Analysis & Design
Besides the ecological and social components the economic aspects of sustainable living is quite important. We will be using basic conventional financial accounting tools like cash flows, budgets, double entry bookkeeping and cost estimations and also general business development and planning skills. It would be too huge of an undertaking to use the ecological footprint concept, embodied energy calculations or ecological accounting systems to analyze and subsequently design this project, at least at this stage, to get more accurate numbers on sustainable use of resources and energy.
We have been considering several ways to make this project financial possible:
First of all, we made successful efforts over a few years to be out of any debt. We will be making an internal loan to this project from ourselves that we will repay within 2 - 3 years. For later phases we want to look for external funding opportunities, like grants, gifts and sponsors and have the funds available before starting the next phase.
Secondly, we will make efforts to create additional income by growing a marketable crop, develop new businesses, giving in the future 10% of any revenue from classes held on our property to this project and renting out a future outbuilding.
Thirdly, we will be able to reduce some of our costs of living in the near future by providing more of our needs from the property directly, including food, water, energy and fertilizer (worm compost), reduce or redirect some of our expenses, for example our health insurance, and by using and reusing resources the property provides like wood, stones, rain water, earth, mulch, etc.
Last not least, we are continuing to develop our already existing financial management and accounting skills.
An additional aspect we have been looking at is to be reasonable well financially prepared for difficult periods of world change. This includes to keep some cash on hand, learning new skills and trades, develop a stock of materials, seeds, tools, etc. and connecting to others.
More details on these strategies are described
in "Financial Strategy".
Financial Planning Details
The following financial information for phase one is available in the project plan:
- Estimates of the costs per task and related tasks. Except when broken out, the given amounts of cost estimates include materials, equipment, and labor. Subtasks in regards to cost estimates are indicated by an amount of US $0.00 below a task that contains an actual amount.
- Costs for city fees and permits, if required, are all added up into one amount.
The budget and cash flow plan provides the following information:
- Cash flow projections to ensure we have money available when expected to be needed.
- Income available for the project from current reserves, work, loan (from ourselves), businesses and gifts.
- Loan payback schedule.
Based on the project plan the estimated budget for the first phase encompassing the first year is about US $30,000. This includes labor costs, contractors and the big-ticket items, like landscaping the front yard, replacing of the sewage pipe, the deck and backyard porch, the front yard porch and the solar PV system.
If the limit of this phase's budget is reached, implementation will be discontinued until more funds have been allocated. This requires ongoing monitoring of project expenses. We have several ideas how to build funds for this project and how to reduce or redirect costs, including postponing certain elements for a period of time or increasing our monthly big ticket item contribution.
More details of the budget and cash flow planning are provided in the article "Budgeting and Cash Flow".
We have been making quite some effort to work out of our home and set it up so it works for both of us. Besides the convenience and independence this provides in many ways, we see this as a major step in reducing our impact on the environment and reducing our energy and resource usage for transportation, avoiding to increase the need of office space with its impact of original construction, ongoing maintenance and doubling up many items we would have at home as well as in an office. Many aspects of working from home are seen as a whole movement by some, for example speech writer of former US vice president Al Gore, Daniel H. Pink in his book called "Free Agent Nation. The Future of working for Yourself".
We both, Berta and myself, are able to do our professional work from a home office. Berta is working in the health field and has a treatment room and an office area. Myself, I am working mostly as a consultant and designer in different areas, spending at least half of my time on the computer and Internet. To make this work we had to make a few adjustments. We added a more sound proof door to the office room, turn our phones off during the time clients are hear, keep the area of our house that clients have access to quite orderly and coordinate our schedules. We both are increasing our work over the phone, which makes this even more flexible in geographic location (as long as all the support systems, like the Internet or phones, work).
Our home is situated close to the town center, that can be reache in about a 12-minute walk. Most of the amenities like stores, the farmers market, the post office, government offices, restaurants and other entertainment, the city beach and some of our friends can be reached by walking or biking.
For the first phase of this project we have decided to move Berta's office to another location so any work and noise is not impacting her clients. This allows us to freely schedule tasks during the business day. It also freed up a room that we needed in order to accommodate help that we have hired - two nephews of Berta that will be here for the month of June and July.
A potential for generating additional future income to finance this project are products that can be grown or made on our property or services that we can provide. After thinking and brainstorming about it for many years the following are some guiding criteria in choosing a particular business:
- Sustainable in an economic, ecological and social sense.
- Low start up costs - maybe a few hundred US dollars.
- Needs little space.
- Can be operated seasonally.
- Has a high return compared for expenditure and hours worked.
- Low administrative needs.
- Can be "automated" in the sense that it does not need a lot of attention.
- Has low ongoing maintenance, once it is set up and operating.
- Fits into the overall vision, permaculture ethics and sustainable living paradigm
- Has a small resource usage and low embodied energy (see for example emergy).
- Has a market and is needs based, not wants based.
- Can be easily tested.
- Is easy to relocate or is location independent.
- Also satisfies some of our own needs
Several potential business ideas have been already tried out and seem to be able to generate a small, consistent amount of profit, including growing Micro Greens, specialty mushrooms, decorative gourds and book selling. See "Micro Enterprises - Examples" for more details. In this project phase we will concentrate on Micro Greens and develop the setup.
It is my intention to change the direction of my professional career during the next years. Currently mostly working as an IS consultant, I plan to add consulting in the area of sustainability and ecological design. I have received several requests in the past for helping with various projects. Recently, based on the request of a potential client's daughter, I developed a one-page overview of the services and rates for my ecosocial design business.
Gentle Harvest, a sole proprietorship, is currently undertaking all my business activities.