Lifestyles 11/29/01

USU student living 'off the grid' misses toasted bagels, but not utility bills

By Bryan Seeley

Waking up to the warmth of sun's rays trickling your face could prove indeed more pleasant than those nasal-voiced disc jockeys laughing at themselves on the local rock station. Still sleepy-eyed you peel out of bed, one limb at a time and feel your way to the kitchen.

Toast is on the menu.

Toast did sound good until reality set in and chopping wood to build a fire to cook over is considerably ridiculous. After all it's just a piece of toast. Just take a shower and stop for an egg mcmuffin. The shower is surprisingly an ice cold shower, after all, it is fall in Logan and warmth does not come naturally.

Frozen and numb you return to now build that fire to warm yourself. This situation may seem proverbial to you and I. Why most people would think it impossible to live without the modern conveniences of electricity. What would life without electricity consist of? Would our everyday routine become quite significant in our lives?

Lizzy Scully misses toasted bagels and takes an icy shower every morning dreaming of bathing one day in the solar-heated water of her own earthship.

Scully, a student at USU, has lived a life without modern electrical conveniences for much of her life.

"I'm not sure the longest periods of time, perhaps a year, but always for at least three to six months every year," Scully said. Living without electricity grew on Scully and she now chooses such a lifestyle.

"I have lived that way in the past because I love living among the mountains in cabins without the hum of electricity or the noise of television." Scully said.

"Several people do live that way, in fact many of my friends live in the mountains, have no running water or electricity and its been easy and cheap for me to live with them. I like living without electricity because it's nice to live simply and not have to pay bills."

Bills are one thing we all could do without. Recent news stories about the looming electric utility energy crisis in the media raises interest concerning the advantages a lifestyle like Scully"s. Reports from the Utah Public Service Commission in 2000 indicate wholesale electricity prices in California increased as much as a hundredfold. Residential and other retail customers have seen price increases of threefold or more. Many Utahans are concerned that similar price increases may occur here in Utah and want the state government to prevent it.

What impresses about Scully's intentional commitment to plain living and the consequences of such a decision is the obvious. A consumer driven economy stretches the resources of the environment and threatens nature. This in many ways is destructive because nature is vital to quality of life.

 

WHAT'S THAT POWER COST?

About 18 months ago, electricity generation in the western wholesale market sold for about $16 to $35 per megawatt-hour, (MWH). This translates into a cost of about 1.6 to 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH). A KWH will power a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours.

In the last six months, Western wholesale prices have risen to $250 per MWH or 25 cents per KWh and have peaked at $2,000 per MWH for brief periods of time.

Logan's supplier, Utah Power, currently maintains rates of approximately 6.3 cents per KWh.

(Utah Public Service Commission)

 

 

This living in nature is what Scully enjoys, "I live the life of a rock climbing bum, which means that I am often traveling. Because of this I have spent most of my time living in tents, cars, vans, trailers, etc., in national parks, national forest lands and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands," Scully said.

Cooking in these living situations is a different world for Scully, but she doesn't complain.

"It's quite easy to cook without electricity. I have a nice camp stove that burns propane. The only things I can't eat/cook that I like are toasted bagels and English muffins."

Not bad considering it's just a piece of toast.

"At the moment I am not living that way. I'm even thinking of buying a house that would have "normal" electricity & stuff." Scully says she would only do this only "because there's no way I could afford an earthship or any of the environmentally pc houses." Several environmentalists, in an attempt to save natural resources, do live in earthships or pc houses.

Earthships are passive solar homes made of natural and recycled materials.

They are built of thermal mass construction, such as slick rock, for maintaining stable temperatures. Earthships run on renewable energy and integrated water systems making the earthship an off-the-grid home with little to no utility bills. Even without the bills Earthships are expensive.

For example: an earthship listed for sale on the web was built in the desert 15 minutes outside of Taos, N.M.

It consisted of 1,150 square feet on a 75-acre lot. "No utility bills," the ad said. "Solar living made affordable! Two bedroom / one bath, new construction, eight feet high ceilings. Passive solar heating and cooling, solar powered, catch water, lush interior Greywater planter, innovative black water treatment septic system. Adobe plastered interior walls, flagstone and dyed cement floors, operable skylights, full, new kitchen with gas stove and DC refrigerator. Sale price: $140,000."

Scully has elected to live this way. Not all who live this way choose such a lifestyle. Many, including several Native Americans in Aneth, Utah, located in the southeast corner of the state on the San Juan River, grew up forced to live this way.

Brenda Haskan, a member of the Navajo Tribe in Aneth, woke up to mornings like these all of her life. Her family lived with the time-consuming chores of life without electricity. She and her husband, Edgar, spent hundreds of dollars a month on unleaded gas for a generator that lighted only part of their house. They could not keep fresh food at home because they could not run a refrigerator. She made daily trips to her mother's house, which had electricity, to pick up food.

On winter mornings, Haskan rose early to start a propane heater to warm their manufactured home before the children woke up, but the heater did not warm the entire house. Several of the tribe members cooked dinner on a propane stove, similar to the one Scully uses. They lighted the house with kerosene lamps and warmed their home with wood.

Haskan spoke in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune in March 1999. These Navajo people did not experience electricity until the summer of 1999.

Whether living by choice or chance people of today continue to live with little or no electricity. Some would see find it unpleasant to wake up and have no toast or hear that annoying clock-radio piercing the calm morning air, some would enjoy it but, some people prove that living in this way is very possible, even in a world dominated by electricity.




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