Part One – The end of the power-free challenge

I’ve had to redo this post so many times. Just doesn’t seem to flow right, so hopefully this attempt makes it online.

I ended the challenge 12 hours early. I had surpassed the original target of one month and was going to do it a bit longer, but on Thursday afternoon I could no longer handle not being able to vacuum the carpet or have a hot shower. I was also getting pretty peeved off at having to heat water to wash dishes, and my kitchen floor needed to be washed.

The first thing I did when I turned the power back on was to hook up my iPod to my new speakers and play some music- loud. A month of only listening to music with earphones was really annoying. Pre-challenge, I would blast tunes from my laptop. I love the effect that music has on my brain. Then I vacuumed. I have never liked vacuuming so much, and because I was only sweeping my carpet, I had a lot of dirt that needed to be lifted out. I have a bagless cyclonic vacuum, and needed to empty it 2 times – shows how much dirt can build up in a short period of time.

As you know, I was harping on about how much I missed having a hot shower. Because I turned the power back on at 6pm on Thursday, I had to wait two hours for the water to heat up in the hot water cylinder. But because I had a lot to catch up on, internet wise and laundry wise (which meant a trip up the road to the laundromat), I ended up having that hot shower on Friday morning. It was absolute bliss and loved how I felt so clean afterwards. During the challenge, it took half an hour to heat up enough water to wash myself with, then 15 minutes to wash myself. It is nice being able to be in and out of the shower in 15 minutes.

I’m also enjoying the other parts of having electricity again – having access to the internet at home, being able to charge up my cellphone fully (unlike the 30 minutes I had at the library), use of lighting in the evening, and being able to store food in the fridge and freezer. It is amazing how much we rely on electricity, and I still had to figure out ways of using electricity for the absolute essentials – my cellphone and laptop.

So, what did I learn from this challenge? I learnt that many families in New Zealand actually have their power disconnected on a regular basis. I was talking to some people in the library about this challenge and was surprised at the number that do not have power. The main reason for it was due to the high cost of power and not being able to afford to pay their bills in full on time. I also read articles about how Mercury Energy has been installing pre-paid meters into homes where some people have only been one to two weeks late in paying their bill. It may sound ok, but when you see the overly-inflated price that pre-paid customers pay for electricity, it forces even more families, who are already struggling, further into poverty. A majority of people who have had pre-paid meters installed are beneficiaries and already adds to the stigma they face.

One of the reasons for doing the challenge was to also pay off my mofo-of-a-power-bill in full as quickly as possible, which I did. At the end, I have a nice amount of credit sitting in my power account, as I put a large chunk of my AECT dividend onto it. I also spoke to my electricity provider and my brother (who is a bit of a electrician whizz) on what I could do in the winter to keep my power bill below $200. At the moment, I pay $60 a week, which should equate to a nice big credit next winter, but would like that weekly amount reduced to $40 a week by then. They both suggested only using the dehumidifier every second to third day, no use of a fan heater, get the water cylinder insulated, turn off appliances at the wall which are not in use and try not to be too frivolous with hot water. The main culprit for my big bill in August was near 24/7 use of the dehumidifier and fan heater.

If you ever decide to do a challenge like this, it would pay to do your research and be prepared. With No Impact Man, he also tackled the problem with packaging, which I sadly did not. At present, my wheelie bin only needs to be emptied every 3 weeks and my recycling bin once a month (the recycling bins we have in Auckland are HUGE). I recycle as much as I can and tend to reuse a lot of bottles (especially glass jars). For food scraps, well they go into the bin. I wouldn’t mind getting a Bokashi bin for food scraps, but I don’t have a garden and don’t know of anyone who would want the end product of the fermentation process for their garden. The amount of rubbish did not increase or decrease during the challenge, even though I was hoping for it to decrease.

In terms of how much time I am spending on Facebook since ending the challenge, well I felt like a kid in a candy store being able to stay at home and surf the internet. I think I said in one of my original posts that I was previously spending 4 to 5 hours a day on FB, well I realised that it was probably more like 6 to 7 hours a day, when taking into consideration how much time I would spend on it in the evenings. During the challenge I was spending about an hour, 2 at the most, and that was mainly to reply to any messages sent to me, post blog links and maybe comment on a couple of status updates. Well, probably not even an hour, as that time was also spent reading and replying to emails and any other important stuff I needed to do online. Since the end of the challenge, I have been averaging about 3 to 4 hours a days. I am making a point of going on for 10 to 15 minutes, then going off and doing something else. I would still like to get that down to 2 hours a day, as it can be such a time waster. Facebook has been great for meeting new friends, but I can’t rely on it for a majority of my social interaction with others.

I also decided to enter a meter reading today to see how electricty I am going through, and over the past 2 weeks I have used $30 worth of power + approximately $14 for daily user charges. Which means my first proper bill since doing the challenge should only be around the $85 to $90 mark. Huge, huge reduction to what August’s bill was and also less than 50% of June’s bill. I’ve only had the dehumidifier on once, but then decided it doesn’t need to be on, as it doesn’t feel damp. I’ve also been turning off lights that are not in use and also turning off all appliances in standby at the wall.

I also went through a huge period of self-reflection and as you know, did Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life properly. I am so happy I did it and there was a very good reason why it happened when it did. I still have a lot of work to do and love how I am peeling anyway the layers of years of anger, resentment, guilt and pain. On Saturday, I woke feeling completely happy and at peace with myself. I attended a fantastic dance workshop by Sheree Carbery which truly a ‘ReAwakening’ for me. The energy from it lingered with me during the week and has also helped bring up further thought patterns that need to dealt with appropriately. I would highly recommend attending one of her workshops, she is truly an amazing wahine (which means woman for my non-NZ readers).

So, part two will look at where I want to take this blog and what other challenges I have up my sleeves. Sorry for the lack of photos in this post, but will start taking photos again of what I am making food-wise.

Please comment and ask any questions you may have :-)

5 responses to “Part One – The end of the power-free challenge

  1. I think it’s quite easy and safe to dig food scraps into the garden. I have a compost bin I empty foodscraps into, have done for years and it requires no maintenance

    • The thing I like about the bokashi that it turns food scraps into very fertile soil in 2 to 3 weeks, which I suppose is good if you don’t have space for a compost bin :-)

      • I actually bought a Bokashi but have only been using it to store scraps until I get it to the community garden. I’ve actually lent the Bokashi gear to my mum so she can see if she likes using it, now that she and dad are finding it harder to turn the compost in their regular set-up. When I have a garden again I’ll probably use the Bokashi properly! I have heard really good reports of its effect on productivity.

  2. I take my vege scraps to the Wilton St community garden – they’ve got a big compost set-up there. It’s on your way to Harvest…!

    • Thanks for that tip Alice :-) I’ll see if I can get a bucket with a lid today so I can start collecting all of my food scraps. That puts my mind at ease a little bit.

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