living off the grid

3 Mar
2011

We’ve reviewed a few different lifestyles recently and today we’re going to look at living off the grid. Not too long ago this was considered an extreme lifestyle choice, often reserved for remote cottage locations or summer retreats.

Not anymore!

This lifestyle while not yet mainstream, is certainly popular with those who want to simplify life or reduce costs. Many modern homesteaders are living off the grid and it’s not always about living without. USA Today reported in 2006 that over 180,000 people in America alone are living off the grid. That’s quite a large group…and it’s growing every day by about 30%.

That’s got to make you smile.

People have visions of hermits living without what we perceive as pleasure. While there are survivalists and extreme lifestyle choices, most times that’s just not true. It’s about finding a way to live with the luxuries or things you enjoy, but doing so independently.

No electricity or large winter heating bills!

Control over choices the municipality or region gives you for waste and services. That’s like getting rid of a week of wages every month! As energy prices rise, reliance on power and fuel companies is not so appealing. So much less pain once you discover the right solution.

A solution that buys you time and life.

what is off the grid

Just like it sounds, off the grid living is severing reliance on public utilities and becoming self reliant.

This form of sustainable lifestyle gives the land owner control and freedom to get their own water, power and heat. It usually also involves creative waste and sewage solutions.

  1. power – with the energy crisis and drive for sustainable solutions increasing the options for power are much more widely available and affordable. They include solar, wind, water, and biofuel generators with creative solutions and innovative ideas becoming more and more frequent.
  2. heat – depending where you live, heat can be more of a problem to some. Choosing your power solution will contribute to an effective solution. While burning fuel or wood is not the most eco friendly choice, it is sometimes the best solution until an effective alternative can be discovered.
  3. water – the availability of water, especially clean water can be an issue but generally streams, lakes, wells and rainwater collection are used. A pump and UV filtration are ideal.
  4. sewage – the forgotten waste. We still need to get rid it and many people replace the old fashioned outhouse with a compost system or septic tank. Innovative greywater systems that involve permaculture and the  reuse of water are becoming more and more popular.
  5. waste – it goes without saying that the less you create, the less you have to worry about this. If you truly generate your own food and use all the items you have, waste is generally a very small piece of the pie.

some of us have greater demands

Other considerations:  washing, cooking, and building materials.

lighting – with LED options becoming affordable a small amount of electricity can meet all your lighting needs.

refrigeration – food can be stored in cellars, dehydrated, canned, jarred and preserved in many ways to reduce the need for refrigeration. Small energy or smaller fridges are readily available.

entertainment & luxury – we may want television or technology; perhaps we we have more maintenance in our house with carpets, vacuums and facilities. The more demands you have, the more you need to adjust to a more expensive off the grid solution. There is now affordable satellite for internet and communication. For those of you that love family time, games, nature, reading and music it may be less of an obstacle.

washing – clothing, cleaning, bathing and such are important but it wasn’t so long ago that we had very basic solutions in place. These old style things work or with a bit more money spent you can implement low energy, low usage showers and machines.

kitchen appliances – really the same as all the other considerations. What do you need? A woodstove or a more modern solution. You’d be surprised how nice it is to cook and prepare food in a basic way. Not so hard really. Low energy and more manual devices are available.

building materials and household supplies – choosing the materials and supplies that your house will need to create a low impact and maintenance home is one factor that will contribute to your off the grid solution. There are many eco friendly products out there, so do your research to make sure you are aware of them.

Many communities are now off the grid with social activities and modern technology included in the mix. Some modern cities have areas that are dedicated to off the grid living. Over 300 transition towns and many sustainable cities or sustainable options in parts of a city are sprouting. The worlds first eco city in Portugal is under construction with a 2015 target.

It just takes a little bit of ingenuity, desire, effort and a lot of cooperation. Want to reduce your impact and cost of living? Off the grid is a pretty good way to go.

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