Big Life, Small Footprint

Posted September 21, 2017

If you’d rather listen to the podcast, click the play button.

Be mindful of the environment.” That well-meaning sentiment sounds silly to me. It seems to imply that Earth functions well outside of my experience and she desperately needs her baseboards cleaned.

If ever I had a squamous cell of doubt that any of my parts – mind, body or soul – is separate from the environment, then it took its leave somewhere in the last 430 days of LIB. Every moment – whether wide awake or in a deep sleep while tiny footed critters traipse upon the aluminum roof above – my senses are in thrall with the oneness of it all.

Aqua Caliente Campground, Ocotillo California

We are not “in” the environment, we are the environment – so, naturally, we work with the earth to both protect and exploit her to our advantage. And it seems to be working. When Jim and I do the most efficient or desirable thing for ourselves, She rewards us.

Avery Island, Louisianna

For example, boondocking off-grid in paradise on fifty-nine gallons of fresh water for two weeks isn’t about being “green.” LIB is the goal. And “leave no trace” is a no-brainer because we certainly don’t want our favorite places closed off or ruined due to abuse. Clean-living is clean-leaving and “doing unto others” is also an indirect message to the next camper to pass it on.

Fiddler’s Cove, Coronado California

There are a few more self-serving “green” things we do because ... duh.

  • Solar regenerates our batteries. We’ve only had the solar/inverter installation for a few months and it’s the next best thing to having wings. And even though that technology isn’t supposed to be necessary when we’re in a place with safe electrical hook-ups, it still comes in handy. This summer alone, three different power grids failed on us. No big deal when that happens, now.
Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream. Wilton, California
Happy Hour at Wine Country RV Resort, Paso Robles

… the little Weber 50060001 Q1000 Liquid Propane Grill handles grilling with minimal impact and clean-up.

Myrtle Beach State Park
  • We’re paperless – E-cards from Jacquie Lawson or Rubber Chicken assist with our personal correspondence. All our photos and documents are scanned and stored digitally. We’ve managed to arrange 95% of our snail mail into email (an ongoing task). We bank online and use electronic checks. All literature is stored on our e-readers. A phone app called Scanner Pro converts paperwork to PDF.
  • We’re seriously water efficient. We never hook-up to shore water – we just refill our tank, filtering as it enters using the Camco 40631 EVO Premium Water Filter. Then, we filter again at the sink with our wonderful purification system, The PurestOne (tm) UC-1 UnderCounter Water Purifier Filter System. Save, Save, Save!, which makes our water the same color and taste wherever we go. Leaving our water pump off when it’s not in use keeps us continually aware of our water consumption so we don’t have to relearn that discipline when we boondock.
  • We don’t use pesticides or detergents – also a no-brainer since I’m allergic to both. Apple cider vinegar sprayed around the tires handles ant infestations. Otterwax Insect Repellant and citronella candles (only outside) deter mosquitoes. Lye soap flakes handle the laundry and we do not use bleach or softening agents. For household cleaning, we have reusable microfibre cloths and our homemade disinfectant wet-wipes.
  • No Beverage Waste. Making our own beverages, even on towing days, gives us that at home feeling of self-reliance. Disposables are a hassle – the weight, bulk, and restocking are a pain. Jim has mastered low-tech bistro-style coffee, and he brews our tea – so, very low waste. Sparkly water and ice are necessary for the civilized life so, I have a SodaStream Soda Maker, two bottles, and extra gas stored in the pantry. Our portable ice maker and ice-efficient OtterBox insulated tumblers keep our drinks fresh all day.

… and, at 5 o’clock, few luxuries can compare to shaking a martini with ice manufactured from solar power while camping off-grid.

We drink only draft beer, no bottles or cans, and any decent brewery or pub will fill our OtterBox Growler which keeps brew fresh and cold for days without refrigeration.

Kirsten delivers our filled OtterBox growler at the Brass Tap in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
  • We’re surprisingly fuel and energy efficient. Our clean diesel Ram 2014 truck averages around fourteen miles per gallon and leaves no noxious polluting fumes. Our exhaust is nothing more than harmless nitrogen and water. But, unless we’re towing, we rarely drive The Beast. We prefer to walk or ride bikes. We’ll cycle fifteen to twenty miles round trip (depending on the grade) to visit a good cafe or brewery.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin

If the destination is in a congested urban area and beyond our cycling range we take Lyft and Uber. Public transportation and private ferries are a rare bonus.

The rig is being backed into the Lake Michigan Ferry for a four-hour lake crossing.
  • Propane runs the refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, and furnace. There’s no need to keep water hot 24-7, so we turn on the hot water heater about fifteen minutes before use – usually twice a day – and the water remains warm for hours after it’s turned off. We’re researching hot water on demand systems to replace our old system when it breaks down – but for now, it’s no big deal to plan fifteen minutes ahead. Though we seldom use it, we have a generator that runs on propane and gas. We average one seven gallon propane tank a month.

For travel days, we make our own no-cook fast food.

When settled in, we eat a lot of raw greens, fruits and nuts and like to cook roots, veggies, eggs and grains.

Oatmeal cooked in broth with mushrooms, garlic & onion, served with basted eggs tomatoes and grilled peppers. A favorite for breakfast or brinner.

and we make our own whole grain bread.

Pompe À l’Huile (sweet olive oil bread)

To avoid stinky waste, we prefer to eat out for meat and fish …

Pier House Restaurant, Myrtle Beach

With LED lighting and solar power, we can enjoy lighting, music, computers, television, hairdryer, and ventilation system for free.

Jim upgraded all light fixtures to LED

Low Disposables. Though we haven’t measured, it is obvious our waste and recyclables are low. Tires, fuel, rubber gloves, (for tank dump time) dog-poop and bags, paper products: towels, bowls, plates, and toilet paper are our primary disposables. We’re always on the prowl for new techniques for paper efficiency – to find the balance between water and paper use. For example, Jim can use either water or paper towels to clean his french press, and I can serve on paper plates and bowls rather than wash our dishes. Nano Towels for indoor and outdoor use help to control paper use but to clean them requires a lot of water. So, when we’re near a potable water source, we depend more on washable fabric towels and rags to make up for those times when water is limited and paper dependency rises.

Often, at the end of the day – while sipping martinis by the fire – we think about the good old days, laugh at our many mistakes and wonder how we ever managed.

Dreher Island State Park

Then, we start solving the problems of the world … Perhaps most houses of the future will be opportunistically off-grid? Independently equipped to collect and store natural resources and have technology to monitor the quality, quantity and daily usage of air and water? Then, in response to wildfires, floods, storms, earthquakes, drought, famine, in-laws – God willing the houses can roll, fly or float – they move on.

Yeah … But will they still call this, “livin’ the dream”?

Enoree River Winery in Newberry, South Carolina