Let them eat Coal-Cake

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The village of Durgai in the remote mountainous area of Zardaloo Valley is an unlikely setting for an experiment in off-grid development.

But New Zealand eco-consultancy Empower, in partnership with the Pakistani organisation Anjumae Khidmate Khalq Naujawanane, are in the middle of a $300,000 assignment to develop a community using locally-produced coal cakes for cooking and heating. The aim is to develop a suitable alternative fuel to the endangered juniper wood currently used. The target area is Durgai Village in the remote mountainous area of Zardaloo Valley in Balochistan.


Megabuck downshifter

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Steve Case, founder of AOL has found a new protege living off-grid. Case is investing $20m (£11m) in a producer of yoga and Pilates videos, Jirka Rysavy, a multi-millionaire who is reported to spend part of the year in a cabin outside Boulder, Colorado without running water and with a bath in an outhouse.

Rysavy, founder of Gaiam, and Case, founder of Revolution Living, are both experienced in building new concepts into Fortune 500 companies as Rysavy did with Corporate Express and Case with AOL. Czech-born Rysavy,51, started Gaiam, a “lifestyle media” company, in 1988.

We will be bringing you more info about this enigmatic Corporate Executive in the near future. If anyone has any information or photos of Jirka Rysavy or his off-grid home, please contact [email protected] publish the Gaiam corporate code of ethics below.Gaiam Essentials Tools for Yoga KitGaiam Essentials Tools for Yoga Kit – buy it from Amazon and 4% goes to Off-Grid


International Space Station

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The ultimate off-grid home environments are ones that allow humans to live in space or underwater – places that may be centuries away but which still offer insight into the way we might live in the future, albeit disappointing, at least for now.

At 356ft in length, the International Space Station (ISS) is four times larger than its predecessor, Russia’s Mir space station. But the living and working quarters are still cramped and challenging for its inhabitants. Two beds serve three people. There are no lavatory facilities. And the sun rises every 90 minutes.

“In zero gravity body fluids accumulate in your head area, which can give you both a headache and a chipmunk-face appearance,” says astronaut Pam Melroy, a pilot on two missions to the ISS. “But, generally, your body adjusts after a few days and the sensation eases.” Weightlessness is also a problems for human muscles, bones, kidneys and other vital organs.


Sites to help eat cheap

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Eat cheaper – grow your own

Here are some links to groups that can help you grow food off-grid:


Green Thumb Community Gardens

Am. Community Garden Assc.

Neem Foundation

Trees for Life

Living Nutrition


Cheap laundry – eco-balls

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Eco-balls reduce laundry cost by 75%Eco-balls are a way of doing the washing without using detergent. If you live off-grid that means you can reuse the water more easily, and if you live on the grid, it means you are adding less to the world’s pollution, while saving a bit of money.

And yes, they do really work. We were sent a free sample by Insight EcoStore in Brighton, and so far have used them in 30 washes with no ill effects on the clothes or the machine. The clothes come out softer than with fabric softeners and there’s none of that yucky sludge to clear out of our washing machine. They are less sparklingly white, but we are not worried about that. No more hassle and expense of carting bulky powders and liquids home from the market!


Dung power in Cambodia

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By KER MUNTHIT Nget Louns rickety old thatched house is typical of Cambodias impoverished countryside, but it holds a surprise inside: a state of the art, environment-friendly gas stove.

Off the grid as far as most utilities are concerned, her household and 29 others in the village of Tamoung get a steady supply of clean energy from human and animal waste, using a device that not only makes cooking less of a chore, but also keeps their gardens flourishing and helps save the forests.

At the centre of the experiment is a device called a biological gas digester or biodigester which converts a by-product of manure into cooking gas. The technology has taken hold in other countries as a way to generate gas or electricity, and now an independent development group is hoping to spread it to Cambodias poor rural people.

Brendan Boucher, the Australian co-ordinator for the non-profit Cambodian Rural Development Team, which is financed by donations from abroad, introduced the project last year in Tamoung, a village in Takeo province 70km south of the capital Phnom Penh.

Boucher says biogas stoves can help improve food security for villagers and reduce the pressures on Cambodias fast-disappearing forests, which are relied on for firewood.


Esso turns away from renewables

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The world’s largest publicly traded energy company is not making any bets on the environmentally friendly power sources now, and does not plan to any time soon.

Despite the growing popularity of renewable energy sources — top competitors like BP and Chevron Corp. dabble in it — Exxon Mobil Corp. has shied away from investing in solar and wind energy, arguing that the business is viable only with Uncle Sam’s help. The company says the economics of solar and wind energy don’t add up. And rather than spending on R&D to find a cost-effective solution, it plans to let others take the lead.

Exxon estimates solar and wind energy demand will grow at a 10 percent rate annually over the next 25 years, but only on the back of government subsidies and tax breaks to spur investment in cleaner, environment-friendly energy sources.

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Strip out the handouts, and investing in wind and solar energy would be nonstarters, the manager of Exxon’s energy demand and supply forecasting division told Reuters last week.


When the oil runs out

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It is emerging that world oil stocks are far lower than previously thought, and affordable oil may not even last until the end of the decade. This explains the US government’s sudden interest in renewable energy and of course their foray into Iraq. It also means that off-grid energy solutions are going to become much more popular as the news seeps through.

Matthew Simmons, a former adviser to President Bush’s administration was recently reported as saying: “Any serious analysis now shows solid evidence that the non-FSU [former Soviet Union], non-Opec [Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries] oil has certainly petered out…”

No cheap oil, no cheap food.

“From The Wilderness” reported Simmons saying: “I think basically that peaking of oil will never be accurately predicted until after the fact. But the event will occur, and my analysis is… that peaking is at hand, not years away. “If I’m right, the unforeseen consequences are devastating… If the world’s oil supply does peak, the world’s issues start to look very different. “


Calculate your personal carbon count

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To calculate the effects of your personal lifestyle on the planets non-renewable carbon consumption, go to

If we all did our own little bit instead of waiting for the government to sort it out, then we’d be behaving like adults, and taking control of our own lives.

A History of Atmospheric CO2 and Its Effects on Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems (Ecological Studies)A History of Atmospheric CO2 and Its Effects on Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems – Buy it from Amazon


World’s best solar cookers

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We asked leading expert on Solar Cookers, Dr. Ashok Kundapur, for his opinion on which is the best, and which is the cheapest acceptable Solar Cooker. Dr Kandapur has listed over 60 main types of solar cookers and more than 100 variations of them in his site He believes the best solar cooker is yet to come, and when it comes, it will allow cooking inside the kitchen instead of directly under the sun’s rays, and also allow cooking at night.

As of today, says Dr Kundapar, “a Cooker which comes close to the ambitious model described above is the one designed by Scheffler of Germany. The Scheffler Cooker, it is a shallow parabolic reflector with a long focus.
” Thus the sun rays could be directed into the kitchen where the cooking can be done. When the cooking is completed, the focused sun rays could be used to store the heat into a metal block. The Cooker is available in large size too and world over several Hostels and big establishments are using such Scheffler cooker. A domestic model with 2 m dia costs about Rs. 8,500 in India, a price at which it is considered to be a bit costly. Cooking With the Sun: How to Build and Use Solar CookersCooking With the Sun: How to Build and Use Solar Cookers – Buy it from Amazon

Solar Box Cookers are very popular in India, they are also known as Gosh Type Cookers.


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