Done: One month off the electric grid in Manhattan (still going)

June 21, 2022 by Joshua
in Freedom, Nature

The end of today marks the end of one month off the electric grid in Manhattan. Like the experiments before it, including avoiding packaged food for a week, avoiding flying for a year, and unplugging my fridge, before starting, I didn’t think I would make it, I thought it would worsen my life, and I didn’t know what challenges I’d face.

Blank Calendar

Also like those experiments, I enjoyed the results and learned in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Experiential learning does that in ways reading, writing, and analyzing don’t. For example, I experienced limitations of solar like three overcast, rainy days in a row. I connected with people and cultures across time and space who couldn’t just go to the fridge or order takeout for food. I learned to plan meals and meetings around the weather and other natural cycles. I read more. I woke up with the sun and went to sleep with sunset. I climbed a lot of stairs, typically thirty flights a day, four or five days a week.

Revealing possibilities

My main result was making something I thought impossible possible, a result I recognized as one of my main motivations. Among solutions to all our numerous environmental problems, one that helps all is reducing consumption. I’ve come to see that people fear reducing consumption but won’t admit it, even to themselves. They think, as I did, that less will worsen their lives, the economy, national defense, and so on. They don’t want to sacrifice their way of life. I didn’t.

Well, you don’t have to give up much, and what you get in return outweighs it, in my experience, and I didn’t even do it effectively. I just threw together a few ideas with too few solar panels and too small a battery. Attitude overcame the rest.

Next steps

Here are podcast episodes I did on it so far.

I’m writing a longer piece on it and expect to record more episodes.

In the near term, I want to continue until July 7, when my billing cycle ends so I get a full bill with me off the grid. It may not read zero because the building maintenance staff did some work when I was out and reconnected the circuit to vacuum. They didn’t know I was keeping it off and that the battery had charge in it.

We’re expecting three more days of rain. Now that I’ve solved that problem, I know a few partial solutions to make it:

  • Watch for breaks in the clouds for chances to take the panels to the roof and recharge. Recharging for less than an hour doesn’t get much and still requires climbing eleven flights, but it could give enough for a load of the pressure cooker.
  • Eat more uncooked food. I just picked up from my CSA tons of lettuce so I can make lots of salads. The battery has nearly a full charge so I can cook one pressure-cooker load. It’s easy to make extra seitan to put in salads like others might put in chicken.
  • Work at NYU. This “solution” relies on fossil fuels to power my computer and phone, but I started the experiment for my apartment only and decided to allow myself to do things outside that I used to.

I know I’ll plug in again someday, likely in July. I know I’m going to feel dirty doing it. I’ll feel like I’m returning from a culture of less entitlement and cruelty to distant people. I’ll feel more comfortable not climbing thirty flights a day several days a week, but I expect I’ll feel I didn’t earn it and know I’ll be conscious of polluting and hurting others for my convenience. On the other hand, I’ll use what I learned to do more next time and to help lead others to value meaning and purpose over comfort and convenience based on causing others to suffer.

In the meantime, I’ll keep up the experiment.

solar roof empire state building

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