The tiny house movement is about much more than just living in a compact, space-utilizing home. It represents a shift toward an ecologically conscious, minimalist lifestyle where people consume only what they need. It is an emphasis on experiences, rather than material goods. As it turns out, minimalism is at the core of action against climate change.
Tiny Homes Fight Climate Change
Everyone has heard about climate change. We all know that the way human beings have exploited the earth’s natural resources over the past hundred years has sent us into dangerously high temperatures. As temperatures continue to rise, we see a new hurricane, forest fire, pipeline burst, or tsunami every day. Especially with social media, it’s impossible to ignore the truth behind why our planet is suffering. The answer is because of us and our consumption habits in particular.
Industrialization began in the late 18th century, but it wasn’t until the end of World War II that consumption habits and in turn the Earth’s temperature, really began to rise. At this time, more people moved from the country and into the city. As happy nuclear families became the American dream, consumerism swept the nation. The invention of the television and distribution of print ads began sending the message, “buy to be happy,” to the mass population.
Since then, our culture has developed into one that depends on material goods to survive. But as we can see, the way we are going about consumption is completely unsustainable.
So what can we do? There are just too many other things to worry about. Making enough money, taking care of kids, grocery shopping, walking your dog, remembering your Mom’s birthday and making it special, keeping active, cleaning the house, managing your accounts and replying to all of those emails. It is completely overwhelming, so how are we supposed to think about the environment after all of these other things? That’s just it, we don’t.
Not to say that there aren’t many people who dedicate their time to saving the environment, as well as many more who try to purchase reusable bags and buy organic here and there. The thing is, we can only distract ourselves for so long. As vast as it seems, the Earth is limited in how much it can give and we are reaching the breaking point. Now, more people are realizing that it’s time for change.
For some, this change comes in the form of a very tiny home. To those who haven’t heard of a tiny home before, here’s the low down. The definition of a tiny house is subjective, but it can be considered as a home of 400 square feet or less, either on wheels or a foundation. In other words, it is a trailer-sized living space with a specially designed interior to fit everything needed to live comfortably.
The Construction of Tiny Houses is better for the Planet
Let’s start with the construction. Everything in a tiny home, from its floorboards to the bedframe, are designed to maximize space and efficiency. Right now, the American manufacturing of buildings is anything but this. According to TinyHouseBuild.com the average home size has increased by 61% in the last 40 years. While these houses are constructed, the solid waste that is produced accounts for 25-40% of America’s yearly total. This is waste that is either burned and as a result, emits large amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, or it is thrown into a landfill. Very little of this type of waste is recycled in America. Also, commercial buildings account for 72% of total electrical use, while residential houses are responsible for 18%.
Construction of homes accounts for a whopping ¾ of lumber produced in the USA every year. An average household of approximately 2,598 square feet requires 7 logging trucks full of lumber to build. Daunting (we know), but compare these stats to a tiny home’s. To build a tiny home of approximately 186 square feet it takes ½ of a logging truck to provide the lumber needed. Also, since the construction is usually done with a small group of people the waste produced can be disposed of on a smaller scale and in a more responsible manner.
Another important thing to consider here is the land area it takes to keep a house. Lawns aside, regular houses take 3-6 times more ground space than their tiny home counterparts. By building tiny homes, we leave more room for the natural spaces necessary to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
The Upkeep of a Tiny House is more Environmentally-Friendly
Once a house is built, it spends its lifetime consuming energy. For the most part, the bigger the house the more energy it consumes. Let’s just look at the lights first. Assuming all the bulbs are energy saving compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), an average household with 45 light bulbs consumes 639Wh of electricity every year. When you add heating and air conditioning to the mix, a regular sized home will produce 28,000 pounds of CO2 each year. So, it’s no wonder why residential and commercial buildings account for so much of America’s total carbon dioxide output.
If we compare those numbers to a tiny house, the drop is immense. Also assuming the household runs on CFL light bulbs, the average tiny home has 6 light bulbs consuming 85.2 kWh per year. As for the total carbon dioxide output, this type of living space produces only 2,000 pounds per year. The 20,000-pound drop is staggering, but not surprising. With efficiency in mind, these smaller homes were built to conserve energy and waste.
Considering that people are choosing to build their own tiny homes today, these numbers have the potential to drop even further. As technology becomes more and more energy efficient, household appliances that are bought and installed are often seen as an investment in the future to tiny house builders. Toilets that use very little water to flush, solar panel roof tiling and energy efficient dishwashers are not uncommon. Further to that point, when high quality energy efficient appliances are bought instead of the cheaper stuff, the longevity of these items is extended. As a result, less energy is needed for maintenance or replacement from degradation.
The Lifestyle We Live in Tiny Homes Helps the Environment
Since the space is so compact, the way life is lived is inherently small. In other words, you’ll start buying fewer items because you don’t have the space. But it doesn’t matter because a lot of the items we own are unneeded or excessive. After all, I’m sure we all have at least one of those junk drawers that is never opened. This realization which often comes as a result of living the tiny home lifestyle is expressed through fewer and more deliberate purchase decisions. By buying less, we are putting less demand on our earth’s natural resources and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the shipment processes. Also, when fewer purchases are made, the quality of the bought goods tends to rise. This means that there is less replacing of items, which also means less disposal. And it’s a no-brainer that less garbage is better for the planet.
Living in a tiny home also forces you to be conscious of the resource you are using – specifically, water and electricity. Big homes that are equipped with large hot water tanks make it all too easy to take a 20, 30 or even 40 minute shower that warms you to the bone. However, in a tiny home you might warm up to the idea of using less. Because the size of a hot water tank is much smaller than that of a full-sized home, there is simply just not enough hot water for a 30 minute shower after a day of doing the dishes and washing your hands, especially if it’s laundry day.
For many people who move into a tiny home, a very strange thing happens. Instead of feeling crammed or claustrophobic, they begin to feel elated. This is because living in a tiny home actually shifts your frame of mind. Think about it. You go from needing to clean every level in the house to just one. From scrubbing a variety of floor types to one or two. You move from “where did I put my keys” to “there is only one spot for my keys”. A lot of tiny homes are also open concept, so clutter is very apparent and hard to ignore. In these compact living spaces every item has its own special spot. Not to mention, the simple satisfaction of putting things where they belong is very good for your brain.
After spending so much time overcomplicating life, it feels good to make things a little simpler which gives you some time to relax. And what comes with a relaxed mind? Greater consciousness for the things outside ourselves like the environment. Combining the amount of time saved from reducing endless errands and limiting the psychological stresses of overspending, living in a tiny home gives you space to care for the environment.
All in all, the tiny home movement has much to offer against the unwanted climate change of our planet. Environmental destruction is fundamentally caused by our disconnection from it. Unintentionally, we have filled our lives with so much clutter that we can barely breath enough to reconnect ourselves and take care of our planet. Remove the stuff, get back to basics, so you can feel calmer and more connected. It’s that simple. Not only does living in a tiny home literally use less resources, but it helps to foster a minimalist lifestyle. It will become obvious that copious amounts of consumer goods are just not necessary. Join the movement for the sake of your emotional, financial and environmental well-being