This is a collaborative post.
One of the most interesting questions in the current environmental debate is the so-called “carrying capacity” of planet Earth. It refers to the number of people that the planet can sustain, given current trends and consumption habits. If people continue to use transport, energy, food, water, minerals, and plastics at the rate that they do today, then experts pin the carrying capacity at somewhere between two and eleven billion people.
Two billion is approximately the population of Europe, meaning that the rest of the world would need to disappear if we are to achieve sustainability collectively. Eleven billion is much higher, but the global population will likely tip that number by the year 2100, before finally declining as birth rates go down.
These maximum sustainable population estimates, however, rely on certain assumptions, such as technological stasis and the fact that people won’t take sustainability into their own hands. If they do, the carrying capacity of planet Earth could be higher. Much higher.
Living off-grid is becoming much more comfortable than it was in the past. The steep fall in the price of solar panels and home battery packs now means that even middle-income families can afford to leave the grid behind and install solar panels on their roofs. What’s more, there are now all kinds of fuel and water storage solutions, as pointed out by Tanks For Everything, making it easier than ever to disconnect from energy-guzzling utilities. For the most part, people can collect and store the energy and water that they need on their properties.
The technology has some way to go before it becomes a full solution for the average family, but it has made a strong start. If you’re prepared to invest a considerable amount of money, you can often generate enough energy to power all your household appliances and charge your bank of batteries without having to cut down on TV or computer usage.
Leasing Sustainable Equipment
We could also see the nature of off-grid living changing.
In the past, living off-grid was all about finding some hideaway in the woods, building a shack, and collecting rainwater off your roof. Today, it’s a much more technologically-advanced proposition, with homeowners benefiting from the latest in solar panel and battery manufacturing techniques.
The upfront price of sustainable energy generation is high, but many companies in the industry are now offering solar panel leasing. Going off-grid, therefore, isn’t about cutting ties with utility providers entirely. Instead, you pay a monthly fee to a sustainable energy company, and, in return, you get to use solar panel equipment for as long as you continue to pay the fees.
Energy providers also realise that there’s a big market for sharing energy production between homes. A keen sustainable energy producer, for instance, might install more solar panels than they need, generating a surplus of electricity. This electricity can then pass back to the grid, feeding into other households via the use of smart meters.