Think you need to move to the woods to live off the grid? Joshua Spodek’s successful experiment proves that you can manage just fine on sustainable energy sources in the middle of a huge city.

I started my personal sustainability drive almost accidentally, when I challenged myself to avoid packaged food for a week. I expected deprivation and sacrifice from avoiding Manhattan’s abundant food options. If I’m honest, part of me hoped to find the challenge untenable so I could say the cure was worse than the disease and give up.

But constraints breed creativity. I learned to cook from scratch, which led to more of what I valued in food: flavor, variety, convenience, nutrition, and socializing, while lowering costs and pollution.

The unexpectedly rewarding results motivated me to keep going. I avoided flying for a year and experimented with unplugging my fridge. By May 2022, when I decided to disconnect completely, I hadn’t filled a load of trash since 2019, hadn’t flown since 2016, had unplugged my fridge for eight months, and had electric bills consistently under $2 (not counting fixed connection charges of about $18).

Attitude was more important than technology, though. Attitude made my setup doable. I’m not suggesting that “because I could do it, you can do it,” but I did tell myself that if humans could do without power for 300,000 years, then I could do so for a month.