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Tiny Houses: The Future of Sustainable Living?

Over this extra-long weekend, one of my moms, Mama Jen, and I went up to Lyons, Colorado and stayed in a tiny home park as a way to “get away” from home while still following restricted travel and social distancing regulations of COVID. While we stayed in this small, beautiful mountain town that is only about a 1 hour drive away from home, it made me think about the environment and, as there are nearly 8 billion people on Earth as of 2021, how humans could live more sustainably and equally together in our humble world. So, in this post I wanted to talk about tiny houses and their potential in the present/future, as well as some other thoughts and ways for us to live ecologically friendly.

A picture my mom took of the front of our tiny house

What is a ‘Tiny House’?

If you have never heard of a tiny house, it might be a little confusing (or sound like the home of a mouse or something), but it’s actually a pretty simple concept. A tiny house is just a very small house, usually about 100 to 400 square feet (according to an article by Business Insider, that is less than sixth the size of an average American house!), but despite its size, a tiny house has all the basic functions and appliances that one has in a regular house. For instance, the tiny house we stayed in was about 192 square feet total, and came with a toilet and shower, fridge, stove, 2 beds, a lounging couch, storage spaces, and a little porch. As you can imagine, it requires some clever configuring from both the builders but also the person staying there so they can pack their clothes, toiletries, and food away in a neat way. These tiny houses can be individually made and bought, but also rented out in ‘tiny house parks’ that people stay in, kind of like cabin camping or staying in an RV park.

It may sound pretty difficult to do, but staying there I found out that, not only is it very possible, but also for some (my mom included) it is refreshing and calming to stay in a smaller, compact space with minimal things. Sort of like a “capsule wardrobe” which has become popular recently, a tiny house embodies the idea of taking only what you need and still living happily. Honestly, when you think about it, there are probably things in that list that other countries would likely consider more luxury than needs, even in that small space, but us Americans are pretty used to having a lot of stuff and a lot of room for it!

A sunrise in Lyons

One thing I realized while staying in a tiny house is that a lot of the ‘space’ that you may not have compared to a larger, regular American house comes from being outside. Our tiny house in Lyons was surrounded by a picturesque stretch of woods and other things like campfires, rivers, fields, and a playground, which the whole park uses and enjoys communally. It’s very cool and different considering that, unlike the suburbs, there is more emphasis on sharing and using spaces together.

How Could They Be Used?

I can’t speak for every place, but certainly in Denver, and in the U.S. as a whole, we are struggling with housing and support for houseless people, and others who need mental and physical healthcare services and the state to help them achieve stability. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the needs of houseless people are not truly addressed because their voices aren’t listened to, and they are pushed to the end of the “to-do” list by the government and their community. I believe that this status quo is ridiculous because the United States surely has enough money and resources to fix these problems if funds and care were allocated, but I also think tiny houses are a great idea that would be relativity low-cost to implement and still address the needs of people who need support.

Right now, tiny houses are mostly just a novel vacationing idea that upper and middle class people use for fun, but they have real potential in welfare, too! Honestly, even though the idea is especially promising for helping the homeless, it also could be used across the board so we can have more space and resources to support our growing population in America. One day, we could all live in tiny houses that take less from the environment, leave less waste, and make the opportunity for expanded funds.

In fact, a Colorado nonprofit called the Colorado Village Collaboration is using tiny home villages to provide housing for those in need. With more funding, awareness, and support, the project could certainly be expanded, but it’s great to know that there are some people I can agree with on the issue! If you want to learn more about their work, click here.

Other Ways to Live Sustainably

I know that when talking about sustainability and saving the environment it’s easy to kind of roll your eyes and move on. I’m guilty of this myself, especially with wasting water/food. A lot of the times it can feel preachy, condescending, and misunderstood when people recommend the ‘right’ way to live based on what is best for the environment. In my opinion, everyone should be responsible for the care of the environment, especially Americans, like me, who often consume and waste more resources than citizens in other places, and large corporations, who also dump waste and trash into the ocean, and cut down trees by the billions every year.

the river near our tiny house

In general, I think that one of the best ways to live more sustainably and earthly is to show empathy and care towards other people, even strangers, and living things, and take only what you need and share what you don’t, rather than promoting greed by hoarding a great wealth or lots of resources to yourself or one industry. For those who live in Denver, this is a really cool list of organizations to support, not just by donating but also volunteering, reviewing, etc.

Sometimes I feel like the things adults recommend kids in their biology classes doesn’t always work; taking shorter showers, taking one small plate first, and turning off the lights when you leave a room are all good suggestions for an individual moving through life, but really miss the mark when it comes to actual change. Some things I personally believe in more are: 1. Being kind and non-interactive with wildlife, 2. Signing petitions and showing support in your community for public resource projects, 3. Thinking about giving to others first when the opportunity for gain arises.

Nobody is perfect, but staying in a tiny house reminded me that there are always things we can do!

If you are interested in learning more about the tiny house community we stayed in, in Lyons, Colorado. The link to the WeeCasa website is embedded here.

Spotted a little deer by the river

2 comments on “Tiny Houses: The Future of Sustainable Living?

  1. Taja-Nia Henderson
    January 26, 2021

    I love the capsule wardrobe analogy. I imagine having a small house also cuts down on decision fatigue. And there’s the bonus of less cleaning to do!

  2. arneradventures
    April 14, 2021

    I love your article. We’ve tried a tiny house arrangement and got a lot out of it.

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