Riot for Austerity

Have you heard of the Riot for Austerity?  I am just an observer of it, but I admit to being very intrigued.  When I look at the Occupy movement, I long for a viable alternative.  It’s fine to protest, but tell me what the other option is. Riot for Austerity is an alternative: a challenge to reduce your household emissions in seven categories to 90% less than (of 10% of) the average American household and keep it there for a year.  Like a diet on consumerism.  But unlike a crash diet, the maintenance of these changes can have a real lasting effect on our use.

My friend Anisa introduced me to it.  She’s doing a “Quiet Riot.”  We’re not shooting for 90%, but like any of my efforts to reduce, it is so helpful for me to see actual numbers.  How much natural gas are we using?  How much electricity?  Water?  Transportation fuel?  Water?  Garbage?  Food that is not local, or not sustainably grown?

I admit that I had hoped we were already using considerably less than average, but that wasn’t the case.  It takes a lot of heat to warm this house, even with good windows and insulation.  And we like our showers hot and long around here.  It’s hard to measure exactly how much of our food is local vs. not.  Do I measure in pounds, or dollars?

But charting the actual numbers has made me realize what we use and has started me thinking more concretely.  We hung fewer Christmas lights, and now that I’m turning the computers off every night (rather than just letting them sleep) we used 10% less electricity than for the same 3-month period a year ago.  Our natural gas use is down 18% from last year (based on 5 months of bills each year).  And none of our changes– using the clothesline or turning our heat down earlier in the evening (at 8:30 p.m. instead of 9:30 p.m.)– really bother us at all.  For now, comparing our use to our own use a year ago has been helpful.  I don’t know when I’ll be ready to dive into the R4A for real, but I’m learning so much from thinking about it.

If you look at the R4A from a Christian perspective, I’d strongly encourage you to read Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity with it.  He writes about Simplicity as an end in itself simply being one more dead end. But if we use a holy practice of simplicty as a tool to identity with the world’s poor and to become more like Jesus in the process, then we’re getting somewhere.


3 thoughts on “Riot for Austerity

  1. This is intriguing in a way – but I still haven’t managed to get my budgeting habits down. I can’t add another counting/spreadsheet entry project right now. For that matter, I’m not sure I’ve recovered from analytical chemistry, but that was before I had access to a spreadsheet. I think I need to also get my pattern sales on a spreadsheet – maybe I can get Dan to automate it for me?

    My electric company has started including a ‘how your use stacks up against your neighbor’s” chart. At first I thought it was only of my building (which isn’t fair because one apartment is awaiting tenants and not using any electricity) but the fine print indicated th the numbers come from apartments from the surrounding area. Now how accurate is that comparison also: our apartment is so large, it’s practically a house, we live in it 24/7 while most of the neighbors aren’t home during the day.

    It makes me grumpy. At least my new computer will turn on in less than 12 minutes, so I’ll turn it off more often. And all the computers in the house were garbage picks with a few e-bay buys to add ram or processors.

    I think also that the game should give points for buying quality stuff that will last longer than 6 months. It’s hard to pick things that actually work these days!


  2. Pingback: My favorite sustainable household products | Learning As We Go

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