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)

Friday, September 3, 2010


2 September 2010

While all of the food, drink and health products I'm buying are local, most of them are coming from the co-op I live by or the farmer's market, meaning they had to be transported (even the short distance) to each of these places.  A friend pointed out that the more products I could actually buy AT THE SOURCE the more I would have an understanding of what goes into making those things.  Even things that are made "locally" often have many other added ingredients which come from far away.  This is an excellent point, and I figured I'd start with one product I was particularly suspicious about ingredient sourcing-beer.  :)

Our big destination today was a tour at the Summit Brewery.  Summit gives tours every Tues and Thurs at 1 and on Saturdays (but you have to reserve).  The brewery is located along the bend in the river between Minneapolis and St. Paul-an 11.6 mile bike ride from Uptown.  The ride was really nice because we could take the Greenway which connects to the Mississippi River Pkwy the whole way there.  Pulling up on our bikes in this industrial area we were doubting we would find bike racks and were about to go find a street pole when we found racks right next to the front door!  Yeah! The best part about biking is you almost always get the best parking spot available. 

It became clear when they were explaining the ingredients that go into their beers that even "local" beers are not necessarily local.  Obviously all the brewing happens here but the ingredients could really be coming from anywhere.  For example, they are doing an series of beers called "Unchained", the beer in this series this year is a Belgian Style Golden Ale.  In order to make an authentic tasting Belgian beer they really have to get ingredients (malt, hops) from Belgium.  Many of their other beers are likely quite a bit more local than that one.  The original Summit Extra Pale Ale is their flagship beer (and the best) and all ingredients in that beer are at least grown in the US, if not the Midwest.  Stick to the local stuff Summit, you do it better that way :) 
The tour included seeing the huge fermenting room, bottling room and 3 free beers for everyone.  Seeing the bottling room left me with questions about if they reuse bottles like they do kegs.  I interrogated the tour guide as he was passing out drink tokens and he said he didn't know of any breweries in Minnesota that had a bottle-return program.  That Wisconsin breweries used to do this, but he wasn't sure even they did anymore.  It would make SO much sense to do something like this.  It would save money for the breweries, for the customers (either as a refund or in less cost from not having to buy more bottles).  Without even considering the energy intensive process of making hundreds of thousands of glass bottles every year, this seems like an obvious move breweries could make.  We were further disappointed to find that they didn't sell any growler-size beers anywhere.  Most breweries I've heard of let you buy growlers of beer and you can return the bottle or refill it when you are done for a refund.  Anyone know of breweries that do this in the Twin Cities?

Our next stop was Izzy's Ice Cream on Cleveland and Marshall.  Izzy's is great, a local company...but are their ingredients local?  We interrogated an unsuspecting worker who ended up knowing quite a bit about their ingredient sourcing.  It turns out they get the "base" for all of their ice creams from a place just across the river in Wis.  I forget the name of the town (started with an M....) but the majority of the ice cream is this base.  After that, they get ingredients that they can find locally as much as possible.  Both the workers there knew some of the sourcing for specific flavors which was great.  It is fairly easy to guess what flavors could be totally local after searching for local foods for 3 weeks (the berry flavors were safe for sure)  I got a maple nut with a little raspberry...The mistake I made, however, was I got a cup! Oh god! I totally forgot, everyone else got cones and it wasn't until we all sat down together that I realized my fatal flaw.  Waste.

The highlight of being at Izzy's however was a bumper sticker we spotted on an SUV that pulled up next to us.  "MY OTHER CAR IS A BIKE".  Wait. What? Your OTHER car?  Is a bike?  Is that supposed to be a good thing?  Is that any different than having a bumper sticker that says "I own a bike"?  I dunno, I don't get it.  Congratulations?  My other bike is a Hummer,

Total of 26.13 miles logged in 2 hours and 14 minutes round trip.  I've officially gone 200 miles in 19 days! 

To reward ourselves we decided to make a breakfast dinner.  On the menu:

_Waffles made with all local, organic ingredients, topped with pure maple syrup mixed with chopped walnuts.
_Hash browns with onions, garlic and butter
_Bacon from Beller Farms (Wedge)
_Winehaven Marechal Foch Red (Chisago Lakes Area)

This was only the second time I've had meat during this project so that was really exciting, super great meal. We cooked the entire meal by candlelight and the worms got the leftovers. Thanks for playing no-oil with me guys :)


1 September 2010

I'm realizing more and more that this project could have been done in phases.  It is really difficult to integrate a totally different way of living in all different aspects at once.  The result of trying EVERYTHING at once is that you focus on necessities.  Food has been my main focus I feel like up to this point, and finally, now that I am on week 3 of the project I feel like I've finally figured out how to eat a healthy diet from local foods (definitely more to learn, but at least I can feed myself :) ).

I've gotten back to figuring out my water situation more again.  One of the big challenges of getting all your water out of a rain barrel is it isn't running water.  This makes it harder to rinse things because there isn't the force of water coming down.  However, I got through a lot less water rinsing because I fill up a container with only the water I need.  A lot of my water habits lately are tried and true camping methods of: dong dishes and washing hands.  I use 1 gallon of water doing dishes usually.  I fill up one tub with 1/2 gallon of rinse water and another tub 1/2 gallon full of dish water.  By putting soap in the tub before I dump water in, the suds come from the force of the water getting dumped.  Dish soap is WAY more concentrated than I originally realized.  By only using a little dish soap and stirring up the water enough i can get a sudsy tub full of soap. 

With the permission of my roommates, I'm taking the "if its yellow let it mellow, if its brown flush it down" approach.  More people do this than I realized after talking with people about it.  Really though, we are peeing in drinking water, that's pretty obscene, so whatever can be done to save water in this case is important.  Another method I learned with my dad when I was about 6 from the book 100 Ways to Save the Planet, (haha my parents weren't trying to brainwash me AT ALL) was putting a milk container in the toilet container to displace water and use less with each flush.  The average toilet uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush.  I flush mostly twice a day so that is 3.2 gallons used on just flushing everyday.  Abby had a 1/2 gallon jug from apple cider and put it in the toilet container.  Instant low flow toilet!  I will now only use 1.1 gallons of water with each flush, we could put a larger jug (1 gallon) in there once we find one. 

Rinsing potatoes the other day I realized I could reuse the rinse water a few times.  I put my potatoes in a strainer over a tub and poured my rinse water over, then dumped it back into the bucket and poured again.  What I ended up with was a mixture of dirt and nutrients that washed off the potatoes which I thought maybe the plants would like, so they got potato water yesterday.  This way the water was really used 3 times and never wasted. 

While meeting my water budget has never been a problem in this project so far, the more efficiently I can use water the more liberally I can use it on other things (maybe a 2 gallon bucket shower every morning?)  Talking with Rich Strong at CSBR the other day brought up a good point that a goal of the project should be to demonstrate a quality of life that is equal to what we have now.  While everyone has a different interpretation of what "quality of life" means, by finding ways for people to use water without constantly worrying about its scarcity seems like a reasonable goal to me.  My water use has increased over the last 3 weeks.  The first week I was being really conservative about water and not necessarily using it very efficiently.  I had a day I only used 5 gallons of water.  By week 2 I was using a more comfortable amount of water and now on week three I'm beginning to find ways to use water 2-3 times and get more out of the water I'm using (allowing me to use even more water) but stay in my budget of about 12 gallons a day (leaving the other 3 gallons of water of surplus each day for cleaning on the weekend.)

(click image to enlarge)