'Sustainable Joes' extending life 'off the grid' into the fall
Published Friday, August 30, 2013 10:02AM EDT
Two men who have been living without electricity in London, Ont. this summer say they're going to extend their mission to live ‘off the grid’ going into the fall.
Stephen Szucs and Dave Pope, members of a group of friends known as the "Sustainable Joes," made the commitment to live without electricity between June 1 and the end of August.
Their aim was to explore the ins and outs of sustainable living, and show how small lifestyle changes can make an impact towards a sustainable future.
So for the past three months the “Joes” have been living without power for a fridge, air conditioning, stove or hot water. Instead, they use solar panels to generate electricity for some of their devices and a large lens to capture heat from the sun to cook food.
Szucs and Pope, who are roommates, described to CTV's Canada AM some of the lessons they've learned since embarking on their mission.
"I've just been more mindful of my impact on the world," Pope said Friday, adding that he now examines packaging whenever he goes shopping.
"I say 'Oh this has packaging. This is just going to end up in a landfill forever. Do I really need this?'" he said. "I try to look for alternatives… just look for fresh, local, raw."
Suzcs said he learned how much energy regular, everyday appliances use when he tried to make coffee using a kettle that uses approximately 1,200 watts.
"From our primary energy source, which stores energy from the sun, we can get around 10 to 15 charges each on our laptops off of it," he said. "You plug in the kettle… it just plummets."
During the summer the pair experimented in making their own products including toothpaste and sunscreen, then posting videos of their trials on YouTube.
Here is a video of the Joes using a large lens to capture heat from the sun to cook an omelette:
They also highlighted individuals and businesses that are already making progress towards sustainability.
There are some things, however, that the two continue to miss.
"For myself, it's been the cooking," Pope said, noting that they use a large Fresnel lens to generate heat from the sun to cook their meals. Otherwise, the two have resorted to eating raw, local fruits and vegetables that they get from their local farmers' market.
"It's really nice to eat fresh and local. Especially in southern Ontario at this time of year," Szucs added.
Despite some of the difficulties they've encountered living off the grid, they say the experience has strengthened their friendship.
"We're unplugged. We're not sitting there on the TV not talking," Pope said. "A lot of roommates today, their idea of socializing is getting together and watching a movie or sitting there droning out in front of the TV. Steve and I, we'll play guitar. We've got camaraderie. It's about that."
Szuchs said the response from their experiment has been amazing, adding that people regularly come up to them to discuss how they might try to reduce their energy consumption and live off the grid.
"That's what the project is all about, sparking that conversation and then providing a means or a way that is more accessible to sustainable solutions," he said.
And it appears that there is interest in extending that conversation. The Sustainable Joes and Price Waterhouse Cooper Canada are partnering to host a roundtable discussion on sustainability.
The Joes and PwC Canada are looking to speak with other individuals, groups and businesses who are finding unique solutions to living sustainably, Szuchs said.
"We're looking for difference makers."