Is a tiny house part of the sustainable movement?

by andrewodom on March 17, 2011 · 3 comments


At first glance tiny houses have the ability to seem right in line with sustainable living practices. But not all things are as they seem. Tiny houses – like any other domicile – can be as elegant and as gaudy as any other home. The materials can be all but sustainable, eco-foe, and downright toxic. Because they sit on a trailer they require a vehicle to tow which is typically gasoline-fueled. Not to mention the weight of the trailer which can cause less mile per gallon, etc.

I could keep going. It isn’t hard to point out flaws in a system and elevate them to disastrous items. I want to talk about the role of the tiny house in the sustainable movement or in the greater picture of a homestead scenario. Let’s first define sustainable and the sustainable movement.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions. So how then does a tiny house fit into a system that relies on the capacity to endure? For Crystal and I it means that our Tiny House will not be sitting in the backyard of a suburban plot. It will not be lakeside at a community campground. Rather it will be a more permanent dwelling space in the middle of a hobby farm (or lately called, a homestead.)

For those who used to follow me on anotherkindofdrew.com you may remember our foray into homesteading while living in middle Georgia on Odom’s Idle Acres. We learned a lot there in regards to minimal carbon footprints, recycling, upcycling, energy consumption and preservation, gardening, farming, etc. We also learned that the life we desired to live was on free of the burdensome, destructive, and stressful ways of this world. While we realize we can’t simply escape reality, we did begin to understand that we could be productive in our society, maintain a more positive outlook, and provide for our family, if we focused more on the earth directly below us and how we were stewards of it than by watching the revolving ticker on the local news syndicate. We knew that we wanted to be free of consumer debt. We knew we didn’t want to have a mortgage hanging over our head. We knew we didn’t want to rely on the government to provide for us or the electric company to keep our reading lights on, etc. Wanted to be self-sufficient which before long because a desire to endure or live sustainably. Without becoming too “preachy” or alienating any readers, Crystal and I feel that the Earth was a gift given to us from God and that our call is to be stewards of the land and teach others to turn away from conspicuous consumption, destructive patterns, morally questionable decisions, and unethical treatment of all beings, in order to conserve and preserve our gift. There is more out there for us and for all people than just the fall sweeps of our favorite TV show or the latest pair of Nikes to hit the store shelves or even the opening of the new Wolfgang Puck restaurant at the mall. With tiny house living and sustainable living there is a large element of faith; faith that we shall reap what we sew and there will favorable return on all that we plant.

Where Does Tiny r(E)volution Fit In?

Living off the land, growing or raising your own food, preserving the natural world around us, demanding products that are not made at the expense of human lives, living naturally, quietly, and at a slower pace; being close to nature, and having a “less is more” mentality – that is where the r(E)volution begins and ends. And for us the canvas for that sustainable living picture is a small, hobby farm, in eastern North Carolina.

Self sufficient living is not completely distancing yourself from all traces of human contact. Relationship is so very important. We are meant to connect with others. Humans are touchy/feely by nature. Associating with people is not the same as being needlessly dependent on them.
Being self sufficient also involves systematically structuring your life as to not needlessly depend on others to meet your needs, especially in ways that harm or subtract from your joy and peace. It’s simply providing for yourself what you need to sustain your lifestyle.

We are building our own house. That in itself is a great step toward self-sufficiency. Building that house to settle into the natural world is a huge sustainable practice. The size is what our family needs. The house fits us rather than us learning to fit the house. And we’ve chosen to build our own tiny house because it is an opportunity to have more house for less money. We are paying cash on the barrel which means NO monthly payments. Our money will become more free and our work less stressful because the dependence on salary is lessened. Not to mention, we are building our own tiny house because we are pretty sure there is going to be great fulfillment in such an accomplishment!

The r(E)volution is about more than just a little house on wheels. It is about a way of life, a state of mind. Are the synonymous? Perhaps. Can they be separated? Perhaps. Should they be? Probably not. What do you think though? I would love to hear from you on self-sufficient, sustainable, small living.

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