Updated: Jul 30, 2020
Many of us see the natural wonders and defences of the planet breaking down around us and are ready and willing to do something about it. But what to do? Which aspects of your daily life most support this environmental breakdown and what alternatives are there?
There is so much information out there; books about footprints and videos of people living without plastic or showing you how to install solar panels etc, etc. But it is quite a chore to shift through all the stuff out there and find reliable practical information on all this topics. And most of us just don’t have the time.
So after quitting the rat-race, where I worked as a building contractor and carpenter, I got to playing with a lot of the alternative technologies that exist to provide for your basic needs in a sustainable way. Soon I started to try a configure these elements into a 15 m2 tiny house at the Casita Verde ecological centre on Ibiza, Spain. Over a five year period of trails and errors I adapted what I learned in the previous 15 years in the building trade to sustainable living.
The culmination of this learning was fitting all this stuff in- and on to, the tiny house wagon at Casita Verde in a way that was comfortable to live with — and then living with it for the better part of a year.
If left to our own devices the first need is clearly water that is safe to drink, and it is also nice to be able to wash the dishes and have a shower from time to time. The most simple way to achieve this is by catching, filtering and storing the water that falls on your roof. After use it is great if this water can be made available to a food growing garden in a safe and effective way.
With our thirst for water quenched our thoughts quickly shift to food and in this domain we are very lucky to have had the company of some amazing chefs, nutritionists and friends on our journey from fast food, steak and sushi munching metropolitans to conscious whole food nearly-vegans, that source our food as local, organic and plastic free as possible. There is nothing more gratifying than picking your lunch fresh from your own garden!
With our bellies filled our next concern is shelter; how to protect ourselves and our things from the elements with minimum expense to ourselves and the environment by making the most of the natural rhythms of the seasons and available materials. It is important to understand the basic principals of thermal dynamics which drive insulation, solar gain and passive ventilation.
Depending on the climate additional heat might be needed to keep our shelter at a comfortable temperature as well as for cooking, baking and heating water. Enter the rocket stove! With as little as one quarter of the wood (and emissions) of an ordinary firebox these ingenious contraptions make the basic thermodynamic principals work to their advantage in a myriad of ways.
Now snuggled up by the rocket stove it would be great to have some electricity to run lights and some appliances and devices. Even better would be if it were enough to cook with on a sunny day so we can prevent the labour, heat and emissions of lighting the rocket. Basic understanding of solar/wind electric systems and the practicalities of off-grid living can help tremendously in choosing and living off-grid as well as potentially installing our own system.
On sunny days the water could be heated directly by the sun, so as not to make any demand on the solar electric system especially, as this is much more efficient and may mean a smaller electric system is needed.
A toilet that does not use our precious rain water and produces some excellent compost in a safe and comfortable way, would be a great alternative.
At this stage we start to realise that all these needs are interrelated and that they form a system in which if we were to compost our human manure or “humanure” and organic kitchen waste to enrich the earth in which we grow our trees and veggies the thing has come full circle, closing the nutrient cycle.
Permaculture is a great way of understanding and designing these systems and the principals it teaches are a fantastic guide to living sustainably or better yet, regeneratively in a way that suits each of our unique lifestyles and ways of being.
I have really loved taking the time to explore and connect with nature and our basic needs these last 6 years, but many of you may not have the option to invest this amount of time.
However, I think we can save you some time.
Two-week sustainable living course
We all believe the best way to learn this stuff is to come in contact with it in a highly practical way and so we have designed a Two-Week Course where every day we cover one of these topics hands-on with good clear, easy to understand theory backed up by good notes.
The most important thing we want to share with you is the confidence to have a go for yourself!
Once you start learning by doing you will be hooked, plus in your fellow workshop attendees (past and present) you will have a community of like-minded people to share experiences, tips and tricks with as well as potentially physically helping each other with future projects.
The next Two Week Sustainable Living Workshop is planned for the second half of October 2020 near Bordeaux, France.