Last Updated on December 25, 2020 by Chandler Bing
//This blog is updated in 2021//
Globalization has brought many conveniences and interdependency, including more accessible goods from all over the world and economic growth from the fierce competition. Although the cost of transport has reduced greatly, it’s not the most sustainable benefit to the planet we live in. The cheaper transport costs allowed more frequent shipping of goods but also increased greenhouse gas emission and pollution drastically. To combat this problem, self-sufficient living is one of the effective solutions in 2021.
What is self-sufficient living?
It’s a lifestyle that encompasses the three pillars of sustainability, which includes economic, social and environmental sustainability. You provide for your own needs within your life without demanding any form of outside resources. It requires motivation as well as sound life skills for a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle. It may be difficult at first but the environmental benefits it comes with it makes it worth the effort.
What are the benefits of self-sufficient living?
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the increased levels of ozone depletion has resulted in 3% to 15% of crop losses globally. This can contribute to severe famine and economic loss. Moreover, this reinforces the horrible impacts of air pollution brought by different anthropogenic activities. A self-sufficient home not only minimizes the loss of resources and pollution but also implies that a person is independent of their own resources and is thus more adaptive to different living conditions. It’s also beneficial for low-income families as it can help them achieve economic independence and support the resilient communities. In this blog post, we’ve provided some tips on how to be self-sufficient in a city along with some useful and sustainable home renovation ideas and self-sufficient eating guides. The concept of living in off-grid homes and products will also be introduced as an example of self-sustained living!
How to be self-sufficient whilst living in a city?
Self-sufficiency is often imagined in a suburban setting, where more land is available near one’s home, such as gardens or front yards. Averagely, at least 5 acres of land is required per person to be set up a self-sufficient house, and that is if you are on a vegan diet as livestock will take up at least 30 more acres of land! This amount of land will be able to provide for the average 2,000-kcal diet for an average human. Electricity-wise, around 25 pieces of solar panels will have to be installed to power for a one-person home, which takes up 375 square foot on your roof, and that is if it’s sunny every day!
Surprisingly, with all the land required, self-sufficient living in the city is possible too. Smaller space only means that every decision you make will be more significant and thus requires more consideration. Here are some simple tips on how to be self-sufficient in an apartment, you can even create self-sustaining tiny homes!
- Plant your own food
Planting your own food is not only a healthier option as you won’t be using industrial pesticides but also a fun and rewarding home project. It can be done as long as you have a balcony or some space by the windows where plenty of sunlight comes through. Planting vegetables and herbs encourage a healthier lifestyle too as vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients. Stay tuned for some gardening tips for each type of plants!
- Go zero waste
Going zero waste is the easiest approach when it comes to self-sufficiency. It is a lifestyle that attempts to minimize waste generation by recycling, reusing, reducing (3R’s of waste management) and composting. It can be done anywhere, from your home to your workplace. In a self-sufficient home, you should be able to live zero waste because you become independent from the outside resources, which are mostly over-packaged unnecessarily.
Self-educating is one of the most important aspects of not just a self-sufficient life, but for all lifestyles. You should always inform yourself about the pros and cons of a self-sufficient lifestyle as it may not be equally accessible for everyone. Learn about what it is and how to achieve it, then most importantly: understand why you’re doing it. If you’re going to do it, why not do it the right way?
- Learn basic life skills
To set up a self-sufficient house means total independence, even with personal and home maintenance. To ensure your health and home condition, basic life skills, such as sewing, basic first aid skills and repairing electronics are vital. Luckily, most life skills can be learned from the Internet and perfected by constant practicing. So remember – practice makes perfect!
- Try to D.I.Y
Most things that we use daily can, in fact, be D.I.Y projects, ranging from cleaning sprays to furniture. Although it requires more effort, D.I.Y products are generally more sustainable and are toxin-free as they do not go through harsh industrial processes. They can also be personalized and tailored to your own liking. Check out our zero waste home blog post for some useful D.I.Y recipes!
- Go for sustainable alternatives if possible
Switch from one-off disposable and less sustainable items to more sustainable ones as they tend to last longer and save you money. For example, replace your fluorescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs as LED ones generate 95% of light energy and only 5% of heat energy, which is the “waste” it produces. They also emit less carbon dioxide and thus last longer!
Self-Sufficient Living: How To Build Sustainable Homes?
