I suppose many of us have often wondered or thought about escaping from it all and leaving modern life with all of its stresses and strains behind. Becoming totally green and leaving an almost zero carbon footprint with little or no impact upon our surroundings. For the vast majority a mortgage and rent are the biggest outgoings to a family budget closely followed by fuel bills, water rates, domestic rates, food, clothing and transport but not necessarily on that order. As I see it the only way to escape is to have enough money to buy some land and live off it, however this solution is not in itself the complete answer.
What most of the companies selling green technology will not tell you is how much it will cost. For example we know how much land will be from the estate agents and from that we can calculate how much we will have to devote to crops, how much for livestock and how much to set aside to grow trees as fuel for cooking and heating in solid fuel burners. To go completely off grid with no sewage, no power or water requires a substantial investment and the array of information is truly mind numbing and often conflicting from one manufacturer to another. Try as I might I can find little information if any about reed bed filters. To live off grid you need to dispose of human waste, often called black water and two ways of doing this are composting toilets and reed bed filters. Composting toilets are a great idea, clean and environmentally friendly. The drawback with this solution is that if you have 12 pints of Guinness and a good curry one night, well I will leave the rest to your imagination.
To manage black water and grey water which consists of water from the bath or the washing machine etc, you really need a reed bed filter. There are two types, vertical and horizontal. Horizontal beds do not take up as much space as vertical beds so the land requirements are less however they require a slope. Virtually no information about building one of these is in the public sector. Many companies will sell you the information and offer to install such a process for you, usually at a prohibitive cost. After months of scouring the internet and asking librarians with no results I started emailing several green communities to ask how they managed. To date none have replied and the idea of the helpful eco friendly sandal wearing hippy with his tofu sandwiches and lentils is starting to look like a myth.
Unless you want to live by candle light then some form of electricity is a must and once again going totally off grid is a complete minefield. I may want to escape but I still want to know what is going on in the outside world. A TV, stereo, microwave and washing machine along with electric lights are a complete must in my book. Photovoltaic cells or solar panels are only 18% efficient and wind turbines are useless on a calm day and all the energy needs to be stored. To store all this electric you need deep cell batteries capable of providing 240 volts on tap. You will also want to ensure they don’t run flat in minutes under a heavy load, consequently at least two of these monsters are required and they are not cheap. They also need to be renewed every 10-15 years and this will be an ongoing cost as will the solar panels and turbines.
The cost of going truly green is exorbitant as considerations need to be made about the cost of every day living. Tending land and livestock is almost a full time job and so working for a living is almost out of the question. Hard currency is needed for vets fees and transportation fuel to name but two items let alone taxes and so a substantial amount of money is needed in some form of investment to draw income or interest from. Sadly it seems that to the vast majority of us who crave the simple life, becoming environmentally friendly in its truest sense is a big green myth.