Off-the-grid means living a self-sufficient life without relying on public utilities. Off-gridders, the name for people who live this lifestyle, can function without being connected to the electrical grid. A true off-the-grid home can operate completely independently of public water, sewer and natural gas utility services. One Dutch company, called Sustainer Homes, has created houses made from shipping containers that could very well be the ultimate off-the-grid home. Not only are they sustainable – as the company name indicates – but they also allow you to live anywhere in the world.
The housing crisis
The Sustainer Homes team created their houses in response to the housing crisis faced by young people. Indeed, being able to own a house is becoming a remote possibility for many millennials. Rising house prices mean half a million more young people could be living with their parents in the next decade. There’s no shame in this, as it’s not young people’s fault. However, millennials would obviously prefer to live independently.
Sustainer Homes could be the answer to this growing problem. A fully furnished house for two costs $82,500, which is far lower than any young person in the Western world would end up paying for a mortgage.
Living a life of travel
As previously mentioned, Sustainer Homes are made from shipping containers, which makes them portable. The fact that the homes are off-the-grid capable also means you can transport them to anywhere in the world and live a self-sufficient lifestyle.
While young people would certainly like to own a home, they are also obsessed with travel. Owning a house keeps you fixed in one location that you may not want to stay in permanently, especially if you’re more interested in living a life that is nomadic, exploratory and close to nature.
Sustainer Homes can give you this freedom of mobility, all while having the perfectly designed home that is completely yours. This certainly seems more attractive than living a nomadic life that involves the stress of constantly having to find a new place to live and staying in apartments and hotels that just don’t feel like home.
Red Planet previously highlighted that a tiny house allows you to travel with your home. Nonetheless, these kinds of homes may be just too small for most people – families, in particular. Sustainer Homes, on the other hand, are considerably larger and so are ideal for those who don’t want to live as minimally as possible.
Sustainer Homes will also appeal to those who are serious about living sustainably. The fact that they use old shipping containers already makes them environmentally-friendly. In contrast, building a standard home requires the use of many resources.
Each home comes fully equipped with household appliances and a fully completed interior constructed almost entirely out of ECOboard – a low energy material made from pressed grass. The Sustainer Homes team have also paid special attention to sustainability by creating lead-free taps, chairs made from old refrigerators, and using paint based on linseed oil.
Drinking water is supplied by filtered rainwater, while wastewater is filtered before being returned to the ground in order to get rid of contaminants. The home can operate completely off-the-grid and is powered by solar and wind energy. The use of both solar arrays and wind turbines can afford homeowners energy security by producing around 5,000 kWh each year.
Heating is provided by a heat pump, with sustainable insulation materials that work to minimise heat loss. Sustainer Homes are extremely energy-efficient and low impact. The company claims that you can cut back on 90% of CO2 emissions by owning one of their homes instead of a traditional house. Gert van Vugt, the CEO of Sustainer Homes, says “every home built through traditional means is a missed opportunity” – a missed opportunity to live more sustainably.
As we look to colonise Mars, experts are figuring out what our homes on the Red Planet should look like. If we want to colonisation a truly sustainable enterprise, then we should use Sustainer Homes as inspiration for how to make life on Mars as energy-efficient and low impact as possible. It would be unwise to build homes on the Red Planet in the way that we build traditional homes now.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
Sam is a writer who is especially interested in space exploration, sustainability, tech, agriculture, and nutrition.