Though sometimes inconvenient, manual machines lower our carbon emissions and can be pretty fun, too!
I once found an old treadle sewing machine at a flea market and got married in the dress I made on it. These days, I like my coffee made by robots and my sewing done by people more qualified than me.
Having two kids radically changed how I spend my time every day and forced me to realize that if I wanted to keep everyone alive while making a living, I was going to have to let some things go. While I do fewer things by hand now, I still use a few manual machines for the pure fulfillment of it — and because the result of jobs done by hand is often better. In my mind, it’s not about making big radical changes to save the planet, but taking the things you do every day, one at a time, and finding ways to change their impact.
The average American household consumes about 30 kilowatt-hours of energy or the equivalent of burning 23.4 pounds of coal per day. I can’t install a solar array on my rental house any time soon, but what I can do is lessen my footprint, one little appliance at a time. Here’s where you can start.
Try a Manual Coffee Grinder
Some people just have to grind their own coffee. If you like your daily grind, go manual, and integrate some movement into your morning routine while you’re at it.
This gorgeous manual coffee grinder from Best Made is stunning and designed to last for generations.
Try a Pour Over Coffee With a Chemex
Coffeemakers require a much lower energy input than say, a refrigerator, but if you make coffee with a propane burner and a kettle, you can take the coffeemaker out of the equation entirely.
For many, the ideal brew comes from a pour-over design using a slow, methodical pour.
I like the idea of keeping another appliance off my counter anyway. If you’re like me and only make one cup a day, the need for a big machine and coffee pot is pretty much a dud anyway. The Chemex is a great way to brew a single cup of coffee (or a few), with a space-saving design that allows you to pour, brew, wash, and put away the Chemex every day.
You’ll need a way to heat your water for this coffeemaker. For those trying to save on their electricity usage, using Chemex’s handblown glass water kettle over a propane stove is the perfect way to make coffee every day, without using any electricity.
Get Buff with a Hand Crank Blender
Smoothie people rejoice — there’s a hand-crank blender, and it’s literally made for camping. But don’t let the rugged design throw you off. This hand-crank blender from GSI outdoors looks great on a kitchen counter and makes one heck of a green smoothie.
GSI sent me one of these babies to try in my own kitchen, and I have to say, this thing is a beast. Designed and built to sustain the tumbling around it’ll do in travel, it’s heavyweight design makes it stand up to the torque of being cranked every day to make a smoothie.
It has two speeds, one for coarser blends, and one for finer ones (you get more resistance, but more cranks with the finer blend). The hand crank is sturdy and made out of metal so you won’t break it, and the whole thing comes apart nicely for cleaning.
It’s tough enough to handle frozen smoothie blends, and light enough to put away every day if you’re not a fan of having countertop appliances out all the time.
Got Propane? Use a Cast Iron Pan Instead of a Microwave
Microwaves consume a ton of electricity. Plus, besides not being great for you or your food, microwaves are big, noisy, and generally suck the life out of anything you eat.
Learning to reheat your leftovers in cast iron might seem like a stretch, but with a good lid and a tiny bit of patience, it’ll go a long way in reducing your appliance energy draw.
Not all cast iron is created equal though, and a lot of the stuff out there is pitted, meaning things stick to it a lot more easily. Some brands make up for it by putting harmful coatings on their cast iron, but cast iron purists like me know better.
Try Finex cast iron for the perfect reheating skillet that won’t stick to everything. They use old methods of making cast iron to avoid a pitted design and still give you a great meal without those harsh nonstick coatings.
Manual Washing Machines Are a Thing
I actually tried one of these things years ago and really liked it. Manual washing machines are a great thing to have if you live in areas where the power frequently goes out, but they also make great additions to laundry routines for smaller household sizes.
Manually washing your laundry in a machine this size can take a long time if you have a bunch of little kids. If it’s just you and a partner or roommate, it’s a great option.
The hand-crank design gives you a workout, and in a small space without a washer/dryer hookup, it’s an eco-friendly way to save you from hauling your laundry baskets all the way to the laundromat.
Drying Racks for Small Spaces
Dryers take up a lot of space and use a massive amount of energy. In one of the cloudiest, rainiest places in the U.S. though, hanging it outside isn’t happening for me.
This space-efficient wall-mounted collapsible drying rack from my favorite store ever, Pottery Barn, has several arms you can extend as needed to dry your delicates. But for more ambitious indoor drying goals, you can try a stand-up rack like this one.
Its compact design folds down for storage in a small space, and multiple racks make it so you can dry whatever you need to in the space of a day or two.
Do you have a favorite manual way to do something? Tell us what you like to do the old-fashioned way on Facebook and Instagram, and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress