Archive for January, 2018

Jan 2018 Reflections Needs, Wants and the Number Zero

January 7, 2018

First, an update on our driving:

 Miles Driven Year ended 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Krista’s car (’96 Subaru) 7927 6313 7370
My car (’89 Toyota) 5241 2336 4472 4107  1880*
My pickup (’87 Toyota) 1059 2078 1576  966  935  841
Prius (2010) 7318  9756  14139
LEAF (2011)  2910*  4133
Totals  14227  10727  13418 12391 15481  19,113

*sale/purchase mid-year
Prius includes RT to Yellowstone and Oregon Coast and multiple trips to Boise (@600 ea) for Krista’s work and Charter Commission.

I think this is the year to get rid of the pickup truck. See reflections below about “zero.”

Wants and Needs

A rainy day in a hotel watching HGTV gave focus to my musings. The Tiny House show made the confusion between “need” and “want” most evident; turns out people “need” full size appliances and bath tubs in tiny houses. Between eposides the T*Mobile ad suggested a New Year’s resolution to “binge more.”
For the last several years, my end of holiday reflection has focused on my carbon footprint. This year I have been trying to think about the pull of commercialism and its unsustainability. With that in mind, my goal for the season was to focus on “necessary” purchases. But what does that mean?
After Thanksgiving I got new snow tires for my electric car. My car “needs” them after we got a few inches of snow. But stepping back, I “want” to drive my car, which creates the “need” for tires. Further, my “want” makes the city think we “need” wider streets, more bridges and parking everywhere with the associated footprint to construct and maintain.
Awhile back I wrote a letter to the DNews exploring the challenge climate change places on us for “drastic changes soon.” My habit of defining “wants” as “needs” is what I want to explore and try to break in the New Year.
Zero is qualitatively different from other numbers
I’ve also been thinking about the difference between “zero” and “less.” The thing about zero is getting there may be hard, but departing from there is obvious, ask a vegetarian. It’s the reason I’m trying to get to zero natural gas appliances. Zero-car would have a qualitative impact on my needs and behaviors.
I ran across this quote “Other than for the smallest handful of customers — transit, construction, farming, delivery, emergency/first responder — customer use of fossil fuels and other capital is non-remunerative waste, for pleasure-fun, convenience, status, etc.” I think it gives the urgency to get to zero — even driving to work doesn’t create any remunerative outcome. So a way of thinking about getting to zero could be in terms of zero uses that do not provide some direct economic benefit.
As we see in my driving log above, driving “less” is not happening; true, some of the driving is with zero fossil fuel (renewable electricity) but it still has the implicit carbon footprint of tires, streets and parking places. A goal for 2018 is to get rid of the Toyota pickup. I think a trailer hitch on the Prius will meet the limited needs to haul to the dump and other local tasks. Some other vehicle will need to be borrowed/rented for longer hauling. The decrease in carbon emissions may be small. The advantage is I will have zero pickups cluttering my driveway and zero costs on my insurance bill.
Reflection on 2017 goals
I’m not sure what happened in 2017, but I didn’t make progress on the carbon reduction goals I’d set. Didn’t get rid of any natural gas appliances: still have 2 hot water heaters and 1 clothes dryer. I didn’t get the solar hot water pre-heater going, but I did get solar PV on the cookhouse. It does not supply all the electricity used, even in the best month. The solar PV offsets renewable electricity supplied by Avista Utilities’ Buck-a-block, so there is no reduction in carbon emissions from it.
2018 Goals
In Sept I finished a 600 sqft patio south of the Cookhouse. This is going to be a great space for collaborative cooking and just entertaining. One goal is to get the mud oven from 2010 installed along with a BBQ grill. One of my big discoveries in 2017 was the positive impact of building retaining walls on my gardening (Walls were completed after the gardening season 2016). I got an opportunity to rent a trackhoe in Nov 2017 and did the rough-in work for 3 more walls — one of which creates a terrace for a large greenhouse. That work, along with an addition to the Kramer’s cabin will probably be all my budget and back can handle in 2018.