What’s in a Name?

I guess I am ready to work my way back into Rioting. I will be frank though, I am very tempted to change the name of my gimmick to Occupy the Home Supply. The two concepts are one in my mind (even if my small efforts are hardly worthy of either) and who wouldn’t want to be part of the coolest new thing? Certainly both names have patent appeal. And isn’t it all about branding?

Name and logo notwithstanding, I am ready to get back on track. Or, to write myself a new track, after our terrifying intermission. We will be moving back to Alaska in May and I want at least a month margin, so I have to finish out by the end of March. It’s a bit condensed, but I think there’s still enough time to get a good groove on.

September/October– Audits and Goals. Anyone still wanting to follow along with me? No pressure, it’s make your own rules, remember? You can follow along without the paperwork, if that’s more approachable. But I’ll email out the audit forms to anyone interested (some of us get a perverted buzz off of graphs and tables). If you haven’t already, leave a comment here so I have your email. I’m sorry not to have sent those out earlier, but y’all can catch up in November.

November–Food. As well as focusing on my garden during this month, I’ve decided to do a week long corporate food boycott (Occupy Your Food Supply). We are lucky to be able to buy a reasonably rounded diet of local foods at the market here: meat, dairy, rice, veggies. It will be challenging for sure, but certainly doable. I’m debating pre- or post-Thanksgiving. If anyone else is interested in joining me on this, state your preference. I know pre-Thanksgiving is very soon. Could be cool to start the day after instead, on Buy Nothing Day. Hell, we could start on the day itself and Occupy Thanksgiving!

December– Stuff. I had planned to take December off from the Riot, since Christmas is already a source of great angst for me. It would certainly be easy to do a ‘Stuff Boycott’ in January, but honestly, kind of a redundant cop-out. Focusing on stuff for the stuffiest month of all is doubtlessly more useful. There won’t be any boycotting (though I personally adore the idea), but it will force me to buy higher quality gifts, instead of resisting gift-giving till Dec 22, then bowing out at the last minute to corporate crap. Which is my usual plan.

January– Garbage, Household Fuel. What better to follow the stuff month than the garbage month right? Also, the coldest month of the year is a little late, but better than never, to consider heating efficiency and leaks.

February– Electricity, Water. Hopefully I won’t wait till February to use the Watts Up I ordered, or build that cool kids water play fountain. But, can’t do it all at once…

March– Transportation, Continuation. This will be my wind down month. Transportation is not a big one for us. We only drive a few times/week and those trips are pretty much non-negotiable, though a little belt-tightening is always possible. Perhaps more importantly, I want to spend the last month focusing on what qualities allow or encourage a person to persist with doing things the hard way, when everyone around us worships ‘the easy way’ with religious fervor. Because while a few months of focus is certainly helpful, sustaining the good habits is the important (and hard) part.

So, you’ve seen my audits (home and food), patchy as they are. Those are the straight numbers, and they are worth something. But I also made out a list of the everyday things, in each category, that I do now to lower our household’s resources consumption (Riot perspective) or contribute less to the top 1% (Occupy perspective). After listing out my good stuff, I made a parallel list of weak spots, specific things I could do in each category. Having concrete goals suits my mind better than an abstract lowering of numbers.

I consulted various online lists for lowering one’s energy and water consumption, both for ideas on what more I could do as well as reminders of what I already do. For example, “Consider re-using bath towels.” Huh? People out there seriously only use them once? Also, apparently the recommended thermostat settings for “saving money” are 68 for winter and 78 for summer, making us semi-radical!

As my Riot progresses, and I focus on each category, I’m sure more goals will emerge, but here’s my current dos and shoulds:

do now changes to make
electricity Hang laundry

Compact florescents

Handwash dishes

Set AC high (79-81)

Toaster oven on porch

Make coffee stovetop

Push mower

Turn computers off between use

Lights off

Fridge/freezer settings up

Test appliances with Watts Up meter

water Handwash dishes

Save rinse water for kitchen clean up

Dip out kiddie pool for plants

Shower only once every 5-7 days (don’t tell!)

