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


5 September 2010

While I biked to and from school/work and to do small errands almost all the time even before this project, whenever I had to go more than 5-6 miles one way I would usually drive.  With small trips and even going the 6 miles to school I can get there by bike just as fast as I could by car.  It takes me 25 minutes to go 6 miles to school versus 15 minutes by car + 10 or 15 minutes to park and walk to the building.  With longer trips,however, I have to remember to factor the time in to get there.  Two trips taken today were longer trips. 

1_Plymouth (15 miles one way)

A couple friends are taking a 3 month trip around Europe and were having a send off party. The only catch-its in Plymouth (a suburb north of Minneapolis) Surprisingly, we found a route that was almost all bike trails out there. It was a 15 mile ride and took 1:15 minutes.

2_Dinner with Tom (8.6 miles one way)

The second long trip of the day was to dinner at my thesis Chair Tom Fisher's (also Dean of the College of Design) house.  This was an 8.6 miles trip, and I made it in 47 minutes.  Tom's wife Claudia has been hearing about this project from Tom and made a special effort to cook as locally as possible.  Every dish they made had at least one ingredient from their garden.  Another advisor on my thesis -Virajita, had her family (two boys) and her parents who are visiting from India there as well.  Claudia had to spend at least 10 minutes explaining all the dietary details of each dish (all vegetarian, some lactose interant and mostly local).  On the menu was:
_cooked kale and tomato salad (all local)
_tabouli salad (herbs from garden)
_beans with fresh herbs from garden
_spinach and cheese enchiladas (local cheese and tortillas and spinach)

For dessert we had a peach and blueberry pie and Virajita's 'ladu' balls. 

Soooo good, thanks so much Claudia!

With all kinds of sustainability folk at the table we of course were talking about local foods.  Virajita and Erwin, who grew up in Mumbai talked about how all foods available to them were local.  Without the energy resources we have in the US, food in India is trucked in every day freshly picked from farms on the perimeter of the city.  They bring only what they can sell in a day because it won't keep in the hot climate without refrigeration.  Virajita's 10 year old son Madhav stated matter-of-factly "If you never had oil, you wouldn't ever need it."  This is true.  The problem we are currently facing is that the infrastructures of our entire society are built around a resource that we are rapidly depleting.  Most people throughout the entire world who never came into contact with oil have totally different infrastructure and won't be facing nearly the extent of crisis that we will in the coming years. 


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...