A Quantified Selfie (2018 in Review)

| February 3, 2019

tumblr_m2mh0fYKzG1qbs8duThere are carbon footprints, ecological footprints, and other ways to measure our personal impact on the environment. Then there’s the evidence that Americans are materialistic and consumption-oriented. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my family’s consumption by disclosing some of our 2018 consumption and economy-related activities. (Some facts and fact-areas are added because wanted to include major service providers we rely on.) Spoiler: We may be statistical outliers as below-average American consumers, but we still manage to live a life of comfort and excess.

Basic Family Facts

  • We are four people (two adults, two children)
  • We rent an apartment in a New York City co-op which houses approximately 100 other families.
  • I am a multimedia producer working in higher education; my wife is a musician and music educator. Our children attend public school.


Household Services

  • Our electricity use averages about 2,400 kWh/year. (far below the American average of ~10,000)
  • We do a majority of our cooking with natural gas.
  • Water:
    • We collectively spend about 20 minutes showering each day.
    • We run our small dishwasher once per day. (~260 kWh/year; unknown water consumption)
  • Refuse:
    • Trash: 1 plastic grocery bag  per day (2.6 gallons/day)
    • Recycling: 1 paper grocery bag per day (mixed paper and plastics)
    • Composting: Intermittently through a local farmers market
    • Clothes, toys: Intermittently through local charity

Food & Consumables

  • We obtain 90% of all food from our local grocery store. We buy mostly organic fresh produce (and some seasonal produce from the local farmer’s market), grass-fed beef, and dairy and free-range/cage-free poultry raised without hormones or antibiotics.
    • We eat about 1 lb of beef per week (An average cow yields 55 lbs of beef, so in effect one cow is slaughtered each year for us)
    • We eat 1-2 full chickens per week (Unfortunately playing our role in making this epoch of world history the Poultrypocene)
  • We obtain the majority of bulk household consumables (e.g., papers, soaps, and the remaining 10% of food) from Target. (This year we switched from in-store to mainly online orders.)
  • We obtain most of our remaining consumables, tools, and toys from Amazon. (See Prime cost below)

Media Time

  • Board games. We enjoy them and are improving our strategy! Recent favorites include: Sushi Go!, Isle of Skye, Catan, Scrabble, and Chess.
  • Books
    • We read voraciously, and books are by far the most used media in our home. We increasingly purchase books on the Kindle platform, though we continue to purchase print books for aesthetic and/or cost advantages. We borrow books from library, both in digital and print formats.
    • We currently have 3 Kindles in active use.
  • Data Services
    • AT&T (wireless phone service x2) $120/mo.
      • I average 1.5 hours/day on my phone (Did you know an average iPhone user spends only 50¢/year on electricity?)
    • RCN (cable modem internet service) $55/mo.
      • We watch 2-5 hours of movies and TV per week. (That’s roughly about 180 hours/year, or 5X below the American average.)
      • We have 2 iPads in active use, mostly for strategy games. We use these for less than 30 minutes/day.
      • We have 3 computers in our home. It’s either iPad or computer use for the kids, not both. Sometimes homework is on the computer.
  • Digital content services
    • New York Times (news)  $7.50/mo.
    • Netflix DVD (movies) $5/mo.
    • Amazon Prime (movies, books, fast delivery) $120/year.
  • Social media: booo. I quit using Facebook and Twitter this year (with no regrets). My wife still checks on her Facebook feed every couple days.


  • Planes: We flew a collective 22,000 nautical miles last year on one far-flung adventure (at approximately 3.6 metric tons of carbon, this is the single worst thing for the environment we did all year.)
  • Trains: We are avid user of the NYC Subway, but only need day passes due to irregular travel.
  • Automobiles: Our Toyota Sienna has a 214,000 miles on it (we acquired it used at 187,000; it’s good to drive used). We drive approximately 5,000 miles/year.

Giving Back

Of course, our goal in life is not only to live through consumption, but to give back! Do we do enough? Probably not. But in addition to our work in education, we also made the following indirect contributions.

Financial Giving (aka “secular tithing”)

Other Actions

  • Showing kindness and respect towards all life. (Eat less, mostly plants! Support bug life!)
  • Holding doors for people. (Even small gestures count!)
  • When requesting any service, we start with “please” and say “thank you.”
  • Acknowledging all kindness. (Fun fact: It annoys me greatly when people don’t say thank you when I hold the door!)

And… that seems like the top available facts for this first annual quantified selfie. Want to share your own annual life impact? Download this Artaswork template and reflect a bit on your consumption, and how to live a low-consumption life.