Tag Archives: energy saving

Life without a fridge

I’ve been fridge-free for over five years now. Instances of throwing away edible food – zero. Food going off is pretty rare and tends to be because we’ve bought fruit that was reduced to clear and didn’t eat it all in time. Sometimes, the consumer goods that look like they are helping us, are not as helpful as they seem.

In order to do without a fridge, we buy little and often, which means there’s a plan for anything bought, but we can also respond to whim and bargain. We gave up cow’s milk when we started this – it just doesn’t keep well enough. Everything else does just fine in the cool box.

No doubt our diet makes this easier – two vegetarians and one omnivore, and I don’t buy raw meat, so that’s far more manageable. We eat a lot of fruit and veg, a lot of dried rice, pasta and pulses lurk on the kitchen shelves. Much of this doesn’t go off quickly and can easily be spotted when it does.

Having lived with fridges my whole life, I was obliged to change tack while on the boat – they just take too much electricity. Other boaters advised the switch to a cool box. It proved easy – far easier than I’d expected. The absence of a fridge means having to be aware of what fresh food is around and how long it will last – variable with temperature and whether anything frozen has gone into the box recently. The attraction of a fridge is that you can put a lot of things in it and not feel a need to think about them, but this is how the unspeakable horror at the back of the fridge comes to be.

Having been fridgeless for a good five years now, I do not see fridges as a quality of life improver. Expensive, yes. Big consumer items that take up a lot of space. Energy I don’t have to use. Taking the fridge out of the equation has given me a better relationship with food. I can’t say it would work for everyone, but I can say it’s always worth questioning the apparently essential things, because you may well find some of them aren’t so vital for you after all.


Laundry for the revolution

If we take the solution of moving back to hand-washing as the greener solution, what happens? We use less water, less electricity and we have to use milder chemicals or we trash our hands. That’s a step down in terms of environmental impact. I’ve been doing this for a while. There are three of us, and none of us has continence issues, which makes it viable.

I was laundering this morning, thinking about how much time it takes. If I had some busy, well paid, high powered job it would be tempting to hire someone else to do the scrubbing for me. Someone less busy whose time is worth less money than mine. This is the great British solution to energy and work – servants. Take away the labour saving devices, and paying someone else to do it for you is the next logical step. Actually that’s not very comfortable.

Once you start paying people to be substitute washing machines, you’re going to start thinking of them as an underclass. These are the folk destined for drudgery, for the work that is beneath you. Thus we create our untouchables. The most essential work is often the least well paid and the least respected. Where would we be without waste collectors and toilet cleaners? What assumptions do we hold about the people who end up with those jobs?

Historically there’s been a lot of gender politics here, too. Laundry has been women’s work. It is women’s quality of life and freedom of time that has been most affected by labour saving devices in the home. It is still the case that women do the bulk of the domestic work, even where both partners also have employed jobs. Take away the washing machines, and there’s every reason to think this trend would continue, forcing women back into unpaid, time consuming, exhausting work.

Turning the clock back is not the answer to any of our modern issues. There is simply too great a risk that you bring back the ills that went alongside the previous solution, rather than making actual progress. In the case of laundry, the attendant ills are gender disparity and class divide. That’s a hefty risk to run with the issue of who is sorting out the underwear.

The way forward has to be about getting smarter, more efficient, more joined up in our thinking. I want a washing machine. I want it powered by a static bicycle. Currently people drive to gyms in order to use static bikes where nothing is done with that energy. I want places were static bikes sit next to washing machines and spin driers. Slow pedalling for the less athletic, while your hyper-fit gym bunnies run the spin driers. More fun and efficient than scrubbing by hand, no underclass and no gender divisions.

But for now I’ve got some wringing out to do.

 

(Anyone worried that I am living in a patriarchal scenario that means I get an unfair share of the domestics, I should mention that Tom does all the toilet and cat litter related stuff, it is an entirely workable trade-off!)


Making a home

We’re in the process of transitioning off the boat. It’s an opportunity to reflect on what is needed, what it is that we want from a home, what’s viable, and how best to walk our talk. We’ve lived without a lot of the ‘normal’ things for several years now. Do we need to go back to conventional living arrangements? It doesn’t feel like good Druidry.

The boat has a solar panel and wind turbine, so most of our electricity is fairly green. I can’t see any way of replicating that in the foreseeable future. However, there are all kinds of dinky bits of technology out there… more efficient, smaller, lower impact. Realising that with this move we have the luxury of time, has opened a few doors.
Other things are going to be odd though. I’ve lived with fires almost all my life, and it looks like there will be no hearth in the next home. For me, a home without a hearth is going to be weird. I can’t say I enjoyed that last time I did it, but that’s part of the trade-off.

In preparation for moving, we’re once again getting rid of stuff, taking the opportunity to offload things that aren’t needed, aren’t used, things we grew out of, or were hanging on to just for nostalgia. That’s a good process. It’s one of the things I find I like about moving home – the chance to reassess every owned object and make some decisions. Last time we did that we gave up furniture and kept books and musical instruments. This time, the absolute priority was finding somewhere we could all live together. ‘All’ in our case includes Mr Cat. Finding a place where he would be happy and welcome informed a lot of our choices.
We’ve enjoyed some aspects of being really rural with the boat, but work would be a lot easier with more ready access to infrastructure. We will no doubt be out and about more, and I suspect I’ll be doing more in-person teaching, as well.

The right space can be really enabling. It underpins a lifestyle, permits certain choices, removes others…. The process of looking at what we need and want in that regard, too, has been really good. Soon we jump, and the next big adventure awaits us.

So, short post today because I’ve been running round in the rain a lot, finding needful things, and sorting stuff out, and ring to work out how best to mix the alternative and the normal to make something good. Much to figure out yet though.