Two months, one evening a week, no electricity…

Posted by Guest blogger – Allison Jackson on 07/12/11

A couple of years ago, I decided to spend one evening a week during winter without using any electricity in my house (apart from fridge and freezer which were left on). For me it was a personal challenge, a way I could try and reduce my use / dependency on electricity and increase my awareness of how much I use day-to-day. I suddenly felt I was taking the switch of a light, the switch of a computer, or the switch of the TV for granted and the only way to change was to try living without it.

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My life is a bit irregular, with evening meetings, various social engagements, and spontaneous neighbour visits, so at the beginning I tried to do either a Sunday or Monday evening for routine. I knew if I just chose one random evening in the week, it would be too difficult!

So, I got out the candles and matches, and thought about what I could do for my electricity free evening. It was early in the year, so became dark pretty early making it much harder than if it were summer. I have gas central heating, but decided not to use it, as it wouldn’t work without electricity. I have an open fire, so lit that, but it is in the living room so didn’t warm the kitchen or dining room.

Cooking would be no problem I thought, as I have a gas cooker, and could use a lighter or match instead of the ignition. But I soon discovered it is rather difficult to cook proper meals by candlelight, so started to make extra dinner the day before so that I could easily heat it up (not using a microwave!).

After supper – what could I do? Trying to be positive rather than negative, and trying to keep warm, I wrote a few letters, and then sat down to read. Difficult with not much light! Reading in bed is difficult with no lights and using a head torch was a dilemma, but I allowed it just for this.

After a while, I got into a routine of eating, reading, having a long bath and then an early night. If you live with other people then you could spend quality time together talking or playing games but I struggled to fill the time at home on my own. I’d definitely suggest inviting friends over to have dinner and experience a night without the distractions of modern electric life.

After two months it became exhausting justifying why things couldn’t be done, and justifying what things could, keeping warm and not resenting the ‘at-home’ time when I couldn’t really do much, or even relax in front of the TV. In the end I decided it couldn’t be maintained on a long-term basis without compulsion i.e. lack of money or lack of power.

It was a valuable experience and I would definitely recommend that others try spending an evening a week without electricity (even if it’s just for a month!). It really makes you think about how much unnecessary electricity you use and be aware of everything electric in your home so you appreciate it more and don’t just flick the switch. Even though I realised it was too difficult to live with no electricity (in winter), it has made me try and use less and I still am more aware of switching things like lights off when I leave a room.

Main Dilemmas:

  • No TV, no computer, no radio, no music, no phoning, no sewing machining, no heating.
  • Use candles in every downstairs room, or only in the ones I am in (like lights)?
  • Benefits: a slight reduction in my electricity bill, a huge awareness and appreciation of everything in the home that is powered by electricity, and thankfulness that we live in a society where it is available.

The next challenge might be a day a week without using plastic?

  • A day a week without creating any rubbish?
  • A Buy-nothing week/month/year?

(Please note, the opinions expressed in our guest blogs are those of our guest writers, and not necessarily shared by WWF.) Read more of our guest blogs.

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