Thursday, March 26, 2009
the utility-free, no um carbon-free, or maybe make that the fossil fuel-free weekend
UPDATE: The weekend was a success- or at least I think so. ;-) I turned off the water and the electricity early Saturday morning and turned everything back on Monday morning- 48 hours of no electricity, running water or natural gas. I'll share the details in a new post soon.
Perhaps I should just call this post, "the idea my wife really doesn't like." That would be more like it. ;-)
Many of us have experienced the short term loss of one or more of the fossil fuel based resources we have come to take for granted in this country. Electricity blackouts have happened to almost everyone during a bad storm. Some of us have been without a car while ours was being repaired or without water for a few hours while work was done on a mainline. Well this weekend my family is going to voluntarily turn off all of our utilities. Yes we're going to turn off the electricity at the breaker box. We're going to turn off the water at the street. We're not going to turn off the natural gas line. I'm not even sure how to do that but we're not going to use the stove or the hot water heater (since we won't have running water) and we're not going to drive anywhere either. Basically we're going to try not to use fossil fuels and we're going to do all this on purpose.
I've been called crazy before so that's not really the problem. The problem, or the list of problems I should say starts with the fact that my family is suppose to take a potluck dish to a party Saturday night and it looks likely to rain on our solar oven idea. The plan right now is to take a crock pot over early and use their electricity. Yes I know that sounds like cheating and I can't wait to hear what our party hosts will say.
We have other problems too. Hot showers are nice- real nice- too nice and while I can explain, academically, the need for cold showers this weekend to my wife (not that she'll be excited by the prospect mind you) it'll be much tougher to explain the cold bath to my 3 year old and my 1 year old will scream bloody murder. I'm thinking maybe our kids could go two days without bathing.
And what about basketball. For those off you who don't live in the southeast I bet y'all thought that Christianity was King in these parts. Well you've never been to the March Madness Church of the South. Here's a question. Is it cheating if I listen to a basketball game on the radio if I use rechargeable batteries and have them ready before sundown on Friday?
If all this sounds like torture, that isn't the point. Really it's not. This is an experiment, a lesson event, a learning experience for our family. We're careful about not wasting resources but we want to know (OK mostly I want to know) what it's like to go without all this stuff even if it's just for a little while. What will we miss the most? What seems really important that we could probably do without more often? Does turning off any of this make us feel better, make us closer as a family or just make us mad and insane. What would be the hardest part of having the utilities turned off?
And that last question is a real one for many more families in the US as financial troubles lead to an increasing number of households unable to pay their utility bills. In this video financial adviser Ray Martin offers suggestions to help keep your utilities on but what happens when that's not possible; when paying the rent or the mortgage and for food means not being able to pay for electricity. That is what's happening to an increasing number of Americans. My family is not in that position right now and I hope we won't ever be in that position but why not spend a weekend in a controlled experiment to better understand what we would do, what is possible and where our vulnerabilities are were we ever to face utilities being turned off for financial reasons or otherwise.
Obviously I won't be able to respond to comments or share this experience with readers until Monday morning because, I'll be without electricity until then. If you'd like to join in feel free to turn off your utilities and park your car as well. Just be sure to stay safe and do this as a way to better understand your needs and vulnerabilities not just as a way to annoy your kids and frustrate your wife.