đź“™ The Future of Ecological Rural Living

(Initial writeup by @matthias, but it’s a communally owned wiki: welcome to edit.)


1. Solutions, We Need Solutions

2. Requirements

3. Solutions Level 1

4. Solutions Level 2

5. Solutions Level 3

6. Solutions Level 4

1. Solutions, We Need Solutions

We are fed up with an economic setup that exploits us (“massive inequality”) and destroys nature. We’re also peaceful people, and work on peaceful solutions – don’t worry, governments, and welcome to join forces. We need solutions though! The solution that seems most promising to us so far is “OpenVillage”: a network of enjoyable live-and-work spaces in which each OpenVillage house is both financially sustainable (“it solves our money issues”), technologically sustainable (“we have all we need”), fully ecologically sustainable (“no adverse effects on the environment”) and even eco-restorative (“restoring degraded and polluted ecosystems”).

Of course we can’t save the Planet. But we can show how to save the Planet if enough people join. That makes OpenVillage a long-term vision for the Planet that does not require (but of course welcomes) support from policy makers.

To be taken seriously, we have to estimate and measure the impact. OpenVillage solutions come in multiple levels, and each one reduces impacts by 90% over the previous one. So in the first level of solutions, we won’t achieve full ecological sustainability yet, but envision that a reduction of 90% compared to the average per-capita values in Western Europe, in the following areas:

  • electrical energy consumption from the grid
  • water consumption from the grid
  • fossil fuel consumption for heating, cooking, transportation (as proxy for carbon dioxide emissions)
  • food consumption from markets (esp. of remote origin)
  • food waste
  • plastic waste
  • residual waste
  • money spent on cost of living (incl. tech investments distributed over projected use times)
  • money spent for leisure

In other words, Solutions Level 1 will be a sustainability improvement of one order of magnitude, purely with DIY solutions. Doing the same in Level 2 will be a total improvement of 2 orders of magnitude, or a 99% impact reduction. At that point, we’ll have a lifestyle that can be considered “sustainable”.

Even that is just not enough anymore, given the current conditions of the Planet’s ecosystems. We also have to restore what we and others damaged before. So we have restoration tools in every level, but also a Solutions Level 3 with the target to offset the damage done by the same amount of people with typical 2017 European lifestyles, and a Solutions Level 4 scaling that effect up by one order of magnitude (so one person offsets the damage done by ten). Let’s aspire to be net-benefit humans :slight_smile:

But that’s the future. Right now, we gotta get to work and create the solutions we need. We’ll collect them all in the list below.

2. Requirements

For the start, our solutions directory will only contain solutions for a first, limited level of sustainability of OpenVillage houses. While we like the “full-stack autarky approach” of Open Source Ecology, it’s too much for us to start. We’ll rather start from a limited, ready to use set of solutions and gradually add more to make OpenVillage more sustainable and more autarkic. Anyway, even the below set of less than 40 solutions allows full energy, water and food self-sustainability, self-management and free communications.

The requirements for this first set of solutions are as follows:

  1. DIY and open source. All solutions must be possible to self-manufacture in a small workshop from ubiquitous materials (found in nature, in trash and from industrial production). To be DIY, instructions to manufacture have to be open source, obviously.

  2. Scalable from 5-20 people. OpenVillage houses come in various sizes, so solutions developed here should work for all of them. (For communal living projects in rented residential housing, 5-20 inhabitants seems reasonable to expect. Larger property can be sub-divided accordingly.)

  3. Easy to transport. As a side effect of living in rented property, and to be able to relocate nationally and internationally in case of crises, all solutions have to be lightweight and easily transportable. Ideally in Eurobox boxes (60×40 cm, 80×60 cm), where not possible on EPAL pallets (120×80 cm). For equipment mobility in times of crisis, the chosen host country’s customs system should not make exporting an organization’s equipment hard or expensive. Normally this is not much of a problem, as governments like exporting … avoiding customs when importing is the big issue.

  4. Efficient replication. None of the solutions we need is groundbreaking super-innovative technology. What we need is solutions that can be applied in a simple and fast way – so we need good documentation in standardized formats, not the “bits and pieces” already present all over the Net.

  5. Minimum need for money. OpenVillage houses must be applicable worldwide, literally. This includes areas where people have very limited financial means to spend on cost of living and to invest in technological solutions. To provide decent living conditions for all inhabitants, we need solutions that (1) allow very minimal recurring costs of living that needs to be paid in money and (2) little technology that goes a long way. Communal living is one of the best enablers for this, as sharing is always cheaper: even if three of four people in an OpenVillage house come out of extreme poverty, resource sharing should still provide every member with adequate access to modern technology and comfort. We’ll see if that can work – but if it works, we have a solution for poverty that does not even need more production of stuff.

  6. No external employment. At this level of autarky and sustainability, OpenVillage houses will still need some money. But we can’t rely on out-of-house jobs for that as there may be none. OpenVillage houses will only be a working model in areas without job opportunities if they include self-created paid work for the money needs of permanent inhabitants. A second reason is that we in the Edgeryders community tend to dislike work conditions in employment jobs. So instead, we want our own entrepreneurial, well-working, enjoyable revenue options inside OpenVillage houses with good work-life integration.

