See that photo above of the girl whipping her calves into shape by pedaling her clothes clean? That's the brainchild of inventor and artist Stephen M. Johnson. The WashCycle, as it was known, was just one of the many fantastical, visionary ideas he developed over his 40-year career—ideas that also included human-powered oddities like the Vanity-Cycle, the StepperWash, the Pedaling Toilet, the Skylight Oven, and the Real Life Vehicle (which came fully equipped with an office and laundry facilities). Unfortunately, Johnson's ideas only existed on paper. But a human-powered life is possible: there are now products and devices for every room in your off-the-grid house!
Who needs lamps, switches and outlets everywhere?
• Solar Tubular Skylights by Solartube, catches direct sunlight and redirects it down an adjustable-length tube, bringing daylight to parts of buildings that would not otherwise have access to natural light.
• The Crank LED Flashlight ($49): 30 seconds of cranking gives you up to 10 minutes of use. A full charge gives up to 30 hours of light, with a lifetime expectancy of over 100,000 hours.
• InstaLight Clear Dynamo Flashlight ($49): for this flashlight, a few-second squeeze will give you all the light you need.
Who needs electric appliances?
• Manual Espresso Maker by Presso (£78): I've always wanted to try this! Made from recyclable polished aluminum, the Presso is far more compact than a traditional espresso maker. Just fill the steel filter with coffee, place in the chrome holder, add some boiling water to the heat proof cylinder, and slowly squeeze the lever arms down forcing the water through the coffee at high pressure.
• Wood and Metal Coffee Grinders (available vintage or from Zassenhaus for $85.99): the original conical burr grinder. Put the beans in the top, crank the handle, open the little drawer, and there you have it. There’s a knurled nut that adjusts the coarseness of the grind, also capable of producing a fine and uniform grind for espresso.
• French Press: No filters, no electricity. Just great coffee.
• Manual Powered Wheatgrass Juicer ($44.95): the process of crushing and squeezing fruits and wheatgrass (as opposed to masticating them) means you extract more juice, have less heat build up, and preserve more of the vital nutrients.
• Mush, the Manual Baby Food Processor (price TBD): this human-powered chopper turns fruit, veggies, and boneless meats into mashed up meals for your little one.
• Vortex Hand-Crank Blender by GSI ($99.95): a little muscle power (still functional for weaklings) is all that's needed to run this blender.
Office and Tech
Who needs batteries and cords?
• Human-Powered Paper Shredder ($24): To make the unit work, twist the unit back and forth and the paper to pull the paper through, shredding it as it goes. No batteries, cords, or buttons.
• Dahon Ios XL ($1,599): this bike generates electricity while you pedal, enough to charge your iPod!
• Hymini Gadget Charger ($50): chargeable by hand crank, solar, or wind, it'll charge all of your 5V gadgets.
• Wind-up Radio, Flashlight, and Phone Charger ($44.50): this radio does take batteries, but it doesn't need them. Just wind it up to get it running.
• XO Laptop ($100): the latest versions of the "One Laptop Per Child" XO Laptop claims to have achieved a 1:10 power ratio - 1 minute of charging for 10 minutes of usage, or 2 hours of hand cranking to recharge the laptop completely.
Who needs a vacuum cleaner? Or a washing machine?
• Carpet Beaters (price varies): Is there anything more old school than beating your carpets to get rid of the dirt? Effective and cathartic!
• Handcrafted Brooms from Broomchick ($14-$35): Sometimes I think these brooms are too pretty to use, but if you do use them, you know they'll last for a long time.
• Durable Dust Pans and Brushes (various prices): I think beautiful, functional household items make cleaning more enjoyable, and thus you're more likely to do it!
• The Laundry Pod (price TBD): Yes, this won't wash 2 week's worth of laundry in one go, but smaller, manageable loads are totally doable.
• Hand Powered Portable Washing Machine ($49.99): Consider this your arm toning exercises for the day.
Who needs gas-powered lawn mowers, dryers, or ovens?
• Reel Mowers ($115 - $199): Get fit, reduce air and noise pollution, and keeps your neighbors happy.
• Cookup Parabolic Solar Oven Cooker (369,95 € incl. tax): a portable solar cooker meant to be taken out on the open road! It can be assembled in minutes and folds up into a handy little carrying case. Made with 100% recyclable, optical polyester, 1 gram of aluminum per square meter, and sustainably-harvested Portuguese wood.
• Backyard Clothes Line, particularly the Rotary Clothesline ($279): clean, fresh-smelling, air-and-sun dried clothes... all possible with a good backyard clotheslines.
Interested in learning more? Buy The Human-Powered Home: Choosing Muscles Over Motors ($19.77 from Amazon)
(Images: 1, 9, 10: small-generator.com, all other images as linked)