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Bluemilk responded to my tagging her for the Green Meme by saying she didn’t think she’d do as well as me, and because this thing isn’t about guilting people, or showing off, but talking about how we live so we can all do better (because, really, I’ve got plenty of room to improve before I’m down to what you might call “my share” of resource use) I thought I’d explain how we got good numbers on the carbon footprint calculator.

1. We live in a really small house. Really really small. If it was in a suburb it would be called a unit, or an apartment, not a house. It also shares walls with neighbours on both sides. Both of these facts make it a relatively cheap place to heat in winter and the neighbours help keep us a little cooler in summer (although after a few days it can get gross). Our heater is gas, which is preferable to electricity, in Victoria electricity is largely produced by burning brown coal, which is super-bad. Because it’s a small house it’s impossible to have lots of lights on at once, or several large televisions, and we are compelled to do the right thing and stick to having one small fridge. We don’t have a clothes dryer either, we were offered a free one a couple of years ago and turned it down because we’d have had to use it as a coffee table*, it wouldn’t have fitted in our bathroom/laundry. If you don’t have much space, you’ve got a major incentive to think carefully about whether you need something before you buy if you’ll have to store it. This hasn’t interferred at all with our purchasing of wine because it’s consumable.

2. We live a block away from two (small) supermarkets, and a 15 minute walk from the market, there’s lots of good food readily accessible so making decent food choices isn’t tricky or time consuming.

3. We generally only use the car on weekends. The Bloke has a motorbike to get to work, I didn’t include that in the footprint calculator because I have no idea how much fuel it uses. I know it isn’t very much though, certainly far less than a car.

4. We live a block away from the local library, and a short walk to several parks. It’s a slightly longer but still do-able walk to the Museum or galleries, the cbd, and the University. There’s lots of fun (and mostly free) things we can do without using the car. In fact, most of those things are more easily accessed on foot than they are by car, driving in the city sucks.

5. We’ve been too broke to fly anywhere since June 2005. I’m going to break that next month by visiting my Personal Ecologist in Adelaide. I’m flying there, and I’ll come back to Melbourne in her car, because she is driving here for her family Christmas.

6. I received our water bill the other day and looked at our average usage per day, as you do, it’s pretty stable. I figured we weren’t doing too badly. Then yesterday the government asked Victorians to aim for 155 litres per person per day, and I was horrified. Our bill has our usage well over 155 litres per day. After a day of trying to work out how we’d cut down and blaming our crappy hot water service (which wastes lots of water heating up, and which isn’t compatible with a water saving shower head) the Bloke pointed out that the target is per person. Our bill is for the whole house. I divided the bill by three and we’re fine. How do we do it? Well I’m never awake enough before 8am to remember that it’s our watering day, so we only water with heating up water from the shower, the water we’ve washed veggies in, and grey water from the laundry. We only occasionally wash the car, in a cursory fashion, at a DIY car wash (where they recycle water). We save it for when the kid falls asleep in the car and we’ve got nothing else to do. We generally wear clothes more than once before we wash them unless they’re visibly grotty or noticably stinky. We have pretty short showers, but we don’t time them, the kid usually has a shower with one of us rather than a separate bath. If someone is in the mood for a Proper Soak the kid gets thrown in when the water cools a bit. I’d like to say we wash the floors and bathroom weekly, but we don’t, I suppose that’s a saving too. I suppose what I’m getting at here is that, aside from watering the garden with the convenience of a hose, I’m not sure what we’d do to use more water if there weren’t currently restrictions. We haven’t been sacrificing.

* My aunt did use a dryer as a side table in the corner of her appartment’s loungeroom for many years. She kept a tablecloth on it and a lamp. Needing to move the couch to use the dryer really helped her cut down her usage.

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