Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kicking Riot 4 Austerity's A**

Well, after a month of traveling, living with relatives, and generally being subject to the whims of others, I have a place of my own. For the past month I've driven in cars, or not, I've eaten organic, or not. I've recycled, or not if my relatives didn't. Essentially, I've tried as much as possible to be as amenable a house guest as possible.

But now, I'm finally settled (well sorta) and it's time to start getting back in the enviro-groove, and start kicking a little riotous ass.

Now, as I'm in a dorm where electricity, gas, and water are all included, I'm not going to be able to do anything but a rough estimate, but, frankly, I'm not too perturbed. After all, for all the downsides to living in a room the size of a postage stamp, the upside is that it's incredibly sustainable.

Let's go to the categories shall we:

Transportation: This one should be super easy for me. I'm planning to walk to school most every day, so really, I'll only ever be using the bus or subway when I'm going somewhere else, or coming home late at night. And considering the price of taxis, I am probably almost never going to get into a car! I have a feeling that I can get this down to 10% usage.

Electricity: Like I said, I won't actually know how much electricity I'm using. But seriously. What is going to be using up much electricity? There's a mini-fridge. Some lights. Maybe the TV and the laptop and the cell phone now and then? One of the super-cool things about England is that as far as I can tell, most outlets have switches so you can turn the outlet off and on. It's an easy way to save that electricity without having to keep everything unplugged. Anyway, like I said, no way of knowing how much electricity I'll be using. But considering I was down to 10% in my palatial-by-comparison apartment in LA, I'm guessing this should be at or less than 10% usage.

Heating & Cooking Fuel: The stove and oven are electric, so I think we're only talking about the radiator here (which I'm assuming is gas.) I figured out how to turn off the heat in my room, and have kept it off ever since. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it off all year, but for now, the ambient heat from the rest of the dorm is more than enough for me. I mean seriously. I'm in a long sleeve tee-shirt right now and I'm hot. I'm guessing I'll be at 10% or less, at least until it starts getting much colder.

Garbage: This one is not so hot right now as I am awash with all the crap they give you when you start school. I'm hoping this will go back to normal levels soon enough.

Water: Again no clue, but considering we're talking about showering, washing dishes, flushing, and cooking and drinking, I'm guessing this will be fairly reasonable. The huge advantage to having my own bathroom? I don't have to keep the toilet flushed at all times for other members of the household.

Consumer Goods: This one will be uphill for a bit while I get settled. I've so far only bought used stuff, but eventually I'm going to have to buy some of the things new that I can't find used. I *still* haven't got pillows yet, so I've been sleeping on a balled up sweatshirt. No fun.

Food: Well the good news is I found a little organic foods store about five minutes away from my dorm! And the woman who works there is suuuuuper nice. Seriously. When I couldn't find any fair trade sugar, she went ahead and ORDERED some for me, and told me it would come in Wednesday. Sweet! Literally. The bad news is that there aren't any bulk bins in the store, so right now I'm buying food in plastic packaging. Also, even if there were bulk bins, I don't have any empty containers to put food in, so I guess I better finish off the organic yogurt fast. Hopefully, I'll be able to check out the farmers' market this weekend. Luckily they run year round in London!

And that's it. All in all, I think I'm well positioned. But let's see how I do. I'll let you know in a month or so.


Eliane said...

Glad you're settling in. Avoid black cabs unless it's late and you don't feel safe. They are good, the cab drivers have to pass a really difficult test called "The Knowledge" which means they know every street in London. But they are also v. expensive.

One thing you said leapt out at me. Do powerpoints/electicity outlets really not have switches in the States? How odd. I mean, why not? It's not as if this is new technology. Something I never knew.

Oh and a couple more north London tips for you. First, I skipped over Newington Green which is between Islington and Stokie. There are some good shops including a really lovely French patisserie/deli on the north side, just along from a tiny Unitarian chapel which Benjamin Franklin (yes that one) use to visit when he lived in England. Also fruit and veg, organic shops there etc. Oh and another Italian deli between the Balls Pond Road junction and Newington Green on Essex Road, called Gallo Nero II.

And if you do head up to Stokie for the farmers' market at any point, then round the corner on north side of Cazenove Road, opposite the main entrance to Abney Park Cemetary, there's a small and reasonably priced health food, organic place that I think lets you bring you own containers to fill, including with Ecover washing powder.

Joyce said...

It's interesting that there are no bulk bins in your organic store; it seems like they come with the territory here. Maybe other organic stores will have them, although it sounds like this one is very close to you.

Me, I'd want a new pillow. I don't know why, but I think it just seems more...sanitary? There are just certain things I don't like to get as hand-me-downs or garage sale items. Picky, aren't I?

Anonymous said...

City life can be surprisingly sustainable on some fronts. Growing your own food...not so much. It sounds like you are off to a great start. Over time you will work out all the details. How is the recycling in London?

ruchi said...

