Monthly Archives:September 2005

Sustainable Ballard

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Biofuel is cool

Solar-power panels, brochures about organic gardening, and electric cars that make a Mini Cooper look spacious were all on display in the second annual Sustainable Ballard Fair. The event was the latest project of Sustainable Ballard, a 2-year-old all-volunteer nonprofit seeking to gradually move the Seattle neighborhood of roughly 45,000 off the grid of the global economy.

The group was born out of frustration at trying to mount opposition to the Iraq war, said Vic Opperman, one of the three founders. Sensing that they weren’t making a dent on the international front, and disheartened by the direction of federal policies, the Ballard residents opted instead to try to craft a blueprint for turning Ballard into a sustainable town. There, energy and other resources would be used at levels that can be maintained for generations.

Slow down? Manana….

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You take the slow road – Carl Honore

British heir to the throne Prince Charles recently spoke out about the need for us all to slow down. Everything is just getting faster and faster he told a BBC interviewer. It can’t go on. That interview took place shortly after Charles received a signed copy of “In Praise of Slow” by Carl Honoré. The book has been published in 20 languages and over 40 countries including Brazil, China, India. You can click on the link below to buy it and 4% will go to benefit this web site. The book is a paean to slowing down without stopping altogether, written by a busy, unashamedly ambitious, and formerly impatient financial journalist.

Honoré lives in London and spends his time speaking and consulting on the subject of slowing down. He spoke to us about the overlap between the slow philosophy and the off-grid philosophy.

“Off-grid is in a sense about getting back to natural rhythms,” Honoré said. “Being aware of where your fuel is coming from, or the source of the water on the land, it plugs you into nature. The whole hyperstimulated future we have created is based on a divorce from nature and a move towards clock driven rhythms.

The “slow movement” is growing rapidly. But is its downshifting philosophy practical for busy urbanites? Yes it is. Frankly, we at Off-Grid see “being busy” as a sign of failure. (to read the rest of the story or buy Honore’s book from Amazon on the next page, click more — 4% of the purchase price goes to support this web site)

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Tour of Colorado solar homes

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90% solar powered

Its the National Solar homes tour October 1st and 2nd. You can get all the lowdown from The Colorado Renewable Energy Societyis typical of what is going on across the land.

The Boulder Area Tour, Saturday, October 1, starts at the Center for ReSource Conservation, 1702 Walnut St.,
Boulder. Call 303-441-3278 for information. Guidebooks are also available at the Nederland Community Center on Highway 72.

Sixteen homes will be featured in Saturday’s Boulder Tour.

Anita Roddick interview

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Anita Roddick stepped down as chairwoman of The Body Shop Plc a few years ago to concentrate on environmental and social campaigns. She’s been spending time in Canada and seen a lot of off-grid activity going on there. “There are exciting experiments…. in pockets of British Columbia and Canada,” she told us.
“These are creative alternatives and should be supported and catalogued,” Anita said in an exclusive interview with Off-Grid.

Anita likes the off-grid life, when she can get around to it. “each year I camp and river raft in isolated rivers in Canada and Alaska. Your comfort level radically changes within a week. You sleep better with your head on the ground. I think the experience is valuable and teaches you how little consumer goods you really need, how much noise pollution you experience in every day life. You definitely mainly get used to not depending on comfort!”

Although she is still a figurehead for her ethical cosmetics company, Anita is currently fronting the Embrace The Revolution campaign (, which promotes the use of wind energy. Roddick spoke to reporter Sarah Ewing:

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet

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Ditchmonkey rucksack
Ditch the rucksack

The first in a regular series from Ditchmonkey – the Sotheby’s employee who sleeps in a field to raise money for the Woodland Trust.

So what’s it like to have nothing?

Well I don’t strictly speaking have ‘nothing’ — when I spend such a vast amount of time lugging all that I do own around on my back, it sometimes feels as though I have quite a lot. I have given away almost everything I used to own. Now the things I still possess are heavy with potential.

What I do have in my life right now is just about as little as I can get away with. And to be honest it still feels like too much. I have found people around me incredibly generous and things that I need seem to appear when needed.

So what do I mean by saying that the things that I do possess are heavy with potential? There are two aspects to this: the immediate and the future potential. Owning little requires adaptability not just of oneself, but also of one’s possessions. My rucksack is not just a means of transporting possessions but is also a seat, a windbreak, a handy way of knocking items off shelves in packed shops, a conversation starter, and, when carried for a few miles every day, a fine way of keeping fit.

Why we recommend Ecotricity

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This site is all about living off the grid, so why are we carrying an ad for power delivered down the grid?

Well, let’s face it — one reason is that we need the money which will come from each one of you that switches from an old dinosaur power supplier to this new, young, vibrant company (that’s enough suck-ass – Ed!).

But there are two other reasons why we are proud to recommend Ecotricity to our UK readers:

DANGER from the Grid

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Grid – hidden danger

The London Sunday Times says a UK government agency has acknowledged for the first time that people can suffer nausea, headaches and muscle pains when exposed to electromagnetic fields from electricity pylons.

The condition known as electrosensitivity, a heightened reaction to electrical energy, will be recognised as a physical impairment.

A report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA), to be published next month, will state that increasing numbers of British people are suffering from the syndrome. While the total figure is not known, thousands are believed to be affected to some extent.

According to the Electrosensitivity web site (, symptoms include “Flu like scratchy sore throat; Pain in ears; tingling skin on face; skin rash.” Most academics studying the subject are still psychologistds trying to work out if the condition is real or imagined, but the new report will change that.

TriField Electromagnetic Field MeterTriField Electromagnetic Field Meter – buy it fromAmazon US

You can buy a meter to detect electro-magnetic radiation —
The TriField Meter offers magnetic, electric, and radio/microwave detection in one package.

Ditchmonkey joins the team

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Ditchmonkey, the Sotheby’s employee who is living in a ditch in order to raise money for the Woodland Trust, is to begin writing for Off-Grid.

Ditchmonkey, real name Hugh Sawyer, shot to fame last Sunday when the Observer newspaper profiled his one-year rough sleeping project. Since then he has been featured on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 5, and in The Mirror, Mail, Standard, and German TV.

He has touched a nerve in the national and international psyche because he is living off-grid at the same time as holding down a full-time job – a trick we would all like to pull off. “The company has been really good about it” he said when he met the team for a drink on friday night. Well, we had drinks, and Ditchmonkey stuck to tea which he drank from a tiny glass, pausing frequently to refill.

Wanted: Green Leader

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The UK Green Party Autumn Conference kicked off today at St Martins College, Lancaster. It runs to 11th Sep and anyone can attend. Simply walk in. See the Green Party web site for more details.

Friday’s main theme is Green Energy Futures, a subject close to our hearts here at Off-Grid. More details on that below. We do hope that the conference makes one vital step — to agree that the Green Party needs a leader in order to be electable.

It has been sad to watch the party marginalise itself throgh idealistic principles about non-hierarchical leadership. The voters want leaders. So Off-Grid says – give them a leader. The Green vote will soar if there is a credible, dynamic leader who can mobilise the massive yearning to vote Green, especially among young people. The obvous choice is Green European Parliament member Caroline Lucas. If you support our position write to her and tell her so: