Couple build dream home using recycled materials for only £27,000

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Simon and his wife Jasemine built their dream home for only £27,000

Simon and wife Jasemine built dream home for only £27,000

 

Last week, a couple who dreamt of building their own eco family home and living off the land with their children appeared on the British TV show, Grand Designs. With only £500 in the bank, they started the project and didn’t give up.

Simon and Jasemine Dale later managed to save £27,000 after taking a few years out and working. Jasemine ran horticultural courses and sol produce whilst Simon did occasional consultancy work on low impact buildings. They did end up building the three-bedroom home for themselves and their children Elfie and Cosmo, in the sustainable Lammas community Pembrokeshire, UK. In order to move into the community, they first had to prove they could fulfill a strict planning condition and that they could be self-sufficient on their seven-acre plot – or be forced to move out.

 

Their house was built on a sustained plot of land and they had to prove they were able to live self-sufficiently on it

Their house was built on a sustained plot of land and they had to prove they were able to live self-sufficiently on it

They proved that they could though as well as proving that you can build your dream home with recycled materials for a fraction of the cost. Presenter of the Show, Kevin McCloud described it as “the cheapest house ever built in the Western Hemisphere”.

 

The floors were made of rammed earth, which was polished and hardened with linseed oil and structure of the home was made from timber polls, all grown, felled, prepared and sawn by Simon. But don’t feel sorry for him, he loved every minute of it. He told the show that:

 

“It’s been hard and I wasn’t asking for an easy life. I like a challenge. To put in a hard day’s graft and be tired at the end of the day. That exhaustion is a nice feeling.”

 

At the front of the house, they decided to install a greenhouse to preheat air for the house and grown food.

Their daughter, Elfies room. The structure was made by Simon

Their daughter, Elfies room. The structure was made by Simon

The couple used sheep wool and grass as insulation in the walls and the roof, reclaimed glass for the windows and kitchen fixtures and appliances from car boot sales and eBay.

 

 

The Dale’s have proved that a green lifestyle and living off the land can be cheap and still comfortable with their beautiful eco home.

 

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Motorhome story

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Morelo speared no expense with this one, but at £360,000, can you afford to do the same?

Morelo spared no expense,but at £360,000, can anyone afford it?

 

German  luxury RV manufacturer Morelo has released pictures of its newest model, the Empire Super-Liner, unveiled at the Motorhome & Caravan show in Birmingham, UK, last week. At £360,000, the motorhome is almost double the price of the average home in Britain. But you get what you pay for – a palace on wheels.

 

 

The airy bedroom lets you feel close to nature with the comfort of being in your own bed

The airy bedroom lets you feel close to nature with the comfort of being in your own bed

 

So, if you’re not one for living on damp, muddy ground in a tent  – if even glamping is too down-market for you, and you prefer to max out on comfort in your life, then you can’t get much better than this. The motorhome features under-floor heating, a rain shower, a fully equipped luxury kitchen, a double bedroom with a skylight so you can fall asleep whilst you watch stars. There’s even an optional garage for when you’re storing a car on your travels.

 

 

 

 

 

A look at the interior of the luxury motorhome

A look at the interior of the luxury motorhome

 

The smallest model in the Empire Liner range, the 90 L, starts at 8.99m, while the largest 110 GSO model is 11.29m in length and it’s powered by a 7.7-litre engine, which develops 300bhp, twice as much torque as a Lamborghini Aventador.

 

 

 

 

 

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Park City commits to 100% renewable

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Mayor Jack Thomas committed to the pledge this Tuesday (11th October)

Mayor Jack Thomas announcing his commitment 

 

Park City, Utah is the latest American city to pledge to turn to 100% renewable energy (you can view the whole list here). The promise was made under the 100% Committed Campaign and Park City has set 2032 as its deadline. Boulder, Colorado, San Francisco and San Diego, California, Georgetown, Texas Grand Rapids, Michigan and others have already committed to the cause.

 

This is great news, but why has it taken them so long? The campaign seems to have emerged as an attempt to push local councils toward sustainable energy, as climate change becomes a leading issue in national politics.

 

Last month, in September, when Boulder announced its commitment, Mayor Suzanne Jones, took to the mic to state that: “[It] is increasingly clear that Congress is not going to address climate change; cities like Boulder need to take the lead.”

 

Mayor Jack Thomas pushed a similar messaged in Utah and urged other cities to follow suit: “Park City’s commitment for 100% renewable electricity is driven by our community” he said. “The passion for the natural environment and our responsibility to take care of it is part of the fabric of what makes Park City a very special place to live. Park City can’t do it alone.”

 

Mountain communities have proudly pledged to change their energy source as they understand the risk they face if global warming is allowed to continue at the rate that it is at. “Park City recognizes that without snow, they cannot grow,” Talya Tavor, I AM PRO SNOW program manager, said. “At Climate Reality we bring together the passion to fight climate change with the passion to protect our mountain communities to make an unstoppable force for change. That’s why it is no surprise that mountain cities are leading the way on renewable electricity.

But that’s not all, national businesses like Ski Butlers, Ikea, Adobe, Facebook Apple and more (full list) have made the commitment to switch to 100 percent renewable electricity, under the RE100 plan to get the world’s most influential companies committed to 100% renewable power.

This  shows that business and government leaders recognize the urgent need to address the very real issue of climate change, and it also shows that practical solutions are actually being put in place to do so.

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Canada project launched by ATCO

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ATCO Electric are set to launch a solar project

ATCO Electric say they are looking to reduce carbon footprint

 

 

A new off-grid system is capable of generating 75 kilowatts and storing 250 kilowatts hours of energy. Now that’s impressive!

Last week, ATCO announced their groundbreaking solar project in Western Canada. The Grande Prairie POD Transmission at the Saddle Hills Telecommunications Site is needed to meet increased power demand in the area.

“Through this project, we have gained valuable insight into the application of off-grid solar solutions, directly transferable and scalable for our customers in other sectors,” said Paul Goguen, Senior Vice President & General Manager, ATCO Electric Transmission Division.

“This is just one example of how ATCO is finding opportunities to economically reduce our carbon footprint while exploring innovative clean energy solutions for our customers.”

This is great news, but why didn’t it happen any sooner if ATCO is seriously trying to cut down on their carbon footprint?

Propane thermal electric generators previously powered the site where the system is being built. As the generators neared the end of their life cycles and the need for power at the location grew, ATCO had a vision for a cleaner and less expensive way to keep the site up and running – solar energy.capstone project,

They didn’t make the transition alone though, to make sure that the switch was technically viable and cost-effective, they joined forces with the Alternative Energy Capstone Project and outlined the technical challenges of building and maintaining solar panels in a remote location (e.g. cooler climate, fewer hours of daylight etc.)

The project is one of many that ATCO is undertaking; a full list can be viewed here. The timeline for the scheme so far is as follows:

  • November 2015: Notification to landholders, agencies, and other interested parties
  • April 2016: Submit facilities application to the AUC
  • July 2017: If AUC approves the facilities application – construction begins

 

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Why the phrase “off the grid” has Hollywood gripped

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The new Jason Bourne films encompasses off-grid living for a more thrilling feel

New Jason Bourne film brings in off-grid living for thrills 

 

The theme of off-grid living is sweeping through Hollywood as it takes a center stage role in upcoming blockbusters.

The newest Bourne movie hits the big screen this week, and lead character Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) immerses himself into off-grid living as he tried to shake loose those who are tracking him. He makes a career for himself on the bare-knuckle fight circuit somewhere in southern and central Europe as old associates reappear throughout the movie. This film is not out yet but it is pretty safe to say that when they refer to Bourne as being off-grid they don’t mean he’s living on a farm using hydropower to decode top CIA Intel. But rather ‘off the radar’; one can guess burner phones and such will be used. His romantic interest Nicky Parsons is back and has downloaded confidential files about Bourne’s former life as David Webb. The film is said to keep you on the edge of your seat once is gets going and definitely is on our list to watch.

 

Another sequel is soon on it’s way out, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is another part two thriller. Tom Cruise who plays Reacher stumbles upon a grand conspiracy and goes, guess where?  Off the grid, according to the press releases. Surfing from motel to motel and covering his back, he tries his hardest not to  be tracked as he unwraps this mystery.

