W. Pa. Duo Uses Solar, Recycling To Live Off Grid


For example, Mr. Carns built shelves in his ethanol distillery so that it also could serve as a food-drying station. Ethanol produced in the distillery also will be used to power the couple’s vehicles, which Mr. Carns has a federal permit to do. The engines are being converted to run on 190-proof ethanol instead of gasoline.

One room of the camp is devoted to scrap materials that are not tossed, such as bits of plastic and aluminum.

The pieces are stored in earthenware crocks until a use can be found for them.

The home and the surrounding buildings — a total of 10 in the complex — are a treasure trove of antiques, copper pots and religious icons that the couple have collected over the years at yard sales. The main cabin’s interior is aesthetically pleasing, filled with items that are useful as well as beautiful — ceramic crocks, colorful Persian rugs, baskets and Native American blankets and goods.

Mr. Carns also is an artist who built a sculpture of the Virgin Mary from recycled metal and carved a stairway into a red maple tree trunk, which leads to a second-story sleeping loft.

“A guy wanted me to cut that into firewood,” he said, incredulously.

Several guest houses are on the property as well as a chapel that Mr. Carns built from recycled wood and fired clay shingles, where friends have been married.

Mr. Carns used a wood chipper to break apart plastic foam packing material, food trays and coffee cups for use as insulation.

The key to re-using most materials is to carefully wash and dry the material so it is as clean as possible, he said.

Other garbage, such as paper, is either taken to a local recycling center or used in one of the many compost piles dotting the property. Each serves a different purpose. One pile, for example, is devoted to composting cotton and wool clothing, which takes longer to break down than vegetable waste. Despite the number of compost piles, no foul odors emanate from the property.

“To have zero waste, you have to separate organic and synthetic materials or you get the petri dish effect,” Mr. Carns said.

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Posted by on Dec 1st, 2012 and filed under American Street Guide. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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