When I designed my cob house here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage two years ago, I decided that I was going to live without electricity. I had no plans to buy a solar power system or a wind turbine. I was going to make the leap to live electricity-free in my home, in order to live more simply and even more ecologically than ever before. Humans have lived without electricity for hundreds of thousands of years, so why couldn’t I do it, too? Even today, groups of Amish are still holding strong and continue to live electricity-free in a very wired world. Here are some of the reasons why to live electricity-free:
1. No electricity bill
Living without electricity is really cheap! Solar power systems can cost thousands of dollars. I saved myself a big wad of cash when I decided to go without.
2. You never have to call an electrician
I never have problems with my electricity, because it’s non-existent (duh). Power systems are very finicky and require lots of maintenance, but I save hours of tedious labor each year because there’s nothing to maintain. And I never have to worry about my power going out!
3. Better ambiance
Have you ever been in a room lit entirely by candles? It’s beautiful and literally feels good. Artificial overhead lighting is one of the most offensive and ugly ways to brighten up a space. But candles are warm, mellow, and create a sense of intimacy that cannot be reproduced by a light bulb.
4. It’s about as eco as you can get
Grid power is intensely destructive and responsible for a range of environmental issues, including natural resource exploitation, global climate change, pollution, mountaintop removal, deforestation, and more. Access to electricity has caused our country’s economy to explode over the past 100 years, but at a huge cost and with questionable benefits. Even “green power”, or renewable energy has its own share of environmental impacts, including the mining of very rare and precious elements. Ultimately, clean energy is a myth, and creating any kind of electricity, whether it’s with a solar panel or a wind turbine, creates ecological damage on some level. Going without electricity avoids all of that mess!
5. Less exposure to potentially dangerous electromagnetic fields
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are a hazard with little-known and potentially adverse human health effects. The world is full of stuff slowly killing us so it’s nice to limit exposure to anything that has potential to do even more damage. Who needs to worry about EMFs when you’ve got no buzzing electronics around…?
6. Less electronic noise
…And speaking of buzzing electronics, ha! My house is as quiet as the sky is blue. When I walk into my house, there is no ambient buzz of electric equipment and I can bask in the actual silence of my home. Genuine silence is pretty hard to come by, you know.
7. Healthier circadian rhythms
Artificial light really messes with our circadian rhythms, our natural 24 hour phsyiological cycle. Since we can essentially extend the daylight hours with artificial light, our average waking hours have extended, which essentially messes up the natural rhythm of our bodies:
Once humans began to use artificial light to vary the length of the day, the average night’s sleep decreased from about nine hours to about seven, and the amount of sleep began to vary considerably from one night to the next. This irregularity prevents one’s circadian rhythm from settling into a pattern, and creates a state of perpetual semi-jet-lag. Our bodies’ rhythms attempt to appropriately adjust our alertness, blood pressure, and such for particular times of day; but we often do things contrary to this cycle, and therein lies the problem. (Source)
8. Candles smell good
One more thing about those candles… Have you ever smelled a beeswax candle? Damn, they smell good. (Don’t talk to me about those nasty artificially scented paraffin wax candles. Paraffin candles contain carcinogenic compounds that can lead to lung cancer, too.) But yea, beeswax candles are where it’s at! They smell absolutely sweet and delicious.
9. Fewer distractions
With computers, movies, video games, cell phones, and everything else begging for attention, it’s nice to have some relief from all of that to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Fewer electronic distractions leaves more time for reading, meditating, playing board games, and relaxing. You can learn to provide your own entertainment without access to electricity and feel relief from all of the distractions that electronics provide.
10. Actual ninjas did it
Ninjas lived without electricity. So did pirates. Even Abe Lincoln, Davy Crockett, Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Cleopatra, and a host of other historical individuals. Join the club and go electric-free!
You’re probably thinking that it’s totally impractical to live without electricity in today’s world. You may be right. Even I, who live in a house without electricity, am sitting here typing on a computer in an artificially-lit room about why you should not do just that. (I do have access to power in a community building here at Dancing Rabbit.)
However, perhaps it’s more important to say that there is much value in having an electric- and electronic-free sanctuary, a space without access to those distractions that can quickly consume our daily lives. And to recognize the fact that humans have lived without electricity for hundreds of generations and made it to this point, that humans don’t “need” electricity to survive, is crucial and can open our minds to the possibilities of making do with less. Electricity is a great privilege, but its ecological impacts are huge, and the creation of electricity will never be truly green.
To learn to live with just a little less electricity can be incredibly empowering. (No pun intended, sorry.)