Solar Powered

Around December or January, I start holding my breath for the end of winter. I’m lucky to live in places with four distinct seasons. This year has taken me by surprise with a very, very mild winter. It’s only the middle of March, so we could still get a cold snap, but I’ve been outside in shorts and a tee shirt now, and not just for running!

A photo from November 2012 - proof of remarkably mild seasons.

A photo from November 2012 – proof of remarkably mild seasons.

I admire people who can keep their sanity in dark places. As far as I can tell, I’m not one of them. For me, mood seems directly correlated with sunshine. The light is a big part of it, but it’s not just the light. The warmth is a big deal. As I write this, I’m in my basement room. Even though it’s in the upper 60’s (Fahrenheit) outside (I think), it’s chilly down here and my fingers are halfway numb, the kind of numb that makes hands painful to use. I’ve worked outdoors in 110 degree, very humid weather, the kind of weather that has a heat index rating of 130+ degrees. It wasn’t too bad.

I was born on the hottest day of the year (or at least that’s what I’m told), and I have to wonder if that gave me some sort of funny heat tolerance. I’m definitely one of those people who, if I weren’t better educated about climate change, would be saying things like, “Global warming? HELL YES.” I’ve never lived in a severely cold climate–at all–yet every winter I find myself struggling to stay energized. It’s a struggle against my hibernation instinct which only goes dormant once plants have started blooming.


First green growth of 2014 I’ve seen in Francheville.

I appreciate people, but socializing usually requires more energy than it gives me. I enjoy food, but I eat to live (not the other way around). I dread sleeping, though technically it does recharge my batteries–but what really gives me energy is the sun. If “Which kind of alternative energy are YOU?” were one of the BuzzFeed quizzes that keep popping up on my Facebook feed, there’s no contest–Solar Power!

Recently, I’ve seen a bunch of cool ways designers are integrating solar power into everyday objects. Although a global solution to totally convert the world’s energy use from fossil fuels to more sustainable sources of energy would be great, taking bites out of energy demand with micro solutions like these is useful, and can also make us more aware of all the “little” ways we use (and often waste) energy. Best of all, I think it is important culturally to understand that going away from reliance on fossil fuels does not mean going back to the Dark Ages.

  • This solar-powered desk can be powered with diffused light, so it doesn’t even need to be in strong direct sunlight (unlike me)! I also appreciate that it could reduce the tangle of cords and could make desk location more flexible (i.e. maybe in the center of a room rather than up against a wall next to an outlet).
  • This colored glassware seems a little trickier than the desk (you have to have a special bookcase that acts as a battery for them to work), but they have the power to charge a cell phone or lamp.
  • And here’s a range of chargers powered by solar energy. They’re affordable and seem sturdy; I’ve looked into these in times when I wasn’t sure I’d have access to electricity (though I never ended up using one, so I can’t give a personal recommendation).


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