Wear clothes till they’re truly dirty

Rarely water lawn

Mulch garden heavily

Run washer full

Low-flow showerhead

Recirculating fountain for kid water play

Displacer in toilet tank

Rain-fed chicken waterer

garbage Recycle


Buy from bulk bins in re-used bags

Cloth grocery bags

Cloth diapers

Reuse paper for kids

Scavenge still good stuff from trash cans!

Try switching to cloth diapers at night? (when we’ve tried this before we had leaking and rash problems)

Seek out food with less packagingBuy less stuff

stuff Do without often

Buy used whenever possible

Do without even more

Seek out higher quality, ethical production for the new things we do buy (a very weak point for my uber-cheap self)

transportation Bike and walk almost every day

Drive only a few times/week

Plane travel only once or twice a year

I already minimize my driving as much as I am comfortable with

But, buy more local = less food transportation

household fuel (heating, cooking, hot water) Cook/bake efficiently

Wash clothes on cold

More crock pot

Solar cooker

Turn down hot water heater

food Buy mostly organic and/or local

Research OG companies

Buy from bulk bins

Buy unprocessed

Make at home: bread granola, jams, treats

Use leftovers



Order wheat from Texas

Start buying farmer’s market cheese

See about bulk prices for FM meat

Garden more seriously

Locally grown chicken feed?

It’s essential to note that in every category there is the unlisted, vague, yet crucially important goal to simply be more vigilant. I have already started this, even over these last two derailed months. Just tightening my belt a little, when I can muster the energy. You know I’m all for allowing ourselves a wide margin, but I often find myself having become lazy for no good reason whatsoever. How hard is it really to reach out your hand and turn a light off as you pass an empty room? Yet I had gotten so slack about it, leaving lights on because I couldn’t be bothered to waste that extra action. Absurd!

It’s challenging to remember the importance of these small actions when we are inundated by an (ad-based) culture of could-give-a-shit. It’s extremely profitable to the corporate world to make not caring stylish. They frame it like it’s all or nothing– if you’re not going to save the world then sit the fuck back down. And since no one of us is prepared to give it all, we figure why give any? Sit back, relax, look out for #1.

Even if small habits won’t change the world, they nevertheless do add up to something. But perhaps even more important is the exact thing that makes doing the little stuff so pesky– when you try to remember to turn off lights every time you leave a room, it forces you to think about the lights, and the electricity they suck, a hundred times a day. Which is downright annoying. When you try to live ultra-frugally, it forces you to carry the weight of money and spending with you constantly. I have been there and know how obnoxious the incessant racket of responsible thinking in the modern world can be. But what else is there for us at this point? Blissful ignorance?

Too late.

19 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Okay Here goes on what we’ve done:

    electricity/gas water heater and furnace: no AC all summer even with temps over 100 everyday for 52 days. We made it, barely. Already turn off lights as much as possible and turn off computers at night. Trying to eliminate ghost lights. Hang clothes, handwash dishes.

    water: this is big as OK is dry as a bone. Trying not to shower unless I have to, like once a week or before a special occasion. Reusing clothes more before washing. Used lots of water this summer to water garden but everything still died. Need to set up a water cachement system.

    garbage: don’t recycle, cuz don’t really believe it helps all that much. Compost all food waste. Old meat to neighbor’s dogs. Buy less stuff. Use rags for kitchen, no paper towels. Working out a system in my mind for getting rid of TP

    stuff: all clothes from giveaways or swaps. Buy secondhand for toys. Trying to rethink purchases before hand. Want new kitchen stuff: clean your kitchen top to bottom instead. That kind of thing.

    Transportation: ok this is hard as OKC is the 6th largest city in the US based on area. Sprawl city, baby. Half my unschooling group people are far away. But I’ve been working on moving the majority of my activities closer. Considering car sharing with a friend for a second car, i.e. paying her $50 per month to use the car like 8 – 10 times or as needed. Need to get bike trailer.

    household fuel: need to get a solar cooker and dehydrator. Turned off hot water in summer. Playing heater chicken (how long to go with no heat) but already lost.

    food: do more in the garden. Plan ahead better so don’t run to store or fall back on fast food.

    1. Shite girl. You are the real deal. That AC story, or lack there of, really blows me away. Crazy. Congratulations. Also, pleased to know you.

      1. Yeah but I spent the summer in total bitch city. Also went lots of places in air conditioned car. So not the saint you think.

  2. I’ll take the audit forms– I haven’t done much with this yet, since I wanted to focus on food preservation while I could. But the days of that are winding down around here.
    I’ve done a lot with changing our food habits this summer– we are eating much more local and organic food (although I often end up choosing local non-organic over non-local organic). I learned how to can this summer and put up a good bit of food, and filled my freezer too. I make all our bread now. I want to start making more of our dairy products– yogurt and cheese.
    I really need to look at our electricity and water usage. And the stuff is an ongoing battle, especially when we do need something that we can’t find used, and with the big kids being older.
    What kind of cloth have you tried for overnights? My little guy does best with a thick fitted and a wool cover.

  3. yep, i’d like audit forms – i started with a 12 step program this year
    but kinda fell off the wagon when we went travelling for half the year for my youngest’s health. so hard to stick to my usual stuff when travelling and when in really remote locations. right now am buying cage eggs for the first time in my life and hate it but kinda need eggs in our world as the food is pretty limited and crap here anyway.
    hmm, i digress.
    umatji at gmail.com
    ta and enjoy – i was loving my 12 steps before it went soggy. lookin gforward to 12 steps after we get home in jan – but for now i might just ride on your ragey tail!

  4. Hey. I took a little hiatus from your blog (and the computer/internet in general) to move to another state. It just happened to coincide with the derailing of your world as well. So glad things are getting back to normal for you!

    In any case, now that I have moved away from everything I knew and loved (yes, I’m being dramatic, but with good reason) I am so happy to have found your blog. You did a similar move with babies of a similar age as mine (you from Alaska and me from Hawaii. Big moves with little babes). Nothing has been so hard in my life. Thanks for the sense of solidarity.

  5. Audit forms would be lovely Ms. Strynz. Do you want them back when filled out?

    Question about food audit – when you mention “home produced” are you talking about value added (making condiments, canned, pickled yada yada) or meals cooked at home?

    1. ha! no i don’t need the audit tables back, this is not homework.
      “home produced” means garden stuff and eggs from our chickens.

  6. I would love the audit forms please! I’ve been lucky this year our electric company started sending out energy audits of your homes energy usage as it compares with other similarly sized homes in our area. This has been a real eye opener! Our natural gas usage is through the roof which exposed a problem that I don’t think anybody thinks of; oven use and how it contributes to your home’s energy needs. I cook and bake a lot but we are using 15% more gas than other homes. I’m saving up to replace the oven now, because it is the only appliance that is not energy efficient!

  7. Total inspiration! I am finding it a real challenge to adopt many ideas & have buy-in (no pun intended) from my 3 sons – 2 of whom are teenagers. If I can strategize how to make this work thru’ the December madness, I feel like i have done my job! I’m game to try! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Yes please, audit forms please, sounds fascinating – just read your original post on it – my ecomentalist hubby will be totally into it! I wrote a sries last year called the transition family which touches on this topic too, all about building resilient family living http://dreamingaloudnet.blogspot.com/2010/11/prepared-family-be-prepared-part-1.html

    Hey CJ – psychic post name stealing going on between us! I was brewing a post called “What’s in a name” – but on a totally different topic – for this week!!

