Instead, they grew their own food in an organic garden, fished, raised chickens, and used what nature had to offer without offending or destroying her. Greg built his home with old-fashioned tools and recycled materials.
How do you survive and support your family while living off the grid? Greg and a couple of friends started making and selling wooden buttons and products from waste material from the logging industry.
He created the Eartheasy website in 2000. Eartheasy provides “solutions for sustainable living,” but the site isn’t just a portal for purchasing goods. Greg, Lindsay, and their sons Ben and Aran provide a comprehensive resource for people searching for ways to live a simpler lifestyle in harmony with nature.
Greg and his family have lived a wonderful life without many of the things that some of us can’t do without, and they are happy and healthy. He shares their experiences and provides a bounty of information for others who want to live a more fulfilling life while sending less stuff to the landfill. Eartheasy also provides plenty of information for city dwellers who want a better quality of life for their family.
Greg was kind enough to share some of his insight and experience with us:
I am sitting here and thinking about everything in my tiny house that runs on electricity while reading your story of living off the grid. Sometimes we have blackouts that last for a few hours or a day. Everyone in the neighborhood panics because they can’t do anything – yet you’ve built a wonderful life for your family. Not everyone can do what you do, but are there more gentle ways to ease ourselves into less dependence on electric power?
Greg: Spending time in nature and partaking in activities like camping and exploring can build self-confidence, so when unexpected events such as power outages happen, it’s easier to adapt and cope with the situation.
We chose a simpler lifestyle, without electricity, wanting to slow things down and focus on raising a family without the over-stimulation and distractions that are part of modern life. People living in urban areas can benefit by substituting some video-game or TV time with family pastimes and unwired activities.
Clean electric power, of course, is a great benefit to people. I wouldn’t give up my solar powered refrigerator for anything!
You’ve built a successful family business that sells sustainable products, but more importantly, encourages and teaches people how to live a simpler and fulfilling life and respect natural resources. Do you find that more people are seeking out products and information to help change the way they live?
Greg: Yes. I think people are well-intentioned, but it’s difficult to balance environmental stewardship with the needs, real or perceived, of modern lifestyles. Now that the debate over climate change is over, there is a growing interest in living within the limits of our environment. The trend towards sustainable solutions is clearly accelerating.
When we live in cities, I think we become immune in some ways to the beauty in the world. How has living in harmony with nature changed you? What do you experience that makes it worth giving up easy comforts and bright lights?
Greg: I enjoyed my years living in cities. Living in nature is rewarding in other ways. We enjoy the peace and quiet, the wildlife, and surrounding natural beauty. We felt a sense of control raising our young children, since there were fewer outside influences. Building a home and garden as a family has brought us many shared experiences. As a parent, it’s rewarding to see the children learn basic skills and be at home in nature. Mankind has evolved to live in natural environments, so I think it’s healthy for children to have lots of time in nature to learn the basics in life.
For those who do live in cities, how can they make positive change to bring more sustainable practices into their lives? People living in apartment buildings and condos don’t really have a lot of say in how the building is run with regard to energy, recycling, and other initiatives unless they can influence condo boards or management.
Greg: In some ways, people living in cities may feel detached from the natural world, making it harder to seek out solutions which benefit the environment. But when I go to town, I’m impressed by the community gardens, recycling programs, bike lanes, car sharing programs, and other initiatives for positive change. People living in cities have a distinct advantage which gives them voice – each other! Witness the huge march in New York and other cities last month during the Climate Change March. City dwellers may feel frustrated on the micro level that they have fewer ways of contributing to sustainability, but on the macro level, the collective influence of city dwellers is a powerful agent of change.
You mentioned to me that you were working on the harvest. What do you grow around your island home and how do you preserve food for the winter or the season where there is no fresh produce?
Greg: Our garden is geared towards providing produce through the winter months when local fresh produce is harder to come by. We grow only one bed of salad greens, planted successively, which gives us greens all summer, and one or two Brassica beds to keep us in supply of Broccoli and Kale. But 80% of our garden space is given over to winter storage crops like potatoes, onions, winter squash, garlic, beans, tomatoes, and other crops that can be canned or frozen. We try to grow 40 – 50 Buttercup squash each summer, which gives us one squash per week all year. That one squash finds its way into meals every day of the week. Yellow-orange fruit, such as winter squash, provide the vitamins and minerals needed during the winter months, so we prize the squash crop.
Let’s face it, there is that side of technology, such as TV and video games, that sometimes lulls us into a kind of ennui, but there are also advantages to access to these things. Do you think that the way you raised your sons in companionship with nature has given them a deeper appreciation for what is important in life?
Greg: I think any child raised with access to nature will benefit by the life lessons nature provides. Today, my children draw inspiration, adventure, perspective, and comfort from their appreciation of nature. Technology has wonderful benefits, of course, and today my children benefit from the technology which enables them to run an online business. Like many things, it requires some self-restraint to find a balance between technology and the enjoyment of nature.
What is the most brilliant innovation you have come across that helps people and the planet?
Greg: A few years back, Time magazine ran an issue on the “best inventions of the year.” The #1 invention was a small portable water filter called LifeStraw, which enabled people in developing countries without access to safe drinking water to drink untreated water safely, and without using chemicals. It also meant that families no longer needed to build fires to boil water for safe drinking, and this freed up the children who gathered the firewood to attend school. Because the fires are no longer needed to sanitize water, the nearby forests are no longer being decimated for firewood. So providing access to safe drinking water has had quite a positive ripple effect.
We were so taken by the LifeStraw technology that we worked to become the North American distributor for LifeStraw, which is popular with hikers, campers, travelers, and for emergency preparedness. LifeStraw is a brilliant product, and we are fortunate to be able to represent LifeStraw in the US and Canada.
Thank you, Greg! We will definitely take inspiration from you and your family.
Everyone, what are you doing to create a more sustainable life? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.