Eliane, I have never seen electrical outlets with switches in the US. Now maybe they do exist in some places, but they are definitely DEFINITELY not standard. Oh! And thanks for the information, but I got my post code wrong. I'm in the WC1. Not N1. Though I think the N1 sounds kinda awesome, so I'm planning on spending a lot of time there!!

Joyce, yeah you're right. They do seem to come with the territory. But this store is really small, so maybe they don't have the room? I don't know.

Orgie, the recycling in London seems ... good-ish. I mean for stuff like aluminum, glass, plastic bottles and paper, there are receptacles ALL OVER. But for non plastic-bottle plastic there doesn't seem to be much.

Anonymous said...

Man, can I send you the takeout containers that are TAKING OVER my apartment!?! I have a feeling our places are about the same size...maybe when they start taking over your place, you can send them to someone else who just moved.

I think the bulk bins is a space thing - most places in Manhattan don't have them, either.

Glad to hear you're settling in!


Anonymous said...

Eliane, in most parts of the states the goal of the utility boards was to make electricity as cheap as possible. In some places the houses weren't even individually metered at first. So there wasn't any reason to measure or conserve.

The other thing we don't meter is local phone calls - I was just flabbergasted when I visited the UK and found out people paid for in-town phone calls by the minute. (And now we do too, because we all use cell phones.)

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Ah, dorm life! Are you in with the undergrads or are you in a postgrad dorm where you might actually get some sleep every once in a while?!

It's great that you have your own bathroom though, iI would have loved that!

p.s. substitute tube for subway and sockets for outlets and you're laughing ;)

Kelly S. said...

I wouldnt bet that your heat is gas...is it central duct/vent syle, or radiator and pipe? We had oil heat in NY in all of the places that I lived.

EJ said...

Sounds like a great minimalist lifestyle!

Using the ambient heat of others could become an issue if more and more people turn their heat off. Those who heat their rooms will be paying for heat loss trough colder walls and down colder hallways. But I still think you are doing the right thing.

Stephanie said...

I wonder how 10% of American averages compare to the average of UK usage of everything.

That sounds really exciting though! Traveling AND living the Riot 4 Austerity life. I think I need to remember that it's possible once I go study abroad.

ruchi said...

Megan, thanks. You know I actually could use some take out containers. I don't have any tupperware or anything like that. I was going to take a sandwich to school today, until I realized I had nothing to put said sandwich in. Hmmmm ... what do people think? Buying some plastic tupperware, most likely new because who can find that used?, or should I just use disposable aluminum foil?

Rosa, people pay for local calls here? Heh, I guess I didn't know that since I have a cell phone and no landline.

Cath, it's funny, because I generally do use the term "tube." I wonder why I wrote subway. Force of habit, I suppose. I'm in a mixed undergrad and postgrad dorm, but my particular wing is all postgrad. The undergrads are far, far away. And yeah, it's deathly quiet.

Kelly, it's radiator and pipe. Is that gas or oil?

E, well because we don't have to pay for heat in the dorm, I don't imagine too many people will turn off their heat. But you're right, that if I turn off my heat, and my room gets super cold, the room next door might just about compensate for my heat savings by using more heat. But right now, my room is boiling hot, even with the heat off. Seriously I had to open the window for a bit. I don't know how the hallways are heated because there aren't any radiators, but whatever they're doing, they're keeping it very, very warm.

Stephanie, I would guess average UK usage is lower, mostly because about 1/10 of Brits live in London. If 1/10 of the US lived in NYC, the average US usage would be way lower as well. There are definite sustainablity advantages to living in cities like NYC and London which have excellent public transit, higher population density, etc.

Green Bean said...

Oh yeah, baby! Gotta love that sort of sustainable life.

Going Crunchy said...

Yeah for you! I found that (when I lived in Swindon) you could use the radiator thingies to dry clothes on. Heat the home, dry the clothes. I also found some outdoor markets I could walk to which was very helpful.

I saw my first three wheeled vehicle while living there. I think my mouth fell open!

Walking to the trains was helpful for when I wanted to go exploring. Shan

ruchi said...

GB, I know, right?

Shannon, yeah it's true how much you get to know the area simply by walking to the train!!

Eliane said...

Used to work on Euston Road. I think I may even know which dorm you're in (but don't tell!) as I have friends who lived in the Russell Square area when first up at university decades ago. My advice is not to do your shopping in your locale. You are in office/law courts/museum/hotel land in case you hadn't noticed which means expensive sandwich shops and restaurants and not every day shopping. Leastways not much. If I were you, I'd head to Camden or Islington and look at the markets.

Oh and check out Drummond Street (runs east west north of Euston Road between Hampstead Road and Melton Road) There are some good cheap curry houses and at least one Indian sweet shop. I used to head there for all-you-can-eat south Indian veggie lunches when I worked nearby.

Oh and last one - foodie heaven is to be found at Borough market at the weekends (London Bridge nearest tube). You may have read about this or even been already. It is heaven. Don't take too many money/bags as you will spend it/fill them.