In a couple of weeks, this series will have covered half a year. You've got 22 weekly changes you could make - but what we haven't talked about is how to sort them all out, how to decide where to put your personal allotment of energy and carbon, what to do and what not to do. Up until now, I've mostly been focusing on the possibilities, but how do you decide whether to put limited time into hand-mowing your lawn or making pickles, to spend that dollar on cloth bags or on rechargeable batteries. In a perfect world, of course, we'd do all of it. But the reality is that particularly as we're making behavioral changes, we have to pick and choose. Once putting the cloth bag into your purse and using the cloth diapers and hand mowing the lawn get to be normal, you'll find you have more time for other changes.
If you wanted to organize your energy reductions, you might take two approaches. The first one is the "Pick the Low Hanging Fruit" plan. That is, you look and see what the easiest changes to make are. For example, you've been running to the library on Thursday and the grocery store on Friday. But suddenly, you realize you can combine those choices if you go to the other library branch, and do it on Friday - and without any major effort, you've cut out 9 miles of round trip driving. Or you suddenly realize that you've had the computer on all the time, but don't use it on Mondays because you don't have time - so you start disconnecting the computer on Sunday night and leaving it off until Tuesdays. The low hanging fruit is simply a matter of applying your mind to the obvious, and picking up things as they seem easiest.
Another way of approaching this to decide to make your cuts in your biggest expenditures. That is, you might look at where your energy usage is and see that your electric use is way above average. So you might concentrate on electric usage - removing some bulbs, replacing others with Compact Flourescent or LEDs, turning off your computer, cutting phantom loads, maybe saving up for a more efficient fridge. You could divide your energy consumption up into categories, much as we have over at the Riot for Austerity, and decide to focus on that.
One of my favorite ways of sorting these out is economically or temporally. If I'm trying to decide between two choices, I tend to prioritize those things that give me either the gift of time or money. And a large number of choices do. For example, in October, I will buy 10 bushels of local apples for 140 dollars. My local Walmart would sell me 10 bushels of apples for 400 dollars. No contest. My dryer would cost me about $100 per year to run. My clothesline and pins cost $4 - 6 years ago. Amortized annual cost is under .50 per year. Running our second car costs us more than a thousand dollars a year in taxes, maintenence and insurance - the second I figure out how to find an efficient commuting vehicle that will also hold six people, our van is out of hear.
Or there's the pleasure sorting method - what gets you the most fun. I love to cook and hate to sew, and if I have to choose between a method of energy reduction that involves cooking something or sewing sometihng, let's just say it isn't always that much trouble. So while I make my own crackers, granola, popsicles and yogurt, I'm still buying my underwear and bras. It is on the list to do someday, though. I have the hope of getting rid of our van and going to a single car (as yet we have two, because one is an efficient commuting vehicle, but can't fit all six of us, two dogs and a bale of hay, and the other is an inefficient vehicle that can fit the above) and a pair of expensive dutch bikes with big kid-carriers in front. This will eventually be an economical choice, but right now I mostly like it because the sheer pleasure of pedalling vastly exceeds driving.
However you approach it, the best trick is simply to do it. In many ways, it is the breaking of old habits, automatic consumption and assumption that is hard, more than the practices themselves.