Condo Blues: My No Impact Day Experiment Sucked

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My No Impact Day Experiment Sucked

 The sky went dark as if turning off a light switch.

The rains came suddenly. BOOISH!

The thunder. CAR-RACK!

The lights went out.

“WHIRRR-EEEEEEEEE!” The nearby tornado siren screamed.

Husband, Blitzkrieg, and I holed up in the laundry room – our safe room since we do not have a basement.

Blitzkrieg knows my Blackberry takes pictures and he barked until I took his photo as we waited for the all clear. Even in a crisis, my dog is a diva and comic relief.

I learned through Twitter that over 30, 000 homes in Columbus lost electricity along with over 1,000 homes in each of four cities served by Columbus power companies.

Looks like I’m going to have a No Impact Day which may be lower impact than Colin’s most typical day whether I want to or not.

I do not want.

I camped off the grid as a kid many times and had fun doing it although it helped that we had a small camper that had self-contained systems. You would think after that and by surviving a weeklong winter blackout I would be a pro at this. Wrong. The most worrisome part of the summer blackout was keeping the food in our refrigerator and freezer from spoiling in the heat. During the winter blackout, our food was not in danger of spoiling - quite the opposite. We put our food in coolers in the unheated garage and our milk froze into a solid block of ice!

Unlike a camping trip or voluntary no impact day, I was thrown into the deep end of the pool without preparation.

  • Both the rechargeable weather radio and rechargeable camping lantern I keep plugged in for emergencies were unplugged and uncharged. 
  • Almost all of my candles were nubs waiting for me to melt them into new candles.
  • We didn’t have propane for our portable grill because we rarely use it.
  • We don’t have a portable camping stove because we don’t want to clutter up the garage with stuff we may not regularly use.
Green Living Business as Usual

  • We love to read. However, I was trying to read by 100% candle light and I was experiencing eyestrain. Now I know why the pioneers went to bed shortly after sundown!
  • I killed time by cleaning the house. I cleaned the stove and oven with vinegar and baking soda. I must have been bored because I think cleaning the oven is a hateful task whether I have electricity or not. 
  • The house stayed cool without fans or air conditioning for the first day. I didn’t have to open the windows for cooling because I sealed all of the air leaks in the house.
Where Green Living Came to Bite Me

  • I could not work at home without electricity. I didn’t have access to email or files. I felt cut off from news and the world. Our lives, chores, and everything was on hold as we waited for the electricity to come back on. Should we start doing X because we can’t do Y? Well maybe it will come back on in 15 minutes and we should wait. Maybe if we wait an hour. Or two hours or…? 
  • We don’t eat prepared food and didn’t have anything in the house that couldn’t be made without an electric stove. I was too afraid to open the freezer or refrigerator to access food because it is more likely to keep cold if you don’t open the door. That meant I could not scrounge a peanut butter sandwich for lunch because we keep our HFCS free bread in the freezer and our natural peanut butter in the refrigerator. I longed for preservatives.
  • Rechargeable batteries are great until they lose their charge and you do not have access to electricity to recharge them. Worse is having some older rechargeable batteries that do not keep a full charge and you find this out during a 2 and ½ day blackout. *pout*
The Part Where My Hypocritical Green Self is Thankful for Plastics, Petroleum, and Single Serving High Waste Fast Food

 Plastic coolers are my new best friend 
  • Two plastic coolers and two plastic bags of ice allowed me to keep the meat in my freezer from spoiling. With limited space, I had to prioritize what we tried to save and what to let go. Frozen meat won. Dairy-based foods lost. It killed me to throw out food. 

  • Since we couldn’t cook anything in our all-electric kitchen, we went out for dinner on Day 2. I didn’t think to take my own container for leftovers. If someone called me on it, I might have stabbed them with my disposable bamboo chopstick and shoved my paper box full of leftovers up their nose because all I had to eat that day was a bowl of dry cereal and a handful of cashews. What can I say? Low blood sugar and hunger make me surly.
  • Husband spontaneously went to a convenient store on Day 3 and bought me a coffee and an energy bar so I had something eat that morning. By then, I was grateful that such things existed.
Some extreme greens may laugh and call me a person who’s addicted to electricity even though my home uses an average of 15 Kwh of electricity a day when I have it.

And you know what? In some ways I am. I try not too use too much but I still use it. I like it. I depend on it. And I whine like a baby when it’s taken away. I’m also a realist. While I would love for all of my power and yours to come from clean renewable sources, I know that that isn’t the case for now. It would not have helped my situation one bit.

