This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.
The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.
(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)
Sunday, October 31, 2010
With the temperature dropping, taking 1 gallon bucket showers just results in me freezing to death. Somethings gotta give. Its a constant trade-off between being clean+freezing, or warm+kinda smelly :). If I wasn't biking around 12-18 miles a day this wouldn't be so much of an issue....
I've been trying a few different showering approaches, yesterday morning I soaped up with 1/2 gallon water then turned the shower on for another minute (2 gallons) using a total of 2.5 gallons instead of 1. This way I could at least warm up.
However, I'm realizing that my daily and weekly water-use is going to have to be modified with the seasons. Maybe May-Oct I use water in one way and from Nov-April I switch this around to allow for more showering water. Now that I have canned and stored most produce I won't need as much water for washing vegetables. Saving this half gallon a day results in 3.5 gallons a week more than I had before, giving me 14 gallons/ week for showering. The chart below shows the different water plans (click to enlarge):
With 1 gallon bucket showers 6 days a week and a 5 gallon bucket shower at the end of the week I was using a total of 11 gallons/week. My new plan is to shower twice a week using the shower head (2 gallons/minute. This is two 7 gallon showers. With my current shower head I can take 3.5 minutes showers. I got a shower flow control valve that will allow me to turn the water off momentarily to soap up without having to readjust water temperature (and waste water in the process). Putting a timer in the bathroom lets me keep track of how much water I'm using.
I am also looking at low flow shower heads, however, 2 gallons per minute is already considered 'low flow' because the typical shower head uses about 3-4 gallons per minute. There are some that allow for 1.5 gallons per minute allowing my showers to go to 4:40 minutes! So exciting.
Friday, October 29, 2010
We've been getting some crazy weather here lately....
This morning we had a light sprinkle of rain and the temp was around 55. By the afternoon, however, winds were consistently 30 mph with gusts of 50 mph and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees (during the day!) to 35. Planning my bike home to when there was a break in the rain, I rode home realizing that transporting myself around during the rest of this project isn't going to get any easier...
While I didn't get rained on riding home, we found ourselves riding against 30 mph winds. Turning what is typically a 25 min commute (6-miles) into a 50 min one. Turning around a corner anytime I was going west STOPPED my bike. And swirling gusts of 50 mph wind literally blew me sideways off the trail (yeah I was in the grass). We were afraid to bike next to each other and rode behind to avoid blowing into each other. Pretty scary conditions to be biking in. I quarantined myself into my house the entire next day (which was also really gusty, powerful winds), refusing to go out and risk my life on the road :/ I found out later that day that the crazy weather was caused by the lowest barometric pressure on record being set at 28 some in Hg. Always one for a bit of history, my mom sent me this email,
"I heard on the news this am that we here in Minnesota have just experienced the lowest barometric pressure drop in recorded history! This has created ridiculous winds – comparable to a category 3 hurricane. The previous lowest drop in barometric pressure ever recorded happened during the storm system that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in 1974. Yesterday, there were already 15-20 swells on Lake Michigan, so we will see what today brings…"
On top of that, the first 32 degree temperature was reached this Friday morning, October 29, tied for the 9th latest below freezing temperature in the Twin Cities (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/). It really surprised me to hear that we have seen a warmer October than usual (the average first 32 degree temperature is Oct 6th). I think this just illustrates how much more connected I am to the weather day-to-day than I have been every before in my life, it never seemed this colder before! Each morning I check, not only only the temperature, but also be sure to take note of the wind speed and direction. I know I'm going to have a tough ride in the morning if there are strong eastern winds. While people are generally concerned with what the highest daily temperature is, I more often care what the LOW is. I end up biking in almost the lowest temperature every morning leaving around 7:30am.
This article on MPR's website (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/) mentions that snow might be a possibility during the project (ending nov 22nd). As they say:
"It's wayyyy out in the medium range forecast models and could be pure fiction at this point...but the models are hinting at the potential for our first big snow in southern Minnesota the weekend of November 13-14."
Crossing my fingers that that won't happen. While its already cold, dealing with ice and snow on the ground would be an even more precarious biking situation.
We are also slowly and steadily getting less daylight. When I am leaving in the morning now it is just dark enough to want to have bike lights on, and I try to make sure the leave campus before it gets dark. It's getting more stressful to ride when I feel like I am less visible to drivers.
EVERYTHING gets harder when it gets dark, and cold.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
My collection of containers has been slowly but steady growing throughout this project. Every couple weeks I seem to find a few items that come in bulk or reusable containers that I wasn't aware of before. Many items we typically buy in a grocery store come in glass containers, but before this project I never though twice about recycling containers when their contents were empty, they simply didn't mean anything to me anymore. The fact is, whatever we are buying we are PAYING for that container as well as the contents inside it. I have begun to feel much more connected to the containers I am buying because I have actually purchased them in the form of; mason jars, growlers or milk containers.
In the case of the mason jars which are less than $1 each, I may not be paying much more for the container buying it separately and getting bulk foods than I would be buying an item in a glass jar similar to it. In fact, because I only have to buy the container ONCE, the cost really pays for itself quite quickly. The milk jugs and growlers are a bit different. Each time I return a milk jug or growler I am refunded a deposit for the empty container and make a new deposit on the new container. The deposit for my milk jug is $1.50 and the growler is $4. In this way, I am really not paying for the container, but simply renting it. By placing only a small monetary value on containers they suddenly become much more precious.
In our house, if a few of us end up buying the same milk we make sure to keep the number of milk jars that belong to each person straight . In the same way, the growlers of beer are taken home by the people who brought them after a party. A friend bought a jug of milk for me the other day in one such container. After he dropped it off and left I realized that he had not only bought my milk but also paid the deposit on a container that I now had. I felt kind of guilty. When was the last time you left a jar of pickles at someone's house and they made sure you got the glass container when they were done with them? It wierd, buts it kind of nice. Placing value on more of the things we own I believe makes us increasingly aware of the value of every item. There is quite a bit of energy that went in to making all that packaging, the price reflects it, but we typically throw away this packaging without a thought. In a way, this also makes people more aware and responsible for the waste they create. Even $1.50 on a milk jug is enough to want to bring it back to the grocery store each time and trade it in instead of simply recycling it.
