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Living off-grid: Could this be an answer to the climate crisis?

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Tao and Hoppi Wimbush moved into the Lammas ecovillage in Glandwr, ten years ago.

The couple live completely off-grid.

They generate their own electricity through solar panels and hydro power.

Credit: Lammas ecovillage

We bought what was in essence a blank field, we put in tracks, water networks, we built houses, barns, workshops, tool sheds.

We source our own water, we grow our own food. It's great and anyone can do it, it's not rocket science.

– Tao Wimbush

Tao grew up in a suburban village in Berkshire. His mother was a housewife and father was an accountant. He said his lifestyle was “very ordinary”.

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

“It wasn't until I came to West Wales that I discovered that there was an alternative available and my life totally changed and I've never looked back.

“Most of the people who've come to live here at Lammas or come to take on an alternative life come from the mainstream. So they come from a city, they give up their nine to five jobs, they sell their houses and then move out to this way of life. My background is unusual here in that prior to living here I've lived in different alternative communities across West Wales, nearly all of them off-grid, some of them very back to basics.”

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

But Tao’s wife Hoppi said she had “huge reservations” about moving to the ecovillage. She said her main concerns were about whether she would be able to have the electrical appliances she relies upon - like a washing machine and kitchen blender.

“I'm a modern human and I come with my modern appliances and so that was a really big fear for me. And what I've actually discovered and what I've actually found is that with a combination so for us, I've got solar panels here and we're also on hydro here. So all of our electricity is generated with the sun and with water.”

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

With the modern appliances and internet connection, the couple said they have the best of both worlds. Despite not being able to order a take-away pizza and the nearest cinema being a 40-minute drive away, the pair said the sacrifice is worth it.

“One of the really rewarding things about this lifestyle is you feel like you're part of the solution", Tao said.

"I can say with some scientific backing that if everybody in the world lived as we do here in the Lammas ecovillage then there would be some kind of ecological balance. It just feels good to be part of that solution. We're not perfect, we're working it out as much as anybody. We still drive cars, there's still plastic in our lives.

“It's not for me to judge how people in the city live. I feel like the age we're coming in to is an age where people need to take responsibility for their own part in the world.”

The couple live in the village with their children. 16-year-old Emba is an aspiring circus performer but also works as a waitress.

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

She said it takes her an hour and a half to walk to the nearest bus stop and from there she takes two buses to get to her job.

“Early teenage years it's really, really difficult because you're not trusted to go out by yourself so you do have to rely on parents to get you out because it is in the middle of nowhere. But it's way safer, way more natural.”

Emba left school and started teaching herself the curriculum. She will take her exams with Pembrokeshire College. She said she found her maturity level was very different to the other pupils and was not getting on well with being in a mainstream school.

The Lammas ecovillage was created with One Planet Development planning permission from the Welsh Government. It is a policy the government introduced in 2010.

Dr Erica Thompson is the chair of One Planet Council. She and her family also live off-grid.

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

To get this planning permission you have to build a zero carbon house and live a low-impact lifestyle, growing some of your own food on the land and running a small land-based business. In Erica’s case, this is selling honey and fruit from their orchard.

There’s lots of benefits of living in this way. It’s lovely being outdoors with the kids, gardening, being closer to nature.

If you look at rural Wales and the challenges today for communities, there are not many jobs for young people, so the scheme is to diversify the rural economy and bring jobs and young people back into rural areas and land-based businesses.

– Dr Erica Thompson
  • This way of living is not for everyone but how can you be more environmentally friendly at home without living off-grid?

One Planet Living guidance suggests the following:

  • Travelling via trains or going on staycations rather than taking flights. One long-haul flight can amount to half a UK person’s yearly carbon footprint.
  • Cut down on meat and dairy. This can help reduce carbon emissions and deforestation.
  • Consume less and better. Buying long-lasting products rather than items you will throw away after a short amount of time can help reduce waste.