 

Films such as Captain Fantastic, Life of Pi, 127 Hours, Wild have all used the OG word in their PR packs. But what exactly is it about the theme of going ‘off-grid’ that really goes down a treat with audiences? Granted, there’s not much of actual off-grid living in the terms of living a sustained life, living off the food that you grow, using solar power instead of the grid. No, it’s more the mysterious and independent side of living off-grid that really gets the movie audiences going. In times like this, globalization and the rise of technology has interlinked people from across the world. Perhaps it’s the idea that once you go off-grid, you’re technically unknown. These days most people have a phone and on that phone, there is some sort of geo-location software or a software that allows you to be tracked. So maybe it’s the idea of not being tracked that is endearing to people, which is why Hollywood has integrated off-grid living into so many of its film narratives.

Both films are being released this week so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in watching them in full.

 

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Micro-nuclear power plants gaining acceptance

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Dan Stout, TVA senior manager for small modular reactors

In the near future off-grid communities of ip to 20,000 population might be powered by a nuclear reactor the size of a container that is swapped out every 20 years.

Existing plants emit no emissions but overall are just too risky for some. There’s also competition now with low natural gas prices and wind and solar projects, which has allowed the small reactors to emerge. The Tennessee Valley Authority has become the first utility to apply for a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build a small reactor.

Others are following suit, there is a plan by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to build one about 100 miles southwest of Yellowstone National Park; it is said to produce electricity like no other.

Small nuclear reactors may be a safer and a cheaper alternative to nuclear power plants. They can be manufactured in a factory and hooked-up on-site, potentially avoiding the huge upfront capital costs and the overruns that have plagued many nuclear plants. They are theoretically safer, reducing the need for huge containment vessels and other expensive protections.

Unlike other nuclear reactors that usually produce about 1,000 megawatts of carbon-free electricity, the small modular reactors, are designed to be a fraction of the size at 50 to 300 megawatts. Rather than using electrically operated pumps and motors to circulate coolant and keep the core of the nuclear reactor at a low temperature, as happens in traditional plants, small reactors use no pumps and motors and instead rely on passive means such as gravity and conduction ­­to cool the reactors. The size also means that it is cheaper to produce, as opposed to the $10bn and up to a decade in planning to secure permits and build of conventional nuclear.

The group wants to replace their old coal-fired plants and it won the approval from the US Department of Energy earlier this year to analyze the environmental and safety impacts of the small nuclear reactor. If it passes the test, the consortium plans to build a power plant there with 12 reactors totaling 600 megawatts in capacity.

 

The Utah consortium will hire Washington state-based Energy Northwest to operate and maintain its 12 reactors in Idaho if they are built. The Utah group expects the project to come online by 2024.

Gene Grecheck, a former president and the current co-chair of a policy advisory committee at the American Nuclear Society, which represents engineers and scientists. Grecheck says that scientists are studying other ways to improve nuclear technology. “There is also a lot of research going on for advanced reactor concepts to take used fuel and reprocess it to reduce [the spent fuel] even more dramatically,” he said.

 

Startup companies are working on using spent uranium fuel include the Bill Gates-backed TerraPoweras well as Transatomic and Terrestrial Energy. Another start-up, Oklo, seeks to create 2-megawatt reactors that fit inside shipping containers to provide electricity for remote off-grid locations. Toshiba has worked on a micro nuclear reactor that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbours who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs.

 

new report by the U.K.’s government-backed Energy Technologies Institute outlines what it considers to be a reasonable timeline for the country to also adopt the new smaller reactors. It has been estimated that they could be in use by 2030. For that to happen, talks between operators, developers, and the government would have to begin next year. But fears about the safety of nuclear plants have made them so costly as to discourage investors. “Creating the right environment for increasing investor confidence is critical if this schedule is to be met,” says Mike Middleton, the author of the report.

 

Even if it does happen in the U.K. they will still lag behind America. If all goes as planned, the facility in Tennessee could be up and running by the mid-2020s.

 

 

 

 

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How safe is your drinking water?

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A little girl protesting the water crisis in Flint, America.

For small children its a clear and present danger 

 

 

Reports of polluted drinking water contaminating whole communities have flooded in recently.  As if we didn’t need another reason to unplug, various studies have uncovered the truth about our ‘drinking water’. It is diseased and ‘deadly toxic’.

 

In the US, more than six million people drink contaminated water, plagued with PFASs, which have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol and obesity. This is according to a Harvard University study published in August which used data from more than 36,000 water samples collected from all over the nation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2013-2015. You can view their advice here.

 

Lead author of the study, Xindi Hu, says that: “For many years, chemicals with unknown toxicities, such as PFASs, were allowed to be used and released into the environment.” The toxins have been used over the last 60 years in many things from food wrappers to clothing, to cooking utensils. “We now have to face the severe consequences” Hu added.

 

The worst affected states are as follows: California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois.

Diagram shows states most affected by PFASs

Diagram shows states most affected by PFASs

Drinking water was tested in 33 states, the study set the limit as 70 parts of PFASs per trillion (ng/L). Concentrations ranged as high as 1,800 ng/L for PFOS (Newark, Delaware).

 

A separate national report released Tuesday (Sept. 20) found unsafe levels of chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium — known to cause cancer in animals and humans — in tap water across the country.

 

But the States are not alone, one of the world’s leading human rights group has focused on the consequences of contaminated water in indigenous communities throughout Ontario, Canada.

In a study that lasted almost a year, Human Rights Watch collected samples of water in Batchewana, Grassy Narrows, Shoal Lake 40, Neskantaga and Six Nations of Grand River. Whilst conducting their research, they found children suffering from skin disorders, mothers who spent hours a day disinfecting their babies’ bottles, due to the presence of E.coli and other toxins in the water. You can view the gallery they complied whilst carrying out the research here.

 

The ‘make it safe’ campaign has been set up as Canada’s obligation to end the water crisis. Ontario Regional Chief, Isadore Day called the lack of clean water in 2016 “discriminatory and unacceptable”.

 

The HRW wants to know why Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), failed to spend funds over five recent fiscal years and sent more than $1 billion in funds back to the Treasury Board as “surplus” when it could have been used to clean up the water, the report said.

 

The group has praised the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau despite this, for promising $4.6bn earmarked for infrastructure funds in indigenous communities over the next five years.

 

That’s not all – more than 300,000 UK homes were affected by the cryptosporidium parasite found in water supplies last year when animal excrement was leaked into the Franklaw Water Treatment plant in Garstang. People were warned to not drink or use the tap water unless they have boiled it as the microscopic bug infected those with sickness and diarrhea. The company said it was making “good progress” in tackling the problem which it maintained posed a “very low” health risk but the precaution needed to stay in place.

Many are asking the question: why is this an issue in 2016 and in some of the most developed countries in the entire world? It is shocking that communities are being let down by the governments on something as basic as polluted water. If there ever was a time to start converting to your own drinking water, it is now.

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Crucial court hearing for Steward Wood

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Off-grid community nestled in a national park in England

Off-grid community nestled in a national park in England

 

You may remember the Steward Community Woodland Group from our previous article ‘Dartmoor community eviction‘. There’s a little summary downpage.

Since then, the Woodlanders have graciously thanked all for their support, but their current situation calls for even more support from the public. The self-sufficient group has decided to challenge their loss at court. Their latest Facebook post reads: “The most important thing happening at the moment is our High Court challenge of the Planning Inspector’s decision. Before our case can go ahead to a full hearing, a judge will decide whether we have a sufficient case to proceed”.

The judge has allowed them to do this orally which apparently indicates that they have a good chance of winning. If they win, they have to pay £10,000 and if they lose, it’ll be £15,000. They have asked anyone who is happy to help fund the legal fees to contact them via their website or Facebook page or call them on 01647 440233.

More updates as they come.