Below are some images of the reusable containers I have collected and the waste that is avoided by using them:
|4 bottled beers saved by a reusable growler from a local brewery|
|milk cartons (not recyclable) saved by a glass milk jar|
|egg cartons to buy 'by-the-egg' at the co op|
|various sized reuable jars replace baking packaging waste|
|elimination of uncessary and excessive packing of individual tea packets (bulk with tea infuser)|
Watering my plants today I noticed some strange green blobs. Very small, and on the underside of leaves. APHIDS! Upon closer inspection, they were almost covering the stem of one of my cilantro plants (that has already made a miraculous recovery from being improperly transplanted). I have no idea how aphids got into an indoor garden when the windows are never open? Not a problem I thought I would run into with the grow table. So I got out the garden book....
|aphids on the cilantro|
Insect pests prefer sickly plants to healthy ones, attacking the easiest prey (which may explain why they went after the cilantro). Stressed plants can be caused by fluctuations in soil or air temperature, to little or too much water, not enough nutrients, compacted soil or wrong PH. In this way, pests are 'symptoms' of a larger problem - the health of the plants.
Other tips from the book include:
_rotating plants from one part of the garden to another after each crop cycle
_deterring pest with herbs and flowers that have powerful scents (onions, garlic and chives)
_avoid planting all of the same type of plant in the same area (this makes it easy for pests to find what they want)
_avoid pairings such as (corn + tomatoes, potatoes + tomatoes +peppers + eggplant, and cucumbers + squash+ melons +pumpkins) which the same pests are attracted to.
_introduce beneficial predators such as; ladybugs, assassin bugs, parasitic wasps
However, if all else fails, as Edward Smith says in his Bible, "There's no nice way to say it: The time has come for killing." This, of course, should be done in a way that doesn't kill the beneficial bugs if possible. There are several methods for this:
_Hand picking. Place them in a tin full of water and a little soap so they are sure to die. The best hunting time is early morning, the bugs are "logy and tend to fall right off the plants and into the water. I turned my plants over and rinsed the leaves completely, then hand picked any others I could see. I mean, they are green so I can't be sure :)
_Natural or other pesticides, "we can't get away from the fact that pesticides we apply to our crops are poisons, whether they come from a chemistry lab or, like phyrethrum, from a daisy. Some botanical pesticides appear to do their work with few drawbacks: Garlic spray and hot pepper wax repel pests; insecticidal soap and neem usually kill pests without injuring other life-forms.
So that's all well and good. However, my garden is inside, meaning many of the 'solutions' proposed here are not applicable. I don't have the option of introducing beneficial insects without running the risk of them taking over the house. I can't really rotate my crops as they are all in pots. And, really? How did I get aphids in the first place? One culprit may be the greens I bring home from the grocery store. I've taken to the habit of placing them in a vase of water on the grow table instead of refrigerating them to save space in the fridge.
After inspecting all my plants closely, it seems that none of the vegetables were affected except a hot pepper plants I got from the farmer's market this summer. The greens got hit hardest. This is strange because the greens and the cilantro are on opposite sides of the table, meaning the aphids somehow went over the vegetables and only chose to attack the greens. The greens are a problem because it isn't easy to just pick or wash the aphids off. It is a jungle in there. Because I planted them as 'microgreens' they are extremely close together and hard to pick through. I'm not sure what I think about the micro greens anyway because they aren't really growing the way I assumed they would. Maybe I am planting the wrong crops to use as micros, but the collards, arugula and romaine are still not really tasting that great and are still quite small. My single romaine plant that is almost 8" tall after 70 days of growing, and the small micro-romaines are only about 4", still not ready to eat.
I am going to quarantine the micro greens at this point and treat them with a soap mixture spray. If they don't get better, its not a huge loss, and think that growing the single plants might be a better option anyway....
It hasn't been all bad in the garden lately, however. I have a green bean which I planted in a 3 gallon pot (to see if planting in large pots helps growth immediately). It literally grow before my eyes after popping out of the soil just 2 days ago and is now close to 3 inches tall! I also have a tomato and onion sprout that are looking good so far...
|quarantined micro greens|
|single potted romaine after 70 days|
|weeds! another indoor garden problem I didn't think I would have|
|green bush been growth after only 2 days!|
|spinach micro greens after 30 days of growth|
Monday, October 25, 2010
My friend Kevin (who I have thoroughly brainwashed throughout the course of this project) had an all local-food/drink dinner party tonight for his birthday. Throwing a few 3'x6' plywood boards on some cinder blocks he made a make-shift table to seat 18 people in his 1 bdrm apt. Who says you need a big place or exotic foods to throw a great dinner party?
I helped him cook up some local foods for the party as follows:
1_let rise in a warm place for 30 min
4 Roma tomatoes
tomatoes (guts taken out)
_carmelize onions in a liberal amount of oil
_toss with diced pears in frying pan for last 5 minutes
_spread mixture over pizzas
_top with chopped walnuts and garlic slices
Butter cream frosting:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 pure maple syrup
2 tbsp maple sugar
2-3 cups powdered sugar
3_ In a large bowl, mix together the flour and the ginger and set aside.
4_In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy.
5_ Add the eggs one at a time, beating until well combined.
6_Beat in the maple syrup gradually.
7_Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the water, beating after each addition until smooth.
8_Pour the batter into the prepared pans; prepare a hot water bath to be placed on the rack underneath the cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tests done (the toothpick test).
9_Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
10_To make the buttercream frosting: mix butter, extract and syrup till smooth. Add powdered sugar (a few tablespoons at a time), beating on high speed (my handmixer has three speeds) till frosting reaches desired consistency.
11_When cake has cooled, ice between the layers. Ice top and sides of cake, sprinkling the top with chopped walnuts.
