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, November 30, 2010


18 November 2010

Water proved to be one of the easier tasks to accomplish during the project.  With my water budget at 15 gallons a day (calculated from average rainfall amounts and divided into # of residents in my house), I was able to stay within this water range fairly easily for the ffirst two months of the 100 days (August 15-Oct 15). 

By tracking all water use and measuring the flow rates of all water fixtures I was able to identify what daily uses were big water users and target those for saving water.  I calculated that before the project I used 54.4 gallons of water a day, and there were three primary suspects for this water over-use: showering (20 gallons), laundry (6 gallons) and toilet flushing (10 gallons).  All of the other uses (except dish washing) of water were under 1 gallon per day which didn't leave much room for changing habits.  Therefore, by focusing on how to decrease my water use for showering, laundry and toilet flushing alone I could significantly decrease my water use.

For showering, I took 1 gallon bucket showers.  I used a bucket and sponge standing in the bath tub and found that this was more than enough water to wash up every morning without washing my hair.  With pretty dry hair I could pretty easily get away with only washing it once a week, so Sunday's became the big 'wash day'.  Once a week I would heat 5 gallons of water using a solar camp bag and take a longer bucket shower to wash my hair.  I realized when changing my showering habits that taking a long morning shower was more of a ritual than serving a real important purpose.  Rinsing off with significantly less water did the trick just as well and saved 95% of the water. 

I changed my laundry habits from using 42 gallons/load in the washing machine to only about 12 in a 5 gallon bucket hand washing.  Hand washing allowed me to use about 1/2 the detergent I normally use as well.  My method was to fill the 5 gallon bucket with clothes and detergent, let it soak and then use my feet to stomp it.  I was surprised to see how dirty the water got even when my clothes didn't seem that dirty.  After the water was pretty dirty I would dump and refill the bucket with 2-3 gallons of water and squeeze and shake the clothes by hand to get the rest of the detergent out.  Lastly, I rinsed with another 3 gallons of water and hung clothes to dry in the bathtub.  Less convenient than throwing clothes in the washing machine? yes. But it was sort of a stress reliever and satisfying to actually see my clothes getting clean and knowing it was only using my energy. 

Lastly, toilet flushing uses 2.6 gallons of water per flush.  I cut this use by a gallon by putting a milk carton filed with water in my tank to lower the water level for each flush.  I estimated that before the project I flush about 5 times a day.  To cut down I fell back on an old saying, "If its yellow, let it mellow..." which went over fairly well with my roommates (they are doing it now too).  These changes reduced my toilet flushing water from 10 gallons down to only 3.2 (two flushes per day). 

However, as the weather changed, so did my priorities concerning water use.  While it was easy to shower with 1 gallon of water in warmer weather, I found myself spending the whole day cold after a cold morning rinsing.  I changed my showering habits to taking 3 minute showers twice a week.  I installed a cheap flow shut-off valve on the shower head which allowed me to turn off the water when I wasn't rinsing (and not have to run water again to get the right temperature back).  I also found that in cooler weather as I began preserving foods with less fresh produce available, I needed less water to rinse vegetables.