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)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


24 August 2010

miles biked - 18.76
water used -

One of the goals at the end of this project is to compile a local foods recipe document of things I ate during this project...This means I need to start making some good, local meals!  Today I ate a better meal than I have had in 10 days, pizza dough from scratch with pesto and local veggies.  Believe it or not this was my first time EVER making pesto (and pizza dough from scratch for that matter).  Without being able to buy pre-packaged foods EVERYTHING has to be made from scratch so I've a some learning to do.  Luckily, the bread maker uses quite a bit less energy when only mixing dough and not baking bread.  Baking in my toaster oven is way more efficient than in the oven as well (numbers to come on both of those appliances). 

The one ingredient that was not local was the pine nuts. As you may guess, Pine nuts come from pine cones found on pine trees.  While we do have a lot of pine trees around and often associate pine trees with northern climates, pine nuts grow on species of pines which grow in the Southwest, California and Mexico.  From wikipedia: In North America, the main trees  are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis), Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), and Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides). The other eight pinyon species are used to a small extent, as are Gray Pine (Pinus sabineana), Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana), Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) and Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrifolia).  Because I've never made pesto before I figured I should try it the traditional way first and then branch out into using local nuts (probably hazel nuts?)  They are the only local nut option available at the co-op, but there may be others... Besides the nuts, all ingredients are local and organic, and bought in bulk. 

The other big event I should mention is I bought cheese for the first time!   It is a locally made, organic Parmesan made by Sartori called 'Sarvecchio'.  Apparently it won some awards: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that SarVecchio Parmesan from Sartori Food Corp. in Anitgo was chosen as the best cheese in the United States at the annual U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.  It is pretty good.  While all cheese is wrapped in plastic at the co-op (a law that they have to package it behind the counter), being that I'll be accumulating a small amount of waste throughout the project, I can only buy it every once in a while.  Packaging is a tricky and touchy subject at the Wedge because for a while they allowed customers to bring in their own containers for the deli items.  This privilege was abused however, and people began bringing in containers that were too dirty, risking contaminating other containers and creating law suits...After speaking with a deli gal the other day it sounds like there are still a few options for getting cheese without the plastic.  All cheeses arrive already packaged in plastic except the wax covered ones.  This is tricky as well because if it is paraffin wax (an oil product) then I can't use that either.   I call ahead and ask what cheese is local and came in wax (so I know it didn't use any plastic).  I can special order local, oil free cheese this way, have yet to try this.  This limits my selection to only cheeses that come in wax, however, so if I want any other cheese, I have to buy the plastic packaging and store it in my non-compostable waste.  The idea I have with waste is that I don't end up with more than I could personally transport by bicycle to a waste facility.  This, of course would also use energy (as all waste is burned in Minneapolis).  I'm a little unsure what the best solution will be for the little waste I create during the project.

On to the recipes, below is what I used:

Pizza dough for bread maker:
1 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp maple sugar
4 cups bread flour (I used 3 white and 1 multi grain in this case)
4 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups packed basil
1/2 cup pine nuts (to be substituted with local ingredient)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/4-1/2 cups sunflower oil (depending how creamy you want it)

Pizza dough must rise in a warm place for 30 min, then pushed into a bread pan (I used only half today) and allowed to rise for another 30 min.  I brushed sunflower oil on top and then spread the pesto and topped with garlic chunks, tomato, and onions.  Bake for about 20-25 min on 425 (depending on how thick the crust maybe longer).  Pretty good eating I must say, then again, a little variety goes a long way these days :) Any other recipe ideas appreciated...


23 August 2010

miles biked - 13
water used - 9.0125 (surplus 5.9875)

mom and dad :)
While my seedlings haven't made any great improvements (except I got one jalapeno sprout today!) my parents offered to help me make some improvements on my grow table.  The table is slowly but surely taking over the entire dining room ha, today it went up a second story.  We made a hanging structure 3' off the table height so the grow lights can be suspended instead of being stacked on bricks.  The grow light is supposed to be about 6" away from the top of the plants, so having a way to adjust it as plants get bigger is important.  I'm guessing part of the reason the plants got fried was the grow light was too close?  Now it is farther away (about a foot) and casts a nice (but less intense) light on almost the whole table. 
updated grow table

Speaking of food, I made a meal for 3 (parents and I) for $8 tonight. It was my usual (potato and vegetable mix) I got fingerling potatoes, gypsy peppers and red bell peppers, onion, garlic and cilantro, with a sweet corn cob for everyone.  All local, all organic.    As I mentioned in my 'Week 1 summary' post, food for the whole week cost $48 that's $6.85 a day and includes a lot of bulk items that will last a while (oil, butter, sugar, flour, maple syrup and yeast).  Who says its too expensive to buy healthy, organic food? :)

Lastly, my parents officially took my car off my hands when they left.  They'll be using it for the next 100 days instead of having it sit unused in my parking lot.  No temptation now! Its all biking from here!



