Category Archives: Planning

How can we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

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Today I pose a question to you all… how do we protect the planet on a tiny budget?

I have read and watched a wide variety of books and documentaries, on eco friendly tips, living off grid, self-sufficiency, minimalism, etc. all of which have been influential and inspirational sources of information and ideas… however during a conversation I was having, the question arose…. most of the people who are leading the movement and some stage had money (i.e. access to capital/investment).

Whilst there are lots of simple, small steps we can make to reduce the impact of our existing lifestyles, if we want to go mainstream into our eco values either through self-sufficiency or community initiatives… we need capital.

We need money to fund the land, invest in technology (sources of power and water) and much more….

Some have access to this source of investment to fund their eco homes and lifestyles, others choose to live above the law and I am not criticising any of these means, but I have access to neither of these options, and I don’t think I am alone…

What do average day to day families do? The families who want more intense options such as off grid living do when they have zero or very small capital, are working to pay off bills alone, and are unable to take the risks of doing things that do not fit with the law either for principle reasons or due to family commitments?

I am a single mum working part-time. I can not increase my hours as this would involve increased child care which I can not afford. My wage goes towards essential bills and servicing debts. My budget has been squeezed as much as is viable and I still can not seem to save any money each month…

I have no capital, I live in rented accommodation and all I own is the furniture within it which has little sellable valuable…

I am able to do a wide number of things to reduce my impact on the environment and I am well aware and striving towards this… but my dream is to live off grid ideally as part of a community of like minded people, but doing such requires land (costly) particularly land that I would be allowed to live on, access to technology (such as solar panels) and so on and I have no means of gaining  the funds to do this….

So my question is, how do people like me who are on a very limited budget step into the world of off grid living? Particularly in a way that provides a secure roof over my children’s heads….

I’d love to hear your tips, ideas and views on this discussion!

Plant based diet

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I’m going to talk food for a bit… but not the foraging, home grown food of my dreams. I’m going to talk about plant based diets.

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Food Choices which examines the damage to our health and climate that modern diets are causing. It was really fascinating, I knew that vegetarian and vegan diets were better for the environment but I never knew they were better for our health. It is definitely worth a watch if this is something you are interested in or want to know more about!

I have been vegetarian for most of my life and used to raise two happily vegetarian kids, but guilt won over this last year and I allowed them to eat meat, even started buying and cooking it for them. After watching this documentary I started a conversation with them about healthy eating and we agreed as a family to adopt a more plant based diet.

The hardest shift towards veganism for me is dairy… I love dairy! I have cheese, butter and milk as part of most meals and I love it…. the girls were equally worried! So we agreed to transition slowly, but also accept that we would eat what we wanted at times but only as a treat.

So how are we going to structure this shift to keep us on track and focused but without pushing it too far or too quickly?

Our plan is structured over 4 weeks:

  • Week 1 – Breakfast
  • Week 2 – Breakfast and lunch
  • Week 3 – Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Week 4 – Breakfast, lunch, dinner, pudding and snacks

The aim is to eat predominantly plant based foods, trying to cut out processed foods and sugar and generally eat more healthy. I strongly recommend watching that documentary to see what I mean by this. However I will allow the odd naughty treat once in a while, as eating it rarely is better than always in my opinion and we do love them naughties!

I will post my successes and challenges each week including my old diet and new diet and will welcome any feedback and tips along the way!

 

FreEco Bus Land Issues

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I’ve been thinking long and hard about whether to write this post, but I figured that in order for this to be a true reflection of my familys’ journey I should share the highs and the lows with you all.

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Before Christmas, I was feeling really disheartened with this project. The issue? I couldn’t find any land. In order for this project to be a success for my family, I need the security of knowing that I am operating within the law. I have no desire to be kicked off my own land and thus I need to work out planning permission.

I live in Leicestershire, England and I intend to remain living in this area as I would like to stay near to my children’s current schools, friends, work, etc. The downside of this… Englands policies for projects like I am considering are some of the strictest in the UK.

The little land I have seen for sale or to rent in my area, has been very expensive… as in years and years of me saving to go yet, expensive. Which means the bus idea is likely to be in a few years time yet.

Also, I can’t seem to get my head around the planning permissions and the type of land I need, etc.

wecandoitI am awaiting a book that may help with the planning and the law side of the land and once that has been published and I have read it, I will be sure to pass on the resource with yourselves. For now though, I just thought a bit of an update was needed.

Since Christmas has been and cheered most of us up. I do feel better about it. Yes it means that this project is going to take a longer than I was hoping, but there are still things that I can do from where I am living currently. So I awoke this morning with a new ambition to make do with what I have, whilst I plan and wait for the true FreEco Bus adventure.

