As uncertainty about the U.S. economy grows, many U.S. residents are preparing for the worst. The terms “prepper” and “off the grid” have become common in conversation, especially within the libertarian and constitutionalist political groups. One way in which “preppers” are getting “off the grid” is by purchasing large chunks of land and creating earth friendly sustainable homesteads in an attempt to increase their independence from government and traditional sources of food, water, and energy. But reducing reliance on government, public utilities, and food suppliers can be quite an initial investment. There are resourceful ways to make this move a little less expensive. One way is to consider building a homestead from low cost or free recycled products.
The latest trend in recycled buildings is a home construction plan called an “Earthship” which is constructed primarily of used and discarded tires. The tires are filled with dirt from the land, compressed and packed into the tire to create a brick, forming the foundation and outer walls of the home.
Tire haulers typically charge auto shops and tire shops a disposal fee to pick up and discard their old used tires. The tire hauler then takes the tires to a disposal source (typically a recycle center that chops up the tire and burns them for fuel). When the tire hauler drops the tire at the recycle center, they pay a fee to dispose of the tire. Tire haulers are usually willing to drop the tires at your desired location if within reasonable distance from their location because it will save them from having to pay a disposal fee. (Be really careful about transporting tires on your own if someone is willing to provide you with the tires but not haul them. Hauling tires requires a license that is monitored by the Federal Government due to waste and disposal guidelines). A simple Google search for tire haulers in any city could provide a source of free tires.
While a tire home can be resourceful, it can also be a labor intensive process that is lengthy and much more complex than it appears from the onset. Although tires compose the predominant portion of the home, unless a person is willing to rough it like a camp site, the home will also need a fairly traditional roof, water source, energy, sewage, and a controlled air system.
While it would be ideal to purchase land with a water source, it is not always affordable or reliable. Having a back-up source of water is necessary to sustain life, grow crops, and remove waste. The Earthship design incorporates a water cistern, some of which can hold up to 4000 gallons of water or more and can be incorporated into the home like traditional plumbing. The expense of the cisterns can be hefty, up to nearly $2,000 each for the larger ones. Smaller cisterns that hold 325 gallons of water can be used initially to reduce the expense but would create an inconvenience of more frequent filling, especially if rainfall is less than adequate to keep it filled for the amount of water used by a family living in the home.
The cisterns can be made to capture and filter rain water, replenishing any water usage and providing a sustainable water source. While rain water might be sufficient for bathing and cleaning, making rain water consumable requires a filter to remove contaminants from the rain water and debris in the containers. Contaminants such a bird droppings, bugs, and other debris can cause major illnesses and even death. Filters can be made or purchased at a cost, but typically are not extremely cheap either. One idea would be to use a gravity filter. Alex Jones sells a Pro Pur system for about $300 that can be used for any consumable water and can be used even with well water, river water, lakes or ponds.
Solar power has also become extremely common with preppers who want to get off the grid and stop relying on the electric company to provide them with energy in addition to a monthly bill. Solar power is not as difficult as it looks and with a battery box and some inverters, a few panels can provide a substantial amount of free power for a conservative energy user. An easy Do-it-Yourself solar project can be seen on GreenPowerScience and includes a diagram of how to connect solar panels in a sequence, connect them to batteries for energy storage and how to test them. The most complicated part of setting up solar power is finding the proper cables and wiring to attach all the components of the system. For a simple set up, most components can be found on line if you know what you are looking for. Harbor Freight even sells an entire solar system package for under $200 that will provide a 50 Watt power source. This is hardly enough to sustain most energy needs and multiple systems would need to be purchased, but is a carefree way of having power without the headache of research. It is a good start, but not to be relied on for any long term energy needs.
In considering a green, do-it-yourself, recycled construction type home like the Earthships that are an increasing trend, make sure to do the research, compare products and look for any free materials or volunteer labor available. An Earthship construction plan will make the project more affordable and reduce costly errors that need to be corrected after building has already started. Building a sustainable homestead can be a fun adventure but will also prove to be a lot of work especially with limited knowledge or building experience.