The Cash-Free Economist

How one man, schooled in economics, lives off the grid and without opening his wallet.
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How one man, schooled in economics, lives off the grid and without opening his wallet.

In the history of the outdoors there is a litany of individuals who have survived on their surroundings–be it by choice or by circumstance. There are those who shun civilization and head off to the woods; there are those who get lost and find themselves scrounging for food and shelter; and there are those who seek to limit their carbon footprint to the minimum.

And then there's Mark Boyle. An economist by schooling, Boyle began to mistrust the rigors of day-to-day, hand-to-wallet existence after a video session with Gandhi. When he found himself out of school and working for the man, a mild man as it was, Boyle made the decision to go moneyless. For a year. (Cue the book deal.)

Now in his 11th month of truly green living, Boyle has been residing in his caravan, cooking over a tiny camp stove, and composting his waste (all of it). He brushes his teeth with ground up cuttlefish bones (Boyle lives in the UK) and scrounges for or grows his own food. He travels by bike and uses newspaper as toilet paper. To run his laptop, from which he blogs and runs The Freeconomy Community, Boyle relies on solar power.

And as his year of piety comes to a close Boyle is reflective on whether to re-enter the monetary world and all its trappings. The stress of traffic jams, and bank accounts, and taxes is enough to send him back to dumpster diving and cuttlefish grinding. But the prospect of a book deal (yep, he has offers) and the chance to take that money and do something meaningful with it (such as buy a plot of land where a whole community of moneyless Mark Boyles can coexist) is very enticing to Boyle.

So, since a trek to India for a bit of soul searching is out of the question, Boyle has opened his dilemma up to the blogosphere. And for those intrigued by Boyle's story and interested in trying a cash-free existence, November 28 (the day before the official end to Boyle's experimental year; and the day after Black Friday in the U.S.) is "Buy Nothing Day" in the UK. I'm sure they'd be happy to share the holiday.

--Katie Herrell

I live without cash – and I manage just fine, Green Living Blog, Guardian.co.uk