A graph of my electricity consumption this year. February is partial, and it doesn't include the electricity I used when traveling (of course).

I remember some time ago that an environmentalist group in Switzerland had calculated that if we were all going to live sustainably at similar standard of living (i.e. not burning A/C in McMansions in Arizona playing golf on greens watered with the diverted contents of the Colorado river and fertilized and maintained with petrochemicals, but also not living in shanties with no water, power, or sewerage and sifting the garbage piles of Calcutta) then each of us needed to live on 2kW… total. Not 2kW meaning you could run TWO high-end gaming PCs at the same time.

Anyway, this group has done such a sterling job of gaining traction that I can’t even find them with Google. Perhaps “2kW” isn’t an easily search-friendly term. It’s the “angular” (or, worse, the “go”) of environmentalist movements…

As you can see, since February I have consumed about 1050kWH and that’s about 6500h, so I’m living on 200W. And living very well, I might add. My apartment is warm enough in Winter (in Finland, a couple of hours drive from the arctic circle) that I sleep with a single light duvet. I use a 45″ 4K TV as a monitor and have not one, not two, but three pretty high end computers (2 macs, one gaming PC). I have and use a dishwasher, have and use a washing machine (Energy Star A+++) and dryer (no rating, but it uses a heat pump). I even have, and use, my own sauna.

Unfortunately, I’ve also been back to the US twice in the last year which is—conservatively—another 14,000 kWH, which is enough on its own to take me over the 2kW limit.

I also bought a car recently, and that’s another 9kWH per liter of gasoline (I got a hybrid which theoretically gets 25km/L but it’s been on Winter tires since I got it and has been closer to 15km/L. I probably drive it fewer than 5km/day so let’s call that 3kWH/day. But if I drive to France in Spring that’s going to be 1000kWH each way (although, split between myself and my >0 passengers).

The responsible thing to do would be to go by train and use public transport, scooters, etc.. But, especially when traveling to new places, having a car just lets you do more stuff.

We don’t have easy ways to gauge the energy footprints of our other activities. Meat represents more kWh than beans. Cow Milk more kWh than Oat Milk. And then there’s also clean and gray water consumption.

Living sustainably is hard, but we need to figure out how to do it and that shouldn’t be so hard.