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)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


24 October 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.

I have some old jars that belonged to my great grandmother which she reused over and over to store foods that she made or bought.  They are decorations, as they may be in other people's homes as well.  They are just jars like the ones I buy, but because they are old they have a value that I don't associate with my new jars.  By actually placing value on the containers, whether nostalgic or monetary- I am much more aware of the waste I am avoiding creating.

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)


23 October 2010

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
I've heard you can get rid of aphids and other pests by spraying a light mixture of soapy water on the plants.  This kills the bugs, but it also can take it's toll on the plants if you aren't careful.  The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith, addresses ways to manage insect pests in a natural way by "creating a garden environment where creatures that protect plants and help them to grow outnumber and help to control the creatures that eat plants or disturb their growng; its all about creating an ecologically balanced garden" (157).

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