Frequently Asked Questions about Ripples

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What is Ripples?

Ripples is a personal project started in 2011 by Ryan & Amanda Bancroft. For every decision we face in life (what careers we choose, food we eat, house we live in, transportation method, etc) we ask ourselves “How can we make a difference with this choice, for both people and planet?” By sharing our story, as well as anything that made it easier for us (like a book or an organization that helped us), we hope to make it easier for others to make a difference in whatever ways work for them, across a variety of good causes – not just the causes we personally care about.

Ripples is not a business, nor is it a 501©3 non-profit organization. We might be an organization someday soon, but the question we always ask is: how can we make the biggest difference? Right now, we are partnering with and supporting the mission of existing non-profits rather than creating a brand new organization.

Ripples is not exclusively an environmentalist project. We do try to live sustainably and make a difference for the environment, but we also try to help many people around the world. We shop locally and buy fair trade products like food and clothing whenever possible, because we seek a world with fair wages. We think about making ripples in a way that includes, but does not stop at, environmental concerns.

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What is the inspiration for Ripples?

Ripples work is guided and inspired by:

  1. Solutionary Method pioneered by Grand Aspirations
  2. Capacity Building (helping non-profit organizations increase the good they do)
  3. Effective Altruism (finding the most effective ways to improve the world)
  4. 7 Principles of the Unitarian Universalist religion
  5. Global Interdependence (we’re all in this together!)

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Who is involved in Ripples?

Ripples is just a personal project of Ryan & Amanda’s – we’re trying to make a difference with our own life’s choices, and share what we do. We have thousands of readers who also teach us a lot, volunteers who are helping us with projects, master naturalists helping with our conservation work, and non-profits like the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust helping us protect 169 acres in collaboration with the landowner at the Historic Johnson Farm where we are based. Beaver Water District funded the conservation easement for the property. The OMNI Center donated $300 for our solar panels. Beaver Watershed Alliance funded the greywater filtration rain garden and offered guidance in its creation. We lease an acre of farm land from our friend in order to have space for native gardens and our house, and received a loan from another friend for almost half the cost of the tiny house. We assisted the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in the nomination for the the Johnson Farm buildings and acreage now listed on the National Register of Historic Places (as of 2019) along with the Johnson Barn (which got listed in 1991). We host visitors who are interested in learning about sustainable lifestyles, or photographing or touring the historic farm. It’s never been just us! We have lots of help. But Ripples is primarily about how we’re trying to make a difference with our lifestyle, so it’s very personal and guided by our decisions, limitations, and goals.

Think of it like a project in which someone is trying to see how far they can run, and they have friends and supporters cheering them on while they train.  Maybe they’ll help other runners to train, too. The runner might donate to charity for running a particular distance. A friend might let them run on their property. Someone might hand them a water bottle.  Ultimately, whether they run or not is their choice, but so many people make the running possible! We’re indebted and grateful to our community for supporting us since 2011.

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Where are you located?

We live in an off-grid tiny house on wheels located at the Historic Johnson Farm on Kessler Mountain. In partnership with the landowner and the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, we protect 169 acres for historic and ecological conservation.

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What is the Historic Johnson Farm?

Kessler Mountain offers not only outdoor recreation, but historically significant sites. The Historic Johnson Farm is technically on what was once known as Rieff’s Mountain (in the gap south of Kessler). It was the center of olden-day Rieff’s Chapel Community and has its own active cemetery, wagon road lined by stone fences / rock walls, and one-room schoolhouse foundation stones at the original site. The farm began around the 1830s. The Johnsons arrived in 1908, maintained the 1800’s orchards and planted new orchards of pears, apples, peaches and more. The family continues to own almost 169 acres of the now inactive farm. The Johnson farmhouse was built during the mid-1920s on the same site as the late-1800’s central hall cottage, and is in excellent condition. The Johnson Barn built in 1933 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the farmhouse and nearby property in process of being nominated through the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. With hundreds of Johnson letters and photographs from the 1800’s through present-day, the farm and its various families have woven a fascinating story. Questions? E-mail us at:

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Are you an Eco Village, Natural Science Center, or Community Center?

No, none of the above. Unfortunately our goals and the goals of our partners do not permit a housing project or large public facility on site. However, there are eco villages and centers throughout the region and world which may meet your needs! Browse our eco village resources for more information. The Ozark Natural Science Center is a fantastic place for school field trips and offers overnight programming, check it out! The Kessler Mountain Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center is great for field trips, and learners of all ages too!

