by Adam Green
Would you move to a smaller house in the name of greener living? How about a 130 square foot house?
Ever since the New Yorker ran a spread on Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, a mainstream audience has had a sneak peak at what some critics might call a not-so-mainstream place to live – the tiny house.
Shafer's houses, which get as small as 99 square feet, are, as their creator proudly proclaims, "smaller than some people's closets."
Yet he's selling them – lots of them. And people are really living in them. There are some you can order for $54,000 or less, pre-assembled.
Since seeing that New Yorker article, I've been obsessing over tiny houses! Although I've neither lived in a tiny house nor even visited one, I can immediately identify several ways in which these unconventional homes are an environmentalist's dream come true. Here are three of them:
1. Less space means less stuff.
We've all heard of "reduce-reuse-recycle," but tiny houses take "reduce" to a whole new level.
In most of Shafer's houses, there's very little room for furniture. Interior photos of his 130 square foot model, the Fencl, show two small chairs, a simple love seat, and nothing more, except some space in the upstairs loft for a bed. Or maybe a just a mattress.
But do you really need more than two chairs and a love seat in your living room? Most people don't. And tiny houses are all about minimalism.
When you have less space to put things, you tend to purchase fewer of them. Living in a tiny house will almost certainly help you reduce your consumption of tangible goods.
2. Less space means less energy.
Shafer says he spends less than $170 per year heating his tiny house in Iowa. A tiny house-dweller in Olympia, Washington reportedly spends $5 heating hers.
Even if these figures are optimistic, it's easy to see how a tiny house could drastically decrease your energy consumption. And if you stick a small solar panel on the roof, you'll never worry about electricity again.
3. Composting toilets, window unit air conditioners...
The list goes on. Ok, actually it doesn't because there just aren't a lot of things you can add to a tiny house and have it still be "tiny."
But the appliances you can squeeze inside consume very few resources and are extremely inexpensive to operate. With the Fencl, you also get a mini-fridge, a two-burner stove, and a tiny water heater that lives below the kitchen sink.
And since the tiny house itself doesn't take up much space, its impact on any surrounding land is almost nonexistent.
Even if you never live in one of Shafer's tiny houses, their very existence offers an important lesson. Living in comfort doesn't always mean having lots of space – or even lots of stuff. Sticking with the essentials and questioning whether much else is really necessary not only makes life simpler. It's a whole lot easier on the planet, too.
Adam Green might not live in a tiny house (yet), but he's definitely a fan of thrift and simplicity. He contributed this post on behalf of Full Circle, an organic fruit and vegetable delivery service in Washington State.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by nicolas.boullosa