 

STEWARD WOOD BACKGROUND SUMMARY

  • The group is made up of 23 men, women, and children, who live off-grid in Dartmoor National Park in Devon
  • They have lived peacefully side by side with nature for 15 years in the park on temporary planning permission
  • The park authorities are now ordering them out on the grounds that they are having a “harmful impact on the character and appearance of the Devon park”
  • The same authorities are allowing property developers to make millions building hundreds of homes.  See our new video here
  • Their appeal was rejected on the 10th August 2016

 

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Four Gay years travelling to every US national park

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Meet Mikah Meyer, the youngest person to visit all U.S parks

Mikah Meyer, youngest person to visit all U.S parks

 

Whatever thoughts you had about turning 30, I bet they didn’t make you leave your job, pack your bags and spend 4 years living in your van. Well, it did if you were Mikah.

In 2005, his dad passed away after a battle with cancer, and Mikah, aged 19 took a road trip- supposedly a fun, post-freshman year getaway. It quickly turned into an unforgettable experience of self-reflection and independence. Now he has visited very national park in one trip as a tribute to his Dad and to the USA’s amazing LGBT peoples.

On the 11th anniversary of his fathers’ death Mikah, originally from Nebraska, made the choice to dedicate his dad’s love of driving and travel to each and every national park in the United States. This double world record trip will not only make him the youngest person to experience every unit, but the sole person to do so on one continuous trip.

Snapshop of Mikah's travels

                    Snapshot of Mikah’s travels

Mikah has dedicated the trip not only to the memory of his father but also for youth diversity and says he wants to use his trip to “connect with youngsters, along with an LGBT community stereotyped outside the parks, and show how the national parks can be part of their lives.”

“Whether it was Yellowstone, Arches, or The Statue of Liberty I wanted to see all the U.S. national parks.” He said.

You can keep up with his journey by following his interactive map or following his Facebook page for updates.

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Scott Hunt: off-grid Doomsday retailer

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The off-gridder built his own sustainable farm in preparation for doomsday

The off-gridder built his own sustainable farm in preparation for doomsday

 

Meet Scott Hunt, also known as Engineer775 on his Youtube channel where he gives expert reviews for National Geographic’s reality TV show, Doomsday Preppers.

His religious stance has made him plan accordingly to doomsday, plans which include his and his families 55-acre farm near Pickens being totally sustainable if, oh let’s say out our nation’s electrical grid, shut down its water supply or render its computers useless.
But don’t think of him as gloomy, the creative genius is actually very energetic and he has made a “booming business” out of helping others get prepared for whatever may come.

On the farm, they grow their own food, generate their own electricity, maintain their own water supply and powers their machinery with fuel made from their own wood.

It has elevation change, which can be used to provide a gravity-powered water system. He pumps water from a well low in his topography to a high point on his property and sends it flowing downhill from there to his house with the twist of a faucet.
The tract has ample trees, which he looks on as “solar batteries.” He uses them to fire a 500,000 BTU boiler that provides hot water to his house, and a wood stove for heat and cooking, and for gasification, using a process developed by the Germans during World War II.

With the success of their own off-grid living arrangements, Scott is a consultant and installer of solar-powered water systems and other devices for others who like the idea of being unplugged.
“I feel like that’s what my calling is right now – to help many people as possible,” said Hunt, a former pastor, former Michelin engineer, and upstate New York native.
Tinkering is in Hunt’s genes. He comes from a family of tradesmen. His father was an auto body man. His grandfather was a carpenter and operated a lumber yard. He also went to university to study engineering which is where he found God.

“Some people just want to go off the grid. Some people want something sustainable. Some people are into preparedness big time,” he said. “I just provide solutions that make sense.”
His homestead was ideally suited to become his laboratory for developing self-sufficiency solutions.
If you’re interested in learning some of his tricks, most of his business comes from the Internet. He has a store on his website, www.practicalpreppers.com, from which he sells and drop ships items such as solar water pumps, and his book, “The Practical Preppers Complete Guide to Disaster Preparedness.”

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British supermarket takes one block off the grid

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Paul Crewe of Sainsbury’s: “always looking for new ways to reuse and recycle.”

 

 

British supermarket, Sainsbury has taken it’s first store off-the-grid.

What took them so long?

The Cannock branch, West Midlands has unplugged from the National Grid, says the group chief office. Now it runs on power from anaerobic digestion (that’s wasted food to you and me).

Diagram shows the process of Anaerobic Digestion

Diagram shows the process of Anaerobic Digestion

Although only 10% of Sainsbury’s surplus or waste food goes to charitable causes, it is put to other uses. Some excess food that otherwise would be chucked away, is now delivered to a Biffa plant from Sainbury’s stores around the UK. Then it is turned into bio-methane gas which is then used to generate electricity that is directly supplied to the supermarket via a newly constructed 1.5km-long electricity cable.
Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury, said: “We send absolutely no waste to landfill and are always looking for new ways to reuse and recycle.”  He claimed to be the first business ever to make use of this linkup technology.

But that’s not all, Sainsbury’s already has a name for itself in the UK for being eco-conscious. It’s the UK’s largest retail user of anaerobic digestion, generating enough electricity to power 2,500 homes each year. Under its sustainability code, its wasted energy is down 9.4% year-on-year. It was the first grocery retailer to achieve zero operational waste to landfill in 2013, You can view Sainsbury’s code of ethics here if you’re interested in their stance on other issues.

While Sainsbury’s donate surplus food to good causes, including local food banks, but when items can’t be collected they’ll instead be used for other projects such as animal feed, or to generate energy by anaerobic digestion. Leftover bananas from its Prescot Road store in Liverpool go to Knowsley safari park to feed the monkeys.

This is the second time the supermarket has made a conscious effort to be more eco-friendly in its retail outlets. In 2013, a branch in Haslucks Green became Britain’s most environmentally friendly convenience store after opening. For now though, Cannock is one of a kind.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability from Sainsbury’s also told us that: “We were the first retailer to be able to take a store completely off-grid, thanks to anaerobic digestion, and our store in Cannock continues to operate well. As a large organisation we consume lot of power, so it’s important that we explore new ways of sourcing this, including off-grid options which help alleviate our impact on the grid.”

Now let’s hope other supermarkets across the globe follow in Sainsbury’s footsteps.

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Auroville, the Utopia next door

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Utopia: Auroville, South India

Crowded: commune living, South India

 

Imagine a place free from politics, religion and money. People from every background, of all ages, living in unity and self-sufficiency. The food that you all eat you grew together from scratch on organic farms. Utopia?

Auroville.

A small universal township, located in south India – on the border of Tamil Nadu state. The concept was birthed from an idea of a township devoted to an experiment in human unity in the 1930s.

It gets better- you can visit it. Yes, this isn’t just a place people may hear whispers about but never actually get to see — you can travel there quite easily, let us show you how.

It was set up officially on the 28th February 1968. 5,000 new occupants assembled at the centre of the township for a ceremony. They brought with them soil from their individual homelands to be mixed in with the new soil of Auroville and there is an urn in the middle containing all the mixed samples of Earth. It is said that the purpose of Auroville is “to realise human unity.”

Behold, the Soul Of The City

Behold, the Soul Of The City

There is the most beautiful Peace Area located in the middle of the town called the ‘Soul Of The City’ or the Matrimandir at the centre of the township. It helps to create an “atmosphere of calm and serenity” and serves as a groundwater recharge area. Many gather here at sundown.

 

The population is now 2,400 but it can hold up to 50,000 people. The inhabitants live sustained lives side by side in harmony, without money and politics (even though it is backed by the Govt. of India). It is self-sufficient with over 160 hectares of organic farms, cornfields and orchards. The city area was actually built with a radius of a 1.25km ‘Green Belt’ comprised of forests, dairies, wildlife areas. All of which provide habitats for wildlife and serve as sources of food, timber, medicine and so on.

 

They have stated on their website that they have planned a further extension of their Green Belt to transform ‘wasteland into a vibrant eco-system’. They say they are working towards adding an impressive 800 more hectares. Find out more on their website.

One of the many farms that feed the population in Auroville

One of the many farms in Auroville

The nearest international and domestic airport is Chennai International Airport. If you are already in India and would prefer travelling leisurely by rail, Chennai Central Railway Station connects to all the major cities in India with its reliable express trains such as Tamil Nadu
Express and Rajdhani Express (fully air-conditioned).

 

You can watch someone’s personal experience of entering Auroville as the track how exactly they got there via a travel vlog they uploaded on YouTube. If you have liked what you’ve read, you can support the cause and donate to Auroville here.

