Off-Grid Living – Where To Start – Episode 1
By Howard. I love the story of a city motorist who is lost deep in the countryside. He sees a local farmer and asks for directions. The farmer says, “If I wanted to get there, I wouldn’t start from here”.
And so it is with off-grid living. The place or the time you’re currently at is never the right place or time to get started:
“I don’t have a big enough garden.”
“I don’t have the money to invest in solar panels.”
“I enjoy eating meat too much.”
“I need this job to pay the rent.”
“Can you really see me shitting in a bucket?”
“We’ve got a baby on the way.”
“I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid.”
“Give me a break!”
And a million more reasons to throw you off course.
Yet where you are today is the only place you can start any journey. The beauty with off-grid living, or self-sufficiency, is that it’s an evolutionary process not a revolutionary one and you can start it from anywhere at any time. Wherever you are in life’s journey you can start living off-grid today. Step-by-step you can make progress at the speed you and your family can comfortably manage. It might take you months, years, or forever, but that’s OK; every step taken is a step closer to a better life and a better world. And the cumulative effect of everyone making steps of progress is absolutely enormous.
For the Green Gorillas off-grid living means creating and living in an environment with the lowest possible ecological footprint. We mean creating the conditions where you can live comfortably without the need to bust your guts at a job you don’t enjoy, and instead do something you love, be it paid work or working in your place. You may not be able to buy a new car every year, but you will be home to read your kids a bedtime story. For us, we mean living a wonderful, rich and meaningful life in harmony with our environment.
We also think that off-grid isn’t a single event but a series of connected steps each of us can take to move towards a new lifestyle - and that’s the purpose of these little episodes, to provide some guidance (from one man’s perspective) on what those steps are. But one thing we know for sure, it starts from within – inside your mind as you begin to formulate new ideas about your values and the way you want to live your life.
So why are many of us so far from this ideal of off-grid living?
To my mind it’s because most of us grow up engulfed by the principle of consumerism. Having more is good. Earning more to buy more is excellent. Winning the lottery and becoming rich is life’s highest achievement.
“My life cannot be complete without a Bentley and a super yacht.”
And then when the summit is in plain sight, having a bigger house (or two or three) to put all our stuff in is amazing. The peak of achievement. Until we realise we’ve been chasing a false God. It’s all designed to keep us busy and fuel an entirely fictitious measure of progress, encapsulated by this thing called Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
GDP is the measure of all the economic activity that happens over a period of time, typically a year. Every time we buy something GDP increases a little bit and if this year’s GDP is bigger than last year we have ‘growth’, which is good. Growth is the goal of capitalism and it’s important that we keep buying stuff to fuel growth. But if GDP drops we have a recession and that’s catastrophic.
Except, in reality, nothing really happens to us as individuals if we have growth or recession – it’s simply an arbitrary measure used by Governments to encourage people to spend, and then borrow to spend more. Let’s be clear, Governments would prefer you not to save money, they prefer you to spend it and borrow as much as you can, so the economy has the fuel it needs to grow.
One man understood how rubbish GDP is in measuring life’s real values. In 1968 Robert F Kennedy said, “GDP measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. In short it measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”
He was right, there is nothing in GDP or growth, or consumerism or spending that makes life worthwhile in itself. We can surround ourselves with all the consumer goods on the planet, but those things don’t give us the thrill of a kind word or a simple smile or a passing compliment. But we plough on, and in the 50 years since Kennedy said those words, we are still shackled to GDP as the primary measure of value - of the value ascribed to life itself.
However, life can be different because we simply don’t need all that stuff.
So perhaps the first (and most important) step in off-grid living is to stop buying stuff. Make do, mend, re-purpose, recycle, replace, swap, trade, donate, lend and borrow. Get all the stuff that’s gathering dust that you’re never going to touch again and get rid of it. Do the 100 Things Challenge and see how close you can get to de-cluttering your life. GDP might go down a tiny bit, but you don’t care any more. This is about you and the meaningful journey to the new off-grid life that you’re undertaking. And, of course, the contribution you’re making to the environment is immeasurable.
And don’t under-estimate the feeling of freedom once all that stuff has gone. It is incredible.
So, my friends, as we embark on this journey, let’s start by de-cluttering and learning to make do with the things we’ve got. You’re never going to get back into that shirt anyway – it can be used as insulation for your new tiny house. That’s a great basis to get started.