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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 08-26-06, 11:24 AM   #1
cerewa
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car fossil fuels vs other fossil fuels

I actually think the people in this forum are pretty self-reflective and aware of a lot of the imperfections in the pro-car-free arguments made here. But I also think that people sometimes fail to see the big picture in their own fossil fuel use and that of others. I think that it's pretty normal to spend a substantial amount of one's income on electric and gas bills, which isn't really better than spending the same amount of money on gasoline in terms of how much fossil fuel energy one uses.

In the USA an average commute is 16 miles each way, and average fuel economy is 21 mpg.

If we assume that for car-owners commuting is a 5 day a week round trip and those (on average) 160 miles account for two thirds of their driving distance, then each motorist is driving 240 miles a week on an average of 11 gallons of gasoline/week= 48 gallons of gasoline/month.

I live with one other person in a small 1 bedroom apartment, and we put a lot of effort in to conserving energy. My 50% share of the apartment energy usage (electric/natural gas) is the equivalent of 18 gallons of gasoline* even though we run the heat low in the winter and do not use any air conditioning. (this is philadelphia, and as non-AC-owners we are quite unusual.)

If your rates are similar to mine, every ~$2.40 USD you spend on natural gas represents the energy of one gallon of gasoline, with dollars-of-electricity usually representing slightly less fossil fuel use.**



*70.5 kwh electricity plus 2,000 cubic feet (20 ccf) of natural gas = 238,000 btu electricity+ 2,040,000 btu natural gas= 2,278,000 btu = the energy equivalent of 18 gallons of gasoline.

(see here for conversion rates)

** assuming that your electricity is mostly fossil fuel with a little bit of nuclear/wind/etc, and accounting for the fact that many of the BTUs in fossil fuels that generate electricity actually go up the smokestack rather than generating electricity.

Last edited by cerewa; 08-26-06 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 08-26-06, 12:04 PM   #2
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Very good point, cerewa. It makes sense to reduce energy usage and emissions in the biggest areas, and not worry so much about little nitpicky things (like how much food you eat when cycling). Besides not using a car, the best things to do, that I know of, in no particular order, are:
  • Use highly efficient electrical appliances, especially refrigerator
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in lighting fixtures
  • Use watersaving showers and toilets
  • Live in a small, well insulated house
  • Buy locally produced, organic food as much as possible.

I bet most carfree people are already doing many of these things. Congratulations to you all!
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Old 08-26-06, 01:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Roody
  • Use highly efficient electrical appliances, especially refrigerator
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in lighting fixtures
  • Use watersaving showers and toilets
  • Live in a small, well insulated house
  • Buy locally produced, organic food as much as possible.
A very good list Roody that show just how easy it is to conserve dwindling oil reserves at home. Add
to this list combining ALL errand car trips or sharing them with another person will save even more.

While I know many can't go 100% car-free (I'm one myself) we do go very, very car-lite to conserve
as much as possible. Then there is the hidden use of dwindling oil supplies whenever you buy ANYTHING
new. Be it car or clothes you waste more oil than by fully consuming what you already own. Shopping
"Used" really is a very responsible way to conserve our dwindling oil reserves.

Way to may folk's think that conservation only means better gas MPG which isn't even 1% of all the
oil used. Oil is used everwhere in just about everything.
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I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 08-27-06, 07:49 PM   #4
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I worked for an electric company for a little while (customer service, so I got to look at countless customer electric bills) and it became clear that (for people who don't have a swimming pool or hot tub) home heating and and air conditioning make all other energy usage seem like a drop in the bucket. If you had 100 electric fans and 100 incandescent bulbs running in your home, you could probably afford it. But using excess heating, and using A/C when a large fan (or several) would work acceptably, will probably cost you a fortune.

Also, as alluded to by Roody's post, living with more people in the same amount of space is a great way to reduce the total amount of fuel that the lot of you would use altogether.
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Old 08-28-06, 03:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roody
Very good point, cerewa. It makes sense to reduce energy usage and emissions in the biggest areas, and not worry so much about little nitpicky things (like how much food you eat when cycling). Besides not using a car, the best things to do, that I know of, in no particular order, are:
  • Use highly efficient electrical appliances, especially refrigerator
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in lighting fixtures
  • Use watersaving showers and toilets
  • Live in a small, well insulated house
  • Buy locally produced, organic food as much as possible.

I bet most carfree people are already doing many of these things. Congratulations to you all!
Sometimes I use a solar cooker, I think of it as a replacement for a gas grill but actually it replaces the gas stove for making some weekend dinners.

When I lived in a place with a yard the clothesline served as a clothes dryer. The line and clothespins didn't cost very much. I imagined that they had a short payback period. Maybe I should try stringing a clothesline across my apartment to see how well one works inside? It would save me $1.00 per week.