  7. Not including cheap, ubiquitous non-consumables. To be sustainable in both financial and ecological terms, the most important items to care about are the consumable items because they cause regular costs and resource use (energy, water, food, Internet access, transportation, body care products) and the expensive non-consumable items (tools, vehicles, furniture). Suitable, ubiquitous non-consumable items are of no concern in the first level of sustainability and autarky of OpenVillage Solutions (“Level 1”), as they are usually available as existing personal property or used, at very little cost, from industrial manufacturing. And before we even think about competing with industrial manufacturing, we have a lot of solutions to create that are not available from the industry. In Level 2, we will have DIY, open source versions for some of these products, while still using “commercial substitutes” for at least the following:

    • most ordinary manual tools
    • bicycle components
    • base hardware for notebook computers and smartphones
    • electronic components and modules (incl. the Raspberry Pi)
    • long-distance transportation (ride sharing, trains, airplanes)
    • clothing raw materials (including re-used fabric pieces)
    • other raw materials, semi-finished products and components for DIY production (aluminium profiles, bearings etc.)
  8. For Level 1: House is rented. Actually building our own houses is for a later level of solutions.

  9. For Level 1: House is in a medium to high infrastructure area. It can be urban or rural, but needs grid infrastructure for water and electricity as fallback solution, parcel service for items not available from own or local production, and medical facilities in reach without the need for a car.

  10. For Level 1: House is in a warm climate. The climate must not require heating or air conditioning at any time of the year – adequate clothing must be enough. Where heating or air conditioning is needed, for now traditional “unsustainable” solutions have to be used.

  11. For Level 1: Ready for Level 2. We don’t want to overthrow any of the solutions once we move beyond the solutions in this first level of autarky and sustainability, but we want to build on them. So we design with that in mind.

3. Solutions Level 1

To add a solution, edit this wiki and add it. Just make sure it is required. To work on a solution, please do and just add a link in the list below to your project’s home where you are developing it so others can join (could be a topic on this platform, a Github repo, whatever). Mark the solution with the appropriate status using the symbol key below.

Symbol Key

  • :white_check_mark: solution is ready to use
  • :fast_forward: expedited development underway (“we need this fast”)
  • :arrow_forward: development underway
  • :pause_button: development had started but stalled
  • :white_circle: development not yet started

In each section, the important / more basic solutions come earlier in the list. The questions considered is “how important is it to have the OpenVillage solution compared to off-the-shelf commercial alternatives”, not “compared to not having a solution at all”.

3.1. Organization and Communication

  • :fast_forward: Network of Houses. We have a (draft) definition already: “Proposal for a network of OpenVillage houses”. Among other things, the network would provide very low monetary rents for permanent residents by cross-funding from the integrated businesses, to which the residents contribute. It would also provide travelers “from the network” with guestrooms, without requiring payment in money – but they may use non-monetary compensation, e.g. via PayCoupons (see below). The network will use an online platform for coordination, which is provided by the edgeryders.eu platform right now (based on the open source software Discourse, source code with adaptations is here).

  • :fast_forward: Agile project management system. Without proper tools for task-based group collaboration, groups of people won’t get any complex task or project done, at least not efficiently and enjoyably. For the Edgeryders company, we developed a suitable process using Dynalist, and we plan to integrate it with Matrix or Discourse, and to eventually replace it with an equivalent open source software. It may also be possible to connect with work by @bilal for this solution.

  • :white_check_mark: Economic exchange system. For compensated collaboration without needing money, we have PayCoupons (developed by @daniel and @matthias). See also here on edgeryders.eu for details.

  • :white_circle: Solutions distro. A distribution (“distro”) made from downloadable data packages that contains all OpenVillage solutions in a well-structured, standardized format ready for offline use. There is one package per solution, and packages can refer to other solution packages as dependencies – so when choosing one for download, you will automatically also get its dependencies. So it is similar to the software package systems of Linux distributions (.deb / .rpm format etc.). Given failed attempts by others to create a packaging format for open hardware items (such as SKDB), this should be a simple, robust system. It’s just about a meta information “manifest” file with version, licence and dependency information, a split between “specs and implementations” (as utilized in EarthOS), and an adaptable packaging script that can collect the files of a solution project in whatever format they are in and convert them into a standardized format in a standardized folder structure. A package manager application (command line and GUI) then allows to install, uninstall and update packages, all managed in one common folder on ones own computer.

  • :fast_forward: Resource management system. Especially including a dynamic booking system for rooms, to maximize space utilization over the simpler concept of inhabitants having fixed rooms. Also including a system for shared use of tools, bicycles and other equipment in OpenVillage houses, which should lower the consumption of such products by 90% or more, making their use ecologically much more sustainable.
      For an in-depth look at available open source base software, see this article by @matthias.

