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Sustainable Tiny Homes

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Can Tiny Homes be both Sustainable and Affordable?

Tiny homes can be a sustainable way to live. Whether it be living in a tiny house, van or RV, it might be a dream for some and a necessity for others. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, housing prices in Australia grew 34 per cent. Similar trends have been observed across the world’s wealthiest economies where 16 per cent real estate prices increase has been registered across 38 OECD member states which represents the fastest growth since the beginning of records 50 years ago.

Comparative affordability is not the only benefit the tiny living can offer - living in a tiny house or a van also helps to cut down one’s environmental footprint. And that’s exactly what makes the whole concept so attractive to millennials and Gen Zers - two recent generations known for their care for the environment. According to a recent research study, whopping 366 million acres worth of resources could be saved if only 10 per cent of American population chose to live in a tiny home. Sounds great? Continue reading to learn more about tiny homes sustainable features and ideas and to find out what exactly makes tiny houses sustainable.


Size matters


The first thing that makes tiny houses sustainable is their size. Living in a tiny house means living in a dwelling under 37 square meters while van life gives you anywhere from 3 to 17 square meters to enjoy.

And size here matters - less space translates into less resources - water and energy - used. In its recent research study Oregon’s Department of Land Quality reports that 86 per cent of the total environmental footprint of any house is due to its energy use for lighting and space/water heating. It is estimated that tiny homes use only around 7 per cent of the electricity that it takes to power a regular house. Partly, the high energy efficiency can be explained by the smaller number of light bulbs used - where an average sized house is equipped with 20-40 light bulbs, a tiny house usually needs no more than six.



In addition to energy efficiency, tiny living helps you save water - where a regular house has a 2 bathrooms per 3 bedrooms ratio, a tiny house is equipped with just one. And that one bathroom is usually designed according to the highest sustainability standards. As an example, the most popular toilet option for tiny houses are dry composting toilets which do not require any water flushing. This sustainable swap alone helps to save anywhere from 150 to 330 Liters of water a month - not too bad! Another sustainable and water saving features of tiny homes include installation of rainwater tanks and greywater filtration systems that allow water reuse.


Not so tiny energy-saving hacks


To improve energy efficiency further, many homeowners use smart landscaping where all or most of their tiny homes’ windows are facing the sunny aspects during the day to get the best exposure to the sun.


Smart landscaping is usually paired with installation of large-sized windows - those allow natural lighting to lighten up the space during daytime hours, as well as warm up the space during cooler months.


Another favourite energy-saving hack is installation of solar window films that prevent excessive heat built-up in hot summer months and window insulation films that slow the heat transfer through the windows in colder climates.


Many tiny off-the-grid homes are also powered by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind which covers at least part of their energy needs and significantly reduces their environmental footprint.


Waste no more


Worldwide, an average of 0.74 kg of waste is produced per person per day - this number is substantially higher in countries like the US where an average American generates around 2 kg of trash each day. Moving to a tiny house or a van makes you reassess your consumer behavior - over 50% of tiny house residents report that their purchase items intentionally making their purchasing behavior either minimal or non-existent. Reportedly, many also reduce their food waste through increasing the consumption of local, unpackaged and self-produced food.


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure


By being smaller tiny spaces require fewer building materials. On average, it takes half of one truckload of lumber for building a tiny home whereas a regular house requires around seven truckloads.


Oftentimes recycled or reclaimed materials are used to construct tiny homes which decreases an environmental footprint of a tiny home. Things like recycled tiles, flooring and insulation materials can save you a lot of money and give your tiny paradise a lot of charm.


Tiny homes
Used and reused

 

It’s clear that by choosing to live in a tiny home - be it a tiny house, RV or a van - you are making a substantial positive impact on the environment. And that’s just the start! The choices you make on a day-to-day basis would help to cut back on your carbon footprint even further. Things like waste separation and recycling and replacing any single-use items (think bottles, cups, cutlery sets, straws, shopping and garbage bags as an example!) with a reusable alternative will make a big difference.

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