How to Go off Grid in the City
Going off grid in the city is a really wild way of reducing your carbon footprint, your bills and probably your circle of friends, as all your time will be spent either trying to grow your food or praying for the sun to shine in order to dry your hair. It’s also a brilliant way to ease anxiety because if that rather dicey situation in North Korea or Russia, or indeed anything to do with Donald Trump, ever escalates, you will be apocalypse-ready. Clemmie Hambro tells us how it’s done. Artwork by Michalis Christodoulou.
You will need
A wind turbine, some solar panels, a compost loo, a vegetable garden and perhaps a wind-up radio.
Food. Go into your garden and remove every single shrub and flower. Using a power drill (while you still have electricity) and recycled railway sleepers, create six raised beds into which you will start a highly organised crop-rotation system. This is utterly essential in order to survive. In the last remaining corner, you will need a chicken coup and many chickens. Eggs and pulses are about to become your main protein source. Unless you have room for a cow. Or a pig.
Electricity. Having re-charged your power drill, carefully climb up onto your roof and detach your satellite dish. In its place, firmly attach a wind turbine. While you are up there, you might want to screw in those solar panels you ordered off the internet when you still had Wi-Fi. There will be some instructions on how to convert the energy created into usable electricity, so make sure you give those a good read. Disconnect all mains-supplied electricity and gas and pray the sun shines or there is a strong wind sometime soon.
Heat. Rip out your beautiful, stainless-steel, six-burner Gaggenau stove and replace with a multi-purpose, wood-burning stove. Praying your drill doesn’t need charging again, somehow connect all your heating and hot water pipes to this piece of kit. You will also need a wheelbarrow to take to the park in order to collect fallen wood to keep the stove lit. There will never be enough, but you might find some juicy nettles for soup. You can simmer these, along with your courgette glut, eggs and pulses on a small electric hob. (See step 2 regarding electricity supply).
Composting. To be truly, wildly off-grid you need to forgo all those lovely services that make city life vaguely bearable. Namely, rubbish collection. Where your bins used to live (ripping out that very chic and oddly expensive bin house with the sedum roof you had built last year) make at least three compost bays. Into this will go all your green waste, i.e., everything apart from cooked food.
There may be flies due to the nature of anaerobic digestion, but keep it well ventilated, turn it often and occasionally have a little wee on it (ammonia speeds up the process of decay) and you will soon have lovely, rich compost to dig back into your vegetable beds. Cooked food is more of a problem, unless you got that pig. You will need to purchase a HOT composter, which looks like a Tardis but will, after a lot of persuasion, turn your cooked food into compost. Did I mention the need for extra pest control? You might need some rat poison, but not too much.
Harvesting rainwater. The planet is basically going to hell in a handcart due to the amount of wasted run-off water created by compacted soil and the large amount of concrete needed to build a city. Now you are off-grid, it is your moral responsibility to right this wrong. Using a saw, hack off about 5ft from the bottom of all your drainpipes. Underneath place large water butts into which you will collect all that lovely rainwater which would otherwise go to waste. It now doesn’t matter that you had to give up your gym membership, as you will get plenty of resistance and weight-training from ferrying large buckets of water around your garden, up your stairs to flush the loo and from rinsing out your knickers at the end of the day.
Forget the whole thing and go on some sort of camping/eco holiday in order to assuage your carbon footprint guilt. (Although don’t forget to stock up on some tinned cannellini beans in case of apocalypse.)