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Hannah Swithinbank

What do you call 30-some people living in the same area? A town, a village, a hamlet? Whatever you call it, 81-year-old Gerald Freeman got it when he bought Nipton, Calif., three decades ago. Freeman’s goal is to make the community — located about an hour south of Vegas on the California–Nevada border — completely self-sustaining.

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Jasperdo

Freeman installed four solar generators in 2010, which provide half of the town’s energy. He also planted eucalyptus trees for biomass, and hopes to add a hydrogen system unless his health gets in the way (he’s been diagnosed with congestive heart and renal failures).

As he told The New York Times:

“The more independent we can become of outside resources, the better,” Mr. Freeman said, citing the rising cost of utility power, frequent outages and preserving the environment as motivation. “I’ve been conscious of the global warming issue since my early days in school. It’s only now beginning to be so much part of the present day.”

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Ken Lund

Freeman has inspired others in his community as well. Nipton’s sole café uses a water-saving vertical garden for some of the ingredients in its “If Looks Could Kale” burger. That alone sounds worth the trip.