It was backed by the Indian Government in 1960 and taken to the General Assembly of UNESCO. Six years later UNESCO passed a unanimous resolution “commending it as a project of importance to the future of humanity, thereby giving their full encouragement.” You can read the full statement of support here.

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Could a jacket make unplugged life easier?

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CEO of SCOTTeVest Scott Jordan set his company up in 2000 with his wife with no fashion (or product design) experience. Photo by Thomas Hawk

Scott Jordan- no fashion or design experience. 

 

How much easier would hiking and camping be if you didn’t need a heavy bag. Of course, you can go on leisurely walks without a backpack, but we’re talking about long trips. Ones you couldn’t imagine without having handy a water bottle, your phone, even your laptop – if you’re trying to get somewhere remote. Well, two  innovative designs have made that a reality.

The “mobile clothing” brand SCOTTeVEST has designed a new jacket that might solve some problems: The Off-Grid jacket. The jacket is said to be perfect for someone who is on the go and the ultra comfy outerwear boasts 29 pockets in total, each tailored to carry a different item in your life.

Wondering why you would even need 29 pockets?  SCOTTeVEST’s, Luke Lappala explains “we have a pocket for everything”. And they really do: a small zip one for your wallet and keys where you can attach them so you don’t lose them, two big side ones for laptops, clear touch ones for your phone, a tablet sized one, a dog biscuit one, a water bottle sized one. The Off-Grid jacket comes with an RFID blocking pocket to keep your valuables safe. Lappala explains that the features will enable you to “stay ‘on the grid’ even while you’re ‘off the grid’. The jacket has been designed with weight distribution so the bulky items that may weigh a ton in your bag, will feel light in comparison. “All of our garments have a weight management system,” he said. “It’s how the pockets are laid out, how it’s stitched. [It] makes it feel more like a backpack rather than a jacket that’s hanging down on you.” The jacket is retailed starting at $215.

Baubax's boasts to be the 'worlds best travel jacket'

Baubax’s boasts to be the ‘worlds best travel jacket’

Baubax’s new jacket is very similar but the outdoorsy person rather than the “mobile” person would benefit more from it.

Featuring a neck pillow, eye mask, hand warming pocket, drink pocket, portable charger pocket, gloves, blanket pocket, earphones holders, phone pocket, iPad pocket and much more, it’s perfect for campers or people enjoying an outdoors lifestyle in cold weather.

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Outdoor living made a little easier

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The Solo Stove Bonfire makes the perfect centre piece during your outdoors adventures

The Solo Stove Bonfire makes the perfect centrepiece for your outdoors adventures

 

ampfires are unpredictable and some camping stoves arw bulky and let’s face it, impractical. Whether you want to heat some porridge to start your day and or keep warm whilst you star gaze, a reliable fire would be an asset.

A new Kickstarter company might have the answer.’Engineered for adventure’: Solo Stove is offering a new kind of off-grid fire pit and stove range, which pushes the limits of combustion airflow efficiency.

The stove only uses the highest-grade 304 stainless steel in the design and it’s engineered to maximize the airflow of the burning process. So basically, it’s pretty powerful for such a compact, easy to carry around essential. Starting from $69.99, the stove comes in a three types. The lite stove good for an intimate setting of 1-2 people and the titan model, one for a bigger get-together of 2-4 and finally the campfire version for 4+.

A look inside the Lite Solo Stove

A look inside the Lite Solo Stove

There’s no heavy battery needed either. Simply pop a few small twigs and logs in the bottom and the stove will burn through them to give you authentic flames, painting a smooth ambiance that will help make the most magical memories with nature and your loved ones. The possibilities are illustrated beautifully in their short video. The clean up is easy too, just wait for the stove to cool down, shake the remaining ash out of it and back into the bag it goes. When you’re ready to move, it slips into a drawstring bag which you can connect to your rucksack or carry yourself.

The company is also creating a bonfire, using the same technology to build a bigger experience which can be used in your own backyard. Hayley Perry, a spokesperson from the company explained: “As a wood burning fire pit, the Bonfire runs completely on biomass and is the most eco-friendly fire pit on the market.” They’re offering a 10% commission on every $1 that you contribute, so if you’re interested, click here to donate. Pre-orders will be available on their website in October with the official release happening in early December.

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Dartmoor community eviction notice after 15 years

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The off-grid Steward community group has 23 members and have lived in the woods for over a decade

The off-grid Steward Community Woodland group has 23 members and lived in the woods with local support

 

An off-grid community located in woodland within Dartmoor National Park, UK are faced with eviction after 15 years of living side by side with nature. The park authorities are ordering them out on the grounds that they had a “harmful impact on the character and appearance of the Devon park”.

The Steward Community Woodland group appealed this decision, stating that they are doing just the opposite; they claim that they have “hugely improved the biodiversity on their 32-acre plot”. Their homes are completely off-grid, made up of recycled timber produced on the very site, amongst other reused materials elsewhere, they fit in nicely with the wooded area.

A community stalwart named Merlin manages the community energy schemes such as solar and hydro power systems to generate and store power for the 23 occupants.

Member Daniel leads his "wild food taster" session in Dartmoor Park

Member Daniel leads his “wild food taster” session in Dartmoor Park

The group also boasts itself as an open community, with locals welcomed to come down and help in the communal gardens. Schoolchildren from the local area are also invited to learn more about woodland and growing skills in a hands-on and fun way instead of inside a classroom.

Tom Greeves, the chairman of the Dartmoor Society has praised the group, stating: “We admire the tenacity and dedication over 15 years of the small group of men, women, and children who have opted for a very different lifestyle”

However, the park authority does not agree. They have granted temporary planning permission twice so far and now the development management committee has refused permanent permission.

The 14 adults, four teenagers and five children who live there are devastated and have appealed the decision.

Sonia Parson who has raised 3 of her children on the commune said she is heartbroken by the news in a video you can watch here. She says her kids see the other members and the animals they live among as family and do not want to be moved on.

The decision was made on the 10th August 2016. The group took to their website to express their anguish over the news: “It is with huge sadness and utter shock that we must let you know our appeal has been dismissed” one post reads. Whilst another exclaims gratitude to their supporters:  “We received over 400 letters of support and a significant number from our local area. We would like to THANK all the people who wrote in and have supported us mentally,

Whilst another exclaims gratitude to their supporters:  “We received over 400 letters of support and a significant number from our local area. We would like to THANK all the people who wrote in and have supported us mentally, physically and emotionally. Your support will and has been a huge help to us.

You can view the details of the appeal here.

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In praise of the humble Hammock

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Suspended in trees, surrounded by nothing but nature. Pure bliss (hammock listed below)

Suspended in trees, surrounded by nothing but nature. Pure bliss (hammock listed below)

Yes, those things your grandma used to relax in in her garden with a nice book are the way forward when camping.

Hammocks can keep you warm and dry these days – off the big- infested floor and with waterproof covers.

Floor’s damp from rain? Not a problem. Suspended between two trees, you don’t have to worry about creepy crawlies getting into your sleeping bag or resting your head on an uncomfortable surface. Camping hammocks use taut, technical fabrics and are very stable so you’re unlikely to flip out of them. Not the best at setting things up? Not a problem, most of them are easy peasy, much less of a head scratcher than tents.

To keep the autumn chill off your back as you sleep, you can attach one of the fitted “underquilts” that most companies offer—an insulated sling that sits under the hammock. And of course, your sleeping bag and standard sleeping pad will provide extra structure and warmth.

To suspend your hammock, simply wrap “tree straps” around two appropriately spaced trunks. Because this flat webbing is wider than rope, it won’t damage the bark. And tempting though it may be, don’t hang your hammock more than a few feet off the ground. It will be easier to climb in and out if the hammock is lower, and in the unlikely event of a suspension failure, you won’t have as far to fall.

We have listed a few of our faves below for you to take a little peek at:

Eagles Nest Outfitters Single Nest Hammock
Price: $59.95
This one comes in 21 different colors, making it easy to coordinate with your personal style and mix match with the family. It is high strength and can hold up to 400lb, features 70D high tenacity breathable nylon taffeta and triple interlocking stitching. The hammock itself weighs just 1 pound and can be bunched up into a softball-size bundle. ENO attempts to reduce potential waste by using every bit of fabric available in production so it’s eco-friendly, yay!