I consulted at an electric company and learned that large scale generated electricity cannot be kept in a bottle or a battery for later. When the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow and a city or home needs more power than it can generate, it buys it from another city that has a surplice (it’s good business and it’s a federal law.) Nonrenewable resources often generate this surplice electricity because they can control how much they make and can make extra if someone else needs it, unlike a hydroelectric plant. And all of those things are a moot point when a tree takes out power lines and a neighborhood transformer.

I still consider myself green but I am unapologetic about not liking parts of my Extreme No Impact Days. I can do it for a few days or a week but I don’t want to do it for longer than that. What about you?

This post is part of the June Green Mom's Carnival where our topic is A Day in the Life hosted by Fake Plastic Fish who is all over plastic free living. Check out the full carnival posts on Monday, June 21, 2010!


Cheap Like Me said...

Love your honesty - we just lost power last night (along with 31,000 homes in our area) after a power substation in our area exploded (?). We only had about 8 hours without electricity, so I contained myself at slight whining that I couldn't watch a movie, and worry about whether my cell phone and computer would run out of juice before power was restored.

I realized I have a gas oven, but can't light it without the electric controls that turn on the gas. Could use gas stove burners, though.

We were thinking we'd have to go to the store for propane for the grill and have grilled chicken for breakfast so we didn't lose the hen in the fridge ...

Robj98168 said...

LOL You need a sterno stove, or something. A sterno stove is small takes up very little room as it folds up. My coucin in ND has an electric stove- she made her husband install a gas (lp) cook top in the garage for this reason.

Lisa said...

Thankfully we are across from a hospital so our power is up quickly. When I was a kid we lost power for over a week during an ice storm. It was fun for the first day or two, we camped in front of our fire place and ate food from our grill or cooked in the fire. However it got really old when it got cold haha. We did get a generator for our deep freezer and frig.

I don't know how well I would have done in your case either.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

The worst part was everything food related. Not being able to cook was tough. The melting food was stressful. Fortunately we were able to save all of the meat from the freezer. I am so thankful we blew off grocery shopping the weekend before the storm hit. Most of the things we lost were dairy based condiments.

Debbiedoos said...

Sometimes you just can't live an authentic green life...and fortunately we do not have to. I think if you do your best, as you are...that is half the battle.

GreenGirl said...

Have you thought of getting a solio charger? It can charge phones, pda's, and probably even power up radios as long as you have the right adapter.

It's tough being green all the time, we just do what we can and I think you did GREAT!

Kristin - The Goat said...

I couldn't really tell, but did you get your electricity back on Day 3? I was without power for a week after a hurricane - I actually had to go to the emergency food and water station and I got a box of MREs - about a weeks worth of food. I had plenty of water so I refused to take a case of that...someone else could probably use it more I figured.

Fortunately I did have propane and a grill with a side burner so I could heat water for a sponge bath and dishwashing.

I have to tell you that I giggled through most of your tale. I could relate to a lot of it and you made it fun to read!

Kristin - The Goat

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Kristin - the electricity came back on on Day 3. Yippee! You should have seen all of the strange lights that came back in house. It was funny because I'd walk into a dark room and automatically flip the switch even though I knew there wasn't electricity.

Everyone - We're going to get a camping stove and propane for the next time this happens.My mom suggested a generator for the fridge but we just don't have the room to store it.

Lynn from said...

Sorry to hear about this! It is humbling to realize how dependent we are on power. Makes us realize why it's so important to get it from more sustainable sources!! Thanks for your contribution to the carnival!

Anonymous said...

I had to throw in the towel on Earth Hour with my toddler. He was just WAY too into the candles, and I wasn't comfortable with it. If I can't last an hour, you know I'm not making it a day or 3 or more. I'm just glad that in our area we have hydroelectricity, so the impact is lower.

Robbie said...

Hmmm...Living through more than my share of tornadoes, I feel your pain! I think the worst I saw though was the week or so one October when I was a reporter...and ice brought down the power lines. The cool thing though was watching how it brought neighbors together.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan said...

we camped for a wedding anniversary, he said I was a good sport about it - he insisted on tent, i insisted on cooking and eating well and planned accordingly - we operated 3 coolers, dairy, meat and beer (!) for 4 days - with ice - it was more challenging managing it all than I thought - I felt so industrious and boy does everything taste better cooked over a fire - but the entire day and night revolved around preparing and cooking and icing the food/beer - I got through 4 days - it was wicked hot, i was covered in bug bites and I pretended to be enjoying myself - good sport and all. When the rain hit day 5, and 6 - I had enough. Soggy wasn't fun anymore. I wanted a tub, a tall drink and a cabana boy!! I think the image of coolers spired the memory!!

katyfarber said...

Ugh! It is so harsh when reality sometimes bites us in the trying to be greener butt. This happens so much in other crisis situations, too. Glad you worked through it, kept your humor, and blogged about it!

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