10 Off the Grid Communities Living in Harmony with Nature
By Adrian Chirila, Toptenz, 7 November 2015.
By Adrian Chirila, Toptenz, 7 November 2015.
In a world dominated by consumerism and the accumulation of wealth, some people have decided to revert to a simpler way of life. By ridding themselves of everything they deem unnecessary or wasteful, they live in a community based on subsistence and barter. What most hope to achieve is to have an almost zero carbon footprint and a life in harmony with nature. Here are some such places around the globe.
10. Lasqueti - Canada
Just an hour’s boat ride from Vancouver in western Canada, between the mainland and the island of Vancouver there’s another, smaller island called Lasqueti, roughly the size of Manhattan, where some 400 people reside. These people have decided to live completely off grid by growing their own crops and foraging what they can find on the island itself.
Most of their electricity is provided by solar panels, wind turbines and small scale hydroelectric plants. Some still use old fashioned fossil fuel generators, while others don’t use electricity at all. The homes these people live in are rustic and very cosy, and one member has even taken up residence in an old school bus which he fuels up with vegetable oil. Another built his home from natural and recycled materials, as well as old tires which make up the walls.
Everything is very well organized and even going to the toilet on the island has its own manual called “How to Shyte on Lasqueti” which talks about composting, greywater and septic fields, and is found on the community’s website. Most members are “professional musicians, published authors, some small scale manufacturers, some commercial agriculture as well as professional consultants in education, engineering, forestry and alternate energy” according to their site. Some even maintain several B&Bs on the island. According to Statistics Canada, Lasqueti Island has the most highly educated community in British Columbia.
9. The Rainbow Gathering
The Rainbow Gathering is not a permanent place where people live all year round. It is however a community, or rather several communities, which come together every year for about a month in different locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Russia and Europe. The gatherings in the Western Hemisphere are mostly influenced by Native American beliefs and way of life. In the United States these gatherings have been taking place every July since 1972, in different forests across the country.
The Rainbow Family of Living Light describes itself as “the largest best coordinated non-political non-denominational non-organization of like-minded individuals on the planet.” When they meet, somewhere around 10,000 to 20,000 individuals come together. They look to spread ideas of peace, respect, harmony between people, eco-living and offer an alternative to modern day trends of capitalism, consumerism, mass-media and general wastefulness.
Everybody is free to join a Rainbow Gathering and nobody is in charge. This however has led to some controversy about the annual event since there were two deaths that took place at the gathering in 2014. There are also many instances of drug use and traffic and people who live in the vicinity of the event usually are afraid of the “Rainbows.” But large numbers of people put together will almost always produce some “bad apples.” Nevertheless, most of the members are decent individuals who wholeheartedly follow their belief systems and teachings.
8. Freedom Cove - Canada
Going back to Vancouver Island, but this time on its western side, we come across a small town by the name of Tofino. Nearby there, in Cypress Bay, a couple by their names, Wayne Adams and Catherine King, have built with their own two hands a floating home made out of 12 separate platforms. Each one has a specific purpose, among which there is a dance floor, a guest light house, an art gallery, a studio and five greenhouses.
Construction of Freedom Cove began back in 1991 and ever since, Adams, 66, and King, 59, have been living on and improving their off-grid home. He is a carver while Catherine is a painter, dancer, writer, and musician. In an interview for the Huffington Post, Adams explained that “One winter, a storm blew a whole bunch of trees down. We gathered all the wood up, took it to the fellow who owned it, but he said keep it. So we thought, time to start on the home.” By using old fish-farm technology, they were able to tow the million-pound house into the bay and keep it afloat. This was in February 1992, mind you (just several months later).
They grow their own fresh food in their greenhouses, as they don’t have a fridge and also fish from the bay itself. Initially they relied on 14 solar panels for electricity, but these broke down a while ago and now use an old generator to do the 3000 watt/day job. “Living in the wilderness is constant inspiration,” King adds. “It’s so incredible to wake up every morning and see all of this.”