He asked everyone to bring a local wine or beer. Many people brought growlers of beer from local breweries which was great, no glass waste! A few people tried their hand at cooking some local dishes as well which were all excellent:
Expanding on my last post, I calculated an estimate of how much food I eat each week to find out how much I would need to be storing during months outside of the growing season. Although in this project I will not need to store food for longer than the last 3 weeks of the project (beginning of November to the end on Nov. 22nd), I would like to speculate on how much food I would need if I were continuing to eat only local foods through the entire year. Looking back on the records I've been keeping on what I am eating every day, each week I eat:
_(other fruit when available)
_2 bunch of some kind of greens
_7 hot peppers
_2 bell peppers
_3 heads of garlic
_(other vegetables as they are available)
I am growing greens so those would not need to be kept in some way (and it would be hard to keep greens). However, for the rest, each month I would need:
_28 hot peppers
_8 bell peppers
_12 heads of garlic
From looking back at my in-season food chart http://100dayswithoutoil.blogspot.com/2010/10/day-66how-food-comes-and-goes.html, I can calculate how much food I would need to cover all months that each food isn't in season. The results are as follows:
Starting on November 1st I am going to be using only stored foods for the remainder of the project. Here is the plan:
According to the University of Minnesota Extension http://www.extension.org/faq/1206 you can store potatoes 4-6 months if kept in a cool (40 degrees) environment. Sprouting at high temperatures is a problem, and potatoes should be kept in the dark to avoid greening.
Canning seems to be the best way to preserve tomatoes. While a lot of energy goes into the initial canning process, afterwards, no additional energy is needed to store them (such as freezing).
Freezing is the most practical way to store these. Hot peppers seems to dry well, but can only be used in certain dishes after losing all their water content.
Drying and freezing are both options. Dried apples can be used for variety of things and take up much less space than freezing.
I have heard around that all of these have the possibility to be stored for up to 6 months when kept in cool (less than 40 degrees), and well ventilated locations. This doesn't seem to mean the fridge because there isn't much air circulation inside a refrigerator. A garage might work (don't have one of those). Root cellars were an essential part of homes before fresh produce was made infinitely available year-round. Built underground, or in a basement, they take advantage of the cool temperatures of the earth below grade. Because many crops like to be in damp environments, having them buried in damp sand is one method I have heard of.
Because I am only storing for less than a month, I won't have to worry about coming up with something close to root cellar-like conditions for most of the food, but this is an interesting consideration for designing homes in a post-cheap-oil world...
How to eat locally all year long (storing enough food and growing enough food to last through the winter) is an form of great art. I have a few friends who have successfully done this but it takes a TON of planning and a good sense of how long it takes to grow everything (planting timing) and what time of year everything is available. The following graphic is a combination of one I found on the Minnesota Farmer's Market's website as well as my own experience looking for produce at the markets and coops.
The solid black line represents when foods are available in season. Gray line shows foods that can be stored for a significant amount of time. Hollow line shows what foods I am currently storing (canned, frozen or dried). Dashed line shows the plan I have for growing food on my grow table. While, the grow table seems to work best for greens and herbs, and I am still testing out what vegetables have enough light to produce fruit.
(click to enlarge)
Living oil-free is taking its toll on my stylistic expression of freshness. Temperatures have dipped into the low forties in the morning when I am waking up and biking to school (7:30 am) and our heat hasn't come on yet (as fellow Minneapolis renters can sympathize with, I can't wait for the morning to come when the radiators kick on for the first time, heating up all the old wood in this house to smell fabulously winterish).
I have been using hot water for my 1 gallon bucket shower in the morning (or heating it on the stove). Regardless, standing in a 60 degree bathroom soaking wet while sudzing up, it doesn't matter what temperature your water is, you're still going to be cold by the time you're done.
Freezing cold and deciding what to wear after this morning ritual of consistent suffering inevitably ends up being THE WARMEST THING POSSIBLE. Everyday. Which for me, as a cold body to begin with, is the same thing (with slight variations). I also have to consider the one time of day that I may warm up a little bit - when I'm biking). Biking 8 miles to St. Paul every morning without dressing in appropriate biking layers inevitably ends up in a sweaty mess.
So...thermal layers, warm socks and a fleece it is, it just isn't worth the misery of being cold all day wearing hardly anything else.
And its getting colder...
Wearing the same thing everyday does have its advantages, however. I only really have to wash base layers and socks and underwear. This makes it easy to fit within my weekly water budget for laundry (or even go two weeks without having to wash anything).
The graph below shows what time of day I am using my water throughout a typical day (click to enlarge):
There are three times a day when I am using the most water: right when I get up (6:15-7:45), dinner time (6:30-8:15) and before bed (10:00-11:45). During the day I am really only drinking water as I am doing most of my lunch cooking the night before.
I'm not sure yet how this affects the design of systems, but its an interesting analysis...
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
About a month ago I put some mesh around the grow table to keep the cat off of the greens. Quille was happy because she was no longer banished to the kitchen during the day, greens were safe, but grow table was hard to access. So with the help of some furring strips, we made a frame for the mesh and doors! Now the grow table looks super great and is easy to get in and out of! Check it out:
|finished table with doors!|
I'm going to start some new vegetable seeds today as well, planting some of the varieties that died when they got too hot in week 3. Although my vegetables are growing REALLY slowly, I want to see which ones eventually fruit with the available light. It is likely that none of the vegetables I am growing now (except greens and herbs) will be harvestable during the project, but, lets face it: with a grow table like that, I'm committed.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
"In the process of nature there is no throwing away."
It was recommended to me by a composting veteran to read two books: Let it Rot by Stu Campbell and Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Applehof. I'm most of the way through Let it Rot so far. This is what I've found:
Each household in the US produces 230 pounds of yard waste and 100 pounds of food waste each year. Obviously, there are many residents like myself that don't have a yard, so our primary waste is food waste. This seems to be the ideal situation for indoor composting. Not too much waste being produced, and worms to speed up the decomposition of food.
