Self-reliance And The Art Of Self-reliance

When we talk about self-reliance, self-sustainability, and self-sufficiency, we think of a simple, sustainable, and minimalistic way of living.

We think of people living in harmony with nature. We also think of a community of people who are empowered enough to live life on their own terms and conditions. We think of people buying and selling goods at a farmer’s market, helping and supporting each other.

Self-reliance is the reliance on one’s own self to lead a life of one’s choice.

Self-reliance And The Art Of Self-reliance

Self-reliance is to depend on one’s own power and resources, and on one’s own efforts and abilities to lead a successful life.

Self-reliance is characterized by a person’s ability to think independently and work towards his goal in life by embracing one’s uniqueness and individuality.

It can even mean nonconformity to the norms of the society which believes in a classic give-and-take model. The firm belief in oneself and one’s purpose in life gives a person the ability to be self-reliant.

By reducing or avoiding the dependency on others, we empower ourselves to live a life of our choice. We can make our own decisions under different circumstances.

Self-sufficiency is achieved when an entity doesn’t depend on help from outside and can take care of all its needs.

For example, a self-sufficient person is one who is enough to fulfill one’s own needs, Being self-sufficient is being independent- financially, emotionally, and intellectually. Self-sufficiency can be a characteristic of even an economy. An economy that requires little or no trade with the world outside is self-sufficient.

As we can see self-reliance and self-sufficiency mean the same thing.

Sustainability Definition

Sustainability definition is the ability to exist constantly. In today’s world, sustainability is the capacity of human civilization and the biosphere to coexist.

It is the capacity of humans to meet our needs, without taking away or compromising the share of future generations, concerning natural resources, social resources, and economic resources.

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability is defined as the ability to indefinite continuity concerning:

  • Rate of renewable resource harvest ( not exceeding the rate of regeneration)
  • Rate of pollution creation ( not exceeding the assimilative capacity of the environment)
  • Rate of non-renewable resource depletion ( not exceeding a comparable development of renewable substitute of that resource)

Ecological Friendly

Ecological friendly means not harmful to the environment or planet earth. Any product that meets this criterion is called an ecologically friendly product.


Self-sustainability for a person, an organization, or a society, is achieved when that person, organization, or society requires little or no help from others. This is possible when they produce what they need to consume.

We have all heard of self-sustaining ecosystems in an aquarium or a jarranium. These are self-contained systems consisting of biotic (consisting of living organisms like plants and animals) and abiotic ( consisting of non-living things like water, minerals, etc.) components.

The goal of a self-sustaining ecosystem is to provide for itself so that it can survive without any input from outside (other than sunlight). This is an example of an ecologically friendly and environmentally sustainable ecosystem.

Being self-reliant and self-sufficient is imperative for being a self-sustaining entity. The focus on self calls for a strong awareness and understanding of the self. Also, self-sustainability helps in remaining self-sufficient and self-reliant. As we can see they go hand in hand and feed on each other.

Off-grid Housing, Self-sustaining Homes, Self-sufficient Living

Off the grid means to live autonomously without depending on utility for power. Off-grid housing is a housing system where houses do not depend on the grid for power. In other terms, it also means generating one’s own electricity and living a self-sufficient life.

People prefer to live in off-grid housing for various reasons:

  • Reduce carbon footprint- Environmentally conscious people like the idea of producing electricity from clean and renewable sources of energy to reduce their carbon footprint on the planet.
  • Saving money- By getting off the grid and producing their own electricity people can save money on utility bills. This drives some people towards off-grid housing.
  • Self-sufficient living – Freedom from dependence on the system (government or private) for generation, transmission, and distribution for their power requirements motivates a lot of people.
  • Self-sufficient living – Freedom from dependence on the system (government or private) for generation, transmission, and distribution for their power requirements motivates a lot of people.

Self-sustaining homes call for much more than just indigenous power generation. Let us look at the different aspects involved in building self-sustaining homes.

When we think about self-sustaining homes and self-sufficient living, we picture a beautiful ecologically friendly house with solar panels on the roof.

Lots of nature around the house with a permaculture garden outside and an indoor herb garden inside.