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What have you done so far? What do you hope to do in the future?

Every person, like a droplet, has the potential to make ripples. We’re always trying to help more people by making it easier for them to make a difference with any actions they might choose to take. Here are some of the things we did or are doing (updated in 2020). Nobody’s perfect, and our difference-making wish list is long! We are constantly learning how to improve.

  • we now live off-grid in a tiny house on wheels! (more details below)
  • over 300 Making Ripples newspaper columns published
  • created a Ripples website 100% solar-powered through AISO
  • over 20 ripple-makers featured in People Making Ripples
  • 440+ Ripples Facebook page fans and 80 Ripples Blog subscribers with over 6,000 unique readers from over 94 countries
  • bought an All-American Sun Oven and cook on our deck year-round
  • moved to the Historic Johnson Farm, protected through a conservation easement held by the NWA Land Trust
  • 6 nesting sites established for NestWatch in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Amanda became a certified Arkansas Master Naturalist in 2014 and maintains certification requirements annually, completed FrogWatch training and established a monitoring site at Pear Pond
  • taught an online class for youth leaders in non-profits to help them improve their organization’s services
  • began a feral cat socialization, adoption and trap-neuter-release (or spay) program, protecting the site’s ecology and increasing quality of life for successfully adopted kittens and cats (thank you, rescue families!) – started with 9 cats, down to only 2 the owner won’t bring indoors or part with. (Our black cat Solo is a lifelong indoor-only cat about 14 years old as of 2020)
  • with help from Morningstar Wildlife Rehabilitation, wildlife rescue as needed at our site
  • work on trail maintenance, litter and illegal dump cleanup, assist with educational signage and combat drug trafficking at Rieff’s Chapel Cemetery nearby
  • made lifestyle changes such as trash reduction, almost vegan diet, reusable to-go thermos, water bottle and utensils, converting wardrobe to fair trade organic, and more
  • We began earning income in ways that help the world: Ryan: Ozark Natural Foods Co-op; Amanda: self-employed writer and artist designing Ripples Greeting Cards on sustainable paper and sleeved in compostable plant-based materials
  • Created a greywater filtration garden or mulch basin with native swamp milkweed and sweetspire shrubs, and an erosion control garden with native shrubs, butterfly milkweed and strawberries.
  • Began cutting down invasive non-native Bradford pear trees to replace each one with a native tree.
  • Give presentations occasionally to small groups at various venues
  • Publish articles in newspapers and magazines about the historic preservation and/or conservation work going on here

Nobody’s perfect, and our difference-making wish list is long! We are constantly learning how to improve. Here are the things we hope to do soon:

  • Start a MonarchWatch garden for surveying butterflies (now that we have the milkweed planted, just need to make it official!)
  • Begin a small square-foot style organic vegetable garden

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Did you build your tiny house?

No, our custom tiny house on wheels was built by Backcountry Tiny Homes based in Washington State. They provided all the off-grid features, including solar from Backcountry Solar, a rainwater harvesting system, and Separett composting toilet.

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What are the specs on your tiny house and which off-grid features does it have?

  • Square Footage: 204 SF (336 SF with balcony & lofts)
  • Trailer Length: 24′
  • Overall Length: 24′-3″
  • Travel Height: 13’6″
  • Width: 8′-6″
  • Solar: (6) 305W panels, 3500W inverter, (8) 8D AGM batteries, 12V fuse panel, charge controller, 25-ft PV line to provided solar array; adjustable ground solar array stands
  • Water: Off-grid rainwater, 12V pump, UV filter, 2-stage filtration (cotton and carbon), dual gutter (1 per each long side), downspout, 550 gallon cistern, greywater garden filters all water from sinks + urine
  • Water Heater: One Bosch 1500W 7-gallon tanked hot water heater
  • Stovetop: 2-burner glass electric stove top, 1200W per burner
  • Electric Heater: (2) ENVI wall heaters (living space & bathroom)
  • Composting Toilet: Separett Villa 9210
  • Roxul Insulation (R-23 for floor, R-15 for walls and ceiling)
  • Storage Loft
  • Bedroom Loft with secondary egress hobbit door leading to balcony
  • Storage Stairs / Cubbies with cat litter box hole

Have more questions about the specs on our tiny home? We’d be happy to share further details. E-mail us at: or contact Backcountry Tiny Homes!