7. Tinker’s Bubble - England
A 40 acre (16 hectares) community set in the rural Somerset region, England is the oldest low impact eco village on the island. For more than 21 years, different people and families have called Tinker’s Bubble their home. While some are just passing through, others are permanent settlers. They make a living and some extra cash for the community, mainly through forestry, gardening, growing chickens, honey bees and selling apple products (real apples, not iPhones or iPads). They manage this without using any fossil fuel whatsoever. They do use wood for warmth and cooking, but other than that they are “zero-emission.”
A wind-powered generator and several solar panels provide the community with enough electricity to power some light bulbs, to play music and run some laptop computers. Every type of material they use comes from the area, which gives Tinker’s Bubble the low-cost eco-housing status. Its name comes from the nearby spring which ends in a small waterfall by the side of the road. Gypsies used to bring their horses to water them there, and they used to call a waterfall, “a bubble.”
6. Lammas Eco Village - Wales
Lammas Eco Village is a small community of people operating on the Pembrokeshire countryside in Wales since 2009. The members of Lammas all come from different backgrounds with some having extensive knowledge of low-impact living, while others have none. Water, woodland, and electricity are managed collectively and no building here is connected to any main pipe or line.
There are a total of nine plots, each of about five acres. All of them are powered by a series of micro photovoltaic installations along with a 27kW hydro generator. Water comes from a local spring and managing a lot of rainwater - they are in the United Kingdom after all. All the houses, bars and workshops have been built by the people living there together with the help of many volunteers. Every material is either local or recycled, lowering their carbon footprint to a minimum.
As you can imagine, they follow a subsistence way of living by growing their own food. They even went so far as to raise the levels of the soil’s health. To do this they carefully planned a new infrastructure across the landscape and planted many wild plants and native trees in order to raise the biodiversity in the region. This way they were able to retain as much water and nutrients in the landscape as possible.
They did have some problems from local authorities regarding building regulations. The issues were related to: fire hazards, outside lavatories, the use of ladders for staircases and the uncertain specification of some of the recycled materials the homes are made out of.
5. Khula Dhamma - South Africa
The name of the community is formed by combining two words from two different languages. “Khula Dhamma,” combines the Xhosa word “khula,” meaning “to grow” and the Pali word “Dhamma” meaning “the way” or “the path” (to grow on the path of awakening). Back in 2000 five friends bought a 180 hectare (445 acres) piece of land near the small village of Haga Haga, 60km north of East London and on the door step of South Africa’s Xhosa heartland. Just eight kilometres (five miles) away from the coast - with many pristine beaches by the way - and at an elevation of about 173 meters (568 ft.), the community is blessed with no harsh weather, thus being able to produce crops twice per year.
Besides practicing green-farming and trying to live as close to no impact on the planet as possible, they also offer people a Retreat Centre. Here visitors take part in all sorts of activities, events, workshops and talks; all with the hopes of learning how to live a more holistic life in harmony with nature.
4. Torri Superiore - Italy
Located at the foothills of the Ligurian Alps, just several miles away from the French border and the Mediterranean, Torri Superiore is a 13th century hamlet, built entirely out of stone. It’s also built directly on the cliff face, five stories tall and 100 meters long. Inside there are 162 rooms, all connected with each other through an intricate system of narrow corridors, making the whole thing into an amazing labyrinth of rooms, staircases and terraces. It wasn’t always like this though, being built in stages. The last additions were made during Napoleon’s time, when the village reached its maximum population of about 200 people.
For about 100 years however, Torri Superiore was abandoned, as villagers migrated to urban areas, and the towers went into disrepair. That’s until 1989 when the Torri Superiore Cultural Association was founded, a permanent community of about 20 individuals was established and reparations began on the monument. The association owns half the building while the other, the residents themselves.
