Friday, April 4, 2008

Black Lipstick Not Optional

Some of you may notice in my side bar I'm keeping track of my car miles and public transit miles this month. This is for you, so you can keep an eye on me through this challenge, but mostly it's for me, so I can see through the month how those numbers are progressing and to make it easier to calculate my Riot 4 Austerity progress at the end of the month.

If you haven't heard of Riot 4 Austerity, check it out, especially the calculator which is kind of fun to play around with if you are a nerd like me. Now I don't "officially" riot, because well, I'm not that cool, and also I hear they require you to wear black lipstick and black armbands. I kid! I kid! Riot is totally black armband-OPTIONAL. But I like to check out my numbers from time to time and see how I line up with the average American. And in general, I do pretty well. Last time I ran the numbers, my electricity was at 11% of the average American's usage, my garbage was at 9%, and of course, my pride and joy, consumer goods has been holding steady at under one percent since August! (Under Riot rules, used goods you buy count as 10% of new items, but I typically spend less than $25 even on used items each month.)

Point being, I'm fairly happy with my performance in most of the categories. Except one. My big flaming letter F is, of course, in gasoline consumption. In March I used 95% of the average American's gasoline consumption. And that is from driving alone! I shudder to think what my numbers were like in February when I flew to Chicago for a funeral.

I'm hoping with this challenge to bring that number down. How far down? Faaar down. In fact, I would love it if I could bring it down to 20%, but I'll settle for cutting my gasoline consumption in half. (Incidentally, I think the Riot calculator for public transportation is pretty flawed. First of all, saying public transit counts as 100 miles to the gallon seems a little arbitrary and a little low. Second of all, subways don't run on gas, they run on electricity. But in the absence of a more sophisticated calculator, I guess I'll go with it. Anyone who both riots and uses the subway wants to tell me how to calculate that? Orgie, Beany, I'm looking at you.) Additionally, I'm using Google maps to calculate public transport mileage. It's not entirely accurate because it calculates drive miles, but I figure it's close enough.

In terms of car miles, if, say, I con Honda into driving me home from her apartment, I'm counting her round-trip mileage even though I only ride with her one way. (I figure, she's driving because of me, so the round-trip consumption should be on me.) On the other hand, if Erin picks me up on our way to Spaceland likes she did last night, I'm only counting half the miles since there are two people in the car.

All right, I hope that clears up any questions about the methodology I'm using. Happy Friday, all!


CAE said...

When I saw the title I thought you were going to tell us how buying black lipstick doesn't count for your buy nothing challenge because it's a necessity! This way makes more sense.

I'll try the calculator although I'm not very good with gallons (or even litres) of petrol - I don't drive, but I'm a passenger a lot on weekends and Mr E Man is responsible for filling up. I'll ask him how much he thinks we use!

Bad Human? said...

My fiance and I checked our Riot numbers and gas was the one we failed too. We are now biking as much as possible in an attempt to halve our gas numbers.


arduous said...

Hahahaha that would be funny. Yes, people I would literally die if without black lipstick and thus it is exempt from my non-consumerism.

organicneedle said...

I had the same complaint about the PT for Riot. Not sure how electric transport measures up to gas transport. My numbers were low for that one, so I didn't want to poke at it with a stick too hard.

My Riot numbers are really bad for consumer dollars...but I have an issue with how they calculate that too. Sustainable, well made, products usually cost MORE than their cheap landfill-headed counterparts. $100 can buy one pair of organic pants...or 10 pairs of polyester pants that will last all of 3 wears each. So calculating by dollar amount rather than quantity of stuff doesn't seem very accurate to me. Yes...I'm whining.

Beany said...

I agree with what organicneedle said completely.

I just use the riot model to calculate public transit use and use google maps (gmap pedometer) to figure out miles travelled.

You should check out the riot mailing list. Lots of good info.


I had issues with how public transit was calculated as well. I spent alot of time on figuring out if there was a better way to calculate this...and wound up being a some sort of bus geek (I can identify bus models on sight). You might know this, but there are many different ways to calculate fuel efficiency and the type of auto that uses the fuel plays a big part in this.

As for the subway...after reading your post I got really curious and I spent over 4 hours last night on this subject and found out all sorts of interesting things. For example, I can approximate how much electricity I use in riding the subway (8.39 kwh/mile from SEPTA's own figures for FY2007) but I don't know how to translate that into gasoline because that's how riot measures transportation. I couldn't figure how how SEPTA (our transit authority) gets their power supply. I don't know what their source (gas/coal/hydro) of power is. I found the exact model of train car used by SEPTA but nothing else. NYC's cars have a bit more detail, but again...I don't know what all those numbers should mean to a rioter like me.

But I found out that from one barrel of oil (which is approximately 33 gallons in volume), only 19.2 gallons result in gasoline. Then I tried to figure out how much gasoline was use in getting electricity and arrived at a figure that indicated that either my math was waaay off or we have a highly inefficient system of getting energy. I did my calculations based on the goodies here. I was too tired to get into more details.

Chile said...

Hm, I'm doing really good on everything except water. I'm not sure how we're using so much considering the extreme measures I go to. I guess the real problem is living in the desert. Even with drip irrigation (which may be leaking), the ornamentals suck up the water. Since we're in a rental, we can't rip out these useless plants and replace them with edibles. :(

I guess I'm going to have to buy paper plates to cut back on washing dishes. And no more showers or even sponge baths. Think my neighbors would mind if I set up a portapottie in the back yard?

arduous said...

Ok, Beany, I started going to some of the websites you linked to, and now I'm very intrigued. This was especially weird, "Amtrak reports 2005 energy use of 2,935 BTU per passenger-mile[28], or 39 passenger-miles per gallon," from Wikipedia. 39 passenger-miles per gallon? Why is a train supposed to be "eco-friendly" then? That's what a lot of cars get, and airplanes seem to be all over the map, but they seem to get about that or slightly better.

Chile, you know that in Atlanta a few months ago, the drought restrictions were requiring some restaurants to use paper plates so they didn't have to wash actual plates? Crazy!

Grad Green said...

I think you are very brave to be doing this PT challenge. 2 miles of walking twice a day -- wow! Have you thought about leaving a bike locked up at Honda's house (or even by the bus stop)and then riding home? Or would that be too dangerous?

Also, I've noticed on the google maps for my city that when I go to "take public transportation", it measures the walking distance as the crow flies. So, you might even be walking farther.

Jennifer said...

Hope this Monday of public transportation goes well for you! I'm envious of all you who live in cities with large PT networks.

Beany said...

. This was especially weird, "Amtrak reports 2005 energy use of 2,935 BTU per passenger-mile[28], or 39 passenger-miles per gallon," from Wikipedia. 39 passenger-miles per gallon? Why is a train supposed to be "eco-friendly" then?

That was the conclusion I came to as well. Is the efficiency based on all the people not driving? So if 10 people take one bus, that is 10 cars off the road and thus the fuel efficiency goes up....???I am not sure about this, but doesn't the fuel efficiency go down when a vehicle is a full bus would be less efficient than an empty bus. I guess I should write to SEPTA and ask them this question, because I am just really confused.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Well, it might have something to do with ridership estimates. If you pack more people in, sure there's more weight to move, but it's still more efficient than adding a bus. If ridership improves, the fuel use per rider should go down.