Though the focus of Campbell's book is on creating compost for a garden, it is good information for indoor composters who simply wish to create less waste as well. Campbell goes through a list of 'beneficial compostable materials' which I will summarize here:
_ASHES: which coal ashes are toxic, wood ashes provide potassium and can be a pest deterrent. Burning skins of some foods is also a good way to release this potassium.
_GARBAGE :this is my main compost item in the form of food scraps
_GROUND STONE AND SHELLS
_NEWSPAPERS: black ink in newspapers is contains Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are toxic. There is some debate about how these molecules break down and are neutralized by compost. Colored ink, however is fine.
_VEGETABLE PLANTS (once harvested)
_WEEDS: compost can 'thermal kill' weed seeds so that they are safe to spread on next years garden
In general, it is good to avoid:
_CLOTHES (all synthetic now)
_SLUDGE (human waste)
Another main point Campbell makes is that the ratio of carbon to nitrogen (two key ingredients for decomposition) should be around 30:1. Nitrogen is plentiful in greens and leaves, whereas carbon is found in vegetable scraps.
I have been composting for 62 days now and have not had to empty my bin. In fact, it is only about half full ( I am beginning to believe my friend John who claims that worms allow the compost to not really accumulate. We probably over feed our worms between the 3 of us in my house, as we all cook quite a bit. Campbell says that after 2-3 months, compost is nearly 'finished'. A way to harvest this compost to make compost tea (a natural fertilizer) or to spread on a garden or mix with soil is to move the compost to one side of the bin. On the other side, place a new wet bedding of newspaper and some new food scraps. The worms will eventually begin to migrate to the new food scraps on the other side.
I opened the bin today to find sprouts in my compost! Maybe it is starting to become finished compost. There are dangers to using not-finished compost to grow plants because bacteria in the compost may get into the roots of plants, which is fine for the plant, but won't be good for you to eat it. Campbell introduces a way of burying compost in rotating trenches in your garden each year to let it mature in the soil for a year before planting directly in it.
|sprouts in the compost!|
Monday, October 18, 2010
It has been a bit of a struggle to adapt sweeteners in this project. Not because we lack sweeteners native to Minnesota, but because I never really USED the ones that originate here...
Quick overview of the various sweeteners generally used:
Table Sugar- This is the processed, refined sugar from beets or sugarcane that has all molasses taken out. Brown sugar falls in this category as well. It has had the molasses removed but then added back in. These are the most processed sugars and have no nutritional value.
"Raw Sugar"- These sugars are from the same sources as table sugar but do not remove the molasses. Turbinado Sugar is in this category (Sugar in the Raw). These have some nutritional value (though no sugars have enough nutritional value for that to be a justifiable reason to eat them except in very small quantities.
Agave Nectar- From Blue agave cactus plants. Native to Mexico and about 90 percent fructose, agave is sweeter than sugar and has more concentrated fructose than HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).
Barley Malt and Brown Rice Syrup- Made from maltose which is less sweet than fructose. Used like molasses in sauces, muffins and other moist baked goods.
Coconut Sugar- Made from a coconut palm tree, this sugar is similar to brown sugar and higher in nutrients than other sugars.
Honey- The sweetest of all natural sweeteners, meaning you don't need as much of it. Good to use for adding moisture in baked goods. Honey is the only sweetener available in a raw form. Ames Farm produces raw honey, which is not filtered or blended with other varieties as typical honey is.
Maple Syrup- Not as sweet as table sugar but also adds moisture.
Molasses- A byproduct of processing sugar.
Stevia-Not technically a sugar, this sweetener is extracted from Stevia plants and is about 300 times as sweet as sugar, but has no calories. Because it isn't a sugar, it does not react the same way in cooking and baking making it difficult to substitute. It is good, however, for sweetening drinks and is becoming more popular.
Of all these sweeteners, I am limited to Maple Syrup, Maple Sugar and Honey. Sugar beets grow all around here, but I have yet to find beet sugar that is refined and processed locally. This isn't all bad, the ones I have are great natural sweeteners, but it takes some getting used to having everything taste like maple and honey :)
I found this Maple Sugar Cookie recipe on Food.com. It is from the New England chapter of the United States Regional Cookbook, Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, 1947. This is the real deal, a recipe without having to make substitutions! (Except I took out the lemon). http://www.food.com/recipe/maple-sugar-cookies-295906
The dough is excellent! Cookies are alright too, I only cooked them for 10 minutes so they are more squishy. Yeah for sweets, its been a while :)
I watched a great documentary on how different oil products are made and the extent of these products throughout our lives: History Secrets: Secrets of Oil last night and this is what I found!:
To make all petroleum products it must be refined in different ways from crude oil (the state it is in when it comes out of the ground). Oil refining has four stages:
Crude oil can be separated into mixtures with various hydrocarbon makeups to make all kinds of different products. This is done by boiling crude oil in a huge, tall tower at temperatures of up to 700F. As the crude boils, different hydrocarbon molecules within the crude begin to vaporise at different temperatures, thus separating it into various vapors. Each vapor rises to a certain point in the tower and as it cools it condenses and is drawn off at specific levels depending on the weight of the molecules. For example, the lightest gasses which are used to make aspirin (yes, aspirin is a petro-product) rise to the highest level of the tower. The heaviest molecules, those used to make gasoline and jet fuels, sink to the bottom and are drawn off by pipes at that level. Asphalt is the 'bottom of the barrel' product, as it is the heaviest and collects at the bottom of the tower. Here is a diagram of what the breakdown of products in a barrel of oil is (to be expanded later):
The second step in refining is 'hydrocleaning'. This is the first stage of 'filtering' the different products. Each product that comes out of the tower has different requirements for refining and goes through a slightly different process of cleaning and filtering. In the hydro cleaning phase, a large amount of sulfur is removed from the products. This sulfur is then sold as agricultural fertilizers, to make tires and to make explosives.
Third, during the 'cracking' stage, products are altered molecularly to created new products.
