Home Reviews Staying on Maine’s One Big Sustainable Island

Staying on Maine’s One Big Sustainable Island

by Derrick James

What is more “prepper” than off-grid living, tiny homes, and composting toilets? Not much. It’s also synonymous with the “simple life” mentality, taking it slow, not being encumbered by unnecessary modern distractions, and shunning the things our consumerist society has us believe we need.

One Big Sustainable Island on Annabessacook Lake in Monmouth, Maine provides opportunities for multi-day relaxation in tents or tiny homes. For the prepper, the island is also a place to explore innovative ways for off-grid living whether for personal “simple life” pursuits or under a desire to be ready should the electrical grid fail and society crumbles.

1 Big Sustainable Island Overview

one big sustainable island map
Island Map

This 14-acre island is located in the center of a Maine lake, a fresh water island that has been occupied for thousands of years. It is managed through a non-profit organization that works closely with the community and an area school to develop sustainable features and host events. While privately owned, it is graciously open to the public from sunrise to sunset.

You can watch the sunrise on one side of the island and the sunset on the other. There are bald eagles and osprey flying around, kayaks or canoes to use, and hammocks to lie down and do nothing.

When the sun sets, the island closes to outside visitors except for those who are staying overnight. Reservations can be made to stay on the island, either in one of their “glamping” tents or in one of their two tiny homes…

Island Glamping Tent

Glamping,” for those unfamiliar with the term, is a combination of “glamorous and camping.” If you are not staying in one of the island’s two tiny homes, you are staying in one of the glamping tents. This is where we stayed for two nights with our ferocious defense dog.

tent platform on island
Nice weather, company, and a picnic table with hammock overlooking the water.

We were picked up on the mainland and boarded a pontoon boat. We received help carrying our cooler and supplies to the tent platform. A grill, propane stove, clean water, lantern, and cooking gear were all onsite. Oh – and a bed!

glamping tent bed
Bed in a tent – and comfy, too!

These were luxury accommodations by our usual camping standards, but if it is still too primitive for others, there are the tiny homes…

Island A-Frame Tiny Home

a-frame tiny home on sustainable island
The A-frame cabin.

Anyone interested in tiny homes should pay the island a visit and talk with the owner. His cost-conscious approach to building, using low-cost materials, and living sustainably would be a benefit to anyone considering the plunge into tiny house living.

These interior pics below were taking during a cleaning, so that is why you see unmade beds.

The picture on the left is the first floor, the futon still folded out into a bed. The picture on the right is the upstairs bed with window looking out toward the center of the island.

Attention preppers! This nifty gadget was new to me.

Pull on the chain, the weight goes up, and lights come on.

This weighted bag thingy-ma-bob is actually called a GravityLight. You can buy them on Amazon, and they are quite nifty. You pull one chain and it lifts the roughly 25-pound weighted bag up. It then slowly desceneds over the course of about 20 minutes, and through that descent, it powers 2 LED bulbs giving up to 15 lumens of light. This was perfectly situated in the corner with the lights shining on the ladder that leads up to the second floor loft.

Oaktagon Tree House Tiny Home

The castle of the island is the Oaktagon Tree House. It is not a tree house in the sense that it is in a tree, but a tree house in the sense that a tree runs through it. Used by the owners when it is otherwise not rented out, it is a must-see for tiny home enthusiasts. As the name would suggest, this yurt-style structure is a custom built eight-sided tiny home with a large deck.

oaktagon tree house exterior
The island’s Oaktagon house.

Fully insulated with a small wood stove, the Oaktagon Tree House can be used for three seasons with comfort and ease. In addition to overnight guest stays, the building is used for educational programs, retreats, workshops, etc.

inside the Oaktagon tree house
The view from under the loft looking toward the water.
inside the Oaktagon tree house tiny hom
The view from the line of windows looking inward toward the kitchenette and loft. To the right out of the picture is a small wood stove to take the bite out of the late fall or early spring air.

Based on the closet inside the home (pic below), it is clear to see that you must have some level of “prepper” if you are living on an island. Note their Berkey water filter and what looks like a portable Sunjack solar panel.

prepper's pantry
A prepper’s pantry?

Sustainable Island Composting Toilets

Perhaps what is most interesting to me (and others) is not the tiny homes, but the composting toilets. “Gross!” you say? Not gross at all. This dual composting outhouse would be appreciated by any prepper or off-grid enthusiast. It is, quite frankly, the way we should all poop!

composting outhouses
Gotta poop or pee on the island? This is your place! Note the rainwater catchment system.

Centered on the island, and graciously open to public boaters, this two-bathroom composting outhouse is grand in its simplicity. It was designed through cooperation with a local school. According to a newspaper article at the time

Students said they were surprised to find out how involved the project was. The outhouse couldn’t be too close to water. It had to be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. It couldn’t disturb too much soil. It had to fit in with the look of the island, be clean, convenient and usable year-round.

The students came through in designing a composting system that barely – I repeat – barely smells at all!

composting toilet bathroom
Did I mention this room doesn’t smell?

See the wooden pedal on the floor in the pic above? You pump that several times and rain water will run through the faucet for you to wash your hands.

In the pic you can also see the toilet to the left. If you lift the cover you will find two compartments, one for poop and one for pee. If you are sitting – all men must sit – pee naturally goes toward the front and down a separate shoot. If you are going #2, that goes into a bucket that is lined with a trash bag. After you are done with your business, you take one scoop of compost (the bucket in the pic) and dump it on top. One scoop for each poop!

The compost covers some of the scent, but the actual separation of pee and poop does a lot of the smell control. You do not want these two to merge, as per the instructions posted below.

composting toilet instructions sign
Following the rules is critical to composting toilet control.

Yes, you have to throw dirty toilet paper into the trash can. It is really a first world convenience to be able to just flush your toilet paper. Anyone that visits other, less-developed countries knows that throwing toilet paper away is a necessity in many parts of the world. Usually it has to do with waste pipes not being able to handle the paper, but either way, after a few visits to the bathroom you are accustomed to the new process.

1 Big Sustainable Island Summary

Between welcoming hosts, interesting tiny homes, a cool potty, and a rope swing, this island is a great destination for people who are looking for a short, but very unique vacation. Off-grid enthusiasts will love it, preppers will find it interesting, and those visiting city folk from outside Maine might push their comfort levels while enjoying a bit of nature.

See their website and let me know in the comments section if you would stay at a place like this or if you know of a place like it somewhere else.

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