[I]n 2008 Mark Boyle decided to try living for a year without money. His self-imposed rules were simple: he would close his bank account and not spend or receive money (including checks and credit cards). He would live off-grid—that meant he would produce his own energy for illumination, heat, food preparation, and communicating with the outside world. He sold his houseboat and used the proceeds (a few thousand dollars) to set things up. This included buying a $300 solar panel to keep his laptop and cell phone charged (he accepted incoming calls, which he could do without subscribing to a cell phone plan.) He obtained an old trailer for free from a woman who wanted to get rid of it. He made a deal with an organic farm to let him park the trailer on the land in exchange for a few hours work each day. He built a compost toilet near his trailer to harvest the “humanure” for his gardening needs. He set up a solar shower, which consisted of a black plastic bag and a rubber hose to bathe with. For heating the trailer he bought a wood-burning stove made from an upcycled propane tank, and for cooking he built a “rocket stove,” designed to produce high-heat using small pieces of wood. A bicycle provided transportation.
He started his year of moneyless existence on international “Buy Nothing Day” (the day after Thanksgiving, which is the biggest shopping day of the year). And he wrote about his experiences in his book, Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomics Living.
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Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.