  9. I keep thinking that I will make these forms myself, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So please email them to me! I haven’t done the audit yet, but I hope to this next month.

    South Dakota is terrible to find any local food through the winter, so if I haven’t put it up, I have to get it at the grocery store. Unfortunately, my September went down the tubes for good eating, but we’re slowly getting on the right track again. I’m pregnant and for a good month and a half I couldn’t eat or even step in the kitchen, so my boys had to fend for themselves with crappy food. I’m ashamed to admit how much macaroni and cheese, chicken strips, etc. they ate, plus I didn’t get nearly as much canned/frozen as I wanted to. But onward and upward!

    I really liked your comments at the end of the post about small habits. I have a Wendell Berry quote I love about making a difference in the small ways so I’ll try to post it after I get home and find it!

  10. I would consider mending items…clothing, furniture, car upholstery (get a curved needle to make it easier), window screens etc very important. Also learn to do your own car repairs and maintenance (this can be harder now with newer cars, but still do what you can.) Have basic tools needed to do repairs, not just garage type tools, but also a working sewing machine and a variety of thread, patches, scrap fabric, needles and buttons.

    Someone said they don’t bother to recycle…I would never NOT recycle whatever possible. Where we are we have recycling for everything…motor oil, yard waste (the city composts it/chips it up for use in the city parks and along the trails. They take batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and all the usual glass, metal, plastics and cardboard. Unless you are truly a “no impact man” (good movie, BTW) you are producing some recyclable reusable waste. Plus the more tonnage recycled means less to the landfill and credits on our tax bills.

    1. To clarify, Julie said she doesn’t recycle cuz she’s not sure it helps much, not cuz she can’t be bothered. I’ve often wondered and meant to look into how much recycling really helps, considering the transport to facilities and energy used. I feel like it must help some, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the difference were small. What do you know about it Julie?

  11. I, too, would love the audit forms. I was making some headway with all this stuff before having a baby. Now that he’s nearly a year, I’d love to get back in the groove. Thanks for being so organized and such an inspiration!

  12. I think at least trying would be better than just assuming it does nothing. I have heard that the Southwest area of US does not recycle because of water shortages…that is where things like plastic bottles should be restricted.

    Our University in town here is building its second biodigester and the new academic building gets 80% or more of its lighting just through natural and reflected light. It also has a green roof, meaning living and grass covered.

    Just about anything can be recycled now. Look up terracycle on the internet…it is a grassroots type recycling site for many odd and diverse things. It’s reduce-reuse-recycle, not just dump it. We use freecycle a lot to clear out unneeded items.

  13. I’ve also read that the difference that ordinary household recycling actually makes is tiny compared to all of the big companies and everything else that gets thrown. In The Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca Costa she talks about it a little. It’s kindof a depressing book, but a very good one to read all the same.

    Even when I know I might not be making a difference I try to subscribe to the “Theory of Anyway” mentioned by Sharon Astyk. Even if it doesn’t make a huge difference, recycling is something we should do anyway, so I just do it.

    The Wendell Berry quote I didn’t post earlier alludes to that too–

    “Insignificance is no escape, for in the membership of the Great Economy everything signifies; whatever we do counts. If we do not serve what coheres and endures, we serve what disintegrates and destroys.”

  14. Great list of reminders – good to revisit this regularly! I already do a lot of the stuff on the list – and am thinking about the things I haven’t done yet. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Since I commute to the city, a few months back started taking the bus to the train station and it’s working out well. I leave my car in the garage except for a couple errands a week (my favorite of which is Saturday morning – to the farmer’s market and to hit a few garage sales on the way).

    Also made friends with a local restaurant’s chef. He saves me kitchen veggie scraps for my chickens on weekdays (yup – I carry the bag on the train & bus!) And, in exchange, I bring him fresh eggs when I have a surplus. If there’s stuff in the scraps that the chickens can’t have – it goes on the compost pile. My chickens and garden both like the arrangement!

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