Sustainable living is more than just a trend; it’s a shift towards the future. With global crises in pollution build-up, energy and resource wastefulness, and climate change, more and more people are looking into ways to reduce their personal carbon footprint and do what they can to help the world. And one of the best ways to do that is by moving into a tiny house.
So how are tiny houses compatible with sustainable living? Simply put, by living in a smaller home, you reduce your energy needs and your personal waste build-up. Tiny houses are being recognized worldwide for their sustainable nature, with the UN itself sharing comments that the tiny house is an ideal solution to our housing and natural resource problems.
What is Sustainable Living?
Most of us live with a kind of reckless abandon when it comes to our waste and environmental impact. Just because you don’t throw trash in the street and you avoid plastic bottles doesn’t mean you have zero carbon footprint. By simply living in a large home, we allow ourselves to develop tendencies that are anti-sustainable. Habits like:
- Leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms
- Buying things we don’t really need and hoarding it in the home
- Using too much water without thinking about it while showering and doing the dishes
While these might seem like small, everyday things, they add up, and with so many people with so many small anti-sustainable habits, the negative impact of our lifestyle goes a long way.
The sustainable lifestyle is about reducing your personal carbon footprint. Your carbon footprint is the total emissions of greenhouse gases produced and released by your individual behavior. Everything you do, everything you purchase, and every bit of energy you use (not sourced from renewable energy like solar) adds up your carbon footprint and harms the climate.
With a sustainable lifestyle, the goal is to minimize your personal impact on natural resources and reverse how much you take from the world, by reducing your energy use, reusing and recycling materials, and taking advantage of renewable energy (solar).
Why the US Housing Design is Unsustainable
Homes in the US have slowly grown over the last few decades, with the US now having the largest average home by square footage in the world. The average US home has grown from 1660 square feet in 1973 to 2631 square feet in 2017, leading to a significant increase in energy consumption, waste building, and biodiversity destruction – not ideal design for sustainability.
Tiny homes are a reaction to the unsustainable growth of American living, starting in the early 2000s initially as an experiment in building smaller homes by using fewer materials, which would consequently require less energy to light, cool, and heat.
How Tiny Houses Save Energy
|In a Normal Home||In a Tiny Home|
|Electricity||You and your family are connected to the grid, and are less aware of your energy consumption, as it simply comes down to when you receive your electric bill||You are not connected to the grid or you are more aware of your energy consumption, as tiny homes will generally have renewable energy sources such as solar panels on the roof|
|Food||With a much bigger refrigerator and kitchen, it can be easy to cook and eat more than you and your family actually need. You can also keep a lot of food stored for a while in freezers||With a smaller kitchen environment, food can’t be stored weeks in advance, forcing you and your family to be more aware of the week’s meals. Tiny homes are also more likely to grow some of their own food|
|Water||Connected to the grid, so water consumption is not something you think about||You will have to source or receive your own water, either from a nearby well or other sources, and this will be stored in a water tank in your home. Propane water heaters require very little energy to keep water heated during use|
|Fewer Appliances||Every room in the house will have its own lights, sockets, and appliances, and these are often left on for extended periods of time||With smaller spaces, you are much more aware of every light and appliance and whether or not something is turned on for no reason. You and your family will be less likely to leave lights on needlessly|
|Less Space||In the average US home with tons of space, you don’t think twice about what you buy, because you will always have more space to store it in your home||In a tiny home with very little spare space, you become extra cautious about every item you bring into your home, as you know it will take up valuable space. This means you are less likely to buy items you don’t really need|
|Temperature||Bigger homes are much harder to regulate in terms of temperature, requiring more energy to heat up or cool down an average home||Temperature solutions such as heating and cooling in tiny homes have a general energy-efficient design, as tiny house residents generally use energy-efficient appliances that run on propane or wood, and there is much less space to heat up or cool down|
Tiny Houses: Scientifically Proven to Reduce Carbon Footprint
Do tiny houses really subtract from an individual’s carbon footprint? In a recent study conducted by Ph.D. candidate Maria Saxton, it was found that tiny houses do significantly lower the ecological footprint of its residents.
The metric studied by Saxton was the individual demand each tiny house resident has on the natural environment, by analyzing their average waste production and energy consumption.
Saxton studied the spatial footprint demanded by each person by comparing it to their global hectare needs. This means the number of global hectares required to provide the energy and goods used by each person in a single year (a single global hectare is about the size of 2.5 acres, or an average soccer field).
In a study that included 80 tiny home residents and families, Saxton found that the average global hectare needs of a tiny house resident came down to about 7.01 global hectares, or about 17.3 acres. For the average American in normal housing, their global hectare needs for a full year of energy and waste was found to be 8.4 global hectares, equivalent to 20.8 acres.
The most interesting part of the study is that the smaller footprint was not just a result of living in a smaller home and using less energy (such as fewer lights and smaller appliances). This is an obvious benefit, as the average monthly price of electricity per square foot is about 6-10 cents, and size is the most relevant factor in determining the average cost of electricity.
But it wasn’t just electricity; Saxton found that the entire lifestyle of people who moved into a tiny house changed – they bought fewer products, ate less food and ate simpler food, spent less money, and traveled less often. All they needed was a roof over their head and they were happy with their tiny house sustainable living.
People in tiny houses also recycled more and were more aware of their trash creation, minimizing it in every way they could find. Simply put, Saxton found that by just moving into a tiny house, people would become much more conscious of their carbon footprint on a daily basis, and this would reflect in their everyday habits.
So how much energy would it save us if the tiny house movement became more widely adopted? According to the study, it would only take 10% of the American population living in tiny houses to save roughly 366 million acres of land. Save money on living and building materials and increase sustainability at the same time.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint: Live Tiny Today
We understand that not everyone is in a position where they can move into a tiny house. Maybe your family is too big, or maybe you have to continue living in a regular home because of your neighborhood, your kid’s education, or work.
However, if you can’t start living tiny, you can still reduce your carbon footprint by adopting the tiny house mentality. Design your life to live better for the earth – buy only what you need, use only what you need, and recycle and reuse everything you can.
Wake up every day knowing that your individual impact on the environment is important, and reducing it is one of your main responsibilities as a conscious and responsible human being.
Let’s make sustainability the norm today.
Hey, there! We're Ivan and Manuela from Croatia, and we're crazy about tiny houses. We don't own one (yet).
This website is a result of our passion to share all the knowledge, photos, tips and tricks that we were able to learn while studying everything possible about the tiny house movement.