Essays

A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

The Caloric Value of a Dollar: A movement towards calculating actual consumption

Overview:

Each person must expend some amount of energy to earn one dollar. The sum of energy expended may vary greatly from person to person. Therefore, the common dollar as we know it may have a greater or lesser amount of caloric dependency depending upon the channel through which it was earned.

Why this is important:

As money is one of the basic elements studied in the evaluation of sustainable economies, one must fully understand the personal caloric expenditure and it’s variables in order to completely grasp the gross caloric investment in each person’s dollar.

Sally

For sally to earn money she must work in a store. She drives to her work in her car. She works an average of 20 hours per week (4 hours per day) , at the hourly rate of $12 per hour after taxes. During her work day she eats one meal.

Variable 1: Transportation

Sally drives an average of 20 miles to work each day in an older car that annually requires an average of $2500 in operating costs per year.

Let us suppose that $500 of those costs are gasoline, $1000 are insurance, and $1000 go to actual repair of the vehicle.

Let us then assume that the insurance requires 1000 calories of energy to be expended in it’s issuance, an average of 20000 calories are expended in the production off replacement car parts and repair labor annually, and that the gas requires an average of 1000 per barrel, and that sally’s $500 actually purchases her 10 barrels.

For the sake of calculation let us assume these averages can be broken into an hourly cost as follow:

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Repair 2 $0.11
Insurance 0.10 $0.11
Gas 11 $0.05

Variable 2: Food

She requires consumption of 1800 calories on daily average, of which 600 may be consumed and expended during actual work. Let us suppose this meal cost $5 to prepare.

The caloric production requirements of the food must be factored into her total calorie expenditure. Let us say that she eats a hamburger for lunch, french fries, a soft drink. Let us suppose that this meal ends up at a net value of 600 calories.

That would be 600 calories, right?

Well yes, but the amount of calories expended in producing the hamburger, french fries, and coke is completely overlooked, thereby giving us a false reading of the actual gross calorie expenditure she has caused to be used in her eating of the meal.

The actual amount of calories required to produce her meal will typically be much higher than the actual yield. One must factor the production of the food (feeding the cattle, growing the potatoes, producing the soft drink) and all of these actions require calories to be expended. Additionally, one must factor in the amount of energy needed to package, ship, sell, and cook (if required) the items she will eat. All of this energy has an inherent caloric value.

Let us suppose, for the sake of illustrating this model, that the actual caloric expenditure of the meal was valued at around 2000 gross calories.

So food would add 2000 gross calories to Sally’s chart. The actual amount Sally actually received from the food was 600. Leaving a caloric debt of about 1400 calories. Which averages to a per work hour cost of… (divide by 4 work hours)

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Food 500 $1.25

Variable 3: Environment

Sally works at a standalone store. For her to be able to work, the store must have electricity, running water, a phone. It must also sell products or services at some point to earn money (it’s a business, after all) .

Let us say in 1 hour she works, the store requires a gross 30,000 calories in utilities to be expended.

Let us also assume that she will sell 1 products in 1 hour of which each require 10,000 calories to be used to produce.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Store 30,000 $0.00
Products 10,000 $0.00

Sally lives in an apartment, and while she works at the store her apartment is using a small amount of energy which must be factored in for she is paying for it while working.

Let us assume that her apartment uses 1,000 calories of energy during one hour off her work, and requires $1.36 in money for rent and utilities.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Apartment 1,000 $1.36

Now we must add it all up.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Transportation 13.10 $0.27
Food 500 $1.25
Environment 41,000 $1.36
Total 41,513 $2.87

That brings us to 41,513.10 calories expended to produce 1 hour of work. At $12 per hour, that averages to 3,459.425 calories expended to earn one dollar.

So, $1 = 3,459.425 calories for Sally

Of course, there was also money required to be paid for these items which required Sally’s labor under these conditions. Thus we must total up the money spent, and multiply the calories per dollar sally spends against the cost.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Transportation 13.10 $0.27
Food 500 $1.25
Environment 41,000 $1.36
Total 41,513 $2.87

Total cost is $2.87 per hour, bringing the total hourly cost in calories to 9,928.55

Joe

For joe to earn money he works from home as a technical consultant. He works an average of 20 hours per week (4 hours per day) , at the hourly rate of $20 per hour after taxes. During his work day he eats one meal.

Variable 1: Transportation

Joe doesn’t drive to work, but he still owns a bike to get around town.

Let us suppose that Joe’s bike requires $100 of maintenance per year.

Let us then assume of the $100, $60 goes to tires of which require 12000 calories to produce. The remaining $40 goes towards maintenance labor, which requires about 400 calories to be expended. For the sake of calculation let us assume these averages can be broken into an hourly cost as follow:

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Tires 1.36 $0.006
Labor 0.04 $0.004
Total 1.40 $0.010

Variable 2: Food

Joe requires consumption of 2000 calories on daily average, of which 600 may be consumed and expended during actual work. Let us suppose this meal cost $5 to prepare.

Let us say that he eats a salad for lunch, tofu, and a soda. Let us suppose that this meal ends up at a net value of 500 calories, and the actual caloric expenditure of the meal was valued at around 1000 gross calories.

So food would add 1000 gross calories to Joe’s chart. The actual amount Joe actually received from the food was 500, leaving a caloric debt of about 500 calories, which averages to a per work hour cost of… (divide by 4 work hours)

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Food 250 $1.25

Variable 3: Environment

As joe works from home, the work environment is his home environment.

Let us assume that his apartment uses 1,000 calories of energy and requires $1.36 in money for rent and utilities during one hour of work.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Apartment 1,000 $1.36

Now we must add Joe’s totals up.

Category Calories Consumed Cost
Transportation 1.40 $0.010
Food 250 $1.25
Environment 1,000 $1.36
Total 1,263.1 $2.36

1,263.1 calories expended to produce 1 hour of work. At $20 per hour, that averages to 63.155 calories expended to earn one dollar.

So, $1 = 63.155 calories for Joe. The total cost to joe per hour is $2.36, So total hourly cost in calories is 149.0458

Sustainability

At this point we must ask; who’s dollar is more easily sustained?

Joe Sally
Category Calories Consumed Cost Calories Consumed Cost
Transportation 1.40 $0.010 13.10 $0.27
Food 250 $1.25 500 $1.25
Environment 1,000 $1.36 41,000 $1.36
Sub-total 1,263.1 $2.36 41,513 $2.87
Calories expended per dollar 149.0458 9,928.55

The numbers say Joe requires less calories to be expended to make $1.

If Joe and sally were to purchase the same item, Joe would stand to be more sustainable with it then Sally would. When Joe purchases a food item, his dollar will go farther than Sally’s in total calories expended due to the differences in their lifestyles.

If Joe were to start driving a car, as Sally does, he would become less sustainable. If joe were to require the operation of a commercial building during his work, he would become less sustainable.

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Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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