  • :white_circle: House management toolkit. Tools and manuals to help the founders of OpenVillage Houses make their projects successful. Including, among others:

    • House founder’s knowledge base. Containing recommendations for steps and processes when developing the concept of an OpenVillage house and setting it all up.
    • Tools and practices for self-governance. Including best practices and decision making tools for a house’s community, as tested in existing OpenVillage houses and as appropriate for houses of different sizes.
    • Tools and practices for collaborative development on-site. Such as “Harmonious Hackathons”, a co-working / community innovation that Edgeryders experimented with during one of the LOTE conferences.
  • :white_circle: Notebook computer setup. With proper optimization, it should not cost more than 250 EUR used (e.g. ThinkPad X series, T series). By standardizing what models are used in the OpenVillage network, members can help each other out with spare parts and knowledge. Also, having proper information security on the device becomes much simpler with a standardized setup. The setup should also contain recommendations for an ad blocker, which is “the first line of defense against consumerism” :stuck_out_tongue:
      In some OpenVillage houses, there will not be enough money for everyone to have a personal notebook. This can be helped by: everyone would have an own smartphone, and would be able to access a notebook on demand via the house’s resource management system. The notebook has user accounts for each house member, and people keep all their data on a USB 3.0 thumb drive that is short enough to stay plugged into the computer while in use, with backups kept encrypted on a local storage server. In addition to the normal personal notebooks, a house would have 1-3 more powerful notebooks for demanding tasks like video production.

  • :white_circle: Smartphone / tablet setup. Same thing as with notebooks: these can be really inexpensive (<60 EUR used, cheap enough for everyone to get one) when choosing proper, efficient software on them. Most of this software is already available open source from F-Droid. And again, having proper information security on the device becomes much simpler with a standardized model and software setup; same goes for spare parts; and for the need to include recommendations for mobile ad blocker software.
      What is needed is “just” a manual recommending tools and detailing procedures for one or two chosen phone models, similar to the (now outdated) Freedom Fones Knowledge Base that @matthias started once in 2013.

  • :arrow_forward: Internet connection toolkit. Has to contain various tools for Internet uplink (DSL modem, long-range wifi, mobile broadband, Ka-Sat satellite connection) and ways to minimize the transferred data volume. For long-range wifi, use the Guifi.net infrastructure. For Ka-Sat, should include a foldable parabolic antenna, and a device for automatically aligning it to the satellite. Ka-Sat is useful in all of Europe, and also for the MENA region, as it covers all of Tunisia and the population centers of Morocco and Egypt.

  • :white_circle: Wifi distribution toolkit. A box with open-source devices that allow distributing wifi in a larger house and also on conferences of up to 100 people (use case: Edgeryders’ LOTE conferences). Proposal: Using the Raspberry Pi 3 as a basis for a wifi router, because we can then define the Raspberry Pi 3 as the standard computing device for OpenVillage House equipment, resulting in a standardized and redundant system.

  • :fast_forward: Digital communications manual. To provide safe, privacy-protecting online communication under all circumstances. @geminiimatt’s “Digital Safety and Security Resources” are just great for this. We just need a full manual-style documentation of that and this solution is boxed! Also we might want to pick up our work on the Edgeryders Community Crypto Setup.

  • :arrow_forward: Mapping toolkit. A solution for mapping geoinformation related to each OpenVillage House, incl. mapping businesses and other points of interest in the vicinity. So far we use a solution built around uMap and OsmAnd~ (see OpenVillage House Sidi Kaouki Manual, chapter “3.6. Using our Points of Interest map”). So far missing is a closer integration between both tools, in the form of a (1) plugin for OsmAnd~ that can sync place markers of a specific category to a specific layer in uMap and (2) a plugin in OsmAnd~ that can download all information from a uMap map into place marker categories, and keep this up to date with the information in the online uMap map.

3.2. Business

  • :white_circle: Financial sustainability toolkit. A set of well-tested financial planning, monitoring and controlling tools.

  • :white_circle: Guestrooms. OpenVillage houses have temporarily empty rooms when using dynamic room allocation (or dedicated guestrooms when not), and renting out these overcapacity rooms via platforms for short-term rental like AirBnB is yet another, simple-to-implement revenue model.

  • :arrow_forward: Coffee processing and sale. Since a public cafĂ© is emerging as a favorite component of OpenVillage houses, it is natural to add a coffee processing business for revenue generation. It lowers raw material costs for the cafĂ© by starting from parchment coffee rather than green beans. Providing processing services to small roasteries and cafĂ©s in the same city could be a lucrative business. And especially in coffee-growing countries, it is another business opportunity (and a good way to solidarize with small producers) to buy parchment coffee from small farmers for a relatively high price, process it and roast it for a fixed feel, and to then sell it in the same city or internationally. Without intermediary traders, that is still very profitable.
      For related solutions, see: “Food marketplace” for marketing the coffee locally and internationally. This toolkit itself will have to include, among other items:

    • :arrow_forward: a small but fully automated, open source optical coffee sorter (in initial development)
    • :arrow_forward: a process to remove parchment shells (@matthias’ “crazy coffee hack #1” works but it’s crazy)
    • :white_circle: a small but fully automated, solar-powered roaster
    • :white_circle: automatic vending machine for coffee (for people to bring their own containers instead of selling it in plastic bags)
    • :white_circle: open source humidity sensor for coffee beans (also useful for grains etc.)
  • :white_circle: Communal live / work space. This business model comes in various flavors, but all are about providing a communal space to a community beyond OpenVillage house inhabitants. Variants include, among others: co-working space, public cafĂ©, communal living room as a third place for the neighborhood (like 19th-century coffeehouses). Equipment and organization tools for all these are similar, so we cover them by one solution.
       Related solutions (which see): “Mushroom growing toolkit” to utilize the spent coffee grounds as growing substrate for mushrooms.

