Before working to reduce your impact, however, it is helpful to develop a baseline: How much energy / water / fuel are we using? This helps you understand which items are your biggest offenders (always tackle the low hanging fruit first) and it also allows you to measure gains from year to year. At Black Diamond, this was all in the context of the overall organization, but in the back of my mind, I always wondered how much impact I had as an individual.
I always figured that transportation was my area of largest impact (between the gas guzzling truck and the flights back and forth across the pacific) and the thought of using the wind to propel me was exceptionally compelling. The Rascal still has an engine (a very efficient small diesel), but I try to only use it for maneuvering in marinas and at times when safety might be a concern (bar crossings, crowded channels, or big storms). I reckon I’ll probably only fly home once per year and even that ends up accounting for about a quarter of my impact. Overall, I’m using 88% less fuel than I did on land.
There are obviously still places where I could improve, but I’m proud of the changes I’ve made. If I ever go back to living on land, I’ll definitely be able to live with less. I published my results, not with the intention of bragging, but to get folks to think about where they might be able to improve. It’s relatively easy to perform one of these analyses (just google things like “water usage shower” and “fuel economy of airplanes” and page through old utility bills). Once you know how much you’re using, it’s a lot easier to make improvements. For instance, I would never have suspected that more than half of my water usage came from showering. Perhaps I should’ve taken shorter showers or bought one of those new fangled shower heads. It’s also instructive to take these usage numbers and attempt to convert them to dollars and cents. I was spending thousands and thousands of dollars on fuel before I moved onto my boat, and now I expect it’ll add up to just under a thousand per year.