khyati rajvanshi

Escaping COVID-19

One way to escape the COVID-19 pandemic is to move off the grid into the wilderness. I sometimes feel self-isolating is just that. While living remotely maybe enticing, there’s a lot more work than one would think.

Our forefather’s pioneer spirit of venturing into the wild in covered wagons, splitting logs for the fire and lighting oil lamps for reading may seem romantic but using an outhouse and pumping well water may be fine for a weekend but not for a lifetime.

Today’s off the grid homes require a high degree of careful and savvy construction.

Structures often utilize oil lamps and steel pre-assembled for easy transportation. Highly insulated and well-sealed exterior envelopes, these homes are not shacks, but deliberately built structures designed to minimize their footprint and energy consumption.

When one goes offline, they’ll need a lot of creativity and fortitude.

The challenge is to remain independent while tethered to society without compromising one’s quality of life.

Generally, this means replacing energy supply with renewable alternatives. Providing energy can be a high-tech combination of photovoltaic panels, geothermal energy and/or wind turbines.

Efficient energy storage is essential. A 3kW solar panel system can produce sufficient energy for a small family. Their cost may vary and battery storage costs are dropping.

Alternative wind turbines could produce up to 5kW of energy but is unpredictable and dependent upon location. For sure, one will need a gas generator as back up.

Commercial structures strive for NZE, Net Zero Energy use. Here a building collects daily renewable energy and gives back its excess to the electric grid for a net zero energy consumption.

This may work for commercial structures during the day when closed at night but isn’t practical for residential which is generally morning and evening occupied when little or no renewable energy is available.

Residential uses will be dependent upon battery storage, which is both expensive and requires a significant amount of energy to produce. Near Net Zero (NNZE) is probably the best compromise.

We can adapt. Once we purchased our mass-produced sourdough bread but now we all love our homemade rustic loaves.

Rather than taking individual homes off the grid, we should be looking at integrating our neighborhoods to be more self-reliant and as independent as practical.

This is not science fiction. The technology is here today and the less dependent we are on monopolistic service providers, the better we all will be. This would also help lessen our carbon addiction.

The more renewable energy we create, the stronger our whole society will become.

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Burt's Bees founder next to his Cabin in the woods

Burt’s Bees Founder’s Cabin

Burt’s Bees founder Burt Shavitz was a modern day Thoreau. He loved nature and lived in a cabin much of his life.  For him, as he said before he died: “the old ways are the best ways” and “the land is everything”.

The company he founded unveiled Mr Shavitz’s  iconic, low-key cabin in January. Sadly, the company moved the rustic cabin from rural Maine to its headquarters on the American Tobacco Campus on in Durham, NC. The cabin displays Burt’s personal artefacts. The 300sq ft converted turkey coop originally had no electricity or running water.

“Burt was a living embodiment of our purpose to connect people to the wisdom, power and beauty of nature. A year after his passing, Burt’s life is a potent reminder for all of us that we can’t lose sight of our relationship with nature”, said Jim Geikie, General Manager of Burt’s Bees.

An observation bee hive was also installed to help educate the 1.5 million annual ATC visitors on bees and their importance to environment and humans. At its seasonal peak, the observation serves as a home to over 15,000 bees and is the largest of its kind in North Carolina.

Geikie spoke of his former boss’s habit of not using any electronics and instead choosing to embrace nature.”Burt used to say ‘I wake up when the sun comes in my window and go to bed when it’s too dark to read…Each day we come to work, we’ll be able to fondly remember the man who didn’t use an alarm clock and applaud his way of life as a beacon of inspiration in our hurried times”, said Geikie.

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Will Obamas stay Democrats

Obamas depart Necker haven

Barack and Michelle Obama left their relaxing 10 days off-grid vacation last Thursday. They headed back to Washington and will remain there until their daughter Sasha, 14, graduates from hSidwell Friends School.

After saying goodbye to the White House, the couple had wasted no time in boarding a private jet to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean last month. Social media was bursting with images of them posing with police and staff at Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.

The Obamas then took a boat to Necker Island, where they stayed in a resort owned by the British billionaire Richard Branson. Branson’s Caribbean home is a 74-acre stretch of sand that includes a luxurious resort for up to 30 guests. Celebrities such as Kate Winslet, Mariah Carey, Robert DeNiro and even Nelson Mandela have reportedly vacationed there.

Up for rent at $80,000 a night, this billionaire’s bolt-hole has a staff of 100 to serve guests staying in the Balinese-style villas that offer panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. The eight guest rooms and huge lounge are known to be packed with antiques from flea markets of Indonesia. There is a rooftop hot tub and the famous infinity pool, from which one can watch boats sailing close to the shore.  The Turtle beach is easy access from this point as getting to the beach no longer means tackling a steep stone staircase thanks to a speedy new zip-line.

Guests can also take part in daily feeding of the resident flamingos, lemurs, iguanas and giant tortoises during their stay.

The Obamas vacationed there with the owner Richard Branson, who recently was blessed with a grandchild. Branson took to social media about the birth and posted photos to celebrate the moment. Branson announced the good news by sharing a sweet snapshot of Sam, 31, cosying up to Isabella, 36, and Bluey.


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Inside a Dutch Houseboat

The Netherlands has long been known for its magical and magnificent houseboats across its vast network of canals, but there is a serious problem for young Dutch people who want to live aboard. With over 10,000 houseboats in Holland, the country is the houseboat capital of Europe. In Dutch capital, The Hague, boats have door steps, gardens, and nameplates.
A typical couple, Kris and Marjon, are in their late 80s. They live on the canal with their dog Gritje, and bought the boat in 1942. The two-bed boat with kitchen and bathroom is worth about £250,000 ($300,000) on the market.
As a professional timberman, Kris modified the boat and built rooms, bathroom, and a living area .
It worries them that thousands of younger people are unable to live a similar life until their generation dies out. “Buying a new boat is not possible anymore, they can only live on an existing boat. Young people in their 20’s are starting their careers and cannot afford a house boat. Partly reason being that you do not get mortgage on the boat houses, unlike land houses.”

According to the rules, one has to pay insurance in metres, also known as ‘water tax’, which goes up to about 800 euros per year. Much less than the taxes paid on land. Young people who manage to get a boat, tend to design their interior in a very modern way. Kris and Marjon have decorated their house with vintage possessions including an old telephone and a record player that still works perfectly well.
One aspect of living in a houseboat is to be more aware of the nature that surrounds you. Kris and Marjon reflected upon how knowledge has grown about eco-living and being environmentally friendly. They recall people pumping their sewage in the canal and throwing garbage in the water. But now times have changed. “Now, according to the municipality regulations, we have to pump everything in the sewage system. We are not allowed to put anything in the water” said Kris.

Caroline, a young woman in her late thirties is one of the exceptional young people who have managed to join the boaters.
She lives with her girlfriend is a well-furnished and spacious houseboat. She was spotted cutting wood near her shed. To her, the main reason why she chose to live in a boat since 2000, is to be as close as possible to nature. “Although it is in midst of a city, you are still in nature,” she explained.
When asked if it was eco-friendlier to live in this environment, she chuckled with the axe in her hand. “I think the way I am living is not so eco-friendly. I could do better. It is not easy because in a house boat, everything is easy to rebuild and restyle because it's all wood.

“Even though I have gas, I still like …

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