  • :arrow_forward: Direct food sales hub. A social entrepreneurship business of supporting small-scale farmers in the surrounding area by connecting them directly to customers on international markets. This would be offered as a service for a fixed commission, not in a profit-maximizing manner of purchase and re-sale as intermediate traders do it. Since OpenVillage houses will often be located in rural areas of developing regions and contain people with computer and web marketing skills which are hard to find in these areas, it’ s a natural fit.

  • :white_circle: OpenVillage Solution Manufacturing. A small factory producing OpenVillage Solutions is a natural business model, since OpenVillage houses have to produce these items for themselves anyway. So why not build some more of these open source, frugal, innovative devices, helping out others (incl. other OpenVillage houses) to get them more efficiently. A good example is the small-scale optical coffee sorter.

  • :white_circle: Commercial agriculture. This is a natural business model, as OpenVillage houses will produce most of their food on their own. So why not grow some for others as well, as the tools are already available. It can be sold, or exchanged for other food, products or services using the PayCoupons solution. Cities always have buyers for food, and commercial urban farming on very little land can be very profitable (example).

  • :arrow_forward: Phone and computer remanufacturing. The idea is for areas where not everyone can afford a smartphone, and not everyone has a notebook who should have one (esp. school kids 14 years and older – learning to work efficiently with a computer is important for them). Basically, collect used, working or broken, IT hardware from affluent countries where this is very cheap, import this, repair and configure it, and sell these items for little money to those who need it.
      Used but working and still useful Android smartphones are available for <15 EUR in Europe, and people will usually agree to receive a (tax-deductible) donation receipt as compensation instead of money. For such cheap items, shipment to the collection point can also be done cheaply, in uninsured letters. Similar conditions apply for notebook computers (available from 40 EUR) and tablets.
      If somebody wants to work on this business idea, @matthias can provide organizational infrastructure in Germany (an association working in international development that can provide the donation receipts) and technical infrastructure (a software for automating the purchase of desired models of phones, tablets, notebooks etc., which @daniel developed for an attempt at a recommerce startup, called Mintybox).

3.3. Accommodation

  • :white_circle: Modular construction system. For furniture and structural parts of devices. A good candidate is OpenStructures.

  • :arrow_forward: Furniture. We need some regular and some innovative furniture that allows high space utilization. For example, a rollable shelf (“sack barrow style”) for personal belongings, so that even regular inhabitants do not need a fixed room in the house (allowing higher room utilization). Ideally the furniture will be a modular system, using abundant and sustainable raw materials.
      As for progress, there is the BitCut open source furniture platform by @m_tantawy. Also @matthias has done some initial experiments.

  • :white_circle: Recirculating shower add-on. Current methods of showering are just wasteful and thus create unnecessary dependencies. There are product designs for recirculating showers to fix this, but we need an open source one that can also be added to and removed from a shower in any urban flat.

  • :white_circle: Dishwashing system. Can be manual, but has to be efficient.

  • :white_circle: Washing machine. Has to be energy saving (heavily insulated drum, heating water with solar power or a gas burner but never grid electricity, automatic start / stop planning to run fully on grid electricity). Being water-saving is not important, as the waste water is filtered and used in the garden.

  • :white_circle: Separating dry toilet. Flush toilet are a waste of nearly everything (freshwater, pipes, water cleaning capacity etc.). Instead, a separating dry toilet produces urine (which is sterile and can be used as nitrogen fertilizer mixed 1:7 with water) and dry feces, which are of great use in the garden because one can simply fill them into a 1 mÂł hole, put 50 cm humus on top and plant a tree. This is safe if it is ≥30 m away from drinking water sources. For added safety, one can heat the feces to >65 °C before, as that kills the relevant germs of waterborne diseases.

  • :white_circle: House beautification toolkit. The first OpenVillage houses will often have meanwhile contracts in “rough” buildings, because that is cheap. So we need a best practices manual and perhaps some equipment for making such spaces nice and livable with very little money and time. Most or all of the improvements should be possible to move to the next space, because investments in meanwhile property does not pay off.

  • :white_circle: Traveler accommodation kits. Since OpenVillage houses often accommodate travelers from the OpenVillage network, and digital nomads, it makes sense to have “kits” so guests know they will get a certain set of equipment during their stay at an OpenVillage house. This makes travel cheaper (save the costs of checked-in baggage when flying with budget airlines like RyanAir) and more comfortable (less to carry, no issues getting a small pocket knife in cabin luggage through security – which is officially allowed but difficult). The kit would contain, among other items: bedsheets (or sleeping bag with inlet), towel, shower gel, multi-tool, clothing (to be chosen from a large cabinet), rollable personal equipment shelf (developed in another solution).

3.4. Energy

  • :arrow_forward: Off-grid energy system. Using 24 V DC electricity. Includes battery chargers, energy monitoring, smart use of excess energy, conversion to the most common electrical power supplies (DC-DC converters with various connector tips for notebooks, USB etc.) and essential consumers for this type of electricity (lighting). Storage and generation are in separate solutions.
      This solution must also be applicable for urban flats: there, you should be able to put a few photovoltaics panels on your balcony and behind windows, some batteries into your living room, and cancel your contract with the electricity provider. The energy would be sufficient for LED lighting and IT devices, while you’d cook with biogas (see below).
      A proposal for the charging hardware is Free Charge Controller v4.04, plus developing variants for higher currents and for 24 V batteries. A good base project for the monitoring part is OpenEnergyMonitor, which has been used by Edgeryders before. For the electrical connectors, a well-working proposal is to use SpeakON connectors (see section 4 in this article by @matthias – proper documentation to follow).

