Use It Or Lose It, or How To Save The World With The Crap In Your Storage Room

If every American dove into their storage room and unearthed $100, can you imagine what that $33 billion could do?

The US is home to 327 million Americans, and a staggering $33 billion in unused tech just sitting around. That means every US citizen essentially has a $100 doorstop somewhere in their home. Statistically speaking, if you’re young and male like me, that number’s bound to be much higher. I easily have thousands in tech either unused or underutilized, and I came to the realization that value could do a lot of good in the world, and for my pocketbook. Never being one to sit still on such epiphanies, I began a slow and steady purge. This is the story of how raiding my storage room helped make the world a better place.

Looking at my power bill meant my PlayStations had to go. I sold off my PS4s and conjured up nearly $700 out of past excess. I then looked up my city’s community Facebook page and essentially posted, “Free PS3s to the right person!” I ended up saving a kid’s birthday party – he wanted a video game party, and his PS3 had died a week before – and I also gave one to a small family. At this point, I was also sitting on some unused games. This took care of itself as someone broke into my car and stole them. I also discovered almost 10 external hard drives. In my early days as a photographer, 1TB and 1.5TB hard drives were as big as you could get them. Now that I’ve upgraded to 8TB hard drives, this was like mining for diamonds in my garage. I sold them all for cheap, and made about $500. I made money, and my friends saved money. These are the win-win situations I live for. There’s even two TVs I barely use, and I’m already thinking of ways to unload them! Then, there’s my heaps of camera gear! I’m not ready to give away $3,000 cameras yet, but I do lend my gear to anyone who asks nicely. As long as I’m not using it, what’s mine is yours. A local photographer who’s a friend-of-a-friend wanted to borrow a lens last weekend. No problem! In fact, years ago, I even donated a fleet of film cameras to hobbyists. One made its way to a photography school, and some are now toys in the hands of creative professionals. I even let my roommate borrow my car when I’m not using it! As soon as I let go of the idea of ownership, my unused crap started enriching people’s lives, my bank account, and the world at large!

Buying and receiving secondhand objects isn’t just about saving money either. It’s also about saving the environment. This Swedish study puts some numbers to it – 12.5M tonnes of CO₂ saved per year?!? – but what’s even more staggering is how small their sample size was. They only looked at five “major marketplaces” in Europe. Craigslist is saving heaps too! All I know is raiding my storage closet did good for the world. Even getting those games stolen out of my car meant that poor dude didn’t steal from someone else. What $100 doorstops do you have in your closet?

*****

While writing an early draft of this article, I found out the 50mm f/1.8 I was essentially using as a camera body cap finally made its way to Windsor, ON. I hadn’t used it in months, and it’s now gone to an enthusiastic amateur. I’m pretty ruthless now with what stays and what goes.

If something has a use, I make sure it’s used, even if it’s not by me. If something no longer benefits me, but will benefit someone else simply by being in a different place, I consider that a net win.

If every American dove into their storage room and unearthed $100, can you imagine what that $33 billion could do?

We Use 66% Less Electricity Than Our Neighbours

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Over the past few months, we’ve gotten pretty good about optimizing our finances, but our obsessively geeky need to optimize everything eventually led us to the website of BC Hydro. For those of you not in BC, BC Hydro is our main electricity distributor, serving about 1.8 million customers across the province. Since I moved into my place seven years ago, I’ve been paying bills from them every two months. They keep the lights on for us, but I never turn on too many. That’s why I suspect we’re one of the most energy-efficient households in our area. Pull up your own numbers and play along. It’s kinda fun being able to see your stats. Here’s ours.

BC Hydro has a thing they call Team Power Smart. You click a button and they start tracking your kWh usage for the next 365 days. Reduce your energy consumption by 10% from the previous year, and you get a $50 credit on your bill! Obviously, $50 is peanuts, but the seed had been planted. With raw data in front of me and graphs to show my progress, my goal now wasn’t just 10%. Now the question was, How low could I go? From November 2016 to November 2017, I somehow blew through 4,600+ kWh. To qualify for my credit, my goal from November 2017 to November 2018 is 4,191 kWh, but my stretch goal is actually 3,000 kWh. I crunched some numbers, and we seem to use 10.08 kWh per day on average, or 302.4 kWh per month. I briefly lamented not being on track for my stretch goal, but then I looked up average electricity usage in BC. “Households in BC Hydro’s service area average just over 900 kWh per month”! We’re literally 3x more efficient! This only strengthened my resolve. If BC Hydro was giving me $50, I might as well use it for good. Time for some online shopping.

A few nights ago, I came home to a package waiting for me: the Kill A Watt P4460 I’d been eyeing for months. The order total was $45.84, but I knew this’d save me more in the long run. With the ability to plug it into just about anything and immediately see a cost forecast by week, month, or year, it’s giving me the data I need to be smarter about energy consumption. I no longer use a PS4 as my main streaming device, and now use an Apple TV I got through a barter. According to this, a PS4 “consumes 89 watts per hour when streaming video”, “35 to 40 times more power consumption” than an Apple TV. Because I was an idiot just a few years ago, I once had five PlayStations all humming away in my living room. Now: one Apple TV. I haven’t noticed any decrease in life satisfaction. In fact, I think I’m happier.

