've even heard them howling at night,) but it still seemed wrong that they should. The word 'coyote' always sounds, well, foreign and exotic to me and evokes an image of animals silhouetted on a ridge at sunset somewhere in the wilderness. Maybe I'm just confusing them with wolves. I'm sure (I think) that we don't have any of those around here!

(BTW, the picture above is NOT the moose I saw that day.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bears in the yard

I've been meaning to blog about our bears for a while, but reading this post about a bear in Colorado prompted me to get started on it.

The first time I ever saw a bear near our house it was in the late afternoon when a fairly young bear was wandering down the middle of the road. A car came by and when the driver stopped to get a better look at the bear it climbed a tree in fright. It didn't stay there long though. It seemed to figure out that the car and driver were no immediate threat, and it climbed down again and ran off into the woods.

We've seen them quite a few times since, some occasions more memorable than others. There was the time a bear climbed up on the basement hatchway to get at the bird feeder on the kitchen window. We'd removed all the other bird feeders from the yard a couple of weeks earlier after a bear bent the metal poles they were hanging on through 90 degrees. We foolishly figured that if the bear had left the one on the kitchen window alone, then it wouldn't come that close to the house. Wrong! We should have remembered the story (not apocryphal) about a family in town who had left the kitchen door open and a bear wandered right into the house and started ransacking the cupboards! My husband almost had a heart attack. He was standing at the kitchen sink, when suddenly there was a bear right outside the window only a couple of feet in front of him grabbing at the bird feeder. It pulled the feeder off the window, shook out the contents and ate most of them. (Given that it had earned itself little more than a snack I was surprised the bear left so much seed on the ground.) Once it was done emptying the feeder, it seemed to consider coming up on to the deck before wandering off to the neighbor's yard.

(Yes, although black bears are really not very agressive, I was safely inside the house when I took this picture.) We thought the bear had gone, but a few hours later when my husband went to take something out to the compost bin, he surprised the bear coming out from under the deck! It was making itself altogether too much at home for my liking! We never saw it under the deck again, but who knows?

A couple of times since we've been living here, the kids at one of the local elementary schools have had to stay inside the school at recess because there was a bear wandering the grounds. Many of the bears wear radio collars so that the state department of wildlife can track them. One of the kids, seeing the collar wanted to know who the bear belonged to!

The thing is, these bears are not way out in the countryside. Our house is only a couple of miles from the center of town. I've seen a mother bear and cub scampering down a densely populated residential street even closer to the center of town. Apparently, despite the fact that humans have been taking more and more of the bears' habitat for development every year, the black bear population is still growing - from about 100 in the entire state in the 1970's to somewhere around 3,000 now! An orchard where we used to see them when we first lived here is now a housing development. It's sad to think that, despite that, the bears are doing so well that it is actually legal to hunt them and dozens are killed every year for 'sport'. Although I seem to have terrified my brother-in-law in the UK with the thought that we have bears walking through our yard, they are rarely a real nuisance. (There was that one bear though that got drunk in a local orchard on fermented apples and wouldn't leave for a couple of days, but it wasn't in our yard, so I found that entertaining rather than a nuisance!)

Related Posts with Thumbnails