My First Zero Electric Bill: Off the Grid in Manhattan Over a Month
Yes, I shifted my lifestyle a bit and did things not everyone can, but for the overwhelming majority of people living in cities and rich cultures minor compared to that I’m not living in the woods or separate from society.
I lived in Manhattan, maintained a professional lifestyle and used zero electricity from the grid to my apartment for a month with minimal planning and only a portable solar panel and battery that I could only use by carrying them eleven flights to the roof.
I allowed myself to use my computer at NYU, which charged the phone and computer batteries when I could, but only when buildings were open and for computer things that didn’t require quiet, like recording podcast episodes. I couldn’t miss calls with clients or podcast episodes, let alone allow power to run out in the middle of a call.
I’m writing up a longer piece about the experience, but here is the biggest message:
Admit it: You wouldn’t have believed it possible
I know how I feel watching, say, Tom Brady win a Super Bowl at 43 years old. I wish I could do something remotely similar and, even if I can’t replicate that level of accomplishment even in my areas of interest, seeing him tells me I can reach a lot closer to my potential. Then my mind starts making excuses: he can because he’s special; I can’t because I have special problems, I’m doing enough, etc. Bullshit!
I know I can do more. He’s showing me what I considered impossible possible.
Are you thinking the excuses I do when first confronted with not reaching my potential? If so, admit it: you know you can find the joy I have in living more sustainably. I’m no more or less human than anyone. I didn’t start by disconnecting from the electric grid. I started with a mindset shift anyone can make, especially listening to my podcast, and kept on a path of continual improvement anyone can. Driving me isn’t some sense of obligation or abstract love of “the environment.” I’m impassioned by what I consider the most human values: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, leave things better than you found them, the beauty of nature, stewardship.
If you would have considered it impossible, then your beliefs are wrong. You can do more than you thought. The point isn’t the magnitude. The point is to shift your mindset to expecting the rewarding emotions and results you know you’ll attain. The excuses are wrong and you know it.
Here’s the bill. Zero kilowatt-hours. Zero supply charge. Only fixed charges and taxes. You can thank me for paying for some of the grid my apartment didn’t use this month.
For all the joy, liberation, elegance, and other reward the experiment brought me, it’s just one more step on my mission to change American and global culture from capitulation, abdication, and such to expecting joy.
Imagine an America and world after we’ve all gotten into our thick skulls that we will prefer life without polluting. Humans did so for 300,000 years, more than 1,000 times longer than from the Industrial Revolution until today, all the time we’ve taken to put civilization at risk, with higher quality of life, longevity, health, mental health, community, and more than we have today.
Imagine, in the short term, everyone happier and healthier consuming 90 percent less, able to thrive if the power goes down not just for a day or two, but weeks or months. Admit it, you never considered it possible. I didn’t, but I took less than three years to drop 90 percent, and that was after I was already vegan and without a car, the two biggest ways most can reduce, meaning most of you can drop far more and improve life by a greater amount. I had nearly no role models.
Imagine most Americans drop their pollution 90 percent and, like me, enjoy the experience so much they look to improve their life more by finding more ways to reduce. No legislation, just intrinsic motivation. Now think of what would come next.
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