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)

Monday, September 6, 2010


4 September 2010

Its getting colder here, and while that is sad because we have all been wearing jackets and boots the last few days, it is sadder because I am realizing how many foods that I eat everyday will start to disappear soon.  I'm starting to freeze foods (and wishing I would have frozen some foods that are already gone).  I made a big batch of pesto today and froze it in a muffin tray.  After freezing I dipped the pesto tray in hot water to loosen the edges and put the 'pesto pucks' in mason jars in the freezer.  I'm working on freezing and dehydrating a bunch of local pears I found at the coop the other day. 

I tried heating my water in a 5 gallon solar camp shower bag I have today.  Filling up the bag (using my weekly surplus water) was the first thing I did when I woke up this morning, however I went out to the porch only to find that it was completely shaded. The porch on our house is on the west side of the house :(  It takes at least 3 hours to heat the water in the bag to shower temp 95-100 degrees, and full sun.  It wasn't until noon that the sun finally peaked over the house and started landing on the porch.  After this I had to wait another 3 hours to heat the bag.  Although it is was still a pretty warm day, there was only partial sun.  I dumped the water into a 5 gallon bucket after it had heated for 3 hours.  It was kinda warm.   Definitely warmer than room temperature, but not hot.  So afternoon long shower's it is.  I used a mason jar to scoop water out of the bucket and pour over my head to wash my hair. 

This morning I went to the midway farmer's market.  This market is smaller than the St. Paul market, but also has local foods and is only 3 miles away (as opposed to an hour bike ride).  I was surprised to still see some greens (chard and Chinese spinach).  I saw apples for the first time and got a bunch.  I also saw a guy selling cheese....of course, all his cheese was wrapped in plastic.  I asked him if it was possible to not wrap it in plastic and he looked really confused.  After some explaining he started to understand what I was asking him-avoiding plastic waste.  However he didn't seem to think there was any possible way he could transport the cheese without plastic.  He kept asking me "Well... how would I do that?  I don't see how I could do that."  I didn't have any suggestions for him, because, well, I'm not a cheese maker.  Pretty disappointing.  I haven't found any way to buy cheese without packaging so far. 

So far I have just been collecting the cheese wrappers. I've only bought cheese twice so it isn't much waste, but I have to wash it because there is always a little cheese still stuck to the wrapper and I don't want it to mold as I collect it. Although I could keep doing this I think it would be more interesting to start to identify what waste I am accumulating and find ways to try and change this almost unavoidable waste.  It makes me think of the new waste system in (Norway? Sweden? I forget)  Basically, they get a yellow waste bag every week and aren't allowed to create more waste than fits in the bag.  The trash service won't take anything else.  Because of this, people began just leaving extra packaging waste that they didn't need in the stores.  For example, they would just leave the cardboard box that toothpaste comes in on the shelf.  After a while, stores began to realize that they couldn't be responsible for getting rid of that waste (because they had waste restrictions too) and started working with product suppliers/manufacturers to create products without extra waste.  People really do have the power to change these things, because ultimately, manufacturer's are forced to respond to our needs (especially in cases like this).   I've thought about doing the same thing with cheese.  I have a plan for cheese-packing rebellion:

(1) I got the contact information for the the lady who is in charge of the deli dept at the co-op, I'll explain my concerns to her first and see if they can find a way to package cheese in compostable plastic or paper of some kind.
(2) I'll buy the cheese in the packaging but ask at the check out if they will take my waste (even though I am creating waste this way, if enough people starting doing this they would start to realize the desire people have to not accumulate plastic wrap waste). 
(3) If none of the the other options work I will take the cheese out of the packaging as I leave the store (trash by the door). 

Cheese plastic is really the ONLY food that I can't buy due to the packaging, as far as raw ingredients go.  Obviously things like yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese I can't buy because they come in plastic tubs. But the cheese seems like a an easy fix, they already use compostable plastic for a lot of things a the wedge.  More details later on the saga of cheese waste...


  1. some fun ideas, if you like:

    buy cream, cedar summit, in the returnable glass bottles.

    get someone to give you a few table spoons of buttermilk, must be cultured (but pretty much all buttermilk is, i just say have someone give it to you because i don't think you can get it without packaging, and you just need a bit to get going).

    into a 2 quart mason jar, pour two pints cream and the 2 tbs. buttermilk. let it sit out at room temp for about 24 hours, covered with a plastic mason jar lid or a piece of cloth tied or banded around the mouth. then refrigerate for 24 hours. you now have creme fraiche, which is delicious and good for you. use it like sour cream (but it's much tastier). it can also be used to dollop on sweet stuff like granola, oatmeal, pie...YUM. because it is live cultured, it will stay good in the fridge for 2 months. do not use the metal ring and top on the jar, because it will interact badly with the culture.

    if you want to go a step further, make a second batch, same as the first. after it has been refrigerated for 24 hours, pour it into a mixing bowl and use and electric mixer to beat it. after 5-10 minutes, you will see yellow chunks in a thin white liquid. once the chunks can be smooshed al together with your hands, decease mixing, dip you (clean) hand into the milky liquid, and scoop all the chunks into a ball. squeeze it until it stops leaking the thin white liquid. there. now you have fresh, live-cultured butter, about a pound of it. and the liquid? that's buttermilk. use it any time buttermilk is called for in a recipe, and when you have eaten all your creme fraishe, you'll have your own buttermilk to use in the next batch.

    if you don't have an electric mixer, put the cold creme fraishe into a jar and shake it forever. or have a butter shaking party and pass it around, each person doing five minutes of shaking. store both butter and butter milk in fridge, good for about 2 months (keep an eye on the buttermilk, when it goes bad it will mold. mine has always kept at least six weeks.)

  2. Sonya-thanks for the advice here and on other posts, this is definetly something I want to try. When storing the creme friashe can I leave the cloth over? Or should it be in an air-tight container? I should never use the metal lid while culturing or storing?

  3. I grew up in South America and some artesan cheeses are wrapped in banana leaves.

    How about buying some leafy greens such as collards and asking the cheesemonger to wrap your cut cheese in the leaves?