When a friend first came to the US the family strung their clothes on their apartment's balconey. The management ordered them to stop saying it ruined building's respectable image.
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Old 08-28-06, 03:52 PM   #6
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cerewa - in terms of CO2 produced your argument is pretty solid. However, in terms of natural resource consumption, it has a problem. Oil is much more valued than coal, which produces a large quantity of electricity in the states. So one MJ of oil is considered using more resources than one MJ of coal.
These were the EPA weighting factors in their last sustainability metric
HARD COAL, OPEN PIT MINING 0.00859
NATURAL GAS 0.15
OIL 0.144
Those units are in natural resource consumption per unit of raw material (I forget if it is per MJ or kg), but you can see that oil and natural gas are much more highly valued as a raw material, b/c of the potential shortage. We have plenty of coal.
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Old 08-28-06, 03:53 PM   #7
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...Maybe I should try stringing a clothesline across my apartment to see how well one works inside? It would save me $1.00 per week...
I select my clothes based on how well they dry on hangers after going through a wash & spin cycle. They are ideal for travel. They last years longer because they aren't battered every week by going through a tumble dryer. That fuzz which accumulates in the dryer is your clothes being slowly ground up. A good starting point for looking at quick dry travel clothes is a product line called Tilley Endurables. My Tilley stuff is almost dry when it comes out of the washing machine.
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Old 08-30-06, 06:12 PM   #8
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I select my clothes based on how well they dry on hangers after going through a wash & spin cycle. They are ideal for travel. They last years longer because they aren't battered every week by going through a tumble dryer. That fuzz which accumulates in the dryer is your clothes being slowly ground up. A good starting point for looking at quick dry travel clothes is a product line called Tilley Endurables. My Tilley stuff is almost dry when it comes out of the washing machine.
Ditto for cycling clothes and sports clothing made of so-called wicking material. I take my wicking T-shirts out of the washer, and they dry before the other clothes in the dryer do. I wear cycling clothes most of the time, and my work clothes are good for several wearings before they need to be washed. A clothesline outside is great for sheets and towels, even in the winter. The clothes freeze, but they still get dry. And they smell great! Another hint--use cold water for most clothes washing, and save on the water heating cost.
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Old 08-31-06, 12:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by yes
cerewa - in terms of CO2 produced your argument is pretty solid. However, in terms of natural resource consumption, it has a problem. Oil is much more valued than coal, which produces a large quantity of electricity in the states. So one MJ of oil is considered using more resources than one MJ of coal.
These were the EPA weighting factors in their last sustainability metric
HARD COAL, OPEN PIT MINING 0.00859
NATURAL GAS 0.15
OIL 0.144
Those units are in natural resource consumption per unit of raw material (I forget if it is per MJ or kg), but you can see that oil and natural gas are much more highly valued as a raw material, b/c of the potential shortage. We have plenty of coal.


but you're not accounting for environmental/health costs. in my part of this great land, they're leveling the mountains to extract coal. check out mountain top removal...it's really ugly.
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Old 08-31-06, 05:26 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Roody
  • Use highly efficient electrical appliances, especially refrigerator
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in lighting fixtures
  • Use watersaving showers and toilets
  • Live in a small, well insulated house
  • Buy locally produced, organic food as much as possible.
We dropped our electricity rate by 20% a few years ago by:
  • unplugging the old basement fridge*
  • replacing all light fixtures in common use with compact fluos
  • setting our AC to 24C, and closing off a few rooms
  • running the furnace fan 24/7 and adding 3 new air returns, to improve air quality
  • setting our electric clothes dryer to low heat

We both work from home offices, so we don't have the 8-10 hours/day of an empty house most people have. Add computers to that, and our electricity bill was pretty high. Since we have an electric range, we also make a point of using it well (e.g. if I am baking bread, might as well throw a turkey in the over after since its already hot, etc.).

(* and I mean old, it has an "army surplus, 1967" sticket on it!)
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Old 08-31-06, 05:41 PM   #11
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Household energy generation varies a lot depending on where you live - i.e. in Iceland much (if not all) of the electricity comes from geothermal, which while not exactly renewable, is fairly low impact. Quebec produces almost all of it's electricity from Hydro (in fact in Ontario and Quebec the word for electricity is "hydro"). So if you are looking at greenhouse gases, your household contribution may be a lot less. My wife and I used 200 kwh for a month in our condo. This counts electricity only.

Therefore we use about 5 gallons of gasoline equivalent a month for two people. Adds up to each of us driving 50 miles a month in an average US car. It seems to me that personal transportation is the way to reduce energy use.

I'm not sure how much our hot water use contributes, unfortunately, as this cost is split amongst all of the property owners.

We have fairly efficient electrical appliances, LCD screen on the computer, small TV, no AC, have compact fluorescent bulbs in most light fixtures, and we hang our clothes to dry. If you wanted to save money on electricity you could look at some of these strategies.
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