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, August 15, 2010



15 AUGUST 2010

miles biked - 12
water used -  12.2625 gallons (2.7375 surplus)
3.25 kWh used (without electric stove included)

“We must face the prospect of changing of basic ways of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature.”

(Jimmy Carter)


First day without oil and I've already googled "where does chocolate grow".  oh man.
While I have a few good ideas of meals to make for myself, after only one day I'm already starting to see how limiting buying only locally is.  That is, compared to the HUGELY VAST array of foods available for our consumption from all over the world.  I have come to take advantage and be dependant on foods that 100 years ago were not even a distant thought for native Minnesotans.  Coffee, spices, teas, chocolates, tropical fruits, olive oil, avocados, citrus, the list goes on. 

For breakfast this morning I made oatmeal with the last bunch of blueberries of the season.  Oatmeal is locally grown, bought in bulk at my grocery co-op.  Luckily, I live 3 blocks away from this grocery store, which is my only resource for food besides the farmer's markets and some scattered local/organic produce found at other high-end grocery stores.  I also came to realize that possibly my only option for sugar (besides sugar found in fruit) is honey.  I made the oatmeal with milk in a returnable glass jar (Cedar Summit), and added blueberries.  I'm going to need to research how long local grains are stocked in bulk at the co-op and maybe stock-up accordingly so I don't run out of all local grains.  A also made a meal of vegetables I found at the St. Paul farmer's market yesterday.  The St. Paul market is all local vendors, though not everyone is organic so I have to ask.  I mixed together yukon gold potatoes, green bush beans, garlic, cilantro and sauteed it all in a local/organic sunflower oil.  Sunflower oil is my replacement for olive oil as most of that is imported, and, sadly, none grown locally. 

The other obstacle I will run into is although there are a wide variety of locally grown vegetables in Minnesota, our growing season is less than 5 months.  This means that unless I can, dry or freeze foods there will come a point where nothing local is available.  It is too humid to dry many foods in Minnesota, especially meats, canning takes a huge amount of energy and freezing may also be out of my "electricity budget". 

To remedy this possible dry-out of available foods I've started seeds to grow vegetables in my living room.  I have a grow table 3'x8' which sits in front of a south-facing window.  The light coming in from the window is not significant so it has to be supplemented with grow lights .  I have a fluorescent grow light which is 20,000 lumens (about 1800 foot candles).  While this may seem like a lot, the comparative light that vegetables get outside is 50,000 foot candles.  The most efficient grow lights are metal halide and high pressure sodium (HPS), however, they use an ENORMOUS amount of energy, and would overtake my electricity quota.  With advising from Interior Gardens (an excellent interior growing store in NE) I was pointed towards fluorescent lights.  It is questionable whether these lights will be bright enough to grow certain vegetables, but the greens and herbs should get sufficient light. 

I spent last night starting my seeds.  To avoid using lots of plastic seed trays I am making soil blocks from a "soil blocker" mold.  I started 50 seedlings, an assortment of the following:
_Lemon Balm
_Romaine Lettuce
_Green Beans
_Collard Greens

The germination period on the vegetables and herbs is 5-8 days and the greens take 10-14 days.  Hopefully in a week or so I'll see some sprouts!


On another note, I've been composting for 2 days now, a last oil-world meal cooked last night resulted in almost a gallon of compost, which means I may end up with a lot.  My homemade composter is two rubber tubs stacked on top of each other, the top tub is shorter than the bottom one and has small holes drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage into the "catchment" tub beneath it.  The tub is covered with a lid. I'm mixing in newspaper with the compost and debating getting worms.  It sounds like worms create better quality compost for use in soil and compost faster...advice is welcome.


