Tiny Houses: Going Green by Living in Less

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There’s a movement that seems to be taking the nation by storm. While many people who find tiny houses appealing are interested in living greener, more sustainable lifestyles, the tiny house movement appeals to people from all walks of life with varied interests.

To show you just how popular this “small” movement has become, HGTV has a television show, Tiny House Hunters, showcasing the design and building of small houses. FYI Network has the television show Tiny House Nation. This is in addition to countless YouTube networks devoted to small house building and living.

Living Large for the Planet in Tiny Houses

By and large, everyone participating in the movement is going green to some degree. Think about how few materials go into the making of a 300 square foot home compared to those involved in building a 3,000 square foot home?

It goes beyond simple building materials though. It’s about a mindset of minimalistic living that’s as good for the planet as it is for the people who adopt it. Because the houses are so small and storage is so limited in these tiny houses, the people who live in them must think carefully about what is a necessity in life and what they can really live without. It eliminates a lot of the waste and clutter that holds so many people back and ties them down.

Everything from food storage to clothing storage, and even electronic dependence can be impacted by a decision to move to a tiny home. It’s definitely not a decision for everyone, but for those who embrace the philosophy of living in tiny homes it can be a truly liberating decision to make.

What are Tiny Houses?

Tiny houses are simply small houses – really small. While homes up to 1,000 square feet may be considered small houses, it is homes that have 300-400 square feet or less that most people think of when discussing the small house movement.

They are often well constructed and can be made with green materials such as reclaimed lumber, renewable materials like bamboo and cork for flooring, recycled glass countertops, and even green choices for roofing, like metal roofs. Like the green materials used in manufacturing latex mattresses, many of the materials used to manufacturer these tiny houses are planet-friendly.

You can build your own tiny home; there are countless designs and plans available online and in local hardware stores. You may also choose to have a builder build one for you. If you go the route of a professional builder, make sure it is one who specializes in tiny houses, as they have unique challenges that contractors accustomed to building larger homes may not anticipate.

Who are Tiny Houses Best For?

The tiny house movement involves people from all walks of life. While most people think of this as the ultimate bachelor’s pad or retirement home, there are families that are embracing the small house movement as well.

People who fare best in these types of houses are often people who enjoy the outdoors. The small spaces sometimes force you to get outside and take in Mother Nature’s bounty. That’s why you’ll find a lot of tiny homes in mountains, near lakes, and other settings where people tend to go to visit nature.

Some people even invest in small houses to have on their property for house guests, aging relatives, and children in or after college. People have even considered them as home office space. Whatever your reason for being interested in tiny houses, whether it’s a lifestyle choice or a practical matter, small house living has a few definite strengths to consider.

Another way living small is green is that it forces you to eliminate the surplus or excess in your life. A more simplified way of living means you carefully weigh buying decisions based on space, need, purpose, and the impact it will have on your other possessions. When you have such limited living space, seemingly small purchases matter a great deal more than when you have ten times the square footage.

How Green are Tiny Homes?

While the construction represents a great deal of the “greenness” of any tiny home, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. The truth is that tiny homes can be as green as you’d like them to be.

The size of these homes, being so small, helps a great deal in this capacity by providing less total space to heat and cool. Not only does this save homeowners money, but it also conserves the resources used to heat and cool them.

Many tiny homes are built with portability in mind. They are meant to be sustainable on the road. As a result, many use solar panels for some, or all, of the power in the home rather than relying on power grids. It’s a great way to minimize your carbon footprint – especially if you adopt some of the green building practices mentioned above.

Where Can You Find and Build Tiny Houses?

Before you go out, buy plans, and start building, you need to check what your local zoning laws have to say about tiny houses.

While this movement is gaining traction in recent years, most communities continue to have laws that are unfriendly to the small house movement. Zoning laws, particularly in tourist areas, often require a home to have a standard minimum square footage that goes beyond the scope or purpose of the average tiny home.

However, some communities are taking notice of the desire of so many to minimize and simplify. Some communities have even appointed themselves as “tiny house friendly” communities. Spur, Texas, for instance, has designated itself as a “Tiny House friendly town.” Tiny houses are welcome in Spur as long as they are tied down and the wheels are removed.

In Sonoma County, CA, plans exist for a planned tiny house community. In this community, people will own their tiny homes and the small parcels where the homes are located while paying community fees for shared amenities like a clubhouse, parking lot, etc. In order to comply with local zoning laws, the community is zoned as an RV park.

Hopefully, you’ll see many more towns throughout the country adopting similar policies and attitudes about tiny house living in the coming months. Until then, most RV communities are receptive to tiny home owners, and provide many amenities tiny home owners can appreciate – though it’s certainly not the same thing as owning your own piece of land, however small it may be.

The Wide Appeal of Living Large by Going Small

The big question for many people is why tiny homes appeal to so many people from so many different backgrounds. Of course, you have the earth-friendly crowd who are always looking for new ways to live in harmony with the planet, but this movement includes people who you’d never really think of as “green”, too. Why is the appeal so broad?

Financial Downsizing

Over the past several decades homes in America have grown bigger – even while family sizes are getting smaller. The price tags of these homes have been growing too. Then the housing market bubble burst at about the same time the economy tanked. People were forced to make difficult decisions about their lives and lifestyles.

Even among those only minimally impacted by the economic downturn, many of them watched as friends and family struggled – some even losing their homes as a result. Finances have played a role, for many, in the decisions to downsize their homes and their lives.

Locational Freedom

There’s more to the story than that though. Some people are looking for the freedom tiny homes represent. Not simply financial freedom, by not being tied down to 30-year mortgages on more house than they really need, but also the kind of freedom that only a home on wheels can deliver. It’s true that not all tiny homes are built on wheels.

Some of them are actually built on foundation in communities with favorable zoning laws or for people interested in off-grid living. For the most part, though, tiny homes are built on wheels out of zoning necessities – and that’s OK with people who have a nomadic spirit who want the freedom to move around whenever the mood strikes.

Simplifying Lifestyles

Some people are simply overwhelmed by all the “things” in these larger homes. You don’t buy a 2,500 square foot home and then leave all the rooms empty. You fill them up, sometimes to the point of overflowing, and then you rent storage space to store more stuff. It’s a never-ending cycle.

Living in a tiny home forces you to change this approach and get rid of the things you don’t need. It influences every purchasing decision you’ll make afterwards. The truth is, you can work a lot of living into a small space. When you clear out the clutter, you’ll find that you appreciate the things you do have even more.

Whether you’re interested in downsizing your life, upsizing your enjoyment of life, going back to nature, reducing the clutter all around you, or simply limiting your impact on the planet, tiny homes are a great way to make all these things and more happen.

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