January 10, 2023


New Yorker Finds A Guy Living Off-Grid In Manhattan

Last May Josh Spodek disconnected the circuit breaker in his West Village studio, and now “his carbon footprint is about that of three average-sized house cats,” reports New Yorker magazine, following up on a story first publicised by Time magazine

Spodek is a fifty-one-year-old executive-leadership coach and environmentalist. He specializes in winning converts—C.E.O.s, oil executives, Trumpers—to sustainable life styles. Check out his blog and his podcast, where he conducts interviews and enumerates personal facts, including number of burpees performed since 2011 (two hundred and three thousand five hundred and seventy-eight) and times mugged (many).

What does it mean to live off the grid in a city? No wall outlets, no gas hookup, no taxis. Elevators are out. Running water is in, though Spodek is stingy with the faucet. You’ll need some essentials, including a handheld battery, a portable solar charger, and roof access; in the winter, it only takes six or so hours of direct sunlight to power your days.

 Spodek has coaching clients. For hedge funds and corporations, he charges fifteen thousand dollars for six months of executive training. “For other people, I say pay what you can,” he says. He has calls back to back today to discuss sustainability: a former ExxonMobil manager, a German oil executive, then Alan Iny, a partner at Boston Consulting Group. Iny reports that he’s reconsidering the wisdom of constant business travel. “Progress can be slow in the non-Josh world,” he concedes. Make sure to monitor your phone battery. “It’s at seven per cent,” Spodek says. “I think I’ll be O.K.”

Up to the roof for more charging. It’s a good spot to reflect on your new life’s rewards. “I know the patterns of the shadows,” Spodek says. “Due south is right in the middle, between the World Trade Center and the Woolworth Building.” He likes to orient the panels in that direction for more light. “The weather and the sun drive a lot of my decisions,” Spodek says. “Rain means I have to cut way back on computer use. It’s being humble to nature.”

 His fridge is no more, so Spodek keeps it simple. Every day is solar-powered-no-packaging-vegan-stew day—legumes, nuts, veggies in a pressure cooker. (Unless it rains, in which case: salad.) “Also, it turns out banana peels are edible,” Spodek says.

You might be wondering: is all the fridge-disconnecting and fermenting and composting going to make your apartment stink? Only mildly.

Joshua Spodek hosts the This Sustainable Life podcast, is the author of Initiative and Leadership Step by Step, and is an adjunct professor of leadership at New York University.

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