Day 1 - 12 miles biked
Day 2 - 24.1 miles biked
Day 3 - 0 miles biked
Day 4 - 12 miles biked
Day 5 - 18.5 miles biked
Day 6 - 14 miles biked
Day 7 - 46 miles biked

While I already was in the habit of biking the 12 mile-round trip to work and back, biking to run all of my errands was a new task.  Without a car (ample space) to put things I had to start getting in the habit of carrying bungee cords with me to strap things on to my bike rack, and thinking all the time about what errands I need to run and where I will be that day to minimize extra biking around. 




A list of local, organic vegetables found this week:

purple potatoes, yukon gold, fingerling potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, carrots, soybeans

blueberries (last week), cantaloupe, apples

oatmeal, whole grain bread flour, white flour, cornstarch(Whole Flour Milling)

milk (in returnable glass container)

basil, cilantro, garlic

sunflower oil, maple sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter (Hope Creamery in compostable vegetable wax paper)

_potatoes and vegetable mix, cooked in sunflower oil
_oatmeal with milk and berries
_whole grain bread

Looking back I'm surprised by the number of times I ate the SAME THING everyday.  My advisor Virajita related the experience of trying to eat only local like being a baby learning to feed yourself (and do anything for that matter) for the first time.  That's sort of how I felt this week, like I was just stumped by how I could cook a lot of different meals with the available ingredients.  It is certainly possible to make a variety of meals. I am hoping next week to explore some more creative/interesting meal options...suggestions?

It was also difficult to get in the habit of making time to cook meals.  Because I can't buy anything in a box (and it usually isn't local and organic) I have to break the habit of just grabbing something to eat-especially breakfast-and go.  A couple days I literally just went hungry for a while when I had to go to work and hadn't had time to make breakfast :/  this must change. 

On the other hand, it is AMAZING how different I feel after only a week of having produce be the majority of what I eat.  Giving up coffee left me feeling pretty drained the first few days, and by day 5 I was craving sugar and bread like a crazy person (that was remedied- see post).  It has been an interesting experience so far, and I've found that your body really TELLS you what you need (salt, sugar, fat etc).  I had a few slips binging on any chocolate still left around the house (in roommates cabinets, etc...) sorry karli.  While I had cleaned out most of the most that I wasn't able to eat during this 100 days, the things I left were all the things I never found that I ate anyway and just had around (and would keep for 3 months).  It was amazing how those foods that were "last resort" foods (cans of soup, frozen garlic bread, etc) all the sudden looked SO GOOD to me.  I think I'm going to have to give those away as well, its just too tempting to grab a pre-made meal when you are busy. 


Day 1 - 12.2625 gallons used (2.7375 surplus)
Day 2 - 15 gallons used (0 surplus)
Day 3 -  7.5125 gallons used (7.4875 surplus)
Day 4 - 5.95 gallons used (9.05 surplus)
Day 5 - 8.0125 gallons used (6.9875 surplus)
Day 6 - 7.3875 gallons used (7.6125 surplus)
Day 7 - 7.8875 gallons used (7.1125 surplus)

I ended up with 33.875 of "surplus" water this week.  My water quota (my share of average daily rainfall that lands on the roof)  each day is 15 gallons  (calculations on Day 1 post).  I was being fairly conservative about my water use this week because I had no idea how much I was going to use and need.  After a week of using about 7.5 gallons on average a day, I am realizing that in a world where it is necessary to capture use only the rainwater that lands on your roof that in Minnesota this will be one of the lesser challenges.  Any location throughout the country will have its advantages and disadvantages in a world without cheap oil.  Minnesota is blessed with a lot of rain, but will suffer because of the short growing season and the need to heat for a large part of the year. 