So keep reading as I will hope to share all these tips with you as I go along and if you have any requests for future topics, please get in touch and I will do my best to give them a go!

 

 

Where to start???

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So, I’ve decided to make my dream of creating the FreEco Bus Small Holding a reality… but where on earth do I start???

Honestly… I have no idea!

questionsAt the moment I have a rush of questions filling my head… How on earth do I convert an old double decker bus into a family home? Do I need planning permission to site the FreEco Bus on land? What about power, water, warmth, budget? What do I need to be self-sufficient?

But the most burning question of all is… Where do I start?

There is so much to sort out, so much planning, learning and preparation involved. I really just don’t know where to begin with it.

I’ve opened up a Twitter account in the hope that someone may have some useful suggestions on there and I sent an email to a bloke who played a large part in inspiring me to consider the FreEco Bus a legitimate possibility… I’ll post more on that later… If any of you have any tips then please let me know!

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For now though… here is a list of questions that I am considering:

  1. FreEco Bus Requirements – What do I want? Already converted/blank canvas/partly converted? How old? Driveable or not? Size? Design? Can I get one free? If not, can I get one for less than £2000?
  2. FreEco Bus Design – What living space do I need? How much storage do I need? Floor plan design? Retro/boho style (I know so practical right)?
  3. FreEco Bus Conversion – How do I convert a bus into a home? Electricals? Plumbing? Insulation? Walls? How will I install a bathroom and kitchen? How much time will it take? Can I learn the required skills to do most of this work myself? Do I know anyone who can help? How much would it cost if I need to hire laborers?
  4. Sourcing Materials – What do I need? How likely is it to source the required materials for free? Can I get the majority of things needed second hand? Where will I get them from?
  5. Land – Planning permission? How much land do I need? Where does it need to be? What facilities does it need on site or nearby? Type of land such as woodland / field? Should I buy or rent? How much will it cost? Can I make an arrangement with a local farmer/land owner?
  6. Budget / Time – How much is it all likely to cost in the worst case scenario? Can I afford to start this project? Have I got enough time to offer?
  7. Self-Sufficiency – What do I need to be self-sufficient? What level of sufficiency can I realistically manage? Fully self-sufficient / mostly / partly? What skills will I need? What equipment will I need? What can I grow? Planning a yearly crop? What about the food gap? Do I have the time to maintain the crops? What about livestock? Would I get more chickens? Would I get goats? What about their upkeep and requirements?
  8. Power, energy and water – What will my source of water, energy and power be? Can I get land with a nearby stream? Can I make good use of grey water and rain water? Would I want to be plugged in or collect water? Source of power and energy? What are the limits of solar panels? Storage of power? How much will they cost? What fuel source will I use for cooking and warmth? What are the environmental impacts of all of this and what can I do to improve this?
  9. Skills – Can I do this? How can I learn? Who can help?
  10. Downsizing and impact on family – What will the impact of downsizing our living space have on the children? Would we get on each others nerves? What about rainy and cold days? Will my children benefit and be happy with these changes?

There are probably much more than this scrabbling around my brain right now. But having a list like the above written down has made me feel like I’ve got a bit of a to do list going and I can gradually work my way through each question at a time.

I guess to begin with, the main priority with this project is to create a low cost eco home for my family… so I guess figuring out the land and the bus requirements would be a logical place to start… What do you think?

thinkingI don’t feel like this project should be rushed as I want to enjoy the journey and I think that if I take it slowly my family will adapt to this new way of life gradually rather than being thrown in at the deep end. I think it will also help us to learn and develop the skills needed to maintain this new way of life for us.

So here’s to taking one question at a time!

The Original Dream

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So as all good journeys do, the FreEco Bus journey started with a dream…

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The dream opens with the sound of my daughters giggling as they chaise each other around the acres of land. Chickens flapping their wings as they escape from my children’s feet, goats trying to knock down the fencing separating them from the vegetable patch and a double decker bus converted into a boho inspired home for three.

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And as I awoke, to my very ‘normal’ cottage to the rush and tantrums of my family’s school and work mornings, I decided why should it end as a dream? Why let it fade into the back of my memory?

wombleThe dream fitted with my ideals… a womble house created out of old, disused things… free… if not cheap… eco friendly, sustainable, self-sufficient, small holding… everything I wanted and more!

So in that moment the dream was transformed! It became a goal, something an ordinary person like me could work towards.

So I am going to try and make this dream my family’s reality. I am going to try and live by my own morals and values. I am going to try and create the FreEco Bus.

I am going to share this journey with all those who read this. I will share my research, resources, tips, challenges, the highs, the lows, the experience.

Initially this will mainly consist of research, plans, drawings, ideas and thoughts, but as time progresses I will also show this project in the making.

If you have any tips or suggestions for my FreEco Bus Journey, let me know in the comments below.