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What insurance companies are covering you and your tiny house?

We’re receiving homeowner’s insurance through the fantastic TinyHome.Insure / Strategic Insurance with Martin Burlingame. They think of everything and we’re very confident they will provide excellent coverage. We are also required to purchase an umbrella liability policy through State Farm. It’s been very easy working with them!

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How did you get financing?

Originally, we’d saved up enough to buy a house outright. However, the off-grid systems and overall project cost was way higher than we anticipated. We were told all we needed for a loan was excellent credit, and knew we needed to avoid traditional bank mortgages because tiny houses on wheels are not yet accepted by most lenders. Our back-up plan was to apply with LightStream, which specializes (among other things) in unsecured tiny house loans for people with excellent credit (our scores are about as high as they can be). We were still denied due to insufficient recent debt (we paid off $29,000 in student loans within 4 years, but that was 7 years ago and instantly disqualified us) as well as a secondary reason of insufficient income (Amanda is self-employed, a common hurdle to getting a loan). In the end, we couldn’t have pursued this project without the help of a friend who agreed to loan us the remainder of the cost of the house and establish a payment plan and contract with interest. It worked out great for everyone!

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How are you “off-grid”?

There are many ways to technically go “off-grid.”

Our version of going “off-grid” involves avoiding public utilities that harm the environment, like non-renewable electricity and septic systems. This saves us money on water and electric bills, but note that the cost (for us) was steep and offers not many returns on the investment. Our tiny house on wheels is completely off-grid, with all electric solar, rainwater harvesting, and composting toilet. We will continue to buy food from local farmers and cooperatives; we’re NOT back-to-the-landers hoping to farm and provide for all our needs (although we admire such people for their skills). We’ll continue to use the banking system and keep our internet. This website is 100% solar hosted through AISO. For transportation, we carpool together into town to combine errands (which we do on foot) and work shifts. The Razorback Greenway bike trail is coming very close to the property, and in a couple of years we’ll be able to return to our previous habit of bicycle commuting and only occasionally driving to haul supplies or carpool.

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How is your website solar-hosted?

This website is solar-hosted by AISO. They have a 100% solar-powered datacenter, where they host our website files.

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What kind of solar cooker / oven did you buy, and what's it like?

We bought the All American Sun Oven, almost entirely made in the USA. It’s been fantastic to use, and cooks or bakes everything you can cook or bake in an indoor oven or stove (cookies, lasagna, rice curry, bread, soup, chili…) Please see our newspaper column Solar Cooking with the All American Sun Oven for detailed information and a recipe!

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What type of composting toilet do you use?

Separett Villa 9210, which includes a vent fan, mechanical rotation for the waste bucket (no crank), and a separate urine diverter to keep liquids apart from solids. Waste inside the bucket is dehydrated over time with the vent fan, which reduces odor and prevents flies unless your flies are small enough to fit through window screens to get inside the home and toilet (fruit flies and kin). Our toilet hasn’t smelled bad very much, surprisingly. It takes some adjustment to learn how to properly sit on the toilet for #1 and #2, and some urine does get into the solids bucket no matter our best efforts. It’s particularly difficult during menstruation, when a woman needs to rinse off and clean the toilet urinal after each use. It’s recommended to pour a small cup of water down the urine diverter after anyone uses it, so that residue doesn’t build up in the system and odors are eliminated. The toilet is sleek and beautifully designed to appear like a flush toilet, but it uses no water besides the cup for flushing out urine. It’s also called a “dry” or “composting” toilet, but this unit is not actually a self-contained composting toilet. The composting process occurs outside in buckets at the owner’s discretion. Our liquids, along with water from the sinks and shower, are diverted into a greywater filtration garden filled with native plants like swamp milkweed, and mulch.

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What about your cat, Solo? How will you handle cat litter?

We’ll be composting the cat litter separately from the human waste. Solo is an indoor-only cat because he was adopted from the shelter and has no claws, and outdoor cats suffer a lot and contribute to environmental problems. He loves our tiny house balcony off the bed loft, which is a play area for him (among other purposes). Indoor cats which have not eaten wild prey are not carriers of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that makes composting cat litter less safe. We’ll be continuing to use our plastic reusable cat litter box, minus the plastic bags, with biodegradable septic-safe and compostable World’s Best Cat Litter. Here is our research and future method for composting pet waste.

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