Monday, 28 April 2008

How to live off-grid

Got sent a review copy of "How to live off-grid" by Nick Rosen.

Apparently he is an award winning journalist and documentary maker, for PBS Frontlineand Channel 4 Dispatches amongst others.

This is a new concept to me, living "off-grid" but I guess it may be something we all could do well to find out more about. With the credit crunch, building a yurt in a forest maybe the only option for some of us!

"Off-Grid" means living without mains water and power, sewage and a landline. If you are cut off from the mains you have no choice but to conserve power and water as much as you can, and perhaps, as Nick Rosen would say, makes you more in harmony with nature.

The book charts his journey around Britain in a camper van meeting people who live outside the system and off the grid, i.e. not on mains water and not on the national grid for electricity.

For more information about living off-grid, you can go to Nick Rosen's site.

Read this book whilst waiting for my daughter to be born last month, and it was interesting, challenging and informative. Made the hours of waiting and worrying a lot more bearable.

The style annoyed me a bit at first as it was part travel log, part off-grid guidebook but I soon warmed to it. In some ways, it was like a conversation, rather like a blog, and because of this, it did bring some of the characters and experiences Nick Rosen had a bit more to life.

The UK certainly has some eccentric and some inspirational people around, as well as some con-merchants cashing in on the green thing.

Worth a mention is Nigel Lowthrop, who on leaving the RAF, bought Hill Holt Wood , moved his family there and created a social enterprise with a sustainable income from the wood that involves the whole community and helps disadvataged children. Politicians are taking an interest in learning from and replicating such pioneers and schemes, which must be a good thing.

I am not sure I will rush to buy an old bus off eBay, off-grid it with solar panels etc and fill the tank with old chip fat and drive my family into the wilds of the UK.

Can't afford it for a start and all the energy saving measures I would like to install at home are just beyond us financially because the technology is so expensive still in the UK.

Not only that, trying build a house in the middle of no where off-grid seems like too much hassle to navigate the labyrinthine planning regulations and application process.

If you are rich, you can probably find a way through quite easily. That said, the book has some innovative, brave and driven people, like Mr Lowthrop and family, who make a success of it.

Good luck to them and I would heartily recommend this book as an enjoyable window on the world of living off-grid.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Another option to manage junk and unwanted communications

In this lead up to the local elections, I am more conscious of the amount of junk mail we get through our letter box.

Most people have come across the Mail Preference Service, which is a free service to help you manage that unwanted junk mail that usually ends up straight in the recycling unread (at least if you are anything like our household).

I got an email about a new free service called Choose Your Mail, which takes the MPS a bit further by allowing you specify what direct mail you don't mind receiving.

Apparently, UK households receive something like 6.3 billion items of junk mail per year and most of it ends up in the bin unread.

In addition, if you receive annoying cold calls on the telephone, there is also the Telephone Preference Service to try out.

It isn't foolproof but it does reduce the calls a bit.

I haven't tried this yet but there is also an Email Preference Service to, which is another weapon against spam.

Trading Standards are the place to go if your life continues to be hounded by unsolicited calls, post or emails.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Liberal Democrats can't spell, but support the lorry ban

The Liberal Democrats have been doing their best to fill up my recycling box with numerous leaflets and newsletters.
Mind you, so has Labour.
I had to post this article from their Norwich Mail newsletter. Not because of the worthy campaign to block lorries from using the cycle lane on Newmarket Road.
Rather the fact that the current Councillor for Eaton is holding a makeshift sign that has a spelling mistake on it. Can you spot it (and no, there is no prize)?
Yes, I'm being pedantic. It does not inspire much confidence though, as the inability to spell or quality check your communications when you plan to abolish one tax and replace it with another.

At the last general election, I checked out the Lib Dem's new tax proposals and my household was significantly worse off. We aren't well off so that wasn't an attractive proposition.
Much as I agree with some Lib Dem ideas and have voted for them in the past, I am concerned about whether they really know what they are doing. In this case it may only be forgetting to spell check a road name.
I do hope that lorries will be kept out of this cycle lane, not least as it was only recently that a cyclist was killed on Newmarket Road.
Fingers crossed that the 500+ signatures handed in to City Hall by the Lib Dems will end this bad idea before it is given a trial.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Energy Wasting Day on 1st April

In the true spirit of impartiality and balance, you might want to support today's Energy Wasting Day?

Dan Power is promoting the unnecessary use of energy and suggests that you:
  • Leave the lights on when you leave the room
  • Fill your kettle to the brim
  • Turn up your thermostat to the max
  • Wash at 90 degrees for the ultimate clean

It's easy to waste energy and find out some top tips from Dan Power on YouTube.