American Hardwoods
Real American Hardwoods

Looking to reduce waste and live without reliance on public utilities? A Pennsylvania couple is doing just that.

Tucked away in Ligonier Township, Westmoreland County, Ted and Kathy Carns live a life of zero waste, astonishing inventiveness and self-reliant living. They use seven alternative power sources: a wind turbine, six 75-watt solar panels, a stationary bike connected to a 12-volt battery, wood smoke, biodiesel fuel, ethanol and thermo-electric power.

As vegetarians, they grow the food they eat; can the food from their garden; make their own vinegar and spices.

A wood chirper is used to break apart plastic foam packing material, food trays and coffee cups and used as insulation. Other garbage, like paper, is taken to a local recycling center or used in one of their many compost piles.

Their running water comes from faucets fed by a gravity-driven series of cisterns. A clothes washer and a one-gallon Swedish flush toilet are connected to a methane digester for power. And a gray water treatment system recycles water from showers, dishes and laundry through 11 underground filters, then directs the water to the vegetable garden and compost piles.

Kathy Carns is employed as a social service director, but Ted works full time developing new inventions and power sources – which he eventually builds himself – for their unique home and multi-acre property. Their key to self-sufficiency is waste not, want not. (Their only routine expenses are health insurance, cell phone service and of course, taxes. And yes, they occasionally visit the grocery and area restaurants.)

Visit  for a more in-depth look at their off-the-grid lifestyle.



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