You can find it/alternatives here if you’re in the UK and here if you’re in Canada.

Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker Classic
Price: $239.95
This light favourite was designed with utility in mind and was eve based on the design of World War II Army hammocks. If this one tickles your fancy, you can look forward to enjoying the following features: A mosquito net sewn right in; a sleeve to hold your sleeping pad in place; a Velcro-sealed doorway allows for easy entry; and an asymmetrical shape allows you to lie across the centerline for a flatter position.

You can find it/alternatives here if you’re in the UK and here if you’re in Canada.

Kammok Roo
Price: $99.00
Lightweight but massive (about 10 feet long by 5½ feet wide), this hammock is an all-enveloping cocoon of strong ripstop fabric. Although it’s intended to accommodate two people, keep it all to yourself. It’s wide enough to allow solo sleepers to lie fairly flat and slightly across the centerline. Its sturdy construction made it feel very stable, even if you’re moving around.

You can find it/alternatives here if you’re in the UK and here if you’re in Canada.

Tensile Trillium Hammock
Price: $250.00
This one is really unique and the perfect hammock for stacking for a multi-level outdoor living environment if you’re camping in a big group. Insulation layers will keep you toasty at night and it can hold a maximum of 800lbs. Set up time is only 8 minutes too!

You can find it here if you’re in the UK and here if you’re in Canada.

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We want to hear YOUR stories

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Vanessa Runs wrote about her transition

Vanessa Runs wrote about her transition

Some you will be reading this at your desk at which you spend 8 hours a day, just to pay the bills and mortgage. Some will stare at our off-grid memes, posted on out Facebook page just wishing they could trade in their settings and for something a little more extraordinary. But if you were given the chance, would you be brave enough to take the leap of faith?

Author Vanessa Run has done just that. She studied Journalism and went on to work in various media companies, but the work bored her and she realized that ‘living for the weekend’ was not living at all. Her current book is on escaping the rat race for an off-grid lifestyle, close to nature in a campervan traveling around the picturesque beauty New Zealand has to offer.

Writer Nick Rosen has also published his own book, How To Live Off-Grid, in which he embarked a similar journey in a campervan.

Nick has also made short films all over the world about off-grid homes and the people who built them.

Enough about other people, we want to know about you. How do you live? Can you send su a video? Or write a story with some still photos? Have you tried to live unplugged from the grid? Did you ditch your job for a mountain top cabin and a simpler life? We want to hear from you!

Write to us at news@off-grid.net

Name*
You don’t have to use your real name, just tell us what you would like us to call you
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live, how old are you, are you living alone or in a group etc, do you work.*
What do you do?*
Your story*

How has it changed your life?*
Do you plan on moving back?
Tell us about your new life (so how remotely do you live? What’s your daily life like now?)
Please add a photo or video if you think it will add to your story
File uploads may not work on some mobile devices.
Can we publish your response?*
Contact details
Please provide a telephone number or email. This will be kept confidential but we may contact you to ask you to contribute to our coverage.

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California Gov, Jerry Brown – Off-Grid

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The Conservative Governor is pro-environment and even spoke at the UN’s 2015 Paris climate change conference. Photo from Associated Press

 

Environmental champion, Jerry Brown says his next home will be totally off the grid. Powered by solar panels, the 2,674 square feet abode will include one-bedroom, one and a half bathrooms, a large lounge area, wood fireplace, an office, a mud room and a massive porch to sit on and watch the world go round.

 

Architect Dna Hoover describes it as a “boomerang-shaped building that kind of curls around a little knoll with two really old blue oak trees.” The site will afford the Browns “a pretty incredible view that’s quintessential California landscape. It’s incredibly beautiful but harsh in the same way,” he said.


Usually, Gov. Brown spends weekends at a rustic cabin west of Williams and resides the rest of the time in the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento, which is an energy sufficient property. He has described his cabin outside Williams in 2014 as “pretty primitive,” with no water or toilet. He said at the time that the first lady “would like more amenities.” Hence the fancy soaking tub and wood fireplace in the new home.

Aged 78, Brown is the state’s oldest and longest-serving chief executive and was first elected to a statewide office in 1970 and is set to govern until 2019. He is also a pro-environment fiscal conservative and is a longtime champion for environmental causes, so it’s surprising he’s realised that going off-grid is the way forward!

According to plans for the house, “landscaping shall be designed and installed so as to not use potable water.”

The fourth-term Democrat and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, sold their previous home in Oakland Hills this year, after giving up their Sacramento loft and moving into the renovated Governor’s Mansion. Brown will term out of office in 2019.

Hoover said he will start working on the solar panelled palace as soon as he gets a permit. “(Brown) wants it done now,” Hoover said. “They’re very anxious to move up here.”

We’re excited for you to move off-grid too, Jerry!

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Vladamir Putin’s strangest obsession: Mount Athos

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Vladmir Putin has expressed interest in the secretive region

 

Mount Athos is a secretive, autonomist, theocratic region in a pocket of Greece, ran by Greek Orthodox monks, for the monks. It is  also home for the biggest and most populated off-grid community in the developed world –  it is completely unplugged.

Its a most difficult place to visit; you must apply for a visa a month beforehand and send in a copy of your passport. They allow 100 orthodox and 10 non-orthodox male pilgrims in per day. It is only accessible via the sea and visitors must arrive on an authorised boat where a policeman checks their visas against their passport before boarding. The visa is valid for only three nights; you have to book each night in advance and may not spend more than one night in the same spot. You may be thinking, why on Earth would Vladimir Putin, leader of Russia and ex-KGB be interested in a place like this? Which is what everyone is thinking.

Off-grid’s groundbreaking video about Mount Athos released last year is the most detailed portrait yet of this secretive community. The film takes you deep inside the world of the priests who run the mysterious mount….and leaves you hungry for more. Which brings us to Putin’s fascinating involvement with the region.

Putin made a public rapprochement with the Orthodox church after many years as a KGB agent and therefore a presumed atheist. He well knows that a significant percentage of Russians are adherents so it makes sense to use the church and Mount Athos as a propaganda tool. He has given money to the Russian monastery of Panteleimenos, which houses just 70 monks but has rooms for hundreds more. He attended a mass which was held in his honour earlier this year in May, and was seated in the bishop’s throne. Afterwards, he attended talks with the Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos whilst commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of a Russian monastic presence on the Holy Mountain.

 

“I am confident that relations between Russia and the Holy Mount Athos, and Greece as a whole, will only strengthen, while the spiritual relationship and trust will continue to determine the nature of our traditionally close and friendly relations,” – Vladimir Putin

 

 

 

Mount Athos

Mount Athos: The Holy Mountain

 

Putin has formed an unholy alliance with the Orthodox church in order to ensure he receives its blessing. This fits with his self-image as a modern Tsar embodying church and state. For believers, the Holy Mountain is the centre of their faith, their Rome, the place where the flame of their faith connects to heaven. He also visited the mountain in 2005, making him the first head of Russian state to set foot on their holy soil.The monks who live there take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and once their final vows are sworn, become monks for life.

Mount Athos is currently one large building site in contrast to the dereliction and poverty of the rest of Greece. It seems unreal that humble monks should be employing so much specialist labour. This must be costing hundreds of millions of euros. The ancient buildings have received EU and Unesco grants, but these surely account for a fraction of the lavish expenditure. Such huge grants could not be justified given that access is so limited and entry is forbidden to women.

Russian money forms an important source of funding all over the peninsula. Donating to the church to buy favours in heaven doesn’t seem a sufficient explanation. It has people questioning, does Russia have a secret agenda to account for such largesse? Why might Mr Putin be interested in this closed, authoritarian and guarded community?

 

Putin on a pilgrimage visit to Mount Athos on May 28th 2016

Putin on a pilgrimage visit to Mount Athos on May 28th 2016

 

Many Russians visit and work there, but people avoid answering questions about the role of Russia on Mount Athos. Which suggests that something ‘deeper and more sinister seems to be at work.’ Some have questioned whether Russia is using Mount Athos as a listening post or centre for intelligence gathering located well behind Nato’s front line; outsiders have noticed a number of sophisticated looking antennae and dish arrays.

