When people hear ‘living off the grid’ they might think about hobbit holes and mud huts, but you can live off the grid in a conventional home, you’re just relying on different energy sources. In our situation, we still have dishwashers, TVs and surround sound. An old neighbor of mine had an automatic sprinkler system off the grid, powered by rainwater and solar panels. While relying on something like the weather to get your resources you tend to be more conscious of what you consume, and there are some things you just stop caring about.
I just don’t wear it anymore. Sure, if there’s a ladies night in town or a concert I want to go to I’ll put a little on — but it’s usually handmade with cocoa powder, coconut oil, and berries. The ingredients are cheaper and I don’t have to worry about the carbon footprint of the manufacturers. I reuse my bottles so there’s no waste involved, and I don’t have to worry about chemical additives.
Even though there is plenty water in our cistern, I’d rather give it to the vegetables or use it to cook. When you can see on a small scale how much water you consume, it changes your values. At some point you realize that rubbing a blade against your skin to remove something that’s going to grow back in a few days is just a futile concept and kind of a waste. It’s purely aesthetics — and a silly one at that. We all grow hair, why pretend otherwise? I’m actually proud of the armpit length I’ve achieved.
3. Junk food
This isn’t to say there aren’t junk food or fast food places close by my home, I’ve just become completely disinterested in them. It’s like a switch just went off. It’s really easy to eat healthy when everyone around you grows their own food, or supports a farmer who does. When I see a bag of chips I no longer find it appetizing, I just see it as a plastic bag with oil and salt inside. Besides the health factor, I have to take care of my own garbage, and it seems that the foods that are the worst for you always have the most packaging.
4. Stressing about bills
I still have bills, but I certainly have less than I did before I moved off the grid. When you rely on companies for your resources, you can develop a stress for how you’re going to afford a bill, and you can become disconnected from how much you’re actually using that resource.
The thermal mass and insulation of my home ensure that my temperature stays right around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year round. And if I get a little chilly, a sweater is fine. Even when we don’t have rain for weeks, I know my cisterns won’t be empty. I know that even in a drought, I’ll be able to have all the water I need and I won’t have to worry about how much it costs. I used to stay awake at night worrying about how I would afford to live, but now I’ve realized that knowledge is the difference between stressing and not.
5. Stressing about being late
I wake up with the sunrise. I eat when I’m hungry. I go to bed when I feel tired. I do have a clock, but it’s more for decoration than actual time-telling. Things get done when they get done, and I’m awake and ready with enough time to get them done pretty fast. I don’t have to worry about being late because my life isn’t driven by the hour — my time is driven by the sun, much like my electricity.
There are a couple of different ways to get rid of human waste off the grid. I prefer to go the humanure route, which puts the nutrients right back into the earth. Humanure doesn’t smell because every time you go you sprinkle sawdust or charcoal over the top, which locks in the smell and absorbs some of the liquids. At an earlier point in my life, I would have balked at the idea of carrying a bucket of sewage across my yard, but these days it’s such an ordinary chore I’ll stop and have a conversation with my neighbor on the way out.
Living off the grid certainly isn’t a lifestyle for everyone, but whenever I visit family in the city I can’t help but think that it would be beneficial for the over-charged and over-stressed population to take a minute and rely on their residence to support them, instead of the companies they owe money too. It also wouldn’t hurt if the mainstream population stopped giving a shit about some of these things too.