Lastly, different products are blended together with others to create the finished product.
As you can see, petro-products must go through quite a bit of refining to be manufactured into the products we buy every day. When plastics were first being made they were actually quite expensive. However, as is the trend in economics, as they grew to a massive manufacturing scale, the price decreased to the extremely inexpensive point it is at today. Oil has some things going for it. Because it is a liquid (in most forms) it is easily transportable. It is easily manipulated in processes such as 'thermoforming' (heating and pulling over a mold).
Some examples of products we use every day which are made from oil:
Lubricants-One of the most important oil products. Used in almost anything with moving parts (watches and motors). Petroleum based lubricants do an excellent job of reducing the heat created when two objects moving together creating a thin cooling film.
Water pipes-Once made of copper, today 66% of water pipes are made from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
Asphalt- Four out of every five homes have asphalt shingles today. While asphalt can be found naturally in tar pits, today almost all of it comes from oil refining. Of the asphalt which is refined from oil: 15% is used for roofing, less than 15% is used for water resistant structures (sea walls, boats) and the remaining is used to cover roads. On that note, of the 4 million miles of roads in the United States, 94% are covered in asphalt. Asphalt fills in cracks and binds the aggregates of roads together. "American roads contain more than 19,000 square miles of asphalt."
Mineral Oil- Also known as baby oil, this is a petroleum product we are probably all familiar with. Here are some applications of mineral oil:
_Rubbed on the skin of infants for diaper rash and used as a lubricant during child birth
_Taken orally as a lubricating laxative
_Common ingredient in baby lotions, ointments and cosmetics. Used in mascara to prevent brittleness and in lipstick.
_As a transformer oil in industrial/mechanical capacities
_As a preservative in shoe polishes, wood
_Used on cooking utensils, cutting boards, cookware and bake ware to prevent food from sticking
_Principle fuel in gel-candles
_Fog and Haze machines
_As a pesticide
_The basis for most automotive engine oils
The most significant petroleum product, however, is plastic. Plastics are made from monomers and converted into a 'feedstock' of tiny pellets which are melted and mixed with other products to create different plastics. There are seven basic feedstocks:
We ingest it, rub it on our bodies, transport our water through it, spread it on our food crops, lubricate our engines with it and drive on it. Petroleum really is everywhere.
I have a confession. The past 2-3 weeks or so I have slowly started to phase out of using the water barrel, falling back into more 'comfortable' habits of water use. I have been running tap water to; do the dishes, fill up my shower bucket, wash my face and hands and brush teeth. I've been feeling kind of guilty about this because although I have a vague idea of how much water I'm using running the tap, I don't really know for sure. To ease my conscience, and to make sure I am keeping on track with this project I wasted a bunch of water today running all the fixtures I use in my house to see what the exact flow rates were (timing myself to see how long it takes to do each task).
It was really interesting to actually take a timer and see how long I run a tap doing dishes or washing my hands. I found that I only run a tap for; 20 seconds each time I wash my hands or brush my teeth, 1 minute to wash my face, and 7 minutes for rinsing dishes while washing. I measured the flow rate of my shower head which came out to be 2 gallons/minute. I timed how long it took for me to do everything first. Then ran the faucet at the same rate for each specific amount of time, capturing it in a 1 gallon bucket to measure.
What I found was really interesting. Most of my habits have really not changed from what I was using before the project started. Everyday water uses such as drinking, cleaning food, house cleaning, hand washing and doing dishes are all consistent with my uses before the project.
This scared me a little bit until I looked at the 'big users':
Showering, toilet flushing, clothes washing and taking a bath use TONS of water. My shower (which is a regular shower head, not low flow) fills up a gallon bucket in 30 seconds. This means it has a flow rate of 2 gallons/minute, and a typically 10 min shower uses 20 gallons! I used to take a bath about every week which is 70 gallons of water (10 gallons a day if measuring daily). An average toilet flush is 2 gallons (5 times a day = 10 gallons). By flushing only twice a day and putting a milk carton in my tank to make it 'low flow' I only use 1.6 gallons per flush (3.2 gallons per day). Lastly, as I've mentioned before, a typical clothes washer uses 42 gallons per load (6 gallons a day if doing only 1 load a week). My method of washing uses 14 gallons (2 gallons a day) and I haven't even been doing laundry every week.
The chart below shows all my daily water uses, the big users stand out clearly (click to enlarge):
In total, the amount of water I was using before this project was 48 gallons/day. I am now using an average of 15 gallons per day. And the only things I have changed are showering, bathing and clothes washing. The point is, when it comes to water, there really seem to be a few 'big water users' that are responsible for our huge over consumption of water. (Another big one that doesn't apply to my living situation is watering the lawn).
In the beginning of the project I was trying REALLY hard to minimize water in all aspects of my life: Using only 1 gallon of water total to do dishes (which my roommates loved because there was always dish soap left on them). I was deciding what I cooked based on much water it would take to boil, and in general minimizing every use as much as possible. This wasn't easy, and I was constantly worrying about how much I was using and struggling to use the least possible. Once I had established some changed habits which addressed big water users (shower, toilet and clothes washing primarily) I fell back into 'comfortable habits' of water use and found that I am still using EXACTLY my water budget. What a relief. It was really enlightening to measure all my uses and total them for each day, I think for many people, doing an exercise like this would help them identify what the big water users in their life were and help to target those and ease some of the worry every time we turn on the tap.