Others say the answer lies in the important strategic position of Mount Athos? It is close to the border with Turkey and the narrow Dardanelles, a convenient haven for Russian vessels coming from their base in the recently annexed Crimea.

The EU and Greece have questions to answer, as do the inscrutable monks of Mt Athos. Has the Greek government been party to the discussions between the monks and Putin? Greece and Nato have a responsibility to ensure that this small part of Europe remains firmly in our sphere. It is in danger of becoming a Russian satellite, if it has not become one already.

It has you wondering: what is Mount Athos doing for Russia in return for all the funding they are receiving? Does the EU know?

The post Vladamir Putin’s strangest obsession: Mount Athos appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.

Off-grid couple takes on Supreme Court and wins

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couple

Colorado couple wins legal case over water usage

Victory!

Nestled in Colorado’s vast 125 miles long San Luis Valley, off-grid couple Chuck and Barbara Tidd sort to use a creek on their property to source energy from for their solar panels. Their self-sufficient decision erupted into a legal battle that went as high as to the Colorado Supreme Court.

In a radio interview the couple explains how the rocky mountains have a ‘desert feel’ to them and any water is scarce, which is one of the reasons the lawsuit was sparked. The couple live in a home they built themselves on the mountain tops, which previews jaw-dropping panorama views of the Valley. When they first moved in, they were told it would cost $100,000 to run power lines to their home which they declined, so they are 100% off the grid. They get their drinking water from the springs and their electricity from a solar array, which was fine until it was cloudy. With no chance of getting lines put in and no back-up for the solar power, they were stuck.

Until they looked at hydropower alternatives. Now, there was an irrigation ditch that ran through their property, thew only problem was that it belonged to another family (The Frees) down the hill, who disapproved of the Tidds using their water and the way they went about it.

“My understanding—incorrect understanding—was that you start working on it and then you file. Wrong.” Barbara explains “Chuck started digging and was going to lay some pipe and then he called the irrigators up to look at it and they said, “Don’t touch my ditch.”

There’s a Colorado Water Law that the Frees used to defend their case, known as the “Prior Appropriation System” that basically says “First in time, first in right.” It started back in early gold mining days and essentially allowed the first guys into dibs water in a stream before anyone else could use it.

What the Tidds wanted to do seemed more than fair, they wanted to run water through a pipe to generate power and then return every drop back to where they got it from. But the case got brought up to ‘Water Court’ where the Tidds won but the case was far from settled for the Frees. They challenged the judges decision and took it up to Supreme Court arguing that the Tidds could not use the water because it already belonged to them and they should have the right to use it before anyone else. Chuck wouldn’t back down though, he exclaimed in the interview and in court that: “water can be used for many uses. It’s a usufructuary right to use that water, meaning you don’t own it. They use the term ‘use the molecules of water’ before anybody else does. We’re not using any of the molecules of water; we are using the weight of the water as it goes downhill. That’s the whole point. They have to get their water in the right time, condition and quantity that their right entitles them to and we’re not trying to interfere with that at all.”

The Supreme Court judge agreed and they were granted the use of the water. Barbara and Chuck are now proud owners of a new water right, and the next step is to build their system.

By Chelsea Mendez

The post Off-grid couple takes on Supreme Court and wins appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.

Top-end batteries for off-grid living

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CEO Elon Musk and the Telsa Powerwall

 

A good off-grid battery can cost you anywhere from $70- $2000 and last between 4-10 years, if you look after it right. And the best buy is NOT a Tesla.

Experienced off gridders know how crucial it is to have good energy storage capacity, to ensure comfortable living. We’ve gone ahead and broken it down for you, so you don’t have to.

 

  1. Deep-Cycle Lead-Acid Batteries
    Lifespan: 4-8 years

    Price: $69.99 for a 35Ah 12V battery.  These are probably the best you can get right now, in terms of price vs quality. This is a battery that you can charge to a significant amount and which can provide a steady amount of useable power for extended periods of time. They are designed to be regularly deeply discharged using most of its capacity and can be stacked. Lasting around 20 hours per charged use and 4-8 years, this battery is a low-cost favorite for the outdoor lifestyle.
  2. Sealed Lead-Acid Batteries
    Lifespan: 2-4 years

    Price: $60These beauties use gelled or absorbed electrolytes and although bearing some resemblance to the ones above, there are a few distinct differences between the two. In some ways, the sealed alternatives are better than deep-cycle lead-acid batteries. They require no maintenance other than charging, work well with small solar arrays and can be charged to lower voltages as lower charge rates, don’t leak or suffer terminal corrosion are easily stackable so will take up less space in a battery bank which is a big plus when you’re pushed. They are extremely sensitive, meaning that they can be damaged easily if they are overcharged, and may not even work if they are undercharged. Also, they are similarly as priced as their competition but their life span is only half as long. So that’s a big thumbs down for reliability and being cost effective.
  3. Tesla, Powerwall
    Lifespan: Over 10 years

    Price: $3,000-$3,500Now this battery was designed to power your entire home using renewable battery power, indefinitely. CEO of Telsa, Elon Musk refers to it as changing the “entire energy infrastructure of the world.” and you can watch him unveil it here. Powerwall comes in 10 kWh weekly cycle and 7 kWh daily cycle models. Both are guaranteed for ten years and are sufficient to power most homes during peak evening hours. Multiple batteries may be installed together for homes with greater energy need, up to 90 kWh total for the 10 kWh battery and 63 kWh total for the 7 kWh battery. The only downside is the price. The 7 kWh model is priced at $3000 and the 10 kWh at $3500. So if you can afford to splurge, this is the battery to break the bank!
  4. LG Chem, New Generation System
    Lifespan: Over 10 years

    Price: $2,000. The South Korean company has released a new battery system in Australia which offers low and high voltage options to your household with its new battery storage systems ranging from a stackable 3.3kWh lithium-ion system to a 9.8kWh system. LG Chem says its battery storage systems are pitched at households that want to store the output of their solar systems for use in the evening, minimising the amount of solar energy that is sent back to the grid, and which no longer attract significant tariffs. The battery is being trailed in Australia and will later be released to the rest of the world. LG Chem Li-Ion 3.2kWh 48V battery expansion pack is retailed at just over $2,000.
  5. Sonnen, Eco Compact
    Lifespan: Warranty for up to 10,000 cycles

    Price: $5,950The German battery company revealed their newest invention in home battery system earlier this summer. The Eco Compact is said to have been designed to increase grid-tied solar consumption and is available at up to 40 percent the cost of Sonnen’s other products. It’s an ‘all-in-one residential solar battery solution and represents the latest evolution of the company’s smart energy management products. Using Sonnen’s proven self-learning software, the eco compact provides various grid-tied functions – increasing household solar self-consumption, managing time-of-use and supporting grid services, not including backup power.’ The fully integrated 4-kilowatt-hour eco compact system retails for $5,950 plus installation, which can range from an additional $500 to $3,000, depending on the customer.
  6. According to UK-based IMS Research,the global market for power storage from solar panels is expected to soar from $200 million in 2012 to $19 billion by 2017 making that a ninety-five-fold increase in just five years time! With demand on the market for batteries that will be compatible with off-the-grid alternative energy systems increasing rapidly we can assume we are going to be positively spoilt for choice when shopping for the best battery.

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Biggest off-grid area in Britain – on the water

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houseboat, canal, london, liveaboard

Could living on a houseboat be the perfect off-grid lifestyle for you?

 

British Waterway authorities have unveiled the largest off-grid community in Britain – on the canals of Hackney.

Yes, living aboard is booming in the UK and maybe they are onto something. It seems like a happy medium for some. You have the freedom of not paying rent or a mortgage, plus the very rewarding chance to be self-sufficient and independent. But instead of being isolated on a mountain top (which to some may be heaven), you could be doing all this whilst still living in a 24/7 hour city like London. A humble abode that is unplugged and all yours, inside the hustle and bustle of urban city life!

