Sunday, October 11, 2009

No Impact Experiment

By now both of my readers are familiar with my wish to live off grid and reduce my carbon footprint and whatnot.

While most of the time this is a pretty low level effort mostly consisting of dropping activities that didn't bring me much joy anyway (like using an electric or gas dryer--now I hang air dry all laundry, never owning a dishwasher--hand washing eliminates not only the energy consumption of the washer but also the energy used to manufacture it, not buying new cars, not giving up a car until it's past repair or the insurance company won't give it back, buying used clothes at thrift--only "new" garments are undies, bras, socks and shoes and the shoes get resoled, etc etc). There are a few efforts I make to actively (I see the foregoing as passive...just not doing something anymore) reduce my footprint such as working to combine errands/destinations when I'm driving the car anyway, walking whenever the errand is in Plummer, canning my own jam and dehydrating other fruits and veg in season as well as making some effort to eat more local food and in season food.

Now there is a chance to see if going further would hurt much.
The No Impact Project is launching The No Impact Experiment.
The No Impact Project was one guy and his family, living in an apartment in New York City (you have to say that like they used to in the salsa ads), tried to go a whole year having the lowest impact on the planet possible. I followed his blog for most of that year and now there is a movie and book out.

Anyway, the's a week starting October 18th where people can sign up online and get tips and instructions for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The thrifty angle to most of this is that it is usually cheaper too. I never have calculated how much I've saved not using a dryer for these past several years. I'm thinking it's in the hundreds now. Probably one ticket to London or so. I've never purchased a dryer so add that in as well as just the utilities savings.

The No Impact Man (what the dude calls himself...realizing fully that it's really LOW Impact Man, but "Low Impact Man" sounds like an aging Richard Simmons-type leading older gals in some easy aerobics so he stuck with No Impact Man despite the technical hyperbole of that moniker), found that his and his family's quality of life increased dramatically. He actually spent time with his toddler rather than parking her in front of the TV (no electricity). She thought washing clothes by putting them in the tub with soap and stomping around was fun, not a burden. They would go out when it was too hot in the apartment. I think they did accept the steam heat in the radiators...and his wife kept her job which meant riding an elevator (electric) to the 20something floor to the office and a few other things. Mr. No Impact used a laptop to post on his blog and write his book. Obviously, someone was there filming. So it was not "No Impact" but it was a good demonstration of how quality of life is not dependent on consumption.

Back to the experiment. I've signed up and await the information on what sorts of things I can try next. The experiment homepage emphasizes that this can be done at any level. If you currently drive a hummer to your mailbox at the end of your driveway, perhaps you could stop and walk the last 10 yards. If you currently live off grid in a mud hut eating only the fruit that actually falls of trees into your hands as you meditate, then I'm not sure this experiment will be of any use to you. The "How-to-Manual" comes out on October 12th. It's an electronic download that we are encouraged NOT to print out. I'll have to go borrow wifi from the library for the download.

Starting with this experiment, on October 18th, I'm going to make a renewed effort to eat more locally. This is not particularly difficult here since we have local wheat (bread!) and I've got that sourdough going. I'm assuming the yeast cultures in it are local. Once I get the local flour I can make my own bread (which is good to do in the winter since running the oven for bread (along with one or two other things to get the most out of the cost of the power) helps heat up the main living area of the trailer). So far with the sourdough it has not been a runaway success. The first batch of bread were two edible but bland whole wheat loaves since I was pretty much out of white flour beyond what I needed to feed the starter. The second and effort was less edible but still could be eaten. The third effort now lives in the compost heap. I was HORRIBLE and so hard that the bread knife kept slipping off when I tried to saw through the brick like objects that came out of the oven. I've got another batch of sponge expanding now with a bit of sugar in it in the hopes that this will help the yeast (sourdough IS's just wild yeast from the air rather than packaged yeast from the store) expand more effectively and add a bit of flavor.

We also have local potatoes, peppers, onions, and many many more vegetables. Unfortunately these won't be available all winter and I didn't get enough preserved to make it through to next harvest. BUT, I figure I can keep track of about how much I buy and consume (as opposed to waste) so I'll have a better idea of how much to can/dehydrate/freeze in the coming years as well as what size root cellar I need and how much I need the garden to produce in the mythic future when I live in a mud hut off grid.

I'll also keep track of what I can't get locally. For example while meat and taters will be easy, salt will not be easy. I don't think they grow that here. We have peppers but I don't think we have in black pepper. Some other spices can be grown in pots and gardens so I'll keep track of what I use most and try to see what of that I can grow.

And of course, sprouts. The seeds won't be local, but in theory, I could grow some mung beans and then sprout them (these are the bean sprouts used in many Asian dishes), grow alfalfa and gather the seeds for sprouts, and etc. Sprouts are a nice way to have some fresh veg on your sandwich in the winter when the produce at the local mart is looking a bit sad and there is no such thing as local lettuce grown anywhere other than my window which has thus far proved too drafty to yield more than a couple of 2inch leaves per week.

OH MY GOD!!! Peanut butter!!! That won't be local. What will I eat? Is there a local nut other than walnut? I think a walnut butter sandwich may be too rich for daily consumption. I don't mind hummus in a sandwich but it will NOT go with my plum jam I think they can grow hazelnuts here. I may be able to make some homemade nutella...hmmm....must research the nuts that I can grow here.

And, local olive oil. They grow a great deal of rape seed here which turns into canola oil when you squeeze the juice out of it. I hope I can get that. Also plenty of soybeans and sunflowers but I don't know if anyone locally turns them into oil...I can get local butter to cook in but that is an issue with my dairy problem. Guess I'll have to cook local pork and keep the drippings. Stirfried noodles in pork fat....could be good could be awful. I'm sure we'll find out.

The Mennonite cook book will be very handy since it has many recipes for soups and stews involving lentils (plenty of local lentils) and root crops (plenty of those too).

I'll try to blog about how this goes. It could be an interesting corollary to the potential experiment next summer with a garden plot the size of a parking spot.

OK, this has not been an amusing post. More about whores and jet boats in the future.

1 comment:

Fly Right said...

I could live on potatoes. I think I almost DO live on potatoes. We don't have many of those here, so if/when I get hardcore about eating local, I shall move to Idaho!

Good luck with your plans of lower impact! How low can Jill go? Only time will tell--and hopefully this blog!