Success Stories

Need a little inspiration?

On this page you will find testimonials from people who’ve been there… and made it through in one piece! Whether you’re trying to build a solar space heater, grow your own crops, or build a full-scale power generating project, you’ll find someone here who has a little advice to give. After all, what’s the point of learning if you can’t pass it on?

(See a gap in the coverage? Know someone who belongs on this page?
Comment, and I’ll look into each case further. Happy hunting!)


William Kamkwamba speaks at TED 2007 (Video)

William Kamkwamba William Kamkwamba’s Windmill

William Kamkwamba built his family a power-generating windmill at the age of 14, using a basketball hoop, a bike, and other spare parts he found around his village in Africa. He tested his design and modified it to increase its efficiency. Now, he plans to build a windmill to supply power for his whole village. Hear the full story at the link above.


Take a look at this article to see how several communities across the US have taken sustainability in their own hands.  I really like the RunningRabbit idea, but was surprised to find out there are people practicing eco-living right here in Los Angeles! Here’s a link on where to find them… I go past them every week and had never noticed.  Now that’s seamless integration with your environment.  Courtesy of HowStuffWorks, a great site for finding out more about almost anything

I stopped by the EcoVillage today… just had to see what it was all about.  Here’s the scoop: It’s on a nice little side street, and right away, I guessed which place was theirs by the profusion of flowers surrounding the property.  Beautiful!  It was only a short five minute walk from the Metro station, and close to a lot of public transportation, which is good, because I didn’t see too many cars out front.  Turns out, tenants get a rent discount if they sell their cars, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I wandered along the steet, looking for an obvious entrance, and stumbled upon a nice-looking guy gardening.  After my inquiry about the place, Somerset generously agreed to give me a little tour, especially of the solar power system (which, if I am not mistaken, he engineered), though usually people wait for regularly scheduled Saturday tours to explore.  There were several charge controllers hooked up to the building which supply some of the power to the EcoVillage’s 35 residents.  They run their system without battery backup, in a grid-tied arrangement.

On the mini-tour, I saw several gardens, all hand mulched, tended and loved.  There were strawberries, corn, apples, all sorts of nice looking food, and a little flock of chickens.  I was surprised to see the strawberries, because they are a food that commercial growers often claim not to be able to grow successfully wihtout pesticides, but these were lovely.

There were other projects as well: a weaving loom strung with recycled plastics, clotheslines with laundry, a fence made of recycled metals, and in the foyer, a model of what I presumed to be their proposed development across the street from the current space, in which they hope to offer low-cost housing to public school teachers and a green-conscious public pool that local schools could use.  Ironically, they were up against the school board for the land, who was also eyeing the nice property for a school and are now fighting the city’s proposal to demolish the current structures, a day-school, for a parking lot.  Everything was very peaceful, and I enjoyed hearing the crowing of a rooster in urban Los Angeles.

The EcoVillage had a lot of literature available on the table I passed on my way out, and I gladly picked up a few fliers about the history of the village (it was created in early 1993, just after LA experienced one if her most trying moments, the LA Riots), and others about how to start an ecovillage of your own.   I will reprint some of the suggestions here if and when I am able to get the author’s permission to do so.  They had schedules up for potluck dinners, and had a list of workshops that they run throughout the year about things like sustainable gardening and creating local currency systems to keep capital investments within a neighborhood.

According to their literature, the EcoVillage owns the two buildings on the 11 acre property, and rents them out to tenants, in a land trust arrangement.  In truly humanitarian practice, they bought historic buildings with existing tenants, and have not forced people to relocate, so the building (and community) are mixed.  I really liked it, and plan to go back soon to hear their scheduled talk on trains in urban communities.  If you’d like to find out more, visit


Simple Solar Homesteading

Brought to you by LaMar, an enterprising individual who “made it happen” in terms of living off the grid, this site is a great stop along the road to self-sufficiency.  There are lots of well-taken pictures here of the cabin LaMar built and inhabits, and a story of the life allowed by such a setup.  For other fearless DIYers our there, there are also plans for building one of your own, tips on how to get a good deals on land, and recommendations of good appliances, etc for the off-grid lifestyle.  For $5 LaMar will send you a book containing all the info you could ever need to get away from slaving for the power company. Now that’s a great deal!

Check out the link above for more information.

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