We are fortunate in Minnesota to have a decent amount of average rain and precipitation (29.3 inches/year). In a place like Phoenix, AZ (which only gets 8.6 inches/year) meeting my water budget would be significantly more difficult. However, there are also plenty of regions in this country and throughout the world that get quite a bit more rain than we do as this graphic from http://www-das.uwyo.edu/~geerts/cwx/notes/chap17/us_precip.gif illustrates:
Sunday, October 17, 2010
There are some pretty backwards energy using devices we use on a daily basis, the most bizarre one of these in my opinion is energy usage while we work out. When you really think about it we are using electrical energy to burn calories (burn our own energy), which means we are not only using our OWN energy, but also the energy to run machines. Using energy to use our own energy, pretty strange. I looked into how much energy is used running on a treadmill for half an hour:
This website http://www.treadmillsusa.com/HPnotes.htm tells me that the average treadmill uses about 2HP (anywhere from 1.75 HP to 3.00 HP). There are 750 Watts in 1 HP, so a 2 HP motor uses about 1500 Watts. For half an hour this is 0.75 kWh (1.5 x 0.5kWh ).
How does this compare with how much energy our bodies use running for half an hour? I burn about 590 calories per hour running (295 calories per half hour) according to this site: http://www.nutristrategy.com/activitylist4.htm.
With 295 Calories per half hour, this comes out to 0.000319825 kWh per workout. Comparing this to the 0.75 kWh per workout on a treadmill, running outside or around a track uses 0.0004% of the energy you would in a gym. This means you would have work out for half an hour 2,345 times to use as much energy as the treadmill is using in the half hour you run on it (or for 1,172.5 hours (48.85 days).
It is ironic that we use so much energy getting around in cars every day and then need to spend MORE time burning more of our own energy because we didn't use any of it during the day. I can recall many days before this project when I woke up, got on a bus to school, sat at a desk all day and then got on a bus, sat in my house for a few hours before bed and then slept. Literally the farthest I would walk is up or down a flight of stairs (and I wouldn't even have to do that if I didn't want to, I could have taken the elevator). Point being, our society is built around using energy to minimized the energy we need to use ourselves. This isn't helping us, however, because we end up having to use that energy somehow (working out) or our 'unused energy' in the form of food eaten just turns to fat, making us unhealthy.
It is interesting to consider a workout on a treadmill as an 'energy loss'. There are no positive benefits from the energy the treadmill uses, but there are positive benefits for the energy our BODIES lose. How can we use our own energy without wasting other energy?
_walking to run errands
_take the stairs
_running outside, or around a track
_using workout machines which only rely on your own energy
It really does make a difference, to your health and to the health of our environment.
Friday, October 15, 2010
The typical street is full of people trying to get places; pedestrians, bikes, cars, buses, trucks...Our society has a mentality of needing to get places fast, no matter where they are going, or if they are even in a hurry. In a totally unscientific argument, I have observed that the need to go fast ironically goes up the faster mode of transportation you are in. When walking we are typically not in too much of hurry. In a car, however, our #1 objective is to get where we are trying to go in the fastest way possible. Biking is somewhat of a middle ground. Bicycle commuting is obviously a way to GET places (as is walking), but people often bike in a more relaxed manner than they drive (again,, unscientific observation). The different attitudes of people contributes to quite a bit of conflict on the road.
I'd like to spend a moment stereotyping first:
|(click to enlarge)|
Jokes aside, the reality is that each of these different people are in different states of mind, with one common goal to GET places.
I think it is difficult for drivers who have never commuted by bike to understand what it is like to get around this way. How fast I am biking and my mood are just about directly related to how cold it is outside. Sometimes biking around isn't a real pleasant thing, but if its the only way to get somewhere, so be it. I guess what I'm trying to say is, when I'm CRAWLING up the Cleveland Ave hill in 40 degree weather, getting rained on, after having biked for 8 miles to get there, that is the FASTEST I CAN GO. Promise. If I had a bike lane to get into to get out of your way, I would use it so don't yell at me. :)
In the film "No Impact Man", a film about a couple in New York and their baby girl living as "no impact" as possible, the wife describes the feelings she had about bikers in a very interesting way. She describes feeling like the BIKERS were the ones making roads unsafe for CARS because they are hard to see and cars are constantly having to get out of the way. While this might seem ridiculous, it is really interesting to hear very honestly what it is that goes through people's minds to react the way they do as drivers of cars (and on bikes). Everyone has a reason to think the way they do, and the only way to resolve these issues is to take a meaningful look into another person's life and try to understand where their opinions are coming from
I actually wrote this entire post, and then deleted it because it had such an "angry biker" tone that wasn't addressing the real obstacles of getting around by bicycle. Whether this one has any better tone, I'm not sure. What I do understand, is that although our safety on the road as bicyclists is very personal, ranting about the "asshole bus driver that cut me off" and the "cars" who "don't care about us" (whether they do or not) is just an expression of bitterness and fear and would not be getting to the core of the issues-which are SO important.
The stories of bicycle dealths on the road are very sobering, as seen on websites such as http://www.ghostbikes.org/. A handful of bikers are killed each year in Minneapolis and 1000+ more are injured in some way.
The language we use to describe accidents is very telling of the way we view these incidents: We say, "that CAR hit me" or "that BIKE cut me off". We aren't recognizing the PEOPLE in those cars and on those bikes. We aren't recognizing each other as humans.
As my only way to get around these days is biking, I spend some quality time each day on the road trying not to die. The other day biking between campuses with a friend I realized that we have the SAME conversation about near-misses on bikes almost every time we ride together. We both always seem to have new stories about a car, truck or bus that cut us off, pedestrian we had to slam our brakes on for, or taxi cab that pushed the limits on how close they could get without hitting us. Almost everyone who bikes knows somebody who has been seriously injured by a collision on the road. There are many factors contributing to the ridiculous lack of safety commuting by bike, some of which is the bikers doing. Most of the accidents, however likely stem from the same few problems.The fact that getting around by bike is not safe is one of the biggest barriers to change for people who want to bike by are still commuting by car.
This post is dedicated to first of these barriers to change for bicycle commuting as I see it-understanding the laws for both bikes and cars:
PART 1: We all went to driving school, but none of us went to bicycling school.
