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


The couple, who are vegetarians, grow the food they eat in a large garden. They can food from their garden, and they make their own vinegar and spices, although they occasionally shop at grocery stores and eat in restaurants. In the spring, they drink and cook with “tree water,” or sap, tapped from red maple trees, which also is made into syrup.

The home has running water that comes from faucets fed by a gravity-driven series of cisterns. It has a clothes washer and a one-gallon Swedish flush toilet that is connected to a methane digester that will produce enough power to run the refrigerator when the project is completed.

Outdoors, the property contains composting toilets and even a hot tub that is heated by a wood fire pit. The home itself and its outbuildings are heated by 17 fire and warmth sources.
Solar-powered showers are in large stone tubs, including one that has been set up in a sunroom connected to the house. That room also contains composted soil, houseplants and even creatures such as frogs, turtles and colorful, nonpoisonous milk snakes.

A gray water treatment system recycles water from showers, dishes and laundry through 11 underground filters, then directs the water to the vegetable garden and compost piles.

More than 4,000 visitors from colleges and schools in the region have been to the camp, where Mr. Carns focuses not so much about learning to live off the grid as learning to “de-program” ourselves so that we realize that we actually can be self-sufficient.

“This is a de-learning place,” he said of the effort to change the way most people think.

Two simple and non-intimidating ways to begin living off the grid include using a stationary bike connected to a battery to power small items, such as cell phone batteries, or collecting methane gas from a garden compost pile to produce an alternate power source.

“You have to take small, tiny steps at a time,” Mr. Carns said. “That’s how we did it.”

Mrs. Carns said her favorite thing about living off the grid is the privacy it provides and the opportunity to see nature up close — the couple have been visited by hundreds of black bears, coyotes and other wildlife — although she acknowledges it isn’t always an easy life.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” she said.

Mr. Carns believes that “all of the world has to become obsessed with cleaning up the Earth or we’re done.”

Although he likes to spread the word about his lifestyle, he isn’t preachy about it and balks at being called a “tree hugger” or environmentalist.

“I’m living this way as if God is watching me,” he said. “I don’t like to be pigeonholed as an environmentalist. I do this for my own conscience.”

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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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