Going off the grid: Why more people are choosing to live life unplugged


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How much do you really need?

Rosen says most families could go off the grid with as little as a half an acre, "as long as it's the right half-acre." Ideal locations would have some woodland, an area for agriculture, enough light for solar power and a good source of water, either a well or a stream. "The era of 40 acres and a mule has been replaced by the era of a half an acre and a laptop and a solar panel," he says. 

But even a half an acre can be a lot of work — too much for most people, Rosen says. "You're giving yourself a lot to do if you're running your own power plant, dealing with your own water supply, disposing of your own waste and pulling your own food." 

Instead of going it alone, many people form off-grid communities. "The best way to get off-grid is to go off with others in a group of families, so each have half an acre and share resources and skills," Rosen says. "One is tending livestock and one is growing vegetables, while a third is looking after the power supply for everybody else." 

The next generation?

Going off the grid today doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. "The existence of the Internet that has made living off the grid a real choice and a real possibility for so many people," Rosen says. Websites like his own provide lessons and plans and advice for off-grid living, as well as a sense of community for people who might otherwise be physically isolated from each other. 


In addition, some off-the-grid communities are ready for new people to join them. "There's a huge generation of 1970s back-to-the-land movement people who are now getting pretty old and they're sitting on these huge tracks of land that can't be broken up," Rosen says. These communities are looking for young people to buy their way in. "The idea of land trusts is being used as a way these older people can get some new residents to help look after them and then work on the land or take over part of the land as the older generation dies out." 

Rosen says his own ambition is to create an off-grid village of 300 or so homes in his native England, provided he can find a local zoning board willing to allow it. "I think there's a huge demand for off-grid living that can't be satisfied because the places where you'd want to live off the grid are the places you can't get permission to do so," he says.

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