It is likely that we Americans will all be living off grid, in due course. Author Wendell Berry has observed that we are rapidly consuming the earth’s limited resources, and that our only “hope” may be in our collapse. As dark as such a thought may sound, it may be an unavoidable result of treating energy and commodities as undepletable, or of living beyond our financial and environmental means.

The popularity of tiny houses and off-grid homes harkens to the “back-to-the-land” movement of Helen and Scott Nearing here in Vermont, repeated in the oil crisis of the 1970’s. But when oil prices receded, so did Americans’ penchant for simpler, more self-reliant living. Henry David Thoreau advocated for a more independent life in his famous narrative about his sojourn at Walden Pond in New Hampshire. But living off-grid need not be the passion solely of the recluse: it appeals equally to those who wish to live sustainably, reduce their carbon footprint, or simply live more affordably.

My grandmother, a Depression-weathered farmer who recently passed away at age 100, said “There are two ways to get rich: earn more, or spend less.” I wish to offer here some suggestions on how to wean oneself off fossil fuel dependency, particularly for those who are of limited financial means. 

There are many people who desire to move off-grid, but are caught in the modern cycle of dependency whereby each paycheck goes to current subsistence, and the idea of living off-grid seems as remote as living in the Caribbean. Here are some ideas to consider:

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