Since 1992 Torri Superiore hosted over 400 children from all over the world. Each year one or two summer camps are held here. The venue is also host to a multitude of events, workshops and courses aimed towards environmental education and eco-village living.
3. Kovcheg - Russia
Kovcheg Village began back in 2001 when four families leased a 297 acres (120 hectares) plot of land from the government for a period of 49 years, free of charge. It’s situated some 87 miles (140 km) southwest of Moscow, in the Kaluga region. Each home is given a surface area of one hectare (2.5 acre) to grow their food and which is more than enough to even produce surplus.
About 40 families (120 people) live in Kovcheg full time and a total of 80 (200 people) during summer. Some 15 children have already been born in the community and others are on the way. The founder of this eco-village was a successful business man from Moscow, who for the sake of his child’s health and happiness, moved far away from the city. Today he is a beekeeper and gardener. Among the other residents, we can also find a former wrestler, a former German fashion model, a former parliamentary hopeful, and a former opera singer.
Besides following an eco-friendly lifestyle they also take care of the surrounding forests by cleaning the slash, removing diseased trees and planting new ones. The also stop illegal lumbering in the area and operate their own sawmill and woodworking shop.
2. Konohana Family - Japan
In 1994, 20 members founded Kanohana Family. It’s located at the foot of Japan’s Mount Fuji and is home to over 80 individuals, 25 of which being children. The name “Konohana” comes from the goddess of the mountain, “Konohana Sakuyahime no Mikoto” who was once believed to inhabit Mt. Fiji. The community has a very tightly knit lifestyle and collective economy, sharing meals, quarters and finances. This way they are able to reduce their ecological footprint down to a third of that of an average Japanese and one sixth of an average American.
In other words and by following the same measurements, they are a 0.8 when the rest of Japan is at 2.4 and USA at 4.8. Here, one is equal to 100% of the planet’s bio-capacity. Or to help you understand even better, if everybody lived like the average Japanese person, we would need about 2.4 Earths to sustain our way of life. The world average today is about 1.6 by the way. On the other hand, North Korea and Cuba both score also a 0.8 on this scale, but unlike these countries, the Konohana Family lives a life of plenty and abundance, in perfect harmony and equilibrium with nature.
On their 16 hectare (40 acre) plot of land, they cultivate over 260 types of vegetables and grains, 10 types of rice, free-range eggs, pure honey, and miso (fermented soy paste), soy-sauce, and other processed food, produced with traditional methods. The only things they buy from the store are: sugar, salt and some other spices.
They also use “Konohana-kin” (Konohana-microorganisms), an original cultured microorganism solution. This substance is used everywhere: in their livestock feed and water, for the fermentation process of natural fertilizers and especially as a lacto-bacillus beverage good their health and general well-being.
1. Earthships - United States
Michael Reynolds is a famous architect who, for the last 45 years, has been developing the perfect model for a house. In his mind, a home should take care of its owners and not the other way around. Today his model is being used in many parts of the globe, but this couldn’t have been possible if he didn’t spent so many years in the New Mexico desert, constantly improving his designs.
To start off, all of his dwellings are made out of at least 45% recycled materials -giving the Earthship a negative carbon footprint right from the start. The rest are found in the immediate vicinity of the building (lowering the CO2 emissions to a minimum). Most of these buildings are completely independent from all municipal utilities and are able to produce everything for their inhabitants. They even enhance the soil around them thanks to the botanical cells which contain, treat and reuse sewage via biological processes resulting in greenery all around the house.
And that’s not all! The Earthship house is able to harness its own electricity and fresh water, not to mention to regulate the temperature inside depending on the weather and even to produce a significant amount of food. Michael Reynolds realized early on that the way we live our lives is nowhere near to sustainability and when push came to shove, eco living will become extremely expensive for the average person. That’s why he embarked on this road and made it his life’s mission to design and create the truly self-sufficient house for everyone.
Top image: An Earthship passive solar home. Credit: Biodiesel33/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]