Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Net Zero

We have some friends who are, for the most part, off-grid. They live in a rural suburb north of us. Their house is completely solar-powered, and while they have a grid-tied system, most days, they have net zero - which is to say that they are using everything they are producing - nothing goes out to the grid; nothing comes in from the grid.

The one caveat is that they still use propane for cooking and heating ... and drying their laundry ;).

They gave us a tour of their amazing property a few weeks ago. It's a gorgeous set-up, and if I said that I wasn't a little envious I'd be lying.

That said, we're actually in the same place, when it comes to complete self-sufficiency, and that's the middle. They just started at the other end - the technology end.

Deus Ex Machina and I started on the food end, and in that area, we are mostly self-sufficient. Five out of seven dinners per week include food we have grown and/or preserved (by canning, not freezing), and at least one meal each week consists entirely (except for things like seasoning) of foods we've grown on our quarter acre. We even hosted a dinner party with thirty guests in which a quarter of the food was grown here, and over half was locally sourced (the dessert - S'Mores - was not local ... or homegrown ;).

Our friends are, now, working toward their food security.

And we are, now, in a position to begin working on the technology side of things. Our first purchase: the bicycle generator.

Although it's not (and never will be) grid-tied, reckon if I pedal long enough, I could get to net zero?


  1. So awesome! We have big dreams of getting off-grid when we buy a house (it's kinda hard while renting, unfortunately). I love the bike generator idea!

  2. The steps you all have taken towards being self sufficient are amazing. With you, Deus Ex Machina, and the girls pedaling, I bet you'll be able to generate quite a bit of power.

    Absolutely off topic.... Are your toenails blue? haha. I was giving your bike the once over and hello, pretty toenails.

  3. @ Alyse - Ha! Ha! Yes, they are, in fact, blue ;). My in-laws gave my daugthers a "nail kit" for Christmas, and while I wouldn't paint my finger nails (too much trouble with as much as I use my hands), I thought, why not my toes? Silly fun!

    It's also a good reminder about what people who have lived through very hard times (like war and severe economic depression) will say - soap and cosmetics become very much appreciated luxuries, and people will often trade more important stuff - like food - for a chance to have pretty toenails ;). I will often post this link compiled by survivors of the war in Sarajevo. It's a list of stuff they needed, but couldn't find - it's items that become worth more than money.

  4. @ Witchy - Don't give up. This bicycle generator is pretty portable, and it's not grid-tied or anything. So, it is a possibility as a back-up power or a supplement power source - even for people who are renting. Another option is one of those portable RV wind generators. As they say, every little bit helps, and it might be a little more challenging for you, as a renter, but I don't think it's any less possible ;).

  5. I know there are many ways of creating'building the bicycle generator, but how about sharing what you guys came up with. (just a thought)

  6. @ Warlock - that would be a job for Deus Ex Machina :). I'll share with him that you would be interested in knowing more about the system he's building. I can say it started with a simple bike stand and generator, but a couple more things have been ordered to flesh out the system.

    I should also mention that it's brand new. We just set it up yesterday, and I'm still learning how it all works. I'm sure I'll have a lot more to share as I learn more about it. So far, it's just a wicked cool toy :).

  7. Wendy, thanks for this post, especially the link about the 100 items to disappear first.

  8. @ Matt - it's one of my favorite links, and it's really been invaluable to me for, kind of, gauging where we are. What I've found is that the more of these items I can source locally - or better, make/grow myself - the more confident I become about our future.

    And better - the more I can make/grow myself, the less money we need for our day-to-day lives, and the closer we get to being able to step outside the "money economy", where stuff like job losses, rising prices and market fluctuations don't effect us ;).

  9. Thanks for sharing! Anyway, your bike is really cool.