I think my goal for daily water use can be around 12 gallons a day.  I get 105 gallons a week (15 x 7 days) and if I want to keep 5 gallons for a longer shower and 15 gallons for cleaning the house and doing laundry I am left with a little more than 12 gallons a day.  These numbers make me happy because (unlike electric use) water use doesn't require much of a sacrifice.  The hardest part so far has just been breaking the habit of turning on the tap.  The first thing I have to do every morning is fill the rain barrel to 15 gallons so I have water to use for the day. 


Even though oil does not contribute much of electricity use, a goal of this project is to live in an energy balance.  Most of our electricity comes from coal (at least in this part of the country), and with coal being another fossil fuel (basically a younger version of oil (Hartmann)), it is important for me in this project to use only the electricity which I can get from renewable resources-thereby allowing me to use only the sunlight-energy which is landing on the earth's surface each day (as opposed to sunlight-energy resources which were formed over millions of years such as oil and coal).  Using only the daily amount of sun which lands on the surface of the earth each day will allow us to live in this energy balance again, creating a way of living that can truly sustain itself.    A great explanation of this is Thom Hartmann's book The Last Day's of Ancient Sunlight, really interesting book!

Ok, so I'm still in the process of getting some second opinions and harder numbers for what my electricity budget each day can be (based on how much solar power I can capture on my roof).  Hopefully by next week I will have a final number.  So far, however, I have been tracking how much all of my appliances use (lights, computer, kitchen appliances....):

Grow Light - 175 watts/hr
Refrigerator - 68.1 watts/hr
Electric Stove - to be determined
Computer - 27 watts/hr

While I have been tracking how long I am using all electrical appliances, I won't include total numbers here until I can get calculations for everything I'm using.  Its an interesting process to discover what are the huge energy users in your house.  My grow light is by far the largest energy user (1.4 kWh/day), the refrigerator is only about a third of the wattage of the grow light but being on for 24 hours it uses (1.6 kWh/day). 


First week of having compost has been a bit of a failure.  Luckily I have some great resources around me (friends who have composted) and hopefully I can work my problems out soon.  My "tub inside a tub" system with a lid proved to not allow enough ventilation.  My quick-fix was to replace the plastic lid with a sheet, but I'm looking into introducing worms into the bin (to speed things up and moderate the environment a little bit better)  So far however, I have accumulated the following non-compostable waste:

_plastic milk rings
_some packaging from hardware (grow table)
_plastic magazine cover
_paper waste

I'm hoping to find a use for the paper waste because that will be a difficult one to eliminate.  Beginning to call companies to reduce junk mail could help.  I can't compost the paper I don't think because it has oil-based (toxic) inks and dyes in most of it.  Newspaper, however, is regulated to be printed with only soy ink so it is safe to compost.  I'll be collecting the waste I create throughout the entire 100 days, it has been surprising to find how easy it is to NOT create waste, by buying in bulk (also cheaper and fresher food). 


For the most part, I am finishing off what cleaning products and personal hygiene products I already have before diving into creating my own "oil free" products.  I stored away any products which won't be used up within the first month, so at some point within the project I will have to create all of my own products from scratch.  On the medical side of the health I've begun reading about non-conventional medicines, for example- how do you treat pain relief without taking a pill (with oil additives). The purpose of this is to outline what form medicines may take without cheap oil.  Without making a statement (yet) about how alternative medicines compare to conventional medicines, hopefully this exploration is beginning to prepare myself for any medical situations that may arise during this 100 days. 


I've included this category because considering only our needs for survival in an exploration of what our world will be like without cheap oil would have left out a crucial part of needs as human beings; the need to connect to each other, communicate with people across long distances (especially with more-expensive travel), conduct business and entertain ourselves.  This category has less quantitative metrics because it is a measure of quality of life.  I haven't quite put my finger on how I can best document my experience of how these needs were met.  Part of the neglect of this category is that finding ways to meet my needs for survival has been occupying most of my time this week :)  I think as I get more in the habit of this new lifestyle, I will have more time to explore what role communication and entertainment will take in a time beyond cheap oil. 

Thanks to everyone who has been reading so far, creating a summary of each week helps me to organize my thoughts a bit better and find out where in the project I've been able to meet my goals, and where I need to do more research.  I can't believe it has only been a week.  It is amazing how adaptable we can be, like anytime life changes dramatically it is interesting to see how easily we can fall into place.