Farm animals and birds roaming free on the land.

Neatly built tanks and water bodies to harvest and store rainwater, and separate sections on the land to compost the kitchen and garden waste.

We also picture some hard-working men, women, and children who lead a life of simplicity.

We respect such people for being responsible for their own health and well-being, and towards the health and well-being of the planet and its coinhabitants.

Today, as more and more people are becoming aware and conscious of the amount of harm we have already done to our planet and its resources, they are turning towards living a more responsive and responsible life.

Attaining self-sustainability and becoming self-sufficient have become the primary aim of such people. This in turn leads to a rather minimalistic approach to life and a conscious effort to reduce one’s carbon footprint.

Collecting Rainwater, Rainwater Harvesting

Water does not get replenished the way other renewable resources do. It takes much longer for the water cycle to replenish the used up water.

  • By harvesting rainwater and storing it in natural or man-made ponds, these people can use that water for their own needs and the needs of the plants and animals in that locality.
  • Collecting rainwater and stagnating it by building embankments, helps in the rejuvenation of the water table in that area and stops erosion.
  • It also reduces the burden on the government water department which strives to distribute clean water to everyone.

Attaining self-sufficiency in water is the only way to have access to clean drinking water for many communities living in drought-stricken and remote areas.

Collecting rainwater for future use is called rainwater harvesting.

  • It can be as simple as collecting water falling on top of the house through the gutters running through the roof into a container or tank.
  • It can also be an elaborate procedure of digging trenches or ponds and making embankments along the contours of forestlands to hold water.

It is important to know the formula for rainwater harvesting:
One inch of rainfall in 1000 square feet will yield 623 gallons of water.

The most commonly used systems for collecting rainwater are:

  • Installing a rain barrel or a tank at the gutter downspout and collecting all the water into the barrel or tank.
  • Collecting water through different gutter downspouts into underground pipes and then leading it into a water storage tank located at a distance.

The water thus collected can be used for all day-to-day uses. By using filtration and disinfection methods, this water is even used as drinking water.

Indoor Planting, Vegetables Gardening, Indoor Herb Gardens

Growing one’s own produce is the solution to many health, economic, and environmental problems.

Those who have outdoor space available for vegetable gardening can grow plants outside and others can choose indoor planting.

Making sure there are no harmful chemical fertilizers added to these plants, we ensure the safety of the soil and that of our own health.

Indoor planting brightens the indoor space, helps in mood upliftment, and by carefully choosing the vegetables and fruits to be grown in them, they help in attaining partial self-reliance and self-sufficiency in terms of food requirements.

By maintaining moisture levels in the soil, ensuring a good drainage system, and making sure there is ample light, indoor gardens can become a reality.

Carrots, radishes, green onions, peppers, herbs, leafy salad greens, microgreens, potatoes, for example, can be grown indoors.

Basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley, peppermint, the most commonly used herbs in the kitchen, are some of the easiest herbs to grow as well.

Having an indoor herb garden is one of the easiest forms of gardening with which to start. It not only makes the person self-sufficient in terms of the availability of these herbs in the kitchen, but it also motivates the person to cook more meals in the house. Thus, changing the culture of eating out all the time.

By composting waste and using it as fertilizers to grow fruits and vegetables, people can harvest good crops and increase the nutrient level of the soil. By growing organic crops over a period of time, they can reclaim the fertility levels of the soil.

In the permaculture method of farming, the focus is on developing synergetic farming systems based on crop diversity, natural productivity, resilience, and sustainability. It creates a harmonious living environment and reduces the work and energy required to maintain them. Caring for the earth and people are among the mantras of permaculture.

Generation Of Electricity, Generate Power At Home, How To Generate Electricity At Home For Free

By choosing to live in off-grid houses, and by utilizing alternate sources of energy like solar energy, wind energy, or energy generated from biomass, people become self-sufficient concerning power.

They produce the energy needed to run their homes. By following this practice collectively as a community, they can use the energy for all of their needs.

By doing so, people are also making an immense contribution to solving the problem of the ever-increasing demand for energy.

