The importance of being self sufficient seems to be highlighted more and more as each day passes. The word ‘Permaculture’ is featuring more commonly in everyday language and there is an explosion of resources for creating your off grid home. Why is this?
Well, from my perspective, I can see the trajectory of the current model of society and it doesn’t look too rosy. Humanity has unwittingly adopted a capitalist model of a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world where money has become the most valuable resource and has been placed above the most simple yet important elements a human being needs for survival.
Water, food, shelter and love are the only things a human being needs to survive. However, these basic needs have been intercepted by money and replaced by materialism. Instead of fending for ourselves and making our goal the food, we have made our goal , the money, in order to get the food. This has made us dependant on a system of control. This sytem of control is propped up by the destruction of our eco systems.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that this model is finite and is set to implode in a reasonably short length of time.
Instead of focusing on the doom and gloom of a destructive system by looking at ‘the economy’, ‘the politics’, or the failures of our many corrupt governments, we can simply turn our attention to looking after our own self preservation by creating closed systems of sustainability that not only provide ourselves with the necessary resources for life, but also contribute to the reduction of stress that is placed on the global environment.
By developing our own small scale systems of, power, food generation, water catchment and waste disposal that requires very little input from our external world, we can create a very sustainable way of life.
The main concern is first of all, reduction!
Most of the things we buy are unnecessary. When we participate in the theatre of economy and ego, we feel the need to compete with one another. We need money to attain the status that our ego craves, or we talk bad of another to ‘get ahead’. We aim to own the best of something and in the process deplete the world of it’s natural resources and upset the harmonious balance.
So by not participating in these over-glamourized falsities of a social injustice, we can re-focus on the real crux of the matter: Living!
My Initial Attempts at Sustainability
The first thing I did was to eat less meat – it was very easy and whilst I try not to use labels such as ‘vegetarian’, I have only eaten meat 3 or 4 times in the last 4 years. This has made a positive impact on my health and the health of the planet. Surely I don’t need to go into the reasons why, you all already know!
Secondly, I moved out of the city and embraced the beauty of nature by letting go of the constant distraction created by a city environment. The constant urge to explore a shop, or a new restaurant, or the desire to follow a stream of billboards to attract the next best thing that money can buy. By getting rid of these distractions, I created more space for other things to manifest.
By creating this free time, I was able to set up an online business where I gained many skills that could benefit me in an off grid life, where I wouldn’t have to attend a ‘job’ and hopefully generate my own supplementary income for when the time is right.
(Edit: July 29 2015 – I forgot to mention the transition to eating all organic food and getting rid of our vehicle)
Composting was the easiest thing to do next. All our vegetable food scraps were placed in a compost and stored to break down into soil. Once the soil started to collect, I knew it was time for me to create a way to use it.
Next, it was starting a vegetable garden. I had always wanted to grow my own vegetables and now with more free time, I was able to start. It’s a long process of learning, but now in my 3rd year, I have been able to feed my partner and I on a few occasions during the season. The intention is to build on my knowledge so that I may be able to provide for the two of us (and maybe a neighbour) all year round.
The next stage was forced upon me a little by the dry summer. Having been on a water restriction for the last 3 months, the importance of a grey-water system has been thrust into my face and despite not yet having the necessary tools or skills to build an entire retro-fit grey-water system, the importance of having one has been made clear. Currently we are catching all our used shower water for flushing the toilet. The amount of water we have saved is quiet unbelievable. I’m not even sure how we have justified flushing all this water away in the past. Now I find it quite disturbing to flush a toilet when I’m in someone else’s bathroom. Composting toilets would be a nice addition, but this might be a little further down the road.
On top of this, we have installed a rain water catchment system to gather rain from the roof and into a 55 gallon barrel. Whilst this is currently unusable due to me not having fitted a spigot yet, this addition will be coming shortly in the form of a bung on top of the barrel.
It doesn’t happen overnight
All of these adjustments haven’t happened overnight, in fact they have occurred over the course of 4 years. It’s a lot to take on in one go, so we must change things one small step at a time. Obviously the set up could be better, it always can, but it’s better than nothing.
Next inline is solar power, but before going solar, I want to reduce the power consumption, so we don’t need to invest in so many panels. Perhaps I’ll just start with enough power to run the computer and internet and then build from there.
The key in all of this is perseverance, and the one thing keeping me on this path is the constant reminders in the mainstream media of economy crashes, water shortages, oil spills, dying fish stocks, wayward governments and corrupt corporate powers. The other thing motivating me is witnessing all the other amazing people creating off-grid paradises and passing on the skills they have learnt to others. After all, this is a way we can all learn together and create the world we want to live in, rather than wait for the systems to do it for us (which will never happen).
So hopefully I have inspired you to begin your journey towards sustainability and if you’re already there and living the dream, then thank you for making a difference. Let me, and others reading this, know how your journey has been in the comments below.
Good luck and have fun on your journey to sustainability!