I've spent a part of the day calculating energy usage for various appliances around the house.  I'm using a "Kill-A-Watt" meter to count up kWh over time, which I can then calculate watts/hr.  In a spreadsheet I'm keeping, I'll be keeping track of all electrical use to make sure I don't go beyond my hypothetical solar array limit (still to be determined).
_laptop computer 27 watts/hr of use
_large fridge 68 watts/hr (continuous)
_grow light 175 watts/hr (8 hrs a day)

The grow light is a huge energy suck, I'll also be calculating energy used by my electric stove, radio and lights around the house. I avoided using lights all day because I'm unsure what my quota is at this point.


Everything today has taken about 4 times as long as it typically does.  Everything I did I had to think about how I was going to go about it.  We confirmed the square footage of my house last night as 1791 sq ft, thus harvesting 120 gallons a day (average rainfall) (see calculation on first post).  This leaves me with exactly 15 gallons a day to use.  I filled a 15 gallon rain barrel this morning which has a pump.  This is a good way to store all my day's water but makes it difficult to use for various purposes (hand washing in bathroom, showering)  This morning I took my first 1 gallon bucket shower and had plenty to spare.  I imagine most day's I will be able to use 1 gallon for showering and at least once or twice a week use about 5.  Water was cold.  Below is a quick illustration of my current and post showering situations.  Most conventional bath products are made with at least one of the following: Petroleum based: fragrances, colors, preservatives.  They are all packaged in plastic.  Even my washing tool (loofah) itself is plastic.  My new showering method includes locally made soap (with no petroleum additives) I can buy this soap (Bryn Mawr) without any packaging at my co-op (The Wedge).  Today I had to use my old loofah but eventually I'll have a natural sponge (pictured is my roommate karli's -don't worry, I didn't really use it)

I'll end this post with a tribute to a fabulous beverage.  One which has been there to support me in times of need, but, at least for the next 100 days, will no longer be a part of my life. 

Iced Latte, you will be missed.


  1. This is an interesting experiment and blog. Thanks for sharing.

    Are you averaging your resource consumption? If you conserve water or electricity one day, can you use more the next?

    What about maple syrup or maple sugar as a replacement for sugar?

    This link may be helpful in finding local products.

  2. A few things - firstly, I attempted a worm composting box, which went horribly awry (imagine a mass exodus of worms which then died and dried into the carpet in my college apartment). However, I do know that I did it completely wrong. Steiny has a worm box, he might be a useful resource, not to mention a local worm source. If you want my old (wood, homemade) worm box, let me know - otherwise I'm planning on tossing it in the next few weeks.

    Another option that we use all the time is the dehydrator - not sure about how it fits in with your rules, but we got ours from Target, and you can put anything you want in there, plug it in (don't know about energy use), and dehydrate a lot of your stuff. Tomatoes, certain other veggies, fruits, meats (jerky), things like apple sauce can be turned into fruit leathers and they will keep for quite a long time.

    Cold water for showering - have you thought about rigging up a bucket outside with some kind of black material on it to serve as a solar water heater? Then maybe you can subtract however much water you use to shower from your daily amount, so that you can have your cold water and your hot water separate and for separate uses. Here's a dumb version of what I was thinking about:

    And finally... very sad about the latte... however, maybe you could consider making your own teas? Cone flower, mint (we have some! come get it!), and dandelion root (please take ours!) are all in season, and you could dry or dehydrate them and probably store them for quite some time to make tea out of. Just a thought!

    Good luck Molly, this sounds like quite the challenge :) Let us know if you need anything.

  3. jen- great link! thanks so much. As far as averaging resources; I have a hypothetical water surplus tank, so any water I don't use one day can be stored up for use at the end of the week for laundry, cleaning, etc. I havn't decided how I want to deal with electricity surplus (partly because I don't think I will have any). On one hand, if the PV array was totally disconnected from the grid the solar energy would be stored in batteries, however, if it were connected to the grid it is simply used on-demand and any surplus goes into the grid. Which scenario I go with I'm undecided on at this point, something I need to consider!

  4. I am late starting to follow your blog but would like to ask about your seeds. Are they sourced locally and where do their suppliers grow them?

    I also noted your use of plastic buckets and totes which would become increasingly scarce under your scenario.