  • :white_circle: Indoor biogas digester. It utilizes carbohydrate-rich kitchen scraps such as from fruits. A small plant is enough, as it is only required for cooking, not for heating etc… Has to include a small intermediate storage for one day of use, either in a kind of large plastic bag or in an open-bottom container floating on water. Hydrogen from an electrolyser can also be mixed into the stored biogas, as produced from excess photovoltaics energy. Should be an open source biodigester that is applicable for urban areas as well – which is not easy, as indoor storage of methane hass to be safe, and also fumes have to be avoided.

  • :white_circle: Indoor bio-ethanol plant. This would consume all kinds of high-carbohydrate waste, and produce ethanol for use as fuel, disinfection and cleaning agent. Distillation would be done with excess thermal solar power, and for that raw materials would be stored fermented but n-distilled or even frozen until the next summer if necessary. Proposed to have in addition to the biodigester as the fuel can be stored better and allows other uses (heated clothing, electricity generator etc.). Raw materials can come from all kinds of fruit scraps in the kitchen, from rotten fruits that can be collected from markets or from non-harvested trees, and from commercially produced fruit waste.

  • :white_circle: Lithium-ion battery storage. Though not easy to handle safely, this would be the standard as it is needed for notebooks and electrical bicycles / quadrocycles / velomobiles anyway.
      Usually, notebook and powertool batteries contain a number of so-called 18650 LiIon cells, of which usually quite some are still usable even though the pack has died. They can be combined into own, new batteries which are effectively available without any monetary investment. Even cells in undervoltage condition (<3 V) can be relatively safely charged and re-used if you know how. What we need here are tools and instructions for building battery packs and working with LiIon batteries, including battery chargers, battery testers, an open source spot welder, 3D printed cell holders, and self-made protection circuits.

  • :white_circle: Solar pavilion. A small 3.5Ă—3.5 m (or larger) hut with open walls but the option to close them with fabric curtains like a tent, providing additional space for temporary guests. The roof is made from lightweight, semi-flexible solar panels. The construction can be made from bamboo and / or aluminium, with 3D printed connectors, and the roof would have the right inclination as needed for solar panels. Can be used on rooftop terraces and in the garden. Much better than permanently installed panels on roofs, as OpenVillage houses will be in rented property in the beginning so the solar panels have to be kept mobile. The whole solar pavilion should fit into some euroboxes for transport and storage.
      Probably, a simple pavilion is better than a solar tracker: it has no moving parts that could break, no complex electronics, a simpler mechanical construction, and it has become difficult to build an economically profitable solar tracker anyway. However, especially where little space is available, the pavilions can easily be one-axis or two-axis solar trackers. For that, they would have a circular footprint, resting on 6 pillars, and the whole roof would be able to rotate on a large ring, and to tilt at a pivot point that touches the ring. This construction has no counterweights for the panels (changing the math of when it’s worthwhile to tilt it), but comes as a simple, sturdy construction when compared to the typical solar trackers with a central pillar. Also with a rotating roof, there is no danger of interfering with people.

3.5. Water

  • :white_circle: Rainwater harvester. Rain is free, so why flush the toilet with potable water? Or shower with potable water? There would be two variants of the rainwater harvester. The first variant has to work for collecting from the roof of rented urban houses, where the challenge is that no permanent infrastructure can be installed. For example, a hose can be laid into the roof gutter, with a pump sucking in the rainwater. The second variant would be for flat outdoor spaces and would be quick-deployable over the plants in the garden. This way, the plants do not get the rainwater directly, but it is purified into potable water (as much as needed), used, and fed to the plants as purified wastewater. This works around the more difficult task of having to clean wastewater into potable water.

  • :white_circle: Wastewater cleaning system. Probably, two types of wastewater would be collected: water from showers, handwashing, the kitchen etc. that is only polluted with biodegradable detergents, organic materials and germs, and water polluted with oils and chemicals. The first type can be cleaned with slow sand filters and (old) ceramic filters to be safe for plants. The second type would be evaporated drop by drop on a small device powered by excess photovoltaics energy.

  • :white_circle: Water heater. Hot water is only needed for showering, washing clothing and cleaning other items. The needs are known at least a bit in advance, and one should enter a need (amount, temperature, time to be ready) into the system as soon as one knows the need. This allows the water heater to select the most suitable, most energy saving way to fulfill that need. It can then automatically combine several means, such as thermal solar collectors, biogas / hydrogen burner, bio-ethanol burner (as backup) and electrical flow-through heating from excess photovoltaics energy.

  • :white_circle: Water purifier. For producing potable water from ground water and rainwater. Can be done with DIY produced ceramic filters (and using 2-3 of them in a row for added safety).

3.6. Food

  • :white_circle: Food foraging and gleaning toolkit. Proposal: Contribute to the development, database and community of mundraub.org. Especially, do food source mapping exercises in OpenStreetMap style.