A link to the Minnesota Bicycling Laws can be found on the City of Minneapolis website: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/UnderstandingtheLaw.asp
or directly here:
Allow me to summarize in my own words:
Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any vehicle except where bicycles are prohibited
No more people riding on bikes than the bike is designed to carry (except babies)
No hanging on to vehicles (which makes life difficult for tall bikes)
_Bicycles shall ride "as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway except" ...when passing a vehicle, when preparing for a left turn, when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, vehicles, animals, pedestrians
_Must ride in the direction of traffic
_"Cannot ride more than two abreast and shall not impeded the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, remaining inside a single lane"
_When biking on the sidewalk bikes must yield to pedestrians (bicycles are prohibited on sidewalks in business districts, map of zones is found here: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/CommercialZoningDistricts.pdf)
_When biking on the sidewalk in legal zones, bikes have all of the same right-of-way rights as pedestrians
When carrying articles you must keep at least one hand on the handle bars and be able to use your brakes.
Cannot ride bikes at night without :
_a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of 500 ft on the front
_a red reflector visible from 100-600 feet on the rear (red flashing signal light recommended)
_no operating without a brake
_"No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate the hands above the level of the shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.
_"No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle which is of such a size as to prevent the operator from stopping the bicycle, supporting it with at least one foot on the highway surface and restarting in a safe manner." (again tall bikes)
Cannot sell new bicycles without being equipped with reflectors and equipment required by Subd. 6
Must signal with arms continuously for 100 feet before turning (unless you lose control)
(according to parking laws http://library1.municode.com/default-test/home.htm?infobase=11490&doc_action=whatsnew) Bikes can park temporarily only in bike racks, but not street signs, parking meters or lamp posts :/
No bike racing, events or parades without city approval
Peace officers are exempts from all these rules
Laws in the Minnesota Driving Law that apply to bikes:
Subdivision 3: Passing:
"(3) the operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual. "
Subdivision 7: Laned Highway:
"(d) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway, any person operating a motor vehicle on such roadway shall not drive in the bicycle lane except to park where parking is permitted, to enter or leave the highway, or to prepare for a turn as provided in section 169.19, subdivision 1."
I believe the biggest misunderstanding that cars drivers have of bicyclists is that bikes don't have the same rights to the road as cars do. This is the first law of the Bicycle Laws, but isn't included anywhere in the Driving Laws. So, as a bike, we are aware we have a right to be on the road, but nobody ever told the cars.......?
As you can see, many of these laws are a bit muddy. What happens when you are biking down Hennepin Ave (really busy street in Uptown), traffic in both lanes, parked cars on each side, and are forced to bike in the lane and, consequently, slow traffic? Well, the reality is you nearly get hit by a bus or two.
As bikers and drivers we need to understand the laws of each and obey them! I feel a bit hypocritical saying this because I'm not exactly an angel on a bike and have tendency to bend and break the rules quite a bit (not stopping at all way stops, forgetting to signal...). Communicating with drivers, and being predictable are good ways to start, however we need to make cars aware of our rights on the road, and this begins with educating people about the laws....
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
56 days into the project and my plants are not looking very harvestable. The time to harvest on most of the vegetables is around 80 days, but looking at them now, I really doubt I will have plump, ripe jalapenos and bell peppers from my 4 inch tall plants in 25 days :/
I guessed that they would take longer than usual, but I'm wondering now if they have enough light to produce fruit. Regardless, the greens and herbs won't have a problem except slow growing.
I'm also having a problem with many of the plants getting slightly yellow leaves on the bottom and the cilantro is totally dying. I did some reading on it in Edward Smith's book The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (really great resource) and it sounds like cilantro has trouble transplanting and needs very well drained soil. Being that it is in a plastic tub with no bottom holes, that could be part of the problem :) also, they got transplanted as seedlings and were one of the only plants I tried and saving each seedling instead of cutting the ones growing out of one one down. I'm going to start another batch of them directly sowing them into the planters and see if they do better. I also drilled holes in all of my tubs and elevated them on bricks above a few seed flats to give them better drainage. I placed the potted plants on stones so they weren't sitting in any excess water that drains into the catchment trays. Hopefully this will save them! Trial and error woooo!
|herbs and arugula|
|pots on stones for drainage|
|tubs on bricks/flats for drainage|
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
After analyzing how much time is dedicated to various activities in my life in the last post, I wanted to see how my use of time translates to the built environment of my house:
The diagram below shows how the use of space in my house relates to how much time I am spending in these spaces. My use of space has changed during the course of this project just as the time dedicated to certain activities has. I spend more time doing dishes, tending to plants , dealing with waste and cooking, and less time washing, and relaxing in my living room :). um, wow. Homes in a post-oil age would help to accommodate these changes in lifestyle by dedicating more, and better quality space to activities which we spend a lot of time doing.
Figure 1 shows the spaces in my house which are dedicated to various activities
Figure 2 uses my pie graphs of time spent doing various activities (from last post) and translates them onto the plan of the house
Figure 3 reorganizes and re sizes the spaces in my house to be more reflective of how I use my time (and what emphasis should be placed on certain rooms).
The size and quality of spaces in my house does not necessarily reflect the amount of time I spend there. For example, my kitchen is a fairly large space, but not a great quality space. Many kitchens are designed for function and are quite small compared to the living room. If you had a tiny kitchen and spent 7% of your life cooking (as I do now) you would be happier with a larger, light-filled kitchen (as many living rooms are). By making the kitchen a better quality environment you are able to enjoy the spaces of your house which you spend a majority of your time in.
The majority of the time I spend in my house is sleep, working and cooking. My sleeping space does not need to be as large as it is now even though I spend a lot of time in it because, well, I'm unconscious :) This 'frees up' space for a bigger kitchen and work space. The living room space is typically the space people hang out in, however, when I have people over to cook (which is a lot) EVERYONE hangs out in the kitchen. That's where the action is and everyone is pitching in to help. By integrating the living space with the kitchen it allows the kitchen to become a large, quality space and still provides room for those people who are just hanging out.
