Many world goverments have now seen the need for austerity measures for their financial sakes, but I see a need for austerity measures for the earth's sake. If we all cut back, we can not just live better, but we will be able to breathe better, eat better, and work with the earth better.
The folks at Riot 4 Austerity know this and set up a pretty awesome website that can help you calculate your resource usage and help you set goals for your austerity measures. The main goal is to cut our usage down to 10% of the average American's.
For my family that means:
Using about 60 gallons of gas per month. This is about 1/3rd of what we are currently using.
How to do this? Well, biking and walking locally will be a big part of this goal, which is why we moved to town. On average we already save ourselves 20 miles per day of driving just by being in town. (that is about 40 gallons per month already cut).
Electricity usage goal is 500 kwts per month of solar/wind. Since we moved this spring, I haven't had a good look at our electic bill, but if I remember right we run about 1250 per month at our old house, and that is about a 25% cut of what we were doing. How can we do that? Well, I work hard on watching the lights and TV (we have it on a power strip to turn off and save lots of money on the prewarmed screen issues), I hang out clothes to dry when ever it is not raining and have considered living without a fridge, but not seriously yet.
Heating and cooking fuels: we currently use none. It is hard to reduce this number any further, but by the shear act of moving into a house that uses groundwater heat and is well insulated we save 300 gallons a month (on average) of heating fuel. I love that! Those heating costs now come in the form of electricity, but we have yet to test a winter here.
The garbage goal is less then 3 pounds per day for the house. That will be much easier when we get our compost bins running. The rest of the garbage is mostly packaging for stuff and Ian's pull ups (he has medical issues, and I bet those pull ups can weight 3 pounds each. I wonder what ecological alternative I can use instead? Any ideas?)
I will not be watching water usage- because we use local ground water and have no lack of water around here.... this year I see no value in that challenge for us. That being said, I still watch for drips and any water wastage. We still pay to pump it :)
Stuff purchasing: our goal is to spend less then $50/week on stuff for the family. This includes about $25 in new and $25 in used merchandise. For the month it is about $200 for stuff. Becasue of budget restraints this sounds almost generous... however in reality we probably spend about $400 per month on stuff. Most of this is clothes and toys, and a nice majority is second hand (I love garage sale season). That means we will try to reduce that by 50%
Food stuffs: the goals here is to source about 70% of our foods local and sustainable foods. To me this is anything grown local, or organic in my book. Currently we do about 30-40% of our food local and sustainable... in the summer this jumps to 50-60%. As I get our gardens and orchards going, this will increase.
As you can see, we have our goals cut out for us, but immagine the fun.
We have fun canning pickles as a family, and peaches, and tomatoes. We also have fun hanging out laundry in the sun, and talking walks and playing board games rather then watching TV.
Austerity doesn't have to be bad. It is probably hard on a consumer based economy, but generally very good on health and family life. Give it a try and see if you can be happier and healthier by reducing your usages.