Another year has passed, so it’s time for the 2022 annual review. This is an opportunity for me to reflect on successes and learning opportunities over the year. It’s also an excellent opportunity to look forward to 2023 and set new goals. Of course, I don’t need a specific day to start working toward something, but having a milestone to measure back to is often helpful.
Outdoor Gardening – 2022 Annual Review
Last year was a mixed year for gardening. While my original plans of expanding a backyard garden were scrapped due to moving from a house to a rental, I could still set up a potted garden. I had many flowers growing throughout the season, and it was a pretty lovely sight. We were visited regularly by bees & butterflies, despite being well within a concrete jungle.
Despite my great success with flowers this year, I couldn’t grow anything more than a handful of small tomatoes in my outdoor potted garden. Other plants grew to a point and were destroyed by wind, rain, heat, or bugs. These plant killers showed up at odd times throughout the growing season.
A 2022 annual review of the weather would call it confused. Sudbury had high heat & little precipitation in the cool, rainy spring. Then, we had low temperatures and lots of rain in the typically hot & dry summer. We then had more rain throughout an extended fall. And now, we’re looking at a wet but mild winter, with snow having existed for a brief 3-week period before disappearing.
Hydroponic Gardening – 2022 Annual Review
My indoor growing was more successful. As noted in my recent review, I had a lot of success with a handful of specific plants. Bok Choy, Thai Chillies, Thai Basil, Iceberg Lettuce, and most of the salad greens I tried performed quite well. Since that post, my bell pepper plants have begun to flower, my Candy Mint briefly performed quite well (before the peppers starved them), and I’ve managed a couple more heads of lettuce.
Unfortunately, my large iDoo was overtaken with green algae, leading to everything I had planted dying as saplings. I had hoped the tomato plant would pull through, but it gave up while I was on a brief 2-day trip to Toronto. This means that later tonight, I’ll have to clean it out and replant it fresh for another try.
I read that a little bit of 3% hydrogen peroxide can eliminate the algae without harming the plants, so I may need to integrate that into my hydroponic routine. I want to go with a DIY setup with my next expansion, but there’s more to learn before I do.
2023 Growing Goals
For 2023, I hope to get my hydroponics into a regular grow cycle that will allow me to harvest salad greens every few days. We would eat more salad in this house if we had lettuce, spinach, and salad greens grown fresh & ready more often. I also look forward to harvesting some bell peppers & more Thai Chillies once they’re ready. If I can get a good tomato plant to grow & produce, that would be the icing on the cake.
As for potted plants, I’ll start seeding those in February. Once again, I will be growing some flowers, as they did pretty well. In addition to the flowers, I plan to grow tomatoes, yellow beans, carrots, onions, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, and bok choy.
Except for a few small handfuls of tomatoes, none did well this past season.
I’ve made some changes to my pots to help with drainage. That should improve conditions when it gets too wet out. I’ve also prepared my vertical pots, which should help certain plants get more light (or less light) than they were subject to last season. I am hoping to build a bit of a temporary greenhouse to help protect the plants from the excess wind & rain.
Fossil Fuels – 2022 Annual Review
Over the past year, I’ve used Methane, Propane, and Gasoline. I had some pretty specific goals that I had hoped to achieve. I wanted to reduce methane by 14%, halve my Propane, and decrease my average daily Gasoline use by about 2% from a benchmark that I set at the end of 2021.
Halfway through the year, my family and I moved from the house to a rental, which changed the whole picture. Methane was eliminated. The distance we needed to drive for the daily commute increased (plus a few unexpected long-distance trips out of town). And the usual hot & sunny summer weather existed in the early Spring, with a rainy Summer effectively washing the BBQ weather down the drain.
Overall, annual methane use decreased from 79.16 kWh/day to 45.79 kWh/day. Gasoline increased from a benchmark of 37.53 kWh/day to 39.05 kWh/day. Propane use decreased significantly as well, going from 2.04 kWh/day to 0.68 kWh/day.
Electricity – 2022 Annual Review
I originally had a goal of restricting my electricity use to a growth of about 8% vs the previous year. But as previously mentioned, my home heating changed from methane to electricity midway through the year. This resulted in a shift in power use and rendered my goal unfeasible.
I also had hoped to install a few solar panels to help charge batteries (i.e. lawnmower, whipper snipper, snow thrower, power tools, etc.). Unfortunately, the move caused me to lose most of the small panels I used for my security system and outdoor charging of cell phones. From what I’ve seen, the new owners have left them in place, but I’ve no idea if they use them.
At the rental, I’ve added a couple of small panels outside to keep my phone, outdoor speaker, and a single security camera charged up. This means I’m not reliant on disposable batteries or grid power for these few items.
Taking everything into account, my electrical use in 2022 increased from 30.8 kWh/day to 41.9 kWh/day. That’s a 36% increase year-over-year, and I expect it to continue to grow as we move through the winter months.
Appliances – 2022 Annual Review
Several essential appliances contributed to my electrical use. While the fridge, oven, and deep freezer contribute significantly, tracking them without a smart meter is too tricky. The dishwasher, clothes washer, and clothes dryer, on the other hand, are relatively simple to track.
We relocated to the rental in May and switched to different appliances at that point. As indicated to the right, the power used to run these appliances dipped following the move. All months before May, we utilized over 200 kWh, with half over 250 kWh. In contrast, only two months scraped over 200 kWh after the move, with four hovering on either side of 150 kWh.
2023 Power & Utility Goals
In 2023, I’m hoping to continue to improve my energy mix.
Methane will be zero, making a significant difference, but I know I can do more. So I will.
Propane will be reduced to 124.2 kWh (a single 18 L canister). This should be higher than what I use, as I’ve eliminated the BBQ from our yard and have no intention of replacing it. My family is planning some camping next summer, and our camp stove runs on propane. The other option was kerosene, so I think I made the right choice here.
