Anna Edey wants to share her vision of a sustainable home for humankind with the entire Island.
Before downsizing to a one-acre home in Vineyard Haven in 2018, Edey lived on a 10-acre farm where she grew her own fresh vegetables, raised her own livestock, generated her own electricity, and lived almost entirely off the grid.
Dubbed Solviva by Edey after she built the sustainability-centered farm in West Tisbury in 1986, the large plot of land contained some of the most innovative methods of green-energy production and pollution mitigation ever conceived.
“I had to adapt,” Edey said. “It all started with a vision of doing little to no harm to our home. These methods of green energy and sustainable living weren’t available, so I had to make my own.”
At Solviva, Edey had mastered existing sustainability practices, and also created some of her own methods, including an organic septic that she said reduces nitrogen leaching and costs significantly less than a conventional Title 5 septic.
By pouring her septage through aged wood chips along with compost, earthworms, and a myriad of microorganisms and plants that filter harmful bacteria, viruses, and hormones, Edey was able to create a brand-new way of looking at wastewater treatment.
Not only did Edey design her own septic system, she also designed and constructed a home heating system that utilizes energy from the sun, and draws on energy created by her many livestock animals.
She first heard about the idea to use livestock as a heat source from a grower in Oregon who used rabbits to heat his greenhouse.
Edey used her Chicken Wing (an area of her greenhouse filled with chickens) as a way to get fresh eggs, meat, and plentiful heat to stay warm in the winter and heat the water for her occasional deep soaks in her clawfoot bathtub.
She used a filter to remove the ammonia from the air coming out of the Chicken Wing so that it didn’t harm her plants in the greenhouse. After growing all her produce, Edey froze much of it, and stored it for the winter.
“I wanted my ideas to be as economically attractive as possible. All of this is meant to not only save the planet, but save money,” Edey said.
For Edey, the future of the Island rests on the community’s ability to adapt to a changing environment, and mitigate the impact we have on the natural world.
According to Edey, creating a living environment that minimizes harm to the Island’s ecology is essential to the continuity of our community and our world. Now, Edey is taking a house built in the 1950s and converting it to a modern-day green household.
“To go from a heavy-duty carbon footprint to a near carbon-zero home is going to take a lot of hard work,” Edey said.
She said it should take about a year to get rid of the home’s propane furnace and conventional Title 5 septic, and create her own method of electricity generation.
And, of course, Edey is working on transforming her backyard pagoda into a mini-Solviva greenhouse, where she will grow her own fresh produce, and possibly house some chickens or other livestock animals.
“It’s so radical a concept for humanity to rely on electricity from the sun. Our goal is to reduce the cost of living for people, and prove that this type of thing is possible,” Edey said.
Edey’s electric car, a Nissan Leaf, costs a fraction of what a conventional gas vehicle would cost to operate, and it can be charged from a home’s wall outlet. And all the charging for electric cars can be accomplished with photovoltaic panels, Edey said.
According to Edey, the ability for people to live green is widely accessible, but is often thought to be out of reach for all besides the wealthy.
“It is so entirely within our reach to be energy self-sufficient,” Edey said.