These days, “green” is seriously on trend. From house cleaners to toilet paper, you can gain street cred if you buy products that don’t deforest the Amazon or put pollutants into the world’s water supply. You’re eligible for more cool factor if you carpool or bring your own bags to the store. Energy efficiency is a big topic in the green world these days, from dishwashers to light bulbs, for our purchases and how we use them. But what about our own energy? What about the energy that we produce? I’m talking about the energy that powers our brains, our hearts, our legs and arms, the energy that gets us out of bed in the morning, the energy that we run, jump and play with, that we file papers and search for jobs with. Yes, in the national conversation, energy efficiency is a big topic. But have we taken it beyond its context?
This conversation first began in my head as a bike rider. I realized it wasn’t as efficient as a biker to ride as if I was driving a car. Drivers can start, stop, and accelerate as they please; the physical exertion for each is virtually indistinguishable. As a biker, however, I began noticing inclines and declines where, in a car, I had never noticed them before; and coming to a complete stop on my bike at a stop sign is much more physically demanding than you might think. The traffic laws are based on a car’s world, and the bikers are just living in it.
This conversation was continued when I worked at a busy French bakery. I was schooled on constantly keeping my “to do” list on-brain so that, for example, I wasn’t just going into the kitchen to drop off dishes, but also to grab more silverware, give the manager a message, get milk out of the cooler, and grab a new rag. In a two-story cafe where I had the run of the place, personal energy efficiency was precious (though the calf muscle I gained from all those stairs was enviable).
We discount our personal energy because we don’t have to pay for it directly like we do gas or electricity. But we do pay for it, every day. Most obviously, we pay for it in groceries, but we also add to and deduct from it through our activities and actions. Sleep is often undervalued. In an age where we as humans are working and competing with computers, who work around the clock, sleep doesn’t seem as important when our “peers” require none. Aside from our primary sources of energy (sleeping and eating), there are restorative practices (for example, meditation, yoga, reading, and puzzling (crosswords, etc.) that can do a lot to recharge our batteries. Even more discounted, though, than those activities that restore our energy are those that deplete it. Here, I mean stress, mostly. This is an era of unbelievable stress. Did you know that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had a 14-hour work week (figuratively speaking) and the rest was spent in leisure? Stress as a concept was practically nonexistent. Humans weren’t meant to function with so many deadlines and on such tight schedules. As before, we are competing with computers, which were made to multitask. It’s a lot we’re contending with.
There’s a disconnect between our lives and our bodies. There’s so much we’re trying to accomplish, and expectations we’re faced with, that we’re just trying to stay afloat. We get lost and can no longer feel how frazzled and depleted we are. If we bring the principles we assign to home appliances into our lives we will have much clearer brains and be able to function so much better in this world of competition. In the end, we are not computers or robots, but that is the reality of the situation, so the best we can do is optimize our “software” to best work alongside these machines of near-perfection.
What are your thoughts on personal energy efficiency? Are you efficient with your time? Do you stress out like I do about everything that needs to be done and end up not doing any of it because you’re so stressed out? What are the ways in which you cope or optimize yourself?