I’d also like to decrease my Gasoline use. In 2022, my family utilized 14,254.7 kWh of Gasoline. I want to decrease that below the original benchmark (13,696.6) to 13,500. If I take September – December 2022, which includes an unexpected 1000+ km trip, I can expect 13,928.9 kWh as a more typical annual amount. This makes a 13,500 kWh goal a challenging, but possible, expectation.
For electricity, I’d like to keep my increase below 25%. There will be increased usage, as heating is now electric instead of methane, so it’s really a matter of figuring out how much. A 25% increase puts annual usage at 19,117 kWh.
More importantly, I want to adjust my Electric Time-of-Use (TOU). Here in Ontario, our energy grid uses about 5% – 18% fossil fuels, based on need. “High” periods use more dead dinosaurs than “Low.” For 2023, I’d like to shift that to 16% high, 16% mid, and 68% low.
For my appliances, I’d like to keep every month below 200 kWh and push half of them under 150 kWh. Now that both kids are potty trained during the day, and only one is still in diapers at night, that should lead to less laundry. Less laundry means less electricity (and water) use.
Transportation & Fitness – 2022 Annual Review
I didn’t really get much chance to talk about the importance of transportation and fitness here this past year. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce fossil-fuel-based, single-family transportation and move toward mass transit, cycling, or electric vehicles.
Before this past summer, I was in recovery from an operation on my leg. As a result, I was unable to do any cycling in 2021. This summer, I managed to get in pretty decent shape and could bike a fair distance in an acceptable time frame. I managed a handful of trips for groceries and the like, just small things, while on the bicycle.
While I didn’t use mass transit this past year, nearly every ride was a carpool as I drove my youngest to daycare (for part of the year), my eldest to school, and my spouse to work. I have driven about 19,000 km since purchasing the car in October 2021. I’m not sure how many were in 2022, but it’s probably around the 15,000 km mark.
In fitness, I’ve also trimmed down to 185 lbs and am now completing regular workouts with 10 lbs weights (and 2 lbs ankle weights for step workouts). I didn’t quite reach my 175 lbs goal, but there’s definitely been a significant improvement as I’ve lost over 30 lbs from this time last year.
2023 Transportation & Fitness Goals
For 2023, I’d like to decrease my car use to about 12,500 km. I think it’s doable with more cycling in the summer months for small loads, fewer trips to the suburbs, and better planning. It’ll be challenging but definitely doable.
I’m hoping to complete my fitness goals. Drop my weight to 175 lbs, increase the weights I use to about 15 lbs, and improve my cycling speed further. I don’t have a specific goal for cycling speed because I’m comfortable with where I am, but improvement is always welcome (even incremental).
I’m also considering joining the city’s urban transportation committee, which helps make decisions around the pedestrian, cyclist, mass transit, and driving infrastructure. At the very least, I’m hoping to be able to attend & observe these meetings. From there, I can figure out which committee members are more inclined to environmentally friendly development and which are still burning their garbage and pouring plastic on the fires.
Community Building – 2022 Annual Review
I’ve done very little in this space locally over the past year. Between moving to a rental, finishing up my school program, and dealing with a potty-training pre-schooler (on top of more normal activities), I haven’t had much time to try to carve something out in this area. That said, I have definitely expanded my online community.
In late January, I joined up with Sunbeam City, a Mastodon-based community that primarily revolves around the solarpunk ideology. It’s a loosely organized community, and it’s been hard to break into the group. It seems they’ve been burned in the past, so they’re much slower to trust than one would hope.
Despite this, I’ve now taken over the admin work on their Wiki and have started to maintain financial statements. The community doesn’t have a strict membership roster or a specific membership fee. Additionally, with no one monitoring their OpenCollective account, annual expenses, etc., it was a bit tricky to see the social & fiscal stability of the cooperative.
While I still have some concerns regarding social stability, fiscal stability is no longer in question.
2023 Community Building Goals
In 2023, I will find and help build the local community. In addition to the urban transportation committee mentioned earlier; I’m looking forward to joining one of the community gardening groups. The closest is a fair distance away, but if I bike there, it will serve two purposes (exercise & community building). Hopefully, I’ll find some similarly minded folks to connect with there, and we can work toward creating a localized solarpunk reality. Once we have a small core of people, we can post around and try to expand the group & work toward larger projects as a community.
I plan to continue working with Sunbeam City. Their financial statements are now in order, so I’m turning to adding their decision-making procedures to the wiki. The cooperative still has some elements to iron out in that regard, but we chose to adopt Autonomic Zone’s decision-making process basically. There will need to be tweaks, but those changes aren’t possible until we start getting together for meetings more regularly.
One of my goals with Sunbeam is to help with their organization & record-keeping. That’s one of my main areas of strength, and thus one of the best ways I can contribute to the cooperative. I look forward to learning more from the membership in the areas I don’t currently excel and taking that back to my local community and personal life.
Finally, I’ll be taking French lessons starting mid-January. The city I live in has a substantial francophone community. By not speaking French, I’m unable to find connections within that community and unable to learn and grow in that realm. Plus, my kids will be learning French soon, so it will be beneficial for them to have someone to practice with at home.
2022 Annual Review Wrap-Up
This past year was busy. Between graduating from college, experimenting with hydroponics & potted gardens, modifying my energy mix, improving my fitness, and joining a similarly-minded online community, I’ve accomplished quite a bit. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t manage to get done and a lot of stuff that didn’t pan out as expected.
I’ve some pretty extensive goals for 2023. If I succeed at half of them, I’ll be content. With some dedicated work, I think it’s fully possible to accomplish most, if not all, of my goals. Among those goals, I hope to post on this blog far more often.