Energy-free Entertainment

One of the huge barriers we need to overcome in order to live more sustainably is that we take things for granted, and we are completely disconnected from where things come from, and where they go once we’re done with them. Water, energy, and waste are great examples of this disconnect . Like Julia Butterfly-Hill says, “When we throw things away… where is away?”. It’s been great to see some of the families blogging about just this issue. The Belbins are taking kids to see the landfill, and the Gagnon-Morneaus just toured their water treatment facility and let people know that clean drinking water is not something that happens magically in a far-away land. Knowing the source is a critical step in appreciating the form of energy more. And the next step is maintaining that awareness. This is why I asked the EDC families to have an energy-free entertainment week. I wanted them to put away the ipods, ipads, tvs, dvd players, wiis, iphones, stereos, etc. for one entire week and see where it took them.

Every year my husband and I try to do a cleanse where we don’t eat solid foods for a week to ten days. It’s never easy, but in the end I always feel fantastic and it renews my appreciation for delicious food and gives my hard-working digestive system a short break too. I see the value in letting things go for a period of time to see the role they play in our lives. For that reason, I proposed to my family that we also embark on a week that didn’t use technology as entertainment. To my surprise my 9-year old stepdaughter (who’s going on 16), quickly said, “no thanks.” But it was easy to sell the kids on the fun of it, and the reward at the end would be listening to an episode of Stuart Mclean’s Vinyl Cafe, our Saturday morning tradition.

I quickly realized how much of my precious and rare downtime I fill with an episode of this or that, or a movie on Netflix. We don’t have a television or cable, which I always feel proud of, but somehow we’ve just transferred our tv time to our laptops. I think we’ve watched every good movie on Netflix, so for the last couple of months we go to the website scouring for something we might have missed. It’s the online equivalent of having hundreds of channels and nothing to watch.

The first night of the week I felt this huge sense of liberation and that the night had so many options without the screen default. Rob and I played lots of chess, we preserved almost 60lbs of root vegetables that were in peril of going off, we had conversations about things we needed to talk about but couldn’t find the space for. The kids had a day off from school and Rob and I both had to work, so we couldn’t really entertain them. They played happily together for hours scrap-booking and being Arctic explorers in their pajamas and snowsuits. It gave me a great sense of satisfaction that they didn’t complain once about not being able to watch videos, and were creative and immersed in their play.

More than anything, I realized that tv and movies have turned into less of a conscious choice, and more of a way to unplug- a distraction. Getting out of the routine of mindlessly watching something did exactly what I hoped, it allowed me a fresh set of eyes to see that most of the time what I choose to watch doesn’t enrich my life. Using that time to read, play board games, enjoy fresh air and physical activity, means so much more to me.

Thoughts from Luna (9 years old)

Before we started I asked my self (as I picked up the itouch for the last time) “Why am I doing this?” I thought that this week would be torture but it was actually quite fun, I got to play games with my family and play outside.We all decided that we would end our no-electric-entertaining-week by listening to Stuart Mclean, but to my surprise, even though we still did listen to Stuart Mclean on the radio at the end of the week, we also went and saw him live! It was a surprise from my dad and Lauren. It was way better then listening on the radio!
When we did our week without electric entertainment I realized that it wasn’t really as hard as I thought. Things like computer games and email were easy to avoid, even though at times I still missed them a bit it was easy to avoid them.
I think that if i did it again I could go longer. I think that everyone should try a week with out electric entertainment, it really shows you that it isn’t really hard.

Thoughts from Tia (7 years old)

I liked it. It was fun playing more outside and having family time.

Thoughts from Rob (41 years old)

Energy free – indeed.

I really enjoyed the space that energy free week provided.

I have this theory that, as a society, we are mentally obese.  We take so much information in, but aren’t able to process and eliminate it.  Our minds are constantly at a buffet – looking for the next show, article, TED talk, etc.

So this week was perfect for reflecting and connecting.

Monday mental blocks were spent walking the local trail system, rather than finding internet distractions.  Lauren and I saw a coyote run 10 meters in front of us.

The kids seemed calmer and so full of creativity. Friday was a PD day from school, yet Lauren and I were fully in work mode.  What would have normally been a morning of Authur cartoon on YouTube – instead, the girls fully embraced the tech free space.  Working in my office, I saw the girls walk by the window in full snow gear, backpack on and various bags in tow.  ‘We are explorers, in the North – finding a place out of the snow and cold, searching for ‘new’ treasures””.  When I came back into the house, they were still outside playing, cuddled up in their igloo protected from the ‘elements’.

I like the space, awareness, and the ‘conscious’ family connections. I really reaped the personal benefits of energy free week – I am sure the environment also received benefits as well.

It had been decided that, we are going to have a weekly energy free entertainment day.  (except if Stuart Mclean is on of course).