Friday, April 25, 2008

Living simply, simply living

Date: April 25
Mileage: 57.6
April mileage: 662.2
Temperature: 51

My housemate and I have agreed to shut off the heat as a way to conserve energy in this time of electricity famine. Although it's spring now and the weather has been really nice this week, the temperatures still drop into the low 30s at night and our northeast-facing apartment doesn't see much direct sunlight. The whole house has this icebox feel to it. The last time I walked by the thermostat, it read 57 degrees. I was really, really tempted to turn it up. But instead, I headed back out on my Pugsley for a little trail time after riding nearly 50 miles earlier today. Having no heat is actually a great motivator to get out. Cycling is still the best way to stay warm.

Right now in Juneau, saving energy is on everyone's mind. The prospect of having your electric bill increase fivefold will do that. The electric company recently reported that in a week's time, Juneau's energy use dropped 20 percent. It continues to drop more every day. People are making a conscious effort to turn off lights and appliances. They're hanging clotheslines in their living rooms (Drying clothes outside is rarely feasible in Juneau, although it has been possible this week.) My housemate and I went through and unplugged most of the cords in our house. Since I dislike cooking anyway, I happily stick to my salads and sandwiches and leave the stove turned off. We keep the refrigerator on - it seems like a luxury now. As does the computer, although it's off a lot longer these days.

It actually feels good to make these little sacrifices. Not because we're saving a ton of money (although, with the heat turned off, we are.) And not because we're staving off the burning of emissions-spewing fuel (although I do feel strongly about doing my part, I have my fair share of pessimism in this regard.) No, giving up a few electric luxuries feels good because it makes me feel more self-sufficient. I don't need electric heat to survive. I wouldn't even need it if it were winter - I'd pull out my -40 degree sleeping bag, my down jacket, my boots, my coats. There must be a reason I own all of that stuff beyond the agony of winter camping. It's survival gear, and I cherish it, because it means I'm free.

That's also the same reason I've resolved to become a more dedicated bike commuter. I was much too dependent on my car, even though I mainly used it as a way to travel to work in dignity (i.e. not showing up at the office wind-blasted, grit-coated and dripping rainwater.) But the truth is, I can duck into the bathroom, change my clothes, blow-dry my hair, and still walk up the stairs in dignity. It really was just an excuse to justify my car dependency. But eventually (and probably soon) that car is going to break down for good, and I'd like to believe I don't need to replace it. Because if I'm free to not own a car, I'm free to divert more of my time and income into the things I truly enjoy. So, yes, I'm aiming to go car-free for completely selfish reasons.

I really believe that the less dependent I am on things, the happier I can be. Of course I still have things I can't live without - my bicycles, my cats, my -40 degree sleeping bag, the poisonous cans of Diet Pepsi that I suckle with reckless abandon. I'm not aiming for extremes. I'm just trying to strike a balance between owning nothing and being owned by things ... a happy place, more freedom to move, more space to live.