No matter what generation it is, what consists of basic needs will always be clothing, food, and most importantly, shelter. Whether it’s in an urban or rural setting, you’ll always need shelter. However, as technology progresses, sustainable home building or renovation becomes less available as construction companies aim to build faster and more lavishly. Therefore, they opt for cheaper, industrialized materials, such as reinforced concrete. To avoid these issues whilst you set up your self-sufficient home, here are ideas on how to build sustainable homes so you can become a self-sustaining home builder!
- Smart designs
Get your builders involved in your sustainable home renovation as early as possible as you can give them enough time to help you and provide you with professional advice with your self-sustained home. You can also offer them smart design suggestions that you have in mind, such as having a clear roof in the living room and dining room so sunlight could shine through to reduce the necessity of using lights during daylight hours. Work with them closely as this minimizes errors, which will effectively reduce construction waste and time in the long run.
- Choose sustainable home materials
When it comes to building or renovating, go for sustainable home materials as they are important to the longevity of the structure as they all have different features and durability. Instead of using cheap wood, more sustainable home materials, such as bamboo and reclaimed wood are more durable and environmentally friendly options. Their durability also means less maintenance and thus fewer costs in the long term!
- Consider all the furniture options
Furniture-shopping is always exciting as you can buy the trendiest and latest furniture pieces for your new home. But following trends also means that the novelty of the pieces will wear off eventually as the trends change. To avoid this, consider purchasing second-hand furniture, reusing your old ones or even raiding your friends’ and family’s homes if they are trying to get rid of old furniture! Chances are, those will be timeless pieces that can still be used for many years.
- Make it flexible
To maximize the utility of your self-sufficient home, try and make your home a flexible space. Your staircases don’t need to JUST be staircases – convert the steps into drawer spaces for more home storage! By transforming your home into a flexible space, you won’t need to buy as many furniture and will thus create less waste and own a decluttered home.
- Use sustainable alternatives when possible
When you are renovating or building your self-sustaining home, opt for sustainable alternatives when possible. We often overlook more minor items, such as wall paint and wall insulation. But in reality, we shouldn’t neglect them as they count towards a sustainable home too. For example, there are many eco-friendly wall paint available on the market that is VOC-free (VOCs are chemicals that emit greenhouse gases as they dry). Be sure to make it clear to your builders before the actual construction to make the process easier!
Food Self-Sufficiency: What are the best tips and guides?
Now that you’ve got a shelter, it’s time for food. Eating is a big part of everyone’s daily life, including those who live self-sufficiently in a homestead. The idea of growing your own garden sounds really exciting, but it may be difficult, to begin with. We’ve got you covered – here are some food self-sufficiency tips and garden-mending ideas for you!
First of all, you should make your own food compost. Simply place your food scrap, and even natural fibers like paper and cotton inside the bin and wait until it accumulates. After that, you can use the substance as soil fertilizer to enrich the quality of the soil.
Second of all, set up your self-sufficient home water system and invest in a rainwater harvesting system. The most simple and common method is to purchase a rain barrel to collect the runoff directly or from the pipes. It’s not only useful for gardening, but also for living in an off-grid homestead.
Always bear food safety in mind before you consume any product as it’s important to remain healthy in your self-sufficient journey. Scroll on for some food safety tips!
Then you can start mending your personal garden! We’ve categorized three main food groups and how to grow them.
Grains are not the easiest crop to grow at home as they generally require larger land areas. However, some are easier than the others, such as corn, millet, and spelled. They grow easily even in poor soil conditions but they all are sensitive to extreme temperatures.
Fruits and Vegetables
Unlike grains, fruits and vegetables are easy to grow anywhere as they tend to not be confined by the amount of space available. For example, peas can be planted and grown within a pot. Some fruits and vegetables to grow faster than the others, such as tomatoes and all kinds of beans, but they still grow relatively fast. Often, they bloom beautiful, edible flowers too!
Herbs are a popular option to plant by many people’s kitchen window as they are easy to maintain and are often used daily. They grow rapidly from their own seeds and can be picked regularly once they’ve grown. In fact, the more regularly you pick the herbs, the more flavourful they become!
Food Safety Guidelines
After you’ve grown your own plants, it’s finally time to enjoy your delicious produce! But before that, be sure not to forget your own health and safety. To help you out, we’ve got some food safety tips to help you out. Follow these simple food safety guidelines and you’ll be enjoying the fruit of your hard work safely. (Get it?)
1 Wash everything
Wash everything, from your hands to your food before consumption! Although you may not use harsh industrial pesticides, bacteria still accumulates on the fresh produce. To avoid giving yourself health problems, wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly!