What you need to know about living on the water before taking the plunge:

 Firstly, it’s not as easy as just buying a boat, finding some water and setting up camp for the next 30 years. Everyone using canals and waterways needs to have a boat licence, an up-to-date boat safety check and valid insurance. Once that’s all done, you then you have two choices of lifestyle. You can either get a resident mooring, which enables you to stay in one area for as long as you like. A permanent mooring is ideal if you don’t want to move around, but can be expensive and hard to come by. While a mooring of this type can be had for around £6,000 annually in less popular areas, staying somewhere like the Docklands or Islington will cost over £20,000 a year.

 The other option is to cruise continuously – in which case all you need is the boat licence, which ranges from £510.62 to £1,110.32 annually, depending on the size of your boat. Boats are allowed to moor almost anywhere alongside canal towpaths. The main rule with this type of lifestyle is that you need to be moving at least every 14 days and can’t go back and forth between two spots. The recommended cruising range is at least 20 miles a year. It isn’t the most secure way of living, but it has to be done this way to consider all ‘liveaboards’.

 Canal and River Trust (CRT) have taken over from British Waterways the job of managing our canals and some rivers. For many years BW publically discouraged ‘liveaboards’, but did little about it. Living on a boat was seen, rightly or wrongly, as a way of avoiding paying rent and rates or of getting to the top of the council house waiting lists. The freedom of living afloat with low overheads was thought to appeal to many people who wanted to ‘turn their backs on consumer society’. Equally, though some of the most desirable London properties float on the Thames or Regents Canal, and many people retired, sold the house and moved onto a canal boat to explore their own country.

Recently, possibly partly because of a shortage of economic accommodation, large increases in liveaboard boats have been reported, especially in a few locations. CRT reported that the total number of Continuous Cruising licences increased from 4,400 in 2012 to 5,400 in 2014, with an 85% increase in over one year in East London alone. Out of those 5,400 boats, 16% moved less than 5 kilometres, and 66% moved under 20 kilometres in a year.

 A spokesperson for the Canal & River Trust, Fran Read, says the stretch of east London encompassing Victoria Park, Hackney and Broadway Market is a particularly trendy area, attracting record numbers.

 ‘Boat living can be a fantastic way of life, which many people love, but it comes with its own challenges. It may take a whole day to move the boat and find a new mooring – you can end up in a queue behind others.

 ‘Sometimes people can get a bit of a shock, especially in winter, when they realise it’s not just a floating house. So we advise that you should only move aboard if you really love the lifestyle.’ Mooring on the tidal Thames is another challenge – there is much more demand than moorings available. You also need to be part of a licensed works with planning permission, such as a pier or jetty, with safe access 24/7. The houseboat needs to be connected safely for electricity, water, and sewage (discharging sewage into the river is illegal).

 In addition, a residential mooring on the Thames requires a set of detailed consents, including local authority planning permission, consent from the riverside landowner and a Port of London Authority River Works licence.

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Which 1988 Team GB Olympian now lives in a shed?

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Eddie the eagle, off grid, shed, living, 1988 olympic winter games, ski jump, unplugs

Eddie The Eagle unplugs. Photo from Dave J Hogan

 

As the Rio Olympics draw to a close, it’s nice to think of the medalists returning home to praise and honour. But that is often not the case.

Although he came in last in his competition, accident-prone skier Eddie the Eagle returned to England after the 1988 winter games in a blaze of glory. They even made a Hollywood movie about him.

He was the only Briton to qualify for the ski jump. But now he’s hit the skids – living off-grid in a shed in his family’s back garden, eating sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, following a ‘wipeout’ divorce with ex-wife, Samantha Morton.

He revealed in an interview that the split had cost him about 85% of his wealth, and the £180,000 that he had earned from the recent movie about him, he had to give to his ex-wife whom he had met whilst working as a radio presenter part-time alongside his law degree. She was his co-host and they were married for 13 years, raising two daughters, Otillie, 11 and Honey May, 8.

Trying to rack together all the money he can get, he explains his current plan: “I had to sell my flat in Bedford, which I got about 30 years ago, to pay my anticipated tax bill. I got £175,000 for it. I’ll also have to pay capital gains tax from the property sale. At least 90% of the money in my account is earmarked for tax.
“I’m trying to save up from all my work now. I moved into the shed in my garden about a year ago while developing my new house; I’ve lived off sandwiches ever since because I don’t have a kitchen. Egg sandwiches are my favourite.”

Okay, so his off-grid lifestyle is only temporary whilst he gets back on his feet and his new home is built. But still, he’s been living unplugged for about a year now and doesn’t seem to be complaining! When asked how it feels to have lost essentially everything, he preaches that “It’s just one of those things. If you think about it too much, you get depressed, so I think: I made it once, I made it twice, I can make it three times. You have to be philosophical.”

Shocking as it may be, Eddie (born Michael Edwards) lived out his Olympic days in a similar fashion. Being poor, he slept in his car in between events and lived off scraps whilst training, all to compete for Great Britain. So living in a shed couldn’t be too much of a shock to the system. I mean, despite becoming a global celebrity from his skiing, in 1992, he was declared bankrupt. Claiming the trust fund into which he had put his earnings had not been properly managed. Years later, he bounced back and earned a law degree from De Montfort University in Leicester and started again.

Currently, Eddie has a mortgage, on the new home, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, and in between sponsorship and speaking engagements he works as a plasterer — his original trade. The film about him has now been released and you can view the trailer here if you like.

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Even RUSSIA is boosting off-grid living

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Russia's Far East region is red hot for off-grid opportunists

Russia’s Far East region is red hot for off-grid opportunists

 

You can get many things for free when you live in a good off-the-grid community. You can get your drinking water for free, from converting rainwater, you can get your energy for free from converting solar power.

What you can rarely get, in the USA or most other countries, is your land for free.

A good plot of land is essential to living unplugged comfortably, it’s helpful if you can grow your own food out of it and that can be costly.

Unless you are Russian.

Yes, the Russian government have launched a new programme giving away parcels of land in their Far East region for free. The scheme was put in place as an attempt to boost settlement in the thinly populated area, but it could give birth a new wave of Russian off-gridders?

The Russian Far East is two-thirds the size of China and only holds 6 million residents, compared with the 100 million who live in the Chinese provinces across the border. Sounds like the region is so unpopulated, you could get a plot of land almost anywhere – live peacefully – and still have enough room to build everything you want. Living off-grid in a place like Russia might not sound too attractive at first, but there are actually already some off-grid communities, such as the Kovcheg Village and the Rainbow Gathering.

The number of “eco-communes,” in Russia, has grown dramatically in the last decade, and the movement back to the land is drawing professionals weary of the country’s corruption, pollution, and new consumerism. Giving them a simpler, back to basics lifestyle that we all hope and dream for.

So, could you take the plunge and live off-grid in Russia?

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Real Estate magic – a Yurt in your Backyard

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Yurt in Garden

Photo from Wealdenheartwood

Living off-grid implies nature, tranquility – perhaps deep forest or a lonely mountain top, unplugged from the rest of the world. But have you ever thought about your own back garden as a place to unplug? As long as it has a side entrance, or some way of entering without going through the house = you could have yourself a free home.

The bit of green that your kids may have dug up when they were little, and where you would host the annual family BBQ, could be the golden location you’ve been hunting for. For various reasons, we’ve had to hide the identity of the subject of this story, but *Brendan” fills us in on how he’s done just that.