Adjacency's are also important. Although this is a quick sketch, the logic behind where to put spaces in relation to each other is an important part of helping to facilitate the activities of the house. For example, all the 'water use' spaces are located next to each other (washing dishes, bathroom, shower). My experience using water from a rain barrel has made me realize that all of the uses of this water should be close together (less hauling). This means the kitchen needs to be next to the water spaces as well as the bedroom.
Both the kitchen and growing spaces should be near the compost. Food goes in on one side and can be accessed for use in soil on the other.
As mentioned the kitchen is adjacent to the living space, and the grow table runs along the kitchen, living and working spaces. The grow table could be a very pleasant environment, filled with living things, but also has a functional use. Food can be harvested literally IN the kitchen, but the growing plants can be enjoyed throughout the living spaces.
Monday, October 11, 2010
My schedule has been modified doing this project because there are quite a few things that just take A REALLY LONG TIME. Food is the big one, as I have mentioned before, but there are also smaller differences that add up which has recently been making me feel like there just aren't enough hours in a day. My time is getting sucked away and I wanted to figure out how:
The graphic below shows how I am using my time currently (no oil) compared to how I was before:
|(click to enlarge)|
The major differences are in food prep (an additional 7% of my time) and commuting (additional 3% of time). I spend slightly more time doing dishes but less time getting ready for the day (don't waste time in the shower when its in a bucket) and less time at the gym because I am getting good exercise biking around everywhere. Time left to study and do research, however suffers by about 2 hours.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I met Sarah Kunkel who is a graduate student in University of Minnesota's Nutrition program for dinner tonight at an all-raw restaurant a few blocks from my house (Ecopolitan), and picked her brain about the nutrition of my "no oil diet". I was curious to hear her thoughts on how my diet has either improved or degraded my health, as well as what 'holes' I had nutritionally. Here is what she had to say:
_While you should eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day (according to the government-created food health pyramid), it doesn't necessarily matter if the ratio of fruits to vegetables is exactly 50/50. This is good news for me because I am only eating apples and pear for fruit at this point which doesn't provide me with a wide array of vitamins. If I eat more vegetables to make up for my lack of fruit variety, then this works out.
_I haven't been eating meat during this project because of packaging restrictions. Sarah is a vegetarian and says she eats a lot of cottage cheese to get enough protein. A 1/2 cup of cottage cheese has 12 grams of protein, compared to a steak with has 18 grams. She also mentioned that in general, Americans eat WAY more meat than is necessary for their daily protein intake, and it isn't necessary to eat meat every day if protein requirements are being met in other ways. Some grains such as Quinoa are also a good sources of protein.
_We talked about fortified foods (foods which have had vitamins added to them). These are called "functional foods" in nutrition lingo, and are the subject of some controversy (Probiotic yogurt, goo-gels, pepsi fortified with vitamins, vitamin water). While it is better to get vitamins in foods rather than in supplement form because they are easier for your body to digest, it is better to get them in the form they originally come from. For example, milk is often fortified with Vitamins A and D. Neither of these vitamins are naturally occurring in milk, but they are both vitamins which the government has identified as deficiencies for the American public. One of the best sources for vitamin D is the sun. Because we are not out in the sun as much anymore, and when we are you cover ourselves in sunscreen, we don't get enough of this vitamin. In order for the body to absorb vitamin D, the sun has to be at a certain angle. In Minnesota, the sun is not at this angle from Nov-March. The controversy with functional foods also arises because there are dangers with having TOO MANY vitamins are well. Sarah explained that most single vitamins (ex. vitamin C) capsules contain way more of the vitamin than is needed every day. There are toxicity problems with eating too many vitamins just as there are with eating too few. Water soluble vitamins are not a problem because you simply pee out the excess.
_Being that we were at Ecopolitan, surrounding by die-hard raw foodists, we talked about some diets such as RAW and vegan. Her stance was that most of these diets are lacking nutritionally in some fashion. Both RAW and Vegan diets are lacking in calcium and cause bone structure problems with people who are on them long term.
_She explained that while it is clear that the leading health programs in our country related to food have conflicting intentions and are not necessarily looking out for our health, there may be a bit of 'over attacking' going on as well. There is a lot of attacking of processed foods, much of which is justifiable: Processed foods contain much more salt and less potassium than we need. Because our cells are a delicate balance between sodium and potassium if this is unbalanced we can end up with hypertension which is a blood pressure issue. High fructose corn syrup is another example. She explained that "sucrose is sucrose" and HFCS has only 5% more fructose than table sugar. Fructose and Glucose are what makes up table sugar. Fructose being the one that people have attacked because studies have found that it bypasses a feedback system in your body allowing you to eat more of it than you need. Glucose is regulated more easily in body feedback loops. Fructose, however is naturally found in fruits as well.
All of this talk left me fairly conflicted. Nutrition is a delicate balance and there is a lot of scientific data and studies getting thrown around every year which tell us what is "good" and what is "bad". In a post cheap oil world some of these problems of processed and functional foods will likely be eliminated as transportation of food is limited and foods no longer need to be preserved in the same way they would being trucked and stored for months. Eating foods from raw ingredients has made me more aware of what exactly I am putting in my body, and it is easier to analyze my diet to make sure I am getting the nutrients I need. This awareness, I believe, is possibly the best and easiest way to understand your diet, what your body needs and how to cook with foods available in your area to eat in a nutritionally balanced way.
After looking at my charts of data of what I have eaten for this entire project she pointed out that at the beginning of the project (when I was only eating vegetables and potatoes basically that I had a lot of nutritional gaps. However, as I learned to make breads and found out how to cook different meals with the ingredients available to me that my diet now is much healthier than the way I was eating before because I have been forced to eat much more fresh produce and no processed foods.
|RAWvioli at Ecopolitan|
She recommended the following resources to me as well:
_mypyramid.gov (allows to to put in the foods you eat each day and analyzes the nutrition balance accroding to the food pyramid)
_Michael Pollan's books especially (In Defense of Food)
_Eating Well magazine
_Farmer's Market Cookbook Featherstone Farms (a local CSA)
_Apples to Zucchinis book
_Fresh Earth Farms website (local CSA)