Environment and Climate Change, life

Livin’ the high life “off-gird”

Rooms inside an off-grid house
Rooms inside an off-grid house

The push for becoming environmentally friendly and responsible has now taken a new turn. Its not just reducing your carbon foot print or disposing your recycling in the appropriately marked bins.

There is more to it than taking three minute showers or using a plant based product as popularized by Jennifer Aniston. Some Canadian households are turning to a completely different lifestyle. They are going “off the grid”.

The EPIC Vancouver, Sustainable Living Expo is to be held from May 08- 10 at the New Vancouver Convention Centre. The three day event features everything “Green”. From Eco-Supermodel Summer Rayne Oakes talking about sustainable style and beauty to Vancouver’s top Green chef’s it is a one stop shop for eco-friendly good samaritans.

Initially the term “off-grid”  brings to mind visions of dark communes and societies that exist on bare essentials without plumbing and eating raw meat, but this is no secret cabal. It is just a human connection and the urge to save our planet’s dwindling resources.

” For a person like me who had never gone camping in the most scenic locations with all the Mopark accessories, the idea of living off the grid seemed outrageous.” said Nathan Barbosa.

Then he got hired as the Business Development Manager for a Vancouver renewable energy company, and that proved to be iconoclastic for his thought processes.

” It was not easy to leave my beautifully equipped penthouse and move to a solar panel equipped house in the suburbs, but it was worth the effort.” Barbosa reminsces.

Now he lives independent of muncipal electricity system without any power lines hooked to his house.  The roof of the house is covered in solar photovoltaic panels and evacuated tubes. These store natural renewable energy in form of batteries for running his appliances around the house.

Solar Panels on an off-grid house.
Solar Panels on an off-grid house.

Given the BC weather it is bad news when there is no sun to store energy in the solar panels, but this is when Barbosa switches to a propane generator, especially in the winters. 

This lifestyle is not cheap. It costs between $40,000- $50,000 for a four kilo-watt hybrid solar and wind system. People seem to be latching on to the idea. 

For those who are not familiar with the concept there are many websites such as www.treehugger.com and http://www.off-grid.net/ that can entice people into starting to recognize the importance of renewable energy.

” When the adjustment period is over it is a healthy lifestyle.  If my TV stops working, I rely on my iPod to keep me energized ” joked Barbosa.

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Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Sustainability and climate change: Need action Now

Cullis-Suzuki at UBC

Severn Cullis- Suzuki and Stephen Lewis were at UBC as part of the “Students for Sustainability” tour.

Here are the two articles I wrote that got published in the NowPublic and The Ubyssey.

Environmentalists Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Stephen Lewis are calling on governments globally to “force” sustainability measures on their citizens and want action now.

Cullis- Suzuki, the daughter of renowned activist David Suzuki and Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat, were speaking to a gathering of students at University of British Columbia (UBC). They outlined a plan of action to address global warming that includes the urgent need for government leaders to provide pragmatic solutions to climate change crisis.

Lewis called it a “desperate moment in time”. Cullis-Suzuki reiterated, “Human societies never change unless they are forced to, and the problem is that our elected leaders are not implementing them.”

His main concern was about working towards sustainability as a common goal, not for the ways governments planned on handling the issue.

“I don’t care whether the answer is a carbon tax which appeals to me more than other regiments …. I really don’t care what you use…it has to be done and political interventions are necessary.” Lewis said.

The talk was part of the Canada wide 21 university campus tour lasting 30 days. The “Students for Sustainability” tour was aimed at creating awareness about climate change and the environment among university students.

The tour came about after realizing Federal government of Canada’s inability to meet the international obligations for lowering carbon emissions. Canada had committed to reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012, instead greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 27% in 2004.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Sierra Youth Coalition and the David Suzuki Foundation together have mobilized students across Canada to put pressure on politicians to take action on climate change and other environmental issues. The students at each campus were asked to sign a petition to support the sustainability cause which will be presented to the Parliament in November 2008.

UBC was the second to last university for the tour, launched from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 30 and ended at the University of Victoria, BC.

Cullis-Suzuki put the onus on students to recruit parents for becoming more environmentally friendly, as their challenge is far more powerful than any other person.

“Use your inter-generational power. These people [parents] are still decision makers in our society,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

Cullis-Suzuki had optimistic hopes about the future, “Each of us directs the future by what kind of difference each of us makes. How we make that difference is up to us.”

Faiza Zia Khan