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, September 14, 2010


13 September 2010

Laundry day!  Definitely time.

I'm saving 3 gallons of water every day (of my 15 gallons total) to use for cleaning at the end of the week (2.3 gallons a day for laundry=15 gallons end of week) and (.7 gallons/day for a 5 gallon bucket shower heated in the sun).  Here's how I do it:

(1) dump in 1/4 cup of laundry detergent

(2) boil a gallon of water (about 0.625 kWh) and dump into 5 gallon pail with 3 more gallons of room-temp water (dumping over detergent makes it foamy)

(3) add clothes

(4) let soak for an hour

(5) stomp on clothes.  stomp until all clothes are flattened in the bucket then move them around again and re stomp (water is still warm after an hour so its kinda nice)

(6) mash up clothes with hands (this is actually an awesome stress reliever if you really get into it)

(7) dump wash water (if I had used homemade detergent I could probably use this for plants....not there yet) Also, its actually quite gratifying to see all the dirty water going down the drain, it is dirtier than you would think being that we never see how dirty our wash water actually is, makes you feel like you really accomplished something)

(8) refill with room temp water and mash the clothes again, a lot. This gets all the soap out

(9) refill one more time and dump (total of three fills is about 15 gallons)

(10) hang clothes in the tub on a line.  The clothes will be really wet (not like when you take them out of the washer and they've gone through a spin cycle) so they need to be wrung out and put in a place they can drip for a while. 

I did a little research on a typical washing machine cycle so that I could compare it with my bucket method.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency the average washing machine uses 41 gallons per load.  Higher efficiency washing machines bring this number down to under 28 but that is still quite a bit of water.  When I was doing bucket laundry I started thinking about what a washing machine does and how I could substitute myself for one.  Basically, the washing machine fills the tub up with water and agitate it with the center agitator for a while.   After that, it drains all the water out by spinning it into the side holes and refills to rinse the clothes, and spins again.  While I'm not a washing machine, I think my clothes mashing did a pretty good job of cleaning in general, and it was all using my own energy for washing, a total of 0.625 kWh (heating water).

According to

hot/warm cycle uses 4.5 kWh/load
warm/warm cycle uses 3.5 kWh/load
hot/cold cycle uses 2.8 kWh/load
warm/cold cycle uses 1.9 kWh/load
cold/cold cycle uses 0.3 kWh/load

I'm assuming these numbers are taking into account the energy needed to heat the water and that is why they are different, I'll be metering my washing machine next time one of my roommates is washing...


  1. Molly! Erin Shaw Washington here...I've been enjoying reading your blog. A lot of my hobby reading for the past 2 or so years has been about food, including the energy it takes to produce, so I am pretty interested in what you are doing here. I look forward to hearing more about it as your semester goes on. (and I have to admit--I'm glad YOU'RE the one doing it and I get to read about it--thinking about taking a bucket shower in Minnesota in the winter just makes me cringe...!)

  2. Do you really need to use hot water to wash your clothes? I don't think so.