Monday, September 12, 2011
How much electricity does the average American use per day? According to the United States Energy Information Administration, "[i]n 2009, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,896 kWh, an average of 908 kilowatthours (kWh) per month." Simple math shows that approximately 29.8 kWh, then, are used by the average U.S. household per day. Forty-eight percent of this electricity comes from coal (Visual Economics). Coal is well known to be a dangerous source of electricity--dangerous to the environment (producing about 2 pounds of carbon dioxide per kWh) and to the coal-miners who are charged with meeting the United States' demand of electricity.
With this information in mind, I decided to challenge myself to an electricity fast. One day a week for the next six weeks, I will abstain from the use of electricity. By doing this I hope to lessen my burden on the environment and lessen my modern Western lifestyle dependency on technology and the electricity it requires.
What this does not mean:
Well, first off, to be completely honest, there are three exceptions to my electricity fast:
Unplugging my refrigerator for an entire day would save a lot of money and electricity... but, as a single man with no roommates, I would end up wasting plenty of food, and my attempts as frugal spending and organic foods would become unfeasible. Second, I do not wish to freeze to death as the nights grow colder (also, my apartment requires the use of the heater on low heat throughout the colder months so the pipes do not freeze). Finally, I do not have a land-line, so a cell phone is currently a must. I will say this, though, my phone is not a smart phone. It is a very dumb phone with only texting and calling capabilities, and I will severely limit the use of my phone during the fast day. I also will not charge my phone during the fast day.
What this does mean:
Everything else is a no no. No television, no computer, no hot water, no cooking (so making food that must be cooked ahead of time). It means unplugging all my appliances (with exception of the fridge) for the entire twenty-four hour period to prevent phantom energy consumption. It means no lights. It means no air conditioning. It also means no car, except for emergencies.
Perhaps a loop-hole in my energy fast is that while I will keep the lights off for the entire twenty-four hour period in my own apartment, I will allow myself to go to public places or friend's houses that have lights on. In other words, I will still need to study and read for class, so I will probably be a frequent guest at coffee shops and the libraries within walking distance after dark. And, not being a hermit, I will leave my apartment, which also means the reality of going to places that use electricity. I am unsure if I will allow myself to use public computers (such as in libraries) yet. Right now I am tentatively saying no, but as the semester work load picks up, we'll see if that is able to be a realistic goal.
Benefits (in addition to being more eco-friendly)?
I hope to save a little money (although in campus apartment housing, I don't pay monthly utilities so how much money saved wouldn't be as much as if I were paying a monthly electric bill), but also to be able to take a break from the hectic and busy lifestyle that I have grown accustomed to. It will hopefully give me a time to be present in the moment for a little bit, some more time for reading and writing, some more time for thinking.
Why six weeks?
Lots of reasons. Six seems like a good number. Six weeks is a good amount of time to try something out. It takes a little more dedication than a simple month. It also ties into biblical fasting--six weeks contain just over forty days. In six weeks' time I will reevaluate how this fast worked, and see if it is something I will continue and what adaptions need to be made if I do choose to continue. Perhaps I will determine that I don't even need my cell phone. Perhaps I will determine that I really do need electricity, even if just for a part of the day. Who knows?
What can one expect to see here?
I will be chronicling this attempt on this blog in addition to the regular postings about feminism and ecology (and Doctor Who), though obviously these observations will have to wait to be shared on the blog until at least the day after fast day. I'll be exploring the benefits (saving money!) and draw backs (an entire day of cold food?). Hopefully this will inspire others to do mini-electricity fasts of their own--if not for a whole day, what about a few hours a week, or even just one hour a day?
So, this week, my electricity fast day will be Friday (It will probably be on Fridays most weeks, but I do expect it to change to a different day at least once or twice, depending on scheduling). So, tune back in Saturday to see how the first day went!
(Or, click below!)
Days 4 and 5