Downtown apartment dwellers unplug from the grid
'Sustainable Joes' document life with no fridge, stove or hot, running water
London, Ont., roommates Stephen Szucs and Dave Pope are living with no fridge, air conditioner, stove or hot, running water this summer after deciding to disconnect from the electrical grid for three months.
At the beginning of June, the two, who are calling themselves the "Sustainable Joes," cancelled their electricity, emptied their fridge and turned off their hot water heater in their two-bedroom apartment in a downtown London house. Until the end of August, they will be showering outside and using only the electricity they collect using a small number of solar panels.
That's enough to charge their cellphones, run their blender to make smoothies, and power three-watt LED wands so they can host board games nights for their friends, but not enough to splurge on comforts such as fans and television.
- PHOTOS: Life off the grid - Ontario couple combines solar, wind and firewood for year-round household energy
- Could you live off the grid for the summer?
Szucs told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan on Monday that the goal is to make a difference by showing that two "average joes" can live a more sustainable life.
Pope added, "I think a lot of people are curious [about sustainability] and have an inherent feeling that something needs to be done, but they just don't know how to do it, so we're just trying to make this more accessible to anybody."
The pair are documenting the changes they've made to their lifestyle, including experiments with a solar shower, a solar oven, and worm composting, in photos and comments on their Facebook page and a series of weekly YouTube videos, which include a demonstration of how they do their laundry in the bathtub with a bar of soap.
While homeowners in rural areas sometimes live off the grid, typically building or renovating their home to maximize its energy efficiency and supplying it with enough power-generating infrastructure to run conveniences such as fridges and TVs, living off the grid in an urban apartment typically requires more sacrifices..
Szucs admitted that their outdoor solar shower still needs work. Currently, the pair wash by pouring water over themselves from a 45-gallon drum.
"Which you could call really refreshing, especially when the average temperature was 16 degrees for the first two weeks of June," he recalled.
The two do have cold, running water inside, but the outdoor shower is designed to be warmed by the sun, so it is theoretically warmer — provided it isn't cloudy.
By far the biggest challenge so far is the cooking, Szucs said, now that they can no longer use their energy-guzzling stove. "Dave and I both love, love, love to cook."
Still, Pope said, some things are actually more convenient now that they've unplugged from the grid. For one thing, having to conserve power means he wastes less time online using social media. For another, the solar panels make it possible to harvest energy at places such as the park, he said.
"You're not a slave to the outlet anymore."