We hear people saying that they wish things were simpler; many people are looking for ways to disconnect and create a more peaceful lifestyle. A lifestyle that is less stressful and hectic in exchange for a healthier one. Some people have chosen to "live off the grid" to become more self-reliant and to enjoy the benefits of a simpler life.


What is with the interchangeable names?

The slang terms "homesteading," "prepping" or "living off the grid" mean different things to different people. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably and have similar meanings.

A person that "homesteads" does so because they desire a self-sufficient lifestyle. "Homesteading" involves producing and preserving your own food. A "prepper" is someone who wants to prepare for future events. Everyone is a "prepper" in one way or another but some people decide to prep for extreme emergencies like natural disasters or disease outbreak. Unlike many who live on the grid, someone who lives off the grid is disconnected from any public utilities. They rely on alternate energy and water sources for everyday living. "Off the grid" living can range from being extreme with absolutely no reliance on outside utilities to relying on one to two outside utilities.


‘Off Grid’ living — why and what

There are many reasons why someone may choose to live "off the grid." People may desire a more simplistic "back to the basic" lifestyle. It may be an economical decision and the desire to be more self-reliant. For others, it may be that they want to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. Most people who choose to live "off the grid" do so for a combination of these reasons.

When someone says they live "off the grid" they usually mean they are producing their own power through solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric or a combination of the three. The energy generated through these sources is usually stored in a battery bank for use. Power is used to run lights and other essential appliances and electronic devices. Most people living "off the grid" will either have their own well or haul in water. They will have a septic system or some sort of waste composting system. People living in northern climates will usually get their heat from wood only or wood with back up propane heat. Food storage and preparation off the grid can be done in a variety of ways. People living "off the grid" use amenities like propane stoves and refrigerators to just a cooler and cooking with wood.


Is 'off grid' living for you?

When considering going "off the grid" it is important to examine the amount of power consumed and figure out ways to conserve on electrical use. The truth is, in order to sustain energy, power use will have to be reduced. Many appliances require considerable amounts of energy to operate and an extensive alternate energy system; it could be cost-prohibitive. The first thing to do is conduct a daily, weekly, and monthly power use audit. This will provide a baseline to know how much energy is being used. Next step is to determine ways to reduce the power used. Then come up with a plan for what electrical items you cannot live without in order to determine how much power must be generated.

If you are serious about "off grid" living after doing the power use audit, a plan gets developed on how to go "off grid." In reality, someone cannot go completely to "off-grid" living. They need to consider how much power they need and the best way to generate power for their specific circumstances. This will require extensive research to figure out the best ways to meet everyday needs. It is also important to consider the costs of "off-grid" living versus the costs of using utilities. While the startup costs of "off-grid" living may be high, the money potentially saved on a monthly basis could outweigh the startup expense. Some may say that they are not willing to sacrifice modern conveniences and there is no cost savings in the end.

"Off-grid" living is a lifestyle choice that requires planning and sacrifices. This type of living has its pros and cons. Most people living "off grid" would say that the sacrifice and hard work pay off in the long run. However, for some people living a simpler life may be finding ways to conserve their finances and resources without going to extremes.


Andrea is the Missaukee Conservation District education coordinator. Please contact her at Missaukee Conservation District at 231-839-7193 or andrea.mayer@macd.org.