The typical payback period for solar panels is around 8 years in the US. After the payback period, the electricity that is produced at home by the solar panels is free.

People who choose self-reliance, self-sustainability, and a self-sufficient way of living, generate power at home. They tap the free resources like sun or wind and convert them into electricity. Let us look at some ways to generate electricity at home for free:

  • Solar Power: Solar panels on rooftops are a common sight these days. After an assessment of the placement of the solar panels on the rooftop or in an open area near the house, to maximize the reception of sunlight, the solar panels are carefully installed. The photovoltaic cells convert the energy from sunlight into electrical energy and store it in the batteries. These batteries can provide the energy required to run the entire home. Sun’s energy is free and abundant.
  • Wind Power: Air flows occur naturally in the earth’s atmosphere. Small wind turbines are used to generate electricity for homes, farms, and small businesses. The wind turbine blades capture the wind’s kinetic energy and rotate when the wind blows past the turbines. It turns it into mechanical energy. This rotation results in turning an internal shaft connected to a gearbox, which increases the speed of rotation by a hundred times. That spins a generator that produces electricity. A turbine starts to generate electricity when wind speeds reach six to nine miles per hour. It is known as the cut-in speed. Turbines shut down when the wind blows at a speed of roughly 55 miles an hour or higher to prevent equipment damage.

A hybrid system of solar and wind power may be used in places where it is sunny in the mornings and windy at night.

People even build Do It Yourself generators using the simple principle of energy conversion. Energy is generated and stored in batteries for usage.

Different mechanisms

  • like pedaling on a bicycle and converting the leg’s power to electric volts,
  • positioning water wheels in the stream or moving water, and converting the energy from the moving wheel into electricity,
  • using biogas generated from a mixture of organic wastes or food wastes and water.

Benefits Of Self-reliant, Self-sufficient, and Self-sustainable Living

By growing one’s own grains, fruits and vegetables, by raising farm animals and birds, by composting one’s own waste, by harvesting rainwater, and by having their own source of power, such people are cutting down the dependency on any external agency or service. This is a perfect example of self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-sustainable living.

When such measures are taken up by a group of people, forming a community of environmentally responsible individuals, the impact it has on society is transformative.

Such self-sustainable pockets can create a huge positive impact on the environment and planet earth. It can reverse some of the damages that we have done to the environment.

Due to the huge positive impact, such as self-reliant, self-sustainable, and self-sufficient communities have, in many parts of the world, there are subsidies provided by the government to individuals and communities who embrace such changes.

Some officials help people with the technology and knowledge required to make such a shift. People need to be educated about any such schemes that can help them make this transition.

Self-reliance, self-sustainability, and self-sufficiency can be attained by first acquiring knowledge and then utilizing that knowledge to stop depending on anyone else.

The knowledge we are talking about here has to be multidimensional.

  • Technical knowledge of how to fix things and make things work,
  • financial knowledge of how to invest and ensure return on investment regularly,
  • knowledge of the rules of the land,
  • and other statutory and regulatory norms regarding creating a self-sufficient farm or community etc is mandatory.

Along with all this, people who take this path need a strong sense of self-acceptance. Without compassion and love for self, one cannot get on this path. An understanding and bonding with the self, with the purpose of one’s life, and a passion for making a difference in society are required. This knowledge of self adds a whole new dimension to the repertoire of knowledge required to walk on this path, thus making it multidimensional.

For those of us who cannot attain a completely self-sufficient and self-reliant mode of living, it is a good idea to look at a couple of areas where we can achieve self-sufficiency.

  • For instance, by following good financial practices, saving, and investing wisely, one can strive to attain financial self-sufficiency.
  • By investing time and energy in eating healthy and exercising regularly one can aim at achieving sustainable health.
  • Meditating regularly can help in reaching a self-sufficient emotional and mental health goal.

By working on one of these goals at a time we can achieve self-sufficiency in one of these areas as individuals.

Leading a self-sustainable life, helps the person, the environment, the society, and the planet. It tells us that there is another way to lead our life. A simpler and more meaningful way. One that does not go after material affluence, but aims at creating a simple living and natural building.

Contributors: Kazim Abasali & Deepa Kadavakat