2 Process the food
By processing the food, such as stir-frying or drying, the temperature will remove the bacteria effectively. Not only will they make them safer to consume, but their longevity will also increase too. Read until the end for some food preparation products.
3 Store them safely
After you’ve picked or processed your food, store them safely from bacteria to increase their shelf lives. Invest in sealable containers to keep your food fresh and place them in refrigerators if possible!
Off-Grid Home: How-To and Sustainable Products
One of the most significant examples of a self-sufficient home is an off-grid homestead. Its name is its definition: a home that is completely off all the official grids, such as electrical and hydrological. It requires the occupant(s) to be completely self-sufficient and provide for everything, including food self-sufficiency and energy self-sufficiency.
To do so, a few things must be considered beforehand. Firstly, decide what power option to use, which includes solar power, hydraulic power, and wind power. Installing them alternative energy sources can be costly but it’s one of the most cost-saving and sustainable options in the long term. Secondly, set up your self-sufficient home water system. The easiest method is installing wells and rainwater barrels to harvest rainwater for your daily water use. Thirdly, consider your heating options. In some geographical areas, geothermal heating units can be installed. In those that cannot invest in a stove for the colder winter months. Fourthly, grow your own food, as previously mentioned. The rainwater harvested can be used for watering and the food compost can be used as fertilizers too! Investing in a set of sustainable homeware and off-grid living products will help you go a long way. But before you embark on the off-grid journey, it’s important to understand the how-to’s as it requires a set of survival skills. To make your self-sufficient lifestyle easier, we’ve got some sustainable products for you to begin with!
- Water Filter System
Water is one of the basic necessities in everyone’s life, but it must be processed to be safely consumed. When there is no time to boil water, what can you do? The water filter is the answer. To fulfill your daily dietary needs, here are two easy-to-use water filters that can ensure the quality of your drinking water and keep you hydrated.
- Sustainable Lightbulbs
As much as you can apply smart designs all over self-sustaining homes, there would still be insufficient light for the night time. This can cause serious danger as the occupant may trip and fall. Worry not, as there are sustainable solar-powered light bulbs that can lighten up your room after soaking up sunlight for a whole day!
- Sustainable food containers
Growing your own food is a cost-friendly and fun activity, but chances are that you won’t be able to finish all the food on time. Invest in some sturdy food containers that can preserve your food for longer use. That way, your fresh produce, and leftovers will have a much longer shelf life.
- Food Preparation Products
Apart from sealing them in an air-tight container, another way to increase the shelf life of your food is to process them. Drying food out is an efficient way to preserve it as well as to lock up its flavors. Solar cookers are also a sustainable food preparation utensil that allows you to process the food in many ways and meal-prep for the week!
- Off-grid Electric Products
Amongst all renewable energy sources, solar energy is the most reliable one. Thus, it’s widely used to generate electricity all over the world. Here are some off-grid electric products, such as solar-panel chargers that are easy to carry and use so you can travel around with portable electricity supply!
- Rainwater Harvesting Products
Rainwater harvesting and harnessing is the vital self-sufficient home water system as mentioned, but it may be difficult to store water when there is either too much or too little rain. We’ve got your back, as we’ve got some handy products that can help you harvest and store rainwater! Apart from the traditional gravitational water pumps and rain barrel, there are air-to-water generators that convert the moisture in the air into the water to use during dryer seasons. Alternatively, reusable water storage bags are available to store and purify water during the wetter seasons.
- Portable Toilet Products
When you first move into a homestead or when there is simply no water supply available and you desperately need the bathroom, a portable toilet set can help you out. It comes with Eco Gel, which solidifies liquid and bio-hazard labeled bags for disposal. It’s also incredibly convenient and easy to use. So next time when you need the loo, look no further!
- Sustainable Showers
When you’re in a homestead with no bathroom, sustainable showers are your savior. Powered by solar energy, they produce hot water just as efficiently as a normal shower. Not only is it reusable, but it also takes up very little space as it can be folded up and stored away when you travel.
Self-sufficient living is definitely a big lifestyle change and can be very daunting. Humans are also social animals and therefore will inevitably find it difficult to live alone in a self-sufficient home. But gravitating towards this way of life undoubtedly has a lot of personal, economic and environmental benefits, so why not make your way on this journey as a community? As you would with anything new, do some more research so you have enough basic knowledge and skills, as safety is always the priority!
If the tips for a self-sufficient home and lifestyle above helped you, or if you’re interested in a sustainable home renovation and sustainable renovation ideas, click here to check out more interior design portfolios of one person design firms partnered with archiparti, feel free to get in touch for a quotation and more project advice.