Escaping reality to start a sustainable new life in the forest is something only most of us will dream of. But, the folks at Projekt Kodu have made this utopic vision a reality. And, for a reasonable price, townies like me can sample an authentic eco-friendly lifestyle – even just for a night.
I’ll be the first person to admit I’m not the most “outdoorsy” person. Nor could I live somewhere majorly rural. The thought of not having 24-hour access to takeaways, TV and telecommunications is enough to send shivers up AND down my spine.
However, with that said, I do have an alter-ego that longs to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I went vegetarian at the age of 15 when I read that cows farts were deadlier to the ozone than car emissions. I’m now vegan, not only because of animal cruelty issues, but also because it’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
So far, that’s been enough for me. I’ve read about people who have changed their entire lives to live more sustainably. And, I’ve silently commended them from the comfort of my brightly-lit, cozily-heated home. Their commitment is amazing, I often think to myself, but I could never do that.
Well, it turns out, I just did! For one night admittedly, but that was due to time restraints rather than my dedication to the cause. So if, like me, you have a vague interest in off-grid living, read on to see what it might actually be like.
We stayed at Projekt Kodu in Estonia’s largest national park, Laheema. The project’s owners, Jim and Mari, first laid roots in the forest near Loksa in 2013. And, as well as building their own sustainable home from re-claimed materials, they also established an eco retreat.
Today their fragment of forest is home to a range of higgledy-piggledy wooden structures that provide all the comforts guests could need. And, they have designed everything at Projekt Kodu to have the lowest possible environmental impact.
So, although guests will find standalone kitchen, shower and toilet blocks, they’re unlike those at your average campsite. In the kitchen, guests will find a gas-fuelled stove where they can cook food and boil water. Furthermore, recycling and composting facilities mean no packaging or leftover food goes to waste. All drinking water comes from a well, while stream water is used to clean dishes, clothes and humans.
Speaking of washing, when it comes to taking a shower, hot water is only available when the sauna is running. As a result, if you want a good steaming after a long day, you’ll have to wash during the evening. Otherwise, you’ll have to brave the cold. Furthermore, guests are asked to use only biological products – which are provided – that can break down naturally in the water supply, avoiding contamination.
And, without getting into the nitty gritty, the toilet situation is as equally low-impact. The loos are of the composting variety and consequently use no water. Waste falls down into a pit where it can decompose naturally without the need for costly and energy-reliant sewerage systems.
What’s more, although Projekt Kodu is about getting away from it all, one tent does boast electricity and WiFi. So, if the thought of dropping out of society completely is too much, you can still get your daily Facebook fix. And, solar panels supply the power, so technically, you’re not really cheating.
With the basics taken care of, it was time for us to start enjoying ourself and embracing our new lifestyle. So, the first thing we did was let off some steam – literally – in the homemade sauna. While saunas might be synonymous with Finnish culture, the Estonians also have a place in their hearts for the ancient bathing ritual. Most summer houses in the country have one, so why should Projekt Kodu miss out?
After that we made use of the fully-equipped outdoor kitchen and cooked up some grub. If you’re short on ingredients, there’s a veg patch, a herb garden and a greenhouse guests can use to add colour to their dishes. There are also chickens onsite, so guests a can help themselves to eggs. But, being vegan, we didn’t.
As night fell, we joined a few other campers for a beer around the campfire. There were a mix of nationalities – namely Brits, Polish and German – however we discovered we had a lot in common and chatted into the wee hours.
The following morning we planned to make use of the camp’s fleet of bikes and explore more of Laheema. However, with time of the essence, we opted to drive instead. (No, not very environmentally-friendly, I know)
When the time came to settle down for night, we climbed into our canvas tent and zipped the forest behind us. Each one is equipped with a wooden palette bed that’s adorned in a fluffy duvet and fleecy blankets. Added extras like a jug of wild flowers and a carafe of drinking water only added to the homely feel.
It’s safe to say we enjoyed one of the most peaceful night’s sleep I’d had in the silence of the park. And, in the morning, the sunlight and the gentle crow of the camp’s rooster were the only things to stir our slumber.
The following morning we awoke to glorious sunshine and shook off our sleep by enjoying a coffee in camp with some of our fellow guests. After that, we said our goodbyes and continued our adventure in the park.
So, while I still believe I’ll never have the determination to live off-grid full time, I’d definitely like to disconnect on a more regular bases. Without our phones, laptop or television as distraction, we really soaked up our surroundings and embraced the sustainable experience. From chatting to strangers to enjoying the peace and quiet, we lived in the moment and enjoyed every second.