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!