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Published December 26th 2018
Make a difference by saving our environment and your cash
Interested in living off grid, simplifying your life, downsizing, sustainable living, lessening your carbon footprint. Whether for ageing, economic or environmental reasons, more are choosing alternative lifestyles. I have been living completely off grid for some time now, so I'm more aware of the crucial factors for consideration.
1. Location Think carefully about what is most important – being closer to family and friends or job, having a beach or bush view, proximity to walking trails, a medical facility or international airport. Once these priorities are clear then look for a suitable block in your preferred location.
2. Block or acreage – vegetable patch and/or livestock
If fit enough to fully embrace the alternative lifestyle and grow organic fruit and vegetables and keep livestock and chooks, then acreage is ideal. For others, a suburban type block may fit more comfortably.
Check with the local council to ensure that they allow your preferred lifestyle. Some council's fully embrace these alternative lifestyles, while others are more reluctant. Read the fine print carefully, as some developers add a covenant defining the size of dwellings.
I have built a tiny home which I will review in another article but sadly couldn't stretch the funds to buy my own patch of earth, this has been detrimental to my process. So I emphasise to please buy that land first. The magazine Earth Garden abounds in useful tips for all of this and is available in most local libraries.
3. Building – styles, materials, builder While going through this process start collecting all the information available and is are heaps on the web about the materials and styles that best suit your needs. Workshops are available to learn more about building in mud brick, straw bales or a tiny home. Most builders prefer to use the style and materials that they are used to, so be sure to shop around.
My builder, Designer ECO Tiny Homes, had more positives going for their company than most because there are some cowboys out there. One company was the cheapest but the standard of materials was questionable. Another had great ideas but didn't have the tradesmen to ensure a quality finish. Some state a starting price but have never built for more than double that. So be careful and check with buyers, FB and so forth.
Then closely investigate the plethora of Off-Grid features such as:-
4. Solar Power Solar panels, batteries and inverters are in plentiful supply. A tip I had from an experienced solar installer was that the European brands are more reliable than the cheaper ones. And think about your back up power, eg. wind turbine or generator. I plan to install a pedal back up power source once I'm settled.
5. Composting Toilet
Again, some councils promote a series of composting toilets, while others insist you use the sewage system. There are many variations available and the more expensive ones can afford prime marketing techniques and possibly kickbacks to builders.
The cheaper simpler ones tend to be more user-friendly. Be very sure to check out internet reviews and podcasts of the methods for waste disposal to make a more informed choice.
The amount of information available is overwhelming, so it's advisable to connect with like-minded people via FB groups and farmers market to check what works for them. Nothing beats real life experience to ascertain your preferred methods. And be wary of prices for self-builds as there are hidden costs besides finding the appropriate location and power source to accommodate the build.
FB groups include 'Land to rent or buy for Tiny Houses in Australia'; 'Tiny Home Off-Grid Living in Australia' ... look around as there are many already. Then there are decisions to be made about effective insulation, windows with screens plus LED lighting, water supply and waste-water disposal.
If this is all too much to consider, then this council's useful hints on how to help the environment in your own home right now with some simple adaptations is a great start.