"It's always sunny for Jonathan Carroll"
Forty-four-year-old Corvallis resident Jonathan Carroll is living the low-impact lifestyle. His south-facing home has solar panels for generating electricity, a solar hot water system and a raised bed garden.
By Cheryl Hatch, Gazette-Times reporter | Posted: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 3:30 am
Like many homeowners, Jonathan Carroll, 44, chose his home for its size and its view. It's a 750-square foot bungalow with purple trim and a southern exposure.
Unlike many homeowners, he paid off his mortgage on his 40th birthday - a personal goal - and it costs him precious little to maintain it. The home - like much in Carroll's life - is powered by the sun.
He has a "Powered by the Sun" bumper sticker on the Zap electric car parked in his driveway, inspired by the "Powered by Biodiesel" campaign. "I took their font and their color," Carroll said, describing his adaptation.
Carroll is a master of modification, all in pursuit of saving resources. He reconfigured the battery array in his Zap car to get three times the usage. He fashioned a bike light that runs on solar power and created multiple solar arrays on his roof to power his home, his tools - his life.
"I've always gravitated to living like this," Carroll said. "I've always been this staunch environmentalist. I'm a little obsessed, but I sleep well at night."
He remembers the energy crisis of the 1970s and its long lines for gasoline and the commercial, with "the Indian paddling a canoe through all this garbage. I'll never forget that."
A graduate of Brookfield High School in Connecticut, Carroll learned innovation from his father, an industrial arts teacher. "I was making digital clocks when I was 12 years old," he said.
In his backyard, he makes the most of his southern exposure. He has a series of solar panels that create four times the electricity he needs - including one panel that he glued together with clearcoat body paint. "I never pay for electricity."
He has nearly a dozen raised beds, a grape arbor and fruit trees. "This is only a tenth of an acre. You can grow a ton," Carroll said. "I eat out of my garden year-round."
He grows kiwis, figs, plums, asian pears, raspberries, blueberries and cherries. A Santa Rosa plum tree was blooming. "That's the beauty of this valley; it's temperate."
He times his water usage with the seasons, too. He recycles the gray water from his washing machine in the summer to irrigate his garden. He uses phosphate soap because the plants appreciate the chemicals. In the winter, it's non-phosphate soap because the water is returned to the city system and phospates can create algae blooms.
His toilet uses no water: it's a composting toilet, basically a bucket and sawdust.
"It's a closed loop," Carroll said. "I eat. I poop. I compost. I put it in the garden, and I grow food."
He can understand if his neighbors think he's a bit eccentric.
"I use a real (push) mower. They use a two-cycle gas engine mower," he said. He thinks they're missing out and missing the point: "Get some exercise, talk to your neighbors, hear the birds sing."
He'd like more people to simplify their lives, but he's not a zealot. And he wants people to understand he's not wanting for anything.
"I live by example. I bike to work every day," Carroll said. "I don't live like a monk. I have electric guitars, a TV and a microwave. I just try to live my live with integrity."