Reflections on a (temporary) transition from off-grid to on-grid living

 Most articles written about transitioning between off and on-grid living, focus on the process from on-grid to off-grid. After having lived off-grid, in a suburban setting, for over two years – I am now involved in the transition away from off-grid living…. but hopefully temporarily.

My current circumstances mean that after two years living in a primarily off-grid situation,* in a solar-powered household, I am now once again relying on electricity. The transition is less shocking than it could have been for others living off-grid, as my old accomodation was the inner-suburbs of a cosmopolitan city. We initially squatted in our home, and eventually establish a cheap rental relationship with the owner. My friends continue to live there, and it is a continually growing project.

For now, I am ‘travelling’, but quite slowly. So, I have a sublease in an apartment in Berlin – which, of course, comes with hot water, electricity plugs everywhere, a lot of non-eco friendly products and just generally, a completely different lifestyle. Of course, prior to my last living situation, I too had become accustomed to living in such a way. The comparison between my psychology and thought processes when living in this environment, compared to off-grid, are notable. Initially, it seemed luxurious; being able to plug on my laptop without any regard to the readings on the battery, or without thinking about how much light the sun had gifted that day. Hot water, oodles of it! What a dream! A bath? Wow. Wait, and what’s this? I can bake some vegetables?!? Amazing! Baked vegetables for dinner – every meal – it is, then.

Now, the initial sense of awe has worn off. I am taking a step back, and thinking about how my consumption of resources has increased exponentially since I began travelling. Not only inside the household: I have found myself mindlessly buying products that I would always think twice about before purchasing whilst living in my home environment. In my last post, I discussed the deleterious effects that flying has on the environment. Not only has it been costly to the environment to arrive at the place in which I am at, now, but I also feel that my consumption habits and general consideration for the environment has become a little…complacent.

I realised this last night, when I had a friend over for dinner, and pulled out a bunch of delicacies for dessert: frozen berries, coconut yoghurt, 99 per cent dark chocolate. I am by no means entirely purist (can anyone ever be?), but I generally consider what I am buying quite carefully before consuming products that have been imported from the other side of the world, or those which are wrapped in plastic. Looking at the spread in front of me made me feel a little ill. If I were conscious when purchasing these products, I would have felt better about the situation. I often think deeply about where cacao beans are coming from, for instance; or consider sourcing fresh berries in bulk from a local source, so that I am avoiding unnecessary packaging. My psychology had changed; I was doing as everyone else around me was doing – and, of course, no-one blinked an eyelid. The scary thing? It only took a month.

Living in a way that calls for constant consideration of the Earth’s resources affects our psychology. It creates an intense appreciation for the warmth and energy of the sunshine; for the water provided by rain; for each other – and the joy of encouragement and teamwork. For me personally, it certainly influences my thought patterns: fully realising how precious external elements of nature are, allows me to be conscious and mindful of the way in which I am consuming.

I have realised that living off-grid suits me better than on-grid. I prefer it. However, right now it is not possible. I am staying in the place in which I am, for now, as I am visiting people who are dear to me as well as exploring some other interests that are not available in my city. I am, however, looking for alternative living situations to explore whilst abroad. Until I find them, the challenge for me is to stay true to my values despite being surrounded my a rampant consumerist culture. To continue to live in a way that is as at one as possible with Nature, in an on-grid urban environment.

Lets see how it goes.

*we had running water.

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