The growing use of technology, urbanism and consumerism has risen discussions that question the sustainability of the living habits of modern societies. Alternatively, there is a growing tendency (although still rare) of people who take the decision of letting behind the contemporary commodities to be in harmony with the environment by “living off the grid”.
First of all, what does it mean to live off the grid? To keep it simple, the main idea is to stop being dependent of fossil fuel, as well as the utility grid in order to start using ecological alternatives, such as solar panels and wind mills. Some people are more extreme and even opt to live without any power whatsoever. Yes, that’s right, no electricity, no computer, no internet, no Facebook! Another less extreme option is to rely on generators for electricity, which can mean the consumption of gas or fuel, however, in a much smaller quantity.
For instance in Alaska living off the grid is not uncommon. Characterised by stunning unspoiled landscapes of mountain ranges, glaciers, wildlife and secluded lands, living in the 49th American State could be a real challenge for those used to modern commodities as many homes in Alaska only have outhouses and no piping installation, which in other words means no flushing toilets and no running water.
In Canada, one hour by boat from Vancouver lies Lasqueti Island, another great example of a community that by own choice left the frenzy of the city life to live in a small island off the grid. Around four hundred people, including musicians, designers, fishermen doctors and engineers live isolated from the contemporary culture and the capitalist economy. Lasqueti residents live a simple life with no electricity or with power generated by solar panels or wood stoves. Additionally, with only one bar, one café and one store where things are left and collected for free, people commonly live from organic farming and wild ingredients. However, in Lasqueti Island you can even find luxury homes with flat screen TV in the middle of the forest. The difference is that these houses are self-sustainable and are not connected to the Canadian utility grid.
So what makes this lifestyle special and what does it have to offer? Well the benefits are many…
Less energy costs. Living off the grid includes no electricity bills, or at least a very small one which will allow you to save money.
Environmental friendly. For people who live off the grid the environmental foot print can go close to zero. This point is extremely important given the fact that our consumption habits are already destroying the environment.
No utility grid dependency. If you produce your own energy, there is less risk that during a storm or other weather related issues you’ll ran out of power.
More time. Time is a precious thing and we all know how fast it goes. When we get rid of the unnecessary things in our life we start paying attention to what we really enjoy doing. Whether that is reading or gardening when you don’t have to waste time in traffic and stop spending time zapping, days will seem longer and good energy will flow.
Go urban, rural or wild! Depending on your preferences, it is possible to live off the grid in a city, in the country side or in the middle of the forest. However, depending on the country, living off the grid may be illegal.
Better relationships. When we have less things to worry about we have the chance to spend more time connecting with the ones we love and strengthen relationships, whether this is with friends or family.
Less stress & anxiety. More health! When people decide to live with less bills to take care at the end of month and live a life without strict schedules they will most likely lower their levels of stress and anxiety and be healthier and happier. Additionally, a simple lifestyle can offer a financial freedom that the modern culture cannot.
Your home, your style! Many people picture a self-sustainable house as extremely modest and small with no architectural beauty, which is a wrong idealization of the reality. It may be true that in most cases these types of houses are smaller it is not always the case.
So we have to wonder, with so many upsides, how bad it would be, in this 21st century culture, to just get rid of all the non-essential commodities and live a simpler life? Maybe it’s hard to imagine living without a smartphone, computer or internet. But maybe, just maybe, who knows if the secret for happiness is as easy as stop wishing to have more and more and just enjoy the little things in life.