Whether you live in a tiny house, studio apartment, dorm room, van or another form of micro dwelling, everyone living in a small space has one thing in common: their compact living, eco-friendly lifestyle is making a big impact on the environment.
Let’s talk about 6 eco-friendly house ideas that are associated with the compact living lifestyle, and how they are proving that living small has big benefits for the planet.
Eco-friendly by default: Smaller physical footprint
Real estate is expensive. In some cities, it’s out of reach for the majority. By embracing a compact living lifestyle as an eco-friendly house idea, and living in a smaller space, housing options open up for many. In cities, urban developers are able to create more accommodation on a smaller physical space than if homes needed to be bigger – think of an apartment block of studio units vs 2-3 bedroom units. In rural spaces where land is plentiful, a smaller dwelling gives the area the possibility of leaving more land in its natural state. Imagine having a tiny house on a large piece of land and the land is the star of the show. The outdoor space becomes more for enjoyment rather than being taken up by housing.
Fewer materials required to build
A perfect example of an eco-friendly house idea is that a smaller house requires fewer materials. Pretty self-explanatory. But by using few materials to build your house, fewer trees are needed to be cut down and less fuel associated with transporting the materials needed. In this instance, less really does mean more.
Eco-friendly products are easier to incorporate
We’ve already decided that less materials will be needed to build a small dwelling. But what it also means is that more sustainable options are more accessible.
Reclaimed building materials often are available in small batches. Think reclaimed wood for example. You may be able to find reclaimed wood from an old barn or fence, but is it really enough to build your house with? It is if it’s a micro dwelling. Using reclaimed building materials is a fantastic way to incorporate eco-friendly house ideas that keep your house sustainable and unique at the same time.
Another benefit to sustainable products as an eco-friendly house idea is that they can become financially more accessible in a small dwelling. Solar panels or power stations that would be out of reach for many large houses suddenly become more reasonably priced when they are only having to power 400 sq ft or less.
Reduced energy consumption
Smaller dwellings require smaller (and fewer) appliances. I’m sure we’ve all seen big homes with double ovens and two dishwashers and multiple fridges scattered around the house. Imagine all the electricity it’s taking to power all those appliances.
In contrast, in my last apartment (300 sq ft), I had an apartment sized fridge and stove/oven. They were smaller and required less electricity