“I came to be living ‘off grid’ not so much from any long-term intention or planning as from finding myself a couple of years ago in a situation where I had sold my apartment, applied most of that money to various projects and good causes and was therefore unable to buy outright a new bricks and mortar dwelling. I am strongly against mortgages, having spent ten years paying one off and seeing all too clearly the vast power the practice of buying housing using borrowed money has given to the banks these last few generations.
  What I did still retain was the garden land attached to my house, near the centre of a small city, with a water supply, a south facing slope and good fertile soil for growing most crops. At the same time, friends who had bought and moved into a woodland were being told by the local government that they must take down the yurt in which they were living because it fell foul of the regulations for forestry land. They offered to sell it to Me at a good price.
   I have always been drawn to the idea of living ‘off grid’, my favourite fantasies having been either a houseboat or a gypsy caravan. The combination of this opportunity to acquire a good yurt and my then circumstances easily persuaded me to move into my own back garden.
  Erecting the yurt, a remarkably stable, wind-proof structure made from ash and cotton canvas, was the work of only a couple of hours. Compare that with the months, even years, of labour expended on modern bricks and mortar housing! A couple of hundred pounds bought a small wood-burning stove and flue whilst another small expenditure bought enough bees’ wax, from Payne’s Bee Farm, to waterproof the whole structure, having first been melted on the wood-burner (an annual task). That is the main structural maintenance job, best done in early autumn.
  The chief housekeeping expense and work, besides preparing food (mainly vegetables and fruit grown on my land using the deep bed method –  see John Seymour, ‘The Self-Sufficient Gardener’), is the getting and chopping of enough well-seasoned wood to heat the place and cook dinner. I trade food and labour with friends whose land produces abundant timber but can, if necessary, buy it with money, from a tree surgeon. I prefer to get large logs and split them myself, both for the exercise and to keep warm in the winter.
  Predictably the local government wanted to inspect my yurt to see whether it required planning permission, using the pretext (likely a lie) that some neighbour had complained about what the official swiftly, having visited, agreed is simply a tent in my back garden, movable, without foundations, and therefore exempt from requiring some sort of government permission. That’s how it is with a back garden: it is already designated, in their maps and plans, as ‘residential land’.
  My advice to anyone in a position to do so is to buy a bricks and mortar dwelling with a decent back garden, let the dwelling to suitable tenants who want to pay rent, council tax, electricity, gas, telephone etc. bills, and to do as I have done, which is a far less stressful, expensive, unhealthy way of life, close to nature, literally down to earth (the earth is my floor) and altogether cleaner.
  I am not interested in green ways of generating electricity in my home, having no need for generated electricity, as is also true of every other human on this planet. Until the late Nineteenth Century, there was none and that was not a problem. Candles (beeswax) are my lighting, sustainably harvested logs my heating, and that’s all I –  or anyone else – actually needs energy-wise, besides food, which is how people the world over have lived in similar ways for thousands if not millions of years. Even when electricity is cleanly generated it enables all kinds of distracting and harmful machinery, such as telephones and computers, to spoil one’s living space. When I choose to live off grid I am choosing not only to de-fund the harmful forces in this civilisation but to separate myself and my energy from their offerings, their technologies. Then one has time for such things as reading and art.
   Altogether it is one of the best choices I have ever made. Even living in the round, in a circular as opposed to a rectilinear dwelling, is important progress, or rather reversion, to what worked fine in the past. There is a reason, besides structural stability, why dwellings from the stone houses of Bronze Age Dartmoor to the tips of the Great Plains ‘Indians’ were round, which has to do with ‘chi’, energy, meant to flow and not accumulate like dust in the corners of rooms. Energy-wise I would also advise to go barefoot in such a dwelling as much as possible, to connect better with the Earth, and to sleep on the ground and not on a mattress: I use willow matting with sheepskins on top.
There are certain ways in which I ‘cheat’, but that is from convenience, not necessity. I use a laundromat for clothes washing, but could heat water in a large cooking pot on my wood burner. I use a neighbouring dwelling for a hot bath, but likewise could use the wood burner and a tin bath I acquired. I use the public library for a toilet, but could dig my own, and likewise use the library computer, where I am typing this, for email etc., when I could, as we did back in the 1980s and 1990s and before, write letters.
   It is very important to bear in mind that the most powerful artificial grid is not that of property taxes and gas, electricity, water, telephone etc. bills, but the information grid, including the increasingly wireless internet. Truly living ‘off-grid’ must involve a minimization of that grid in our lives, making sure that if we are using it at all we are doing so very warily so that it, or rather those behind it, do not use us, and always being willing and able to flourish without it, and indeed without any modern technology at all. It is a convenience, a useful tool, when used wisely, and must never be a necessity or addiction, as that path leads to ‘The Matrix’.
  I live, on my land, more or less in the Iron Age, but am very interested in getting back to the Stone Age, at least the Neolithic, which is surprisingly difficult given how we have come to rely on metal tools such as saws, knives, axes, cooking pots, stoves, and therefore a good challenge.
  To anyone who would like to emancipate themselves from the bricks, mortar, mortgage/rent and bills system but is afraid to do so, I would say ask yourself what is the worst that can happen and face that idea, always putting freedom before convenience and comfort. Amongst other advantages, it is one of  the best ways to connect with our ancestors and with those in such places as Amazonia who still live outside this civilisation. And remember it doesn’t have to be a hermitage: I have hosted a dinner party for nine people in my 14′ yurt, which was very magical, have had guests to stay overnight and even had a man come and set up a tent inside it!
B V Parnell

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3 Taster Locations To Try Unplugging

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Off-grid home in Majorca to rent on airbnb, perfect for a getaway from technology

Enjoy the Spanish sun and views whilst unplugging from the rest of the world for a getaway

Curious about what living off-grid would be like but not quite ready to give up the mortgage? Thinking where to live out the rest of your days in idyllic peace but not quite sure?

Not to worry, if you’re considering the big leap into the unknown, you can try a short break disconnecting from the big brother system — renting an off-grid home from Airbnb.

In Chelan, Washington State, for example, there lies a hobbit hole which any Lord of the Rings fan would die for a night in. Upon a mountain hill, surrounded by rabbits and deer is the perfect place for someone on a quest for off-gird living to start their journey.

Kirstie Wolfe built the 288-square-foot rental into a hillside on a five-acre tract of land she bought in Orondo, a small town between Chelan and Wenatchee along the Columbia River in central Washington. After burying the structure, she went all out decorating the space with an obsessive attention to detail. “I try to make it as authentic as possible,” builder Kristie Wolfe explained. She succeeded with flying colours, visitors walk past a small outdoor garden through a big circular door — just like in the books and movies. The rustic interior uses reclaimed wood, hanging lanterns, and circular arches and windows to evoke a fantastical feeling, a point underlined with small charms like a cobbler’s workbench and several subtle “Lord of the Rings” touches inside.

As well as being the perfect place to let your imagination run free, it is also a fully functioning off grid home with its own septic tank and solar panels, you can unplug in style and comfort. To see the photos and more details on the hobbit home, click here!

 

For those in Europe – nestled into the mountains on the quiet North-West side of Mallorca it is the perfect place to turn off from the outside world and relish nature as it is.

It is a 30-minute drive down the mountain to a beach or an exhilarating hike away, which in turn, gives you the most breath-taking views of the blue Mediterranean. It’s located inside a national park which means you will live side by side with exotic birds and wild flowers. The house comes complete with a water tank which collects 40,00 litres of rain water which you can then filter into drinking water and use to flush the toilet and wash with . Also, it is furnished with two flushing toilets, solar panels a shower, a gas fridge and hob and a fireplace and wood burner for the winter months. There is an outside kitchen with a BBQ so you can cook cooley in the breeze whilst taking in the glorious views.

Outdoor hot shower in off-grid home in Majorca

Beautiful heated shower located outside to give you the perfect mixture of comfort and authenticity

If you’re not so keen with the cooking, you can hire a cook who will show you how to use the outdoor facilities and make your meals for you. The estate is broken up into separate houses which you may choose to rent altogether or just the one/two. The top house comes with two bedrooms and wireless broadband from a solar panel.

How secluded you are is completely up to you. You can have someone show you around the house and neighbourhood with you and immerse you into the off-the-grid lifestyle or you can do it alone and test yourself. You can view its profile on Airbnb here and watch a narrated tour of it here on youtube for more details on the property and how to book it.

 

Our third home was named as one of the best homes in America by Dwell and top ten homes in the world on Airbnb. And it’s completely off-grid. The humble abode is situated in a pristine remote valley in the beautiful Californian high desert and the views are amazing.

off-grid home in California desert to rent

The desert home underneath the stars

 

It is completely powered by solar panels which allow you to have a comfortable stay whilst venturing off into the unplugged world. There is no wifi or TV to encourage you to completely immerse yourself into your stunning surroundings and your own thoughts. It’s architecturally significant green home with large floor to ceiling windows, a fireplace, flushing toilet and hot shower and a fully functional kitchen. So why not check it out on Airbnb for pictures and the chance to enquire about booking it for a weekend away from your stress and worries.

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