I learned to time my activities around the sun. In direct sunlight, the panels fully charged the battery in about four hours. A cloudy day could mean the battery wouldn’t fully charge, but between planning and my NYU cheat, I missed zero meetings.
Some changes that made the experiment work included reading more books, writing by hand, choosing salads over cooked foods, going out instead of staying in, and shifting work to daytime hours. At first, I considered these changes sacrifices, but looking back, I view them more as a cultural shift, a bit like when I lived overseas and couldn’t find a good bagel. Finding the local equivalent—croissants in Paris or vegetable steamed buns in Shanghai—worked better than complaining, and it expanded my world.
Whenever I was tempted to lament the sacrifices I was making, I reminded myself that people have been living in Manhattan for around 10,000 years—technology shouldn’t make me less able or resilient than them.
The one thing I couldn’t sacrifice was my pressure cooker, which was the most efficient way to cook (and my greatest single consumer of energy). A full battery charge would power the cooker to make stew good for five meals and still leave a couple of hours’ charge for my computer and phone. I used almost no other appliances. I began waking up with the sun at 5 am to avoid needing lights. My battery has a one-watt LED that sufficed for cooking and eating, so I haven’t used my floor lamp.
I ate more greens and uncooked food. I fermented more, too. Growing up, my family didn’t do this, so I had to learn—from online tutorials first, then through finding others who were into fermentation. I started by salting cabbage to make sauerkraut, then vinegar from chopped apples in water. With experience, I expanded to kombucha, chutney, and more. I sprouted grains and legumes to make them edible (and delicious) without cooking.
There were unexpected benefits. All the stair climbing freed up time from my regular periods of jogging and cardio exercise. Avoiding power-hungry videos online freed a surprisingly large amount of time, leading to more reading, writing, and volunteering in my community. I wrote more by hand, which I believe improved my writing. I made more progress on my book than I expected. All these things saved money and time. That surprised me at first, but now the benefits seem obvious.
Last Updated on July 2, 2023