Our light bulbs are almost all CFL now too. Technically, LEDs use less electricity, and buying them kinda makes sense, but not really. Computers also go to sleep more often, and I’m even reading about energy-efficient cooking (except that barely even matters).

Annnnnd… that’s kinda it. There’s pretty much nowhere else we can be more efficient. I limit screen time anyway, so instead of a 50” HDTV running all the time, I listen to audiobooks on my iPhone. (Current binge: “Happiness by Design” by Paul Dolan.) Also, I went back in my BC Hydro history, found the oldest bill I had, and I’m apparently paying 18% less per bill now. See why I’m a data geek? Saving hundreds now means thousands later. We’ll most likely revisit our energy consumption this November and see how we did on our challenge. In the meantime, I’ll try not to seem like such a weirdo typing on his keyboard in the dark.

If you’ve got weird energy-saving tips, let us know in the comments. How do you think we’re doing? Is 10 kWh/day a lot for three people? Let’s get competitive and save some money.

PS: We pay a base cost of $0.18990/day, and $0.08580/kWh. What’s your rate?

Save The Earth, Don’t Give Birth

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As I write this, there are 7.4 billion people on the planet. That’s 7,400,000,000+ weird, fleshy things tearing up nature to make more asphalt roads, concrete buildings, and McDonald’s restaurants while simultaneously increasing their number to 10 billion by 2060. Do I think the world is going to end soon though? Not really. Stephen Hawking reckons we’ve got about 1,000 years left, so I’m not gonna preach climate change at you. I will, however, try to convince you creating a new human being is just about the worst thing you can do environmentally and financially. Financially speaking, I’m sure you knew this already, but what fun would this be if I didn’t give you hard numbers? Here’s some hard evidence why being a parent is objectively terrible.

Let’s start with the financial burden. I’m going to assume you have a kid at 30 because Statistics Canada says “the modern time frame for childbearing has become increasingly concentrated around age 30”. Raising a child to age 18 in Canada costs $253,946.97, so let’s just assume you did the smart thing, DIDN’T have a kid, and decided to bank the full amount at age 48. Using the ol’ Compound Interest Calculator I love so much, let’s see what happens in the 17 years between 48-65 at 7% interest with one kid vs. none… A DIFFERENCE OF $769,676.91!!! That’s PER KID by the way, so if you were planning on having two, do the math accordingly. Children really fuck up retirement plans, eh? So much for your plans of travelling the world. That’s diaper money now! But wait, there’s more.

Planning for children tends to interfere with other life goals. Where a parent might decide to spend their entire working life financing a family home they can pass down to their children, other options like 99-year leaseholds might pass them by, leaving their lifetime workload high and life satisfaction low. Also, there’s “very little difference” between parents and non-parents when it comes to life satisfaction, so don’t act like having kids is a type of joy only parents can understand. I, for instance, love that I can fuck off to Mexico whenever I want, and maybe that’s a joy only the childless can understand. It’s apples and oranges. I choose Mexico.

But what about the planet? Just how damaging is creating a brand new human by mashing together our naughty bits? The average Canadian creates 15.7 tonnes of carbon emissions in just a year, and over the average Canadian lifespan of 81.24 years, that’s 1,275 tonnes of carbon emissions we’ve got to worry about PER PERSON. That’s like 3,000,000+ miles driven by an average passenger vehicle, ENOUGH TO DRIVE THE MOTHERFUCKING EQUATOR 120 TIMES. It’s also kinda like converting 8.7 beef-loving omnivores to full-blown vegans. On a tree planting level, if you still think you can somehow make your kid carbon-neutral, she’d have to plant 33,000+ trees just to break even, AND THEY’D HAVE TO STAND FOR AT LEAST 10 YEARS. I don’t know about you, but I’ve planted literally one goddamn tree. It’s dead now, just like any notion I might’ve had about having a kid. Making a child is fucking insane.

Now, if you took the stance of saving the world instead of destroying it, it can be as cheap as $0.10 to plant a tree. With the $253,946.97 you saved from NOT having a kid, you’re looking at planting about 2.5 million trees if you put it all into environmental forestry, enough to offset about 75 Canadian children. THAT’S NOT EVEN A LOT. Remember how I said world population is gonna grow by 2.6 BILLION BY 2060? If they were all as wasteful as Canadians, we’d need 85,800,000,000,000 trees to offset that – 85.8 TRILLION, OVER 25 TIMES THE NUMBER WE ALREADY HAVE ON EARTH.

WE. ARE. FUCKED.

Ask yourself just one thing before you decide to have a kid: “Why the fuck am I doing this?”

Seriously! Do it! You’ll often find the answer is something objectively silly like “all my friends are having kids”, “it was my mother’s dying wish” or “I think a child will finally make me happy”. (News flash: It won’t.)

With the knowledge I’ve just given you, you can’t afford to play biological poker with your junk anymore. Your happiness, your financial security, and the fate of the entire human race rests solely in your pants.

Give a fuck. Wrap it up.

Wanna poke holes in my math? Do it on our Facebook.