Your Complete Guide to Living Beyond the Grid

by: EJ on 12/03/2014

One of my favorite books this year is The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook: Your Complete Guide to Living beyond the Grid with Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living, 14th Edition.  This completely revised 14th edition, written by experts with decades of hands-on experience, contains expanded information on permaculture, biodynamics, the Transition Movement, urban homesteading and emergency preparedness.

solar goods

Here are some reflections from foreword writer Bill McKibben and author John Schaeffer on how things have changed since the debut of the first edition of the Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook.

Bill McKibben, from the Foreword

From garage to dining room, from cradle to green grave, we’re pioneering new/old and most of all sensible ways of doing things that let us see a future not only possible but beautiful. Imagine a world where most energy didn’t come from a few huge power plants and utilities, but from a million solar panels on a million   rooftops all tied into the grid. Imagine a future where food didn’t come from the distant corporate plantation but from your neighbors. You don’t have to imagine as hard as you used to.

 John Schaeffer, from the Introduction

When I started Real Goods in 1978, our clientele was a cadre of young and idealistic hippies living in the woods of Mendocino County, California. They were refugees from major urban centers looking for a simpler and more meaningful existence. Many got light from kerosene, heat from wood, food from the garden, social contact from friends and family, and entertainment from books. There were no computers, cell phones, Internet, Google, Facebook, or YouTube. Jimmy Carter was president, Jerry Brown was governor (for the first time), and optimism abounded that with the strength of our convictions, we would soon overcome the misguided practices of our over-logging, over-consuming, polluting culture.

Climate change, calculations of parts per million of CO2, oil and natural gas fracking technologies, and the Keystone XL Pipeline were still in the future. So was oil depletion. I wrote an editorial in our 1979 catalog that stated, “According to the US Congress’s own Office of Technology Assessment, all known oil reserves will be exhausted by 2038.” At the time, 60 years seemed like plenty of time to wean ourselves from fossil fuels! But, from the present perspective, time is clearly no longer on our side. Reaching the benchmark 400 ppm of CO2 in 2013 makes it imperative that we accelerate the pace to correct our fossil fuel addiction.

Sadly, it may already be too late. This 14th edition of the Solar Living Sourcebook is dedicated to supporting the complete lifestyle change necessary to give our planet the best possible path toward the maintenance of a climate and ecosystems that have allowed humanity and other species to flourish. While we still call it the “SolarLiving Sourcebook, you’ll find that this book is not limited to the details of solar technologies, but instead engages with all facets of sustainable, resilient, and regenerative living.

To this end, John has asked that we give readers a choice of four downloads from The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook. Please pick the one that appeals to you the most. *

But really, this book needs to be on every sustainability bookshelf so why not order the whole book now at 50% off?

Land and Shelter, Chapter 2

We explore the concept of “home” in the Land and Shelter chapter. It all begins and ends with land. Our land and homes are not only the cornerstones of our existence but also the site of our largest carbon-footprint impact. The choices we make about where we choose to settle, how we treat the land, what we create for shelter, and how those homes function are fundamental to any notion of sustainability or regeneration. Shelter is, quite literally, rooted in the land.

Sunshine to Electricity, Chapter 3

This chapter, along with Chapter 4, Panel to Plug, contains the nuts and bolts of renewable energy: photovoltaics, wind  turbines, and hydroelectric turbines, along with all the necessary peripherals for living off the grid or on the grid with solar or other forms of renewable energy. Renewable energy is the heart of Real Goods. Dramatic shifts have occurred in the solar sphere since we published our 30th-anniversary Sourcebook in 2008. The combination of rapid customer adoption, widespread grassroots support, and the welcome appearance of innovative financial leasing mechanisms has made going solar almost a no-brainer. This has not been overlooked by the public capital markets, whose successes have propelled the industry to the forefront of our economy.

Energy Conservation,  Chapter

Every dollar spent on conservation translates into $3 to $5 savings on solar system costs — another no- brainer. Conservation reduces greenhouse gas emissions, slows the depletion of natural resources, decreases environmental pollution, takes strain off the planet’s organic life-support systems, and saves a lot of money. Who can afford not to conserve energy?  The further beauty of conservation is that regardless of what skeptics say, conservation does not mean sacrifice. Many European and Scandinavian societies enjoy a comparable standard of living to the United States, but on a much tighter energy budget.

Urban Homesteading, Chapter 12


Totally new in this 14th edition of the Sourcebook is our extensive chapter on urban homesteading a trend that has strongly emerged in just the last five years. Urban homesteading is happening in small and large cities across the country, with practitioners relearning heirloom skills that have been largely abandoned in our relentless decades-long march toward convenience. Urban homesteading values thrift and community

self-reliance in our homes, while repudiating the cultural forces of speed, need, and greed. It’s part of an emerging global movement working for change that is rooted in respect for indigenous peoples and their values, while seeking peace and reconciliation at every level of community. Urban homesteading provides an opportunity to rewrite the story of our relationship to the Earth in the places where most of us live, and allows the possibility of remaking culture around an ethic of care and stewardship for our home base. Taking the concepts of homesteading deep into the urban environment can and will make a big difference to wide-ranging communities, and will assist in redesigning our cities on a new template based on nature’s bounty and resilience.

 (*free chapter download available from December 1-12, 2014 only)




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