  • :white_circle: Food preservation tools. Drying, canning etc., perhaps vacuum drying. Also useful before growing own food, to preserve oversupply food and wasted food from markets etc… The dryer should be solar-powered – using vacuum tube type thermal solar collectors, one can produce enough warm air even on cloudy days.

  • :white_circle: Composter. Of course, because humus is the best natural fertilizer. The compost also takes the residue coming out of the biogas plant and kitchen scraps not suitable for the biogas plant. Composts produce heat, and this heat should be captured for room heating by placing the compost indoors, in a gas-tight space of course.

  • :white_circle: Small gardening toolkit. Allowing raised-bed container gardening on rooftops and in any other small space.

  • :white_circle: Mushroom growing toolkit. For areas with very limited space with sunlight to grow plants (such as rented urban houses), mushroom growing is great because mushrooms need no light. We want a full-lifecycle semi-industrial toolkit here that can provide enough mushrooms for everyone in the house (say, 100 - 200 g per person per day).

  • :white_circle: Extended gardening toolkit. Focusing on innovative tools for efficiency in larger-scale gardening. Can include attachments for the four-wheeled cargocycles. No plough etc. is needed, because of course it will all be about no-till lazy permaculture gardening and edible landscapes.

  • :white_circle: Exchange system for recovered food. The challenge is here to map supply and demand fast and in a local area. Proposal: Contributing to the development of the FoodSharing software and community.

3.7. Healthcare, Personal Care

  • :white_circle: Body care and hygiene products. Self-made soap, toothpaste etc…

  • :white_circle: Indoor air filter. Quite essential for example when living in Kathmandu in the dry season. Instead of a commercial ≥600 USD indoor air filter, a DIY one made from a HEPA filter and a fan achieves comparable results. Instead of a HEPA filter, a simple kitchen furnace filter will also do the job, and further research may find ways to create DIY filtering materials. Note that a HEPA filter will remove 90% of PM 0.3 particles while a high-end commercial filter will remove close to 100% (see) – but that difference is of little concern as the indoor air will be filtered again and again, each time removing 90% of the remaining particles. Such “DIY filters” are also on sale in India (see here and here, including more details about effectiveness and lifetime).

  • :white_circle: Wearable air filter. It might be possible to create a solution based on HEPA filter material, or even kitchen furnace filter material. To avoid wearing a mask, it may be sufficient to direct a small jet of air to the nose.

  • :white_circle: Contraception. Population reduction to sustainable levels is essential for long-term ecosystem health of the planet. To have a birth control method that is applicable to everyone worldwide, independent of budget, by first approximation an open source implementation of the Natural Cycles software would do the job very well.

  • :white_circle: Human health manual. The one manual nobody has written yet, and the reason why people claim and believe a lot of fiction in popular discourse about health issues. This manual should contain all reasonable do-it-yourself contributions to good health, ordered by priority and backed by scientific data, and with hints when an external service is needed from medical personnel.

  • :white_circle: Health insurance. For starters, there is a creative analysis by @matthias for how to get cheap health insurance as a self-employed in Germany.

3.8. Tools

  • :white_circle: Workshop assembly instructions. To work on the other solutions listed here inside an OpenVillage house, a light duty workshop / fab lab for metal, wood, plastics, electronics and bicycles is required (and sufficient). In this level, we’re not building many tools in DIY and open source fashion, but there has to be a manual how to find good tools for good prices, and which tools are recommendable. That’s what this solution is about.
      An incomplete list of tools to include is: basic mechanics hand tools, MIG welder, nuts and bolts, metal / wood / plastic / electronics parts. Plus the tools mentioned below in other solutions.

  • :white_circle: Bicycle toolkit. Industrially produced bicycles are ubiquitous so we just use them in Level 1, but we need some required specialized tools to maintain and repair them.

  • :arrow_forward: Powertools. All powertools should work on the 24 V DC grid, in preparation for a completely off-grid home. For that, modifying 28 V DC battery powertools by exchanging the battery with a (removable) cable connection works nicely. While full documentation is still missing, for initial instructions see section 4 in @matthias’ article. The initial set of powertools modified that way would include: good soldering station, power drill, angle grinder, jigsaw, circular hand saw, tablesaw, router, sabersaw.

  • :arrow_forward: FDM 3D printer. All ready except for documenting this solution: just buy a commercial kit of an open source 3D printer, preferably from Lulzbot.

  • :white_circle: Filament maker. For recycling previous prints of the 3D printer (and Lego bricks …) into filament for new prints.

  • :white_check_mark: Plastic recycling machines. This toolset is already fully developed and documented, see the Precious Plastic machines.

3.9. Transportation

  • :white_circle: Equipment mobility system. Based on euroboxes and EPAL pallets.

  • :white_circle: Open-source e-bike conversion kit. Being able to convert any of the ubiquitous normal bikes to an e-bike with an open-source, DIY produced kit would give a big boost to low-cost personal mobility. One could for example explore using defunct battery powered drills for the electric motor.

  • :white_circle: Cargo bicycles. These should have (optional or detachable) electric drive as support. A good design seems to be an electric drive tandem that can be converted to a long cargo bicycle similar to the one by Portal Bikes. That seems to be the ultimately flexible solution: a single-lane vehicle that can go everywhere a bicycle can, and can be used to transport goods and to pick up people.

