Mortgage rates are sky-high, rents are worse and even the price of eggs have shot up by 60 percent in a year.
So, maybe it’s no wonder more and more Americans are choosing to opt out of mainstream living and are going off-grid.
A ‘self-sufficiency’ movement is rocketing in popularity across the continent, with fed up families ditching their homes and relocating into the wilderness where they generate their own power and even, in some instances, source all their own food.
The trend has been accelerated not only by rising living costs but also by the pandemic which caused many to reflect on their own resilience in the face of disaster.
‘We’re not crazy preppers or anything like that,’ says Maylin Luke, 36, who moved off-grid to a ranch in Texas which her partner Blakely, 37, last year.
Maylin Luke, 36, and her partner Blakely, 37, sold their three-story home in Dallas, Texas, to move ‘off-grid’ to a 60-acre plot of land
The couple invested in their own $113,000 ‘tiny home’, building their own water infiltration unit and installing an electricity pole nearby
The couple had their ‘tiny home’ custom-made by a company and frequently share photos of it on social media
‘But lockdown did make us reflect more on what we wanted from life. And how we could be more independent.’
The couple had been living in a three-story home in Dallas, Texas, when they decided to invest in a 60-acre piece of land last year.
They then had a small cabin – or ‘tiny home’ as they call it – which cost them around $113,000.
They are not entirely ‘off-grid’ yet as they use an electricity pole and still buy groceries from their nearby town.
But soon they plan to start growing their own fruit and vegetables in a bid to become more self-sufficient.
And they have already slashed their property tax bill from around $10,000 a year to $130 as Texan law means they get an agriculture and wildlife exemption – subject to several conditions.
The couple say it was lockdown that made them reflect on the way they lived
Maylin said: ‘We just wanted to get out of the city, get rid of our things and really slow down to minimize our carbon footprint’
Maylin, who quit her job in marketing to set up her own business Resting Plant Face, says: ‘Before we just filled with so much stuff.
‘We just wanted to get out of the city, get rid of our things and really slow down to minimize our carbon footprint.’
Around 180,000 US citizens were living off-grid in 2020, claims Home Power magazine – though some estimates put this figure as high as 250,000.
And this figure is only growing.
Consulting company Accenture forecasts that 12 percent of American households will be reliant on off-grid energy – including solar power – by 2035.
The trend is being accelerated by global energy insecurity sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
What’s more the threat of climate change and more extreme weather has resulted in more power outages.
Analysis from non-profit research group Climate Central last year found that outages had increased by 64 percent between 2000 and 2021.
That revelation has spooked not just consumers but businesses too who are also moving off-grid in their droves.
‘Off-grid is becoming huge in America,’ says Nick Rosen, founder of Off-grid.net.
‘But much of that growth is from big businesses and the military.’
Californian fresh food producer Taylor Farms, manufacturer Bimbo Bakeries and refrigerated cold storage developer Almond World are among several big businesses to have already announced plans to create their own standalone power supplies – or ‘micro-grids.’
The system of ‘micro-grids’ has been deployed for years in the US military, where camps need to minimize power losses.
But the transition is more difficult for the everyday individual.
Danyelle Ellis, 31, and her husband Doug moved to a ranch in Arizona around 18 months ago
The couple are entirely self-sufficient thanks to their solar power system and even homeschool their children
Danyelle and Doug are living in their RV while they build their forever home on the land they own in Arizona
Mother-of-two Danyelle Ellis moved off-grid around 18 months ago and says the transition has not been without its challenges.
But in all she describes the experience as ‘freeing.’
‘Everything had just gotten so expensive and the world was so chaotic with the pandemic. We wanted a change,’ says Danyelle, 31.
She and her husband Doug, 32, ditched their five-bedroom home in New Mexico and moved out to land they already owned in Arizona.
Now they homeschool their children – who are 13 and nine – generate all their own power using a self-built solar system and collect water from the nearest town using their water truck.
Their nearest neighbors are two miles away and, while Doug continues to commute to work in the city as a heavy equipment operator, Danyelle spends her day tending to horses on a nearby ranch.
The pair are currently living in their RV while they build their forever home on the land.
‘We’re saving at least $3,000 a month,’ says Danyelle, 31.
‘The solar system cost $25,000 but once that is in place there are no more costs.
‘And my children love it. I didn’t want them to be like every other kid in the city glued to their mobile phones.’