This page will be growing soon. It will be an expanding guide on creating household and community resilience and local subsistence through a concerted effort to be ready for a transition to a future without access to fossil fuels.

What is the Transition?

The institute was founded on a chain of logic: our current way of life is dependent on fossil fuels, which are a finite resource, and therefore we should transition our lives as soon as possible to exist without them. This is not radical. Radical is thinking our way of life will not change drastically in a quarter century when oil is effectively gone.

Transitioning to live free of fossil fuels has beneficial side effects. On the large scale, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps fight climate change. It also makes transitioners more resilient against other disasters, from power outages and natural disasters to pandemics and supply-chain issues. It also helps insulate us against personal disruptions, such as job loss or illness.

What Does the Transition Look Like?

You might think a transitioner is someone who lives off the grid deep in the woods, and while this person is probably better prepared for the loss of fossil fuels, that isn’t the only way to go about it. You can think about building resilience into your everyday life wherever you are.

A suburban transitioner would have a house and yard, but instead of grass, tidy gardens and fruit trees might fill the lot. Solar photovoltaic and hot water panels might be on the roof and passive solar heating ducts may be visible on the house walls. Inside the house, reverse osmosis filters provide clean water along with storage tanks. The basement has shelves of canned and dry foods that are cycled through the year. There’s a battery bank to run the essential utilities and lighting. Even with all this built-in resilience, the family still enjoys the benefits of our current way of life (maybe a pool doubling as a nonpotable water reservoir), but when unexpected problems arise, they can fall back on their basic systems.

Urban transitioners faces more challenges due to space constraints, but that can’t stop them from having more food in their pantry than they need at any one time. A half dozen 5-gal drinking water jugs can be cycled through during normal times and provide weeks of drinking water if needed. Even small urban lots can grow food, although community gardens or other spaces might need to be found. Even renters can take advantage of solar power and storage with modular, portable units. And because they’ve built relationships with other transitioners, they have options for moving if disruption is long term.

Rural residences are often already partly transitioned, as they often possess backup heating systems and space dedicated to growing food. The options for locally derived water are greater, as is the space for power generation. The challenge for rural transitioners is largely cultural: fossil fuels, especially gas and diesel, drive everything out here.

Not “Prepping”

This is not “prepping” as it is commonly understood. Also called survivalism, this concept is understood as “gathering materials and making plans in preparation for surviving a major disaster or cataclysm (such as worldwide economic collapse or war).” Instead, we’re advocating a systematic transition to live without fossil fuels. If that happens to inure you against other disasters, all the better.

Even though survivalism and transition have some overlap, it is coincidental to both focusing on sustaining human life. Both survivalists and transitioners think about water, food, and shelter after a major systemic disruption. The differences, though, are important. Survivalists are often focused on security and stockpiling. They typically focus on maintaining themselves and their immediate family. They are also motivated by a variety of concerns, from nuclear or biological war to EMP or monetary collapse. Others are led by religious or other supernatural beliefs. And yes, a subset of preppers are also concerned with peak oil.

Our transition rubric does not deal with security. Instead we focus on building community. We do not encourage “bug out bags” or isolated “bug out locations” with hoards of food and ammunition. Although having a reasonable amount of food and water on hand is prudent, we urge people to cycle seasonal food through their storage — a preindustrial model, not a post-apocalyptic one. We advocate for creating systems, not stockpiles.

And we understand that we are not self-sufficient. If anything, we are locally interdependent. We build connections with neighbors and the local ecosystem. Instead of a reinforced bunker or isolated hideout, we encourage village and neighborhoods to work together where they are, except for in the most dense urban areas, which have not been sustainable in history without fossil fuels.

This is also not meant to be a “fall back” position. We have no “in case of emergency break glass” sign on these ideas. They are meant to be integrated into your everyday life. Starting small and working up to more resilient, redundant systems, is the best way to go, as a wholesale overhaul of your entire life is too disruptive.

Low Technology Institute’s

Transition Rubric

⚠Under Construction: We are currently populating the links made in the below chart.⚠

Thrive for:1 Week1 Month1 YearPerpetual
Water1 gal./person/day
purifier & source
1 gal./person/day
3–7 days stored
purifier & source
1 gal./person/day
7+ days stored
purifier & source
plus nonpotable
1 gal./person/day
7+ days stored
redundant purifiers plus extensive nonpotable
Food2000 cal./pers./day
shelf-stable goods
plus oil, fat, snacks
2000 cal./pers./day
shelf-stable goods
plus oil, fat, snacks
and tools & know-how to obtain more
2000 cal./pers./day
cycled shelf-stable goods
plus oil, fat
and tools & know-how to obtain much more
2000 cal./pers./day
cycled shelf-stable goods
plus oil prod.
and redundant production systems
Clothingwk. of clothes/pers.
layers for season
plus changes of underclothes
wk. of clothes/pers.
layers for season
plus change of everything
and way to wash
wk. of clothes/pers.
layers for all seasons
plus extras of everything
and way to wash & repair
wk. of clothes/pers.
layers for all seasons
plus extras
and way to wash, repair, & make new
Shelterweek of shelter
way to run basic home systems
and/or tents & tarps as backup
month of shelter
way to consistently run home systems
and tent & tarps as backup
year of shelter
full backup mode in house systems
repair materials
and goods
perpetual shelter
redundant house systems
and materials for repair & improvement
and goods
Power5% of Household
Panel to charge phone and lights
and stove or method to heat food and water
15% of Household
Panel to charge phone and lights
and cook stove
plus basic heating/cooling
25% of Household
Panel & storage for lights & appliances
and independent cooking and heating/cooling
50% of Household
Panel & storage for lights & appliances
and redundant cooking and heating/cooling
WasteShort-Term Basics
Toilet paper, shovel, methods to deal with human and organic waste.
More Formal
Toilet paper, pit or composting toilet
and compost or other org. waste receiver
Composting or septic toilet system
and robust compost system and non-organic waste.
Redundant human and organic and non-organic waste recycling systems
Community2 Households
Another household to share resources and aid with
4 Households
A small cluster of households to share resources and aid with
6 Households
A cluster of households to share resources and aid with
10 Households
A neighborhood of households to share resources with
Also available as a PDF.