  • :white_circle: Open-source electric velomobile. The ultimate in personal low-cost mobility, but also quite a complex project.

  • :white_circle: Electric walk-behind tractor. A small (3-6 kW) electrical gardening tractor with a standard attachment for gardening tools. Also to convert into a load-transporting vehicle by adding a trailer: slow but suitable for the heaviest loads to transport around here. Also as a big, mobile battery pack for heavy use of the 24 V power tools on the go (wood cutting etc.). Can even be made into an autonomous gardening tractor later.

3.10. Restoration

In solutions level 1, the focus is to achieve the overall 90% reduction in impact by decreasing consumption. Restoration activity will have its part in this 90% reduction (by undoing damage, so 90% is a net effect), but it’s always better to not do the damage than to do it and repair it. So restoration is not a focus area here, unlike in the higher solution levels.

  • :white_circle: Restoration manual. Ecosystem restoration projects and their impacts are very diverse and it is difficult to know the best for the start. So there should be this manual, detailing DIY ecosystem restoration in a step-by-step plan, with the equipment of OpenVillage Solutions Level 1 assumed as the starting point. Instructions would of course differ by the local situation and ecosystem. There would be a detailed analysis of when it’s better to go for moonshot projects (risky attempts to start large-scale restoration, in collaboration with funders and governmens) and when for smaller-scale DIY solutions.
      Example activities include anything from wildlife habitats for insects, birds etc. around the house and food garden, helping neighbors switch to sustainable energy, cleaning up waste from the environment, tree planting, swales for groundwater infiltration, soil buildup, and seacrete production on a massive scale to undo ocean acidification.

4. Solutions Level 2

The following is a very unfinished list of ideas for equipment needed for the second level of autarky and sustainability in OpenVillage Houses: for going from 90% to 99% reduction in net resource consumption.

4.1. Energy

  • :white_circle: Heated clothing. The lowest-cost way of keeping yourself warm. Could be an open source variant of fluid-heated clothing, with thermal and pump control by an open source microcontroller and as an indoor-usable heat source using a (1) a “permanent candle” that runs on molten wax or (2) an ethanol burner or (3) a methane burner, fueled from the biodigester. Even better, the heat output of the biochar CHP pellet stove can be used, but will require connecting a hose to an outlet.

  • :white_circle: Indoor insulation. Can be made by recycling woolen clothing, or expanded polystyrene trash. The idea is to have a modular system with which any room can be retrofitted with extreme (50 cm) insulation on the inside, so not needing any landlord’s permission. So one will have one or a few very-cost-efficiently heated rooms in a building, and use the other unheated ones either with the heated clothing (for example in workshops), or only shortly (for example storage rooms).

  • :white_circle: Trash paper and trash wood pelletizer. Allows to create fuel from any paper trash, and any kind of wood trash (incl. ubiquitous small twigs etc.). Pellets are stored and in the heating season go into the biochar CHP pellet stove (see below).

  • :arrow_forward: Biochar CHP pellet stove. Assuming the targeted 90% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions was achieved in OpenVillage Solutions Level 1, we are still left with per-capita CO2 equivalent emissions of 6.9 t/year * 0.1 = 690 kg/year (based on EU emissions in 2015). In this second level, the task is to again reduce that by 90% (or more), going towards zero net effects on the environment.
      The difficulty is that these remaining emissions are mostly embodied in essential industrial items we use. So to offset them, the idea here is to produce biochar for carbon sequestration. Biochar is charcoal used as a long-term stable, beneficial soil amendment, and would be mixed it with our compost into high-quality soil. Roughly, offsetting the remaining 690 kg of CO2 emissions means producing 230 kg of carbon per person. At max. 9% black carbon (by mass) in terra preta, this means a yield of ca. 2550 kg terra preta soil per person. At 600 - 700 kg/m3 compost density, that means around 4 m3 of terra preta soil production per person and year to offset the remaining CO2 emissions. The raw material for biochar can be any kind of dry biomass; we would use deadwood collected from forests as all our organic trash is more suitable for composting, and we need a lot of compost as well.
      To utilize the biomass energy as fully as possible, the biochar stove is here combined with a CHP power plant, where heat is used for space heating and the woodgas from charcoal production is used to drive an internal combustion engine and with that, a generator. This provides heat when it’s needed (in winter) and electricity when it can’t be readily supplied by photovoltaics (in winter) from a long-term storable energy carrier (dried biomass) with positive side effects (carbon storage, soil production). So it’s an all-around winning solution.
      See @darren’s biochar rocket stove project for work on the stove. For a commercial biomass CHP plant product (with open source origins), see the APL Power Pallet PP20. For an autarkic commune house, a much smaller plant is needed though. Instead of a 15 kW power pallet, a 625 W unit at 16 hours runtime per day (which is the time where space heating is needed) can provide 10 kWh electrical energy. That is enough for the maximum of 20 inhabitants in an OpenVillage house at a consumption of 500 Wh / (person*day), which is a low but realistic estimate based on typical usage in an off-grid camping vehicle.

