Obsessed with tiny homes? You’re not alone. The small-space-living movement has caught fire over the last decade, thanks to reality TV shows like “Tiny House Nation” and “Tiny House, Big Living.” Retiring boomers and millennials alike are opting out of traditional homes for simpler, smaller abodes.
While the financial and economic benefits of tiny-space living are obvious, improving environmental impact at home is also a key driving factor for many who choose this lifestyle. No matter the mode, micro lodging is forging the future of sustainable living.
Here are several different options for small-space living and how each type helps lessen carbon footprint.
Traditional tiny home
The mini version of the traditional American home ranges between 100 and 400 square feet. Smaller homes not only need less building material, but these smaller spaces also require less energy usage. According to gogreen.org, an average-sized 2,500-square-foot home produces 28,000 pounds of greenhouse gas per year, whereas a tiny home generates just 2,000 pounds.
The road nomad lifestyle may not seem eco-friendly given that typical mobile homes average a measly 10 to 20 miles per gallon on the road. However, improvements in aerodynamic shape, lightweight design thanks to upcycled materials and the use of solar power have dramatically improved the RV carbon footprint.
Homegrown Trailers in Washington state has designed a sustainable pull-behind trailer that maintains the towing vehicle’s city mileage-per-gallon estimates. Many RV manufacturers are also introducing greener compost toilet options and utilizing solar panels for main energy sources.
Think elevated college dorm life, sans drama! Co-living spaces are popping up in major cities across the U.S. as an affordable alternative to increasing home costs. Brands like Common and BentoBox foster a sense of community often lost in big-city living by providing fully furnished communal dwelling spaces. Renters have a small private room or suite but share dining areas and common spaces with neighbors in the same complex.
The communal concept itself is one solution to minimize destruction of native environmental habitats caused by real estate development with growing populations. In addition, the sharing of resources and appliances reduces energy waste.
An Earthship is a completely self-sufficient dwelling made of both natural and recycled materials. Biotecture designs—a special type of architecture pioneered in the late 1970s—make off-the-grid living achievable for anyone. Solar panels, built-in greenhouses and water cisterns ensure a circular, zero-waste system.
Taos, New Mexico, is the Earthship headquarters, and visitors are welcome to tour or stay in an Earthship home or even enroll in a DIY construction academy.
Tiny vacation communities
For those not ready to commit to a smaller dwelling space, vacation rental communities can provide a taste of tiny-home life. Some communities offer gathering places for tourists with onsite gardens, BBQs and fire pits.
WeeCasa is a tiny neighborhood-style rental community near Rocky Mountain National Park in Lyons, Colorado, offering houses ranging from 135 to 400 square feet.
The Caravan in Portland, Oregon, is the only commercially zoned, tiny-house hotel of its kind. Travelers staying in one of six custom-built tiny homes can rent a bike or walk to nearby attractions, further minimizing their carbon footprint.
Tiny homes for good
Tiny homes provide freedom, financial and environmental benefits, and a more sustainable way to travel—but some are also doing social good.
Two organizations, Community First! Village and the Veterans Community Project, offer permanent or transitional micro-living communities for the chronically homeless population and misplaced veterans. Onsite services provide mentoring, health screenings and other community support services.