King’s student goes off the grid for Summer Experiment
August 15, 2013
In a world where we are powered 24/7, living off the grid is a challenge many of us would not take on with ease. But, King’s second-year Psychology student David Pope and his roommate Stephen Szucs are showing us it is possible. They’ve embraced reducing their ‘ecological footprint’ during their Off-Grid Solar Summer Journey.
Living in their cozy house in downtown London, Pope and Szucs turned their residence into an eco-friendly and sustainable hub. From locally-grown foods and herbs to an outdoor solar shower, these two friends have made it a mission to cut off their electricity, and shut off their hot water, for as long as they can.
“We hope that this project inspires others to act with open eyes for a sustainable now. If we all collectively start choosing, then we can push towards a sustainable future,” says Pope. “It’s about raising awareness of our actions.”
It all started at the end of spring exams when Pope was looking for a place to live and Szucs wanted a roommate. The pair made an agreement to live off the electrical grid for the summer and only consume energy from on-site solar generation. Solar panels sponsored by Goal Zero Canada are mounted on a bi-directional solar panel tripod, allowing them to follow the sun for greater energy to charge a few of their electronics, LEED lights, and small appliances.
“Certain things have been more accessible, while others have been more challenging, especially as days get shorter,” says Szucs. “Sunny days are huge for us, but if it’s going to be cloudy, we would like to introduce other forms of power, such as wind, so that we can ultimately be sustainable. We want to be catalysts for change and show others how others can live a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Without a working fridge or stove, Pope and Szucs have designed creative and efficient options. Using a Fresnel lens found on the back of a rear-string projection TV, the "Sustainable Joes" built a solar stove where they can boil water and prepare food such as eggs. Although it is still a challenge to cook warm food, they make sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables at markets, and are growing their own herbs at home.
Undoubtedly passionate about their cause, the pair has been chronicling their experience on social media. The Sustainable Joes’ Facebook page is filled with lively posts on environmental tips and ongoing sustainable projects
Pope and Szucs have broadcasted YouTube videos on making homemade sunscreen using natural ingredients such as olive oil and beeswax, and how chemical-free fibre cloths are an ecological and economical alternative for cleaning products. They even featured a guest from the City of London who installed a Green Cone, technically known as a Solar Digest: a composter that produces nutrient-rich water which can be used to fertilize the surrounding soil.
With limited power to connect to, Pope and Szucs have resorted back to the simple pleasures in life; reading books, playing on their guitars, and inviting friends over for board game nights. Even though they don’t expect others to live off the grid, they hope their message will instigate a change in the way we use electricity.
“It’s really nice to be fully engaged in something, and whenever we do use energy now, we’re far more aware of the energy we use,” says Szucs.
“The joy of reading has been reignited for me, and so has writing,” points out Pope. “The simple things in life really make you feel alive again.”