Adapting to Life Outside the System

outside the system - shipping container home 3

Sustainable shipping container home

By Paul Chambers

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Some time has passed since I last chronicled my  ongoing adventure, living on the top of a mountain in the Australian Bush with my wife Sarah in  totally sustainable living accommodations made from 2 shipping containers. We have had just a few amazing developments since then!

Why are we doing this?

We are not “hippies” opting out. We are a hard working couple who believe that  the current economic model is not sustainable.  We share our knowledge and our adventures with others so that they can learn how to build a sustainable home. I am not saying that it has been easy. It has taken money, time and effort. But what I will say is how good it feels stepping off the ferris wheel and living more lightly. For us it has provided joy, happiness, peace of mind and satisfaction. We had forgotten the real things that matter in life, and getting back to grass roots is an amazing experience.

Opting into environmental awareness

A consequence of living with nature is the development of a sense of “stewardship” of the land. It occurred without our realising, but we are now more protective of the landscape and wildlife, than at any other time of our lives. The wildlife that share their home with us, provide hours of relaxation and surprise. The wallabies graze right up to the house, and are quite unperturbed by our coming and going.

Wallaby and joey join us for breakfast – video

This morning when we woke, Sarah went to open the blinds covering the bedroom window. She spotted a wallaby with a joey in her pouch, with her back to the window. We opened the blinds slowly, and watched the wallaby having breakfast. I was able to film it whilst lying in bed with my phone, and I have posted the amazing footage to YouTube. We have never been so close to a wallaby, and feel lucky that they trust us to come so close.

Turning our container house into a rainbow

small-shipping_container house_stained_glass_window-largeWe now have a beautiful stained glass window in the shipping container. I believe I am the first person in the world to install a stained glass window into a shipping container house. Sarah made a lead glass panel at classes, and returned home with a beautiful hand crafted, stained glass window, 1.5m x 0.5m in size. Having installed the window, we found it not only increased the natural light flooding into the house from the morning sun.   We have the added light show, of a blaze of colours that dart around the walls, and floor as the sun tracks overhead. In the evening, the colourful display, provided by our 12v LED lighting, is a warm and welcoming beacon lighting up the bushland.

Rain water is like love, we can’t live without it

The lack of rainfall during winter this year hit us quite hard. We expected a regular rainfall that would replenish the landscape, and turn the grass a rich green in the pastures of rural Australia. The rain never came, and the grass went brown and crispy. Sarah even tried a rain dance but to no avail! All our drinking water comes from rainfall, which is collected on our roof, stored in tanks, and we use it wisely. We can store around 20,000 litres. After 3 months of almost no rain, we were down to our last 500 litres. We were considering a water deliver of 8000 litres of chlorinated town water, when thank goodness, the heavens opened and the water tanks filled up.

small-shipping_container_house-water_tanks-largeWe drink the water after course filtering it, through a Doulton pottery ceramic water filter. Showering, kitchen and laundry are not large water consumers.

There is a saying in the Australian Bush: “a man’s wealth is measured in water tanks”. I have come to understand its significance, and am always on the look out for another tank to safeguard our water supply. You can never have enough water storage. However, we have found that the zinc alume roofing contaminates the water with heavy metal zinc, this is the reason we filter all our drinking water. We have a great home made composting toilet in our off-grid home, and this also MASSIVELY reduces water consumption.

Snug and warm with our “Chubb” log burning safe

outside the system - shipping container home 5We have now completed the insulation of the main living container. We have plywood walls with 90mm of insulation. Our home is warmer than many houses we visit, and the Chubb log burning “safe” keeps us toasty warm. A log fire is not only relaxing it’s really quite therapeutic. We enjoy watching the logs burning slowly into the evening. We do not have a television, and find we don’t miss it at all.

Solar energy our teacher of truth

All our electrical power comes from our solar panels. With only a very small adjustment, we have discovered that we live VERY happily without electricity bills. We simply harness the sunlight to operate our electrical devices.

small-shipping_container_house-solar_panelsYou can use any electrical appliance as long as the sun is shining, although we don’t use anything that needs to be heated. We have a modest setup, just 2000 watts, or 2KW of panels on the roof. At time of writing the most popular system that solar companies were installing, was a 1.5 KW setup that gave the best return for the average Australian family.

No one needs to pay for power, we live in a country that gives it to us free, and that’s the sun. Everyone can set up solar power, we thought it would be difficult but it has turned out to be amazingly easy. We are totally convinced that the best and easiest option is solar energy, as it is virtually inexhaustible.We love our planet Earth, she is beautiful, she is inspiring and our only option for the future. We all need to protect, love and nurture her. We have found that this project has brought us closer to nature, and as we look after her, she looks after us.

outside the system - shipping container home 4The Living Planet report calculates that humans are using 30% more resources than the Earth can replenish each year, which is leading to deforestation, degraded soils, polluted air and water, and dramatic declines in numbers of fish and other species. This had led the report to predict that by 2030, if nothing changes, mankind would need two planets to sustain its lifestyle.

Interest in container housing is growing

I documented the building of the container house in two e-books, available from my website I have also posted videos of every stage of the build on our YouTube channel, and these are in a free library for anyone that would like to see how easy it is to build your own shipping container house when you can follow step by step visual and reading instructions. I have seen a large increase in the popularity of my videos and e-books, and it has been from every part of the globe. People are using shipping containers for all sorts of activities.

Relaxing with meditation

On a more personal note, I have rediscovered the joy of meditation. My schedule developed more time for me to relax, and it has been extremely enjoyable meditating with a panorama of the Australian Bush.

Two years living in shipping containers – video

Follow our progress

You can watch our video diary which chronicles the building and development of the off grid house at our YouTube channel:  Alternatively visit the website, and be sure to check out our previous article on Wake Up World: Living Life Outside The System.


About the author:

small-Paul Chambers Headshot SquarePaul Chambers is a 48 year old technician, blessed with good engineering skills and a strong belief in himself. Paul was born in England and moved to Australia in 2005 where he has now settled with his wife Sarah, and has started a project building an off-grid, eco-house out of two shipping containers on the top of a small mountain in the Australian bush.

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