  • :white_circle: DIY lead-acid batteries. In this level of autarky, we can’t simply use LiIon batteries everywhere as the cells cannot be DIY produced easily. Lead-acid cells can, however. It requires some research and expertise, but is definitely doable and the lowest-cost DIY way to acquire electricity storage capacity for off-grid photovoltaics plants. Techniques will include cell production incl. plate priming, but also ways to repair degraded lead-acid batteries (short-circuit fixing with welders, de-sulphatation with special chargers, de-sulphatation with EDTA, and exchanging individual cell contents as a last-ditch measure).

  • :white_circle: Photovoltaics modules. This is about creating modules from cells, which we still have to get from industrial production (broken modules, overstock supplies etc.). In OVS Level 1, building own modules makes no sense as used modules are available for cheap (30% of the price of new ones, just needing energy controllers that can cope with many different models and types of modules to uilize these).

  • :white_circle: Temporary photovoltaics panels for urban roofs. Insolated surface is scarce in cities, and tenants usually can’t install permanent infrastructure. So this idea is to have a roll of photovoltaics panels that automatically rolls itself on a roof (from a roof window) whenever the weather is not dangerous for the panels (not windy, no hail, no snow).

  • :white_circle: Tracked mirrors for boosting photovoltaics panels. Maybe one only has a small balcony for a photovoltaics panel and it only gets 2 hours of sun per day, but also has friendly neighbors who agree to host self-contained tracked mirror arrays on their balcony, window shutters or roof. They will reflect sunlight to the photovoltaics array and boost its output (it may need cooling though). The same can be done in the countryside to create photovoltaics energy in more DIY fashion (less silicon, lower monetary costs).

  • :white_circle: LED lighting. Open source designs for some super-efficient LED lighting setups, both for 240 V AC and 12-24 V DC (for off-grid setups). There are many unexplored ideas how to have both comfortable and efficient lighting, incl. room lighting that tracks people in the room, headlights that are recharged in seconds with ultracaps, and white furniture coloring (plus reflector use) to increase light utilization.

4.2. Other

  • :white_circle: CNC lathe. A fully DIY construction will struggle to be strong enough for lathing steel and stainless steel, but grinding stones and grinding disks can be used for these materials instead. It will take long, but a CNC machine can just work on its own so it does not matter.

  • :white_circle: CNC mill. For working with steel, the same remark as for the CNC lathe applies: it can work when using innovative grinding toolheads rather than cutters.

  • :white_circle: Camper trailer accommodation. Remanufacturing used camper trailers would be the lowest-cost way to provide accomodation options that do not need rent. Used camper trailers in bad but usable condition are available for 500 EUR or less. After refurbishing and retrofitting them with photovoltaics etc., they could be available for 5000 EUR in barter value.

  • :white_circle: Automated farming toolkit. Including automated equipment for growing herbs and vegetables on urban rooftops, in small backyard and frontyard gardens, on walls (“vertical farming”) and by guerrilla gardening unused spots.
      A great base technology is FarmBot, of which the small 4 m² version can supposedly grow all the vegetables one person needs, while 110 - 205 m²/person are needed to cover all the calorie needs for a person by growing vegetables with Farmbot (see). Assuming that 1/3 of the calories would come from nuts, fruits and vegetables each, 36 - 68 m² per person of Farmbot area would be needed to grow the required vegetables, the rest being distributed fruit trees and nut bushes. A specialized version would be needed for vertical farming on walls. A Farmbot farming system is also really interesting for terraced farming in Nepal – on all the land that is not farmed anymore right now because people are moving to the cities and abroad.
      For commercial farming, an autonomous electric vehicle would be much cheaper than placing a cartesian robot on each garden bed. It would need precision tracks left and right, perhaps with a type of optical encoders, to navigate in each garden bed.

  • :white_circle: Flow Hive beekeeping toolkit. Another way for landless food production. May include guerrilla gardening of flowers around the neighborhood … lots of flowers, one in every unused square centimeter :bouquet: :sunglasses:

  • :white_circle: Ordinary bicycles. In Level 2, we actually produce full bicycles (while still using industrially manufactured components where they are too difficult to make).

  • :white_circle: Testing equipment for recovered food. Open source knowledge and tools to keep up food safety when eating “marginally eatable” food items.

  • :white_circle: Biogas kitchen stove. Fueled from the indoor biogas digester, which see. In Level 1, a usual commercial LPG kitchen stove can be used.

5. Solutions Level 3

A so far only imagined level of solutions where we go from near-zero impact (Level 2) to positive impact where each person at this level offsets the ecosystem damage done by another person still living a global average lifestyle of 2017.

6. Solutions Level 4

A so far only imagined level of solutions where we scale up the eco-restorative impact of Level 3 by one order of magnitude. With this, each person at this level offsets the ecosystem damage done by ten people still living a global average lifestyle of 2017.


Matthias, do you think it is possible to have an Italian translation?

Thank you

Here is an Italian translation using Google Translate.

You can get the same for all other topics as well by appending ?_escaped_fragment_ to the URL and putting the resulting URL into the Google Translate textbox.

So when a topic shows this URL in your browser’s address bar:


you create this URL and put it into Google Translate:


1 Like

Nice Tip, Matthias :slight_smile:
Thanks a Lot


نجاح جيد جدا

I like this approach!