Off the grid 

Scheduled to last an hour, the Dec. 1 event stretched close to double that, as dozens of audience members asked questions and shared ideas.

“This is probably the biggest group we’ve ever talked to,” Johnson said. “I’m amazed. I’m overwhelmed.”

Johnson and Hagen, married since 1987, reside on acreage northeast of Oklahoma City. They call it the Homestead School — not because they feel like they’re teachers, but because of what they’ve learned from their home.

The couple use old and new technology to live “off the grid.” They grow much of their own food, generate their own electricity, provide their own heating, pump and purify their own water, and use as little fossil fuel and externally generated energy as possible.

right, Bruce Johnson, outside Homestead School

While a gallon of gasoline generates about 36 kilowatt hours worth of electricity, Johnson said, his home operates on about one kilowatt hour per day.

Both said they actually produce very little electricity, but what they do make comes mostly from solar energy, backed up by a wind turbine. Much of what they do — water heating, cooking and natural lighting — requires little to no electricity.

High efficiency
Even
if one is not living completely off the grid, using high-efficiency
practices — such as hanging clothes out to dry, rather than using a
dryer — is an enormous step toward reducing electrical consumption,
Johnson said.

“A thousand people with clotheslines are going to make a lot more difference than 100 people with a windmill,” Johnson said.

In addition, he and Hagen use hand tools for gardening and yard care, such as a hand scythe for mowing and trimming.

One audience member commented that using such implements would be pretty hard work.

“It is hard work,” Johnson replied. “But some people go to the gym for exercise.”

The
couple’s presentation was sponsored by the Oklahoma City Department of
Sustainability, the U.S. Green Building Council and OSU-OKC School of
Engineering Technology.

Oklahoma
City Office of Sustainability director Jennifer Gooden said the
department has a green low-interest home loan program administered by
the Community Action Agency.

The large turnout for last week’s presentation, she said, demonstrates the growing interest for sustainability issues.

“A
lot of it is a matter of people are curious,” said Gooden, “They want to
know. And if we can help make these things happen by just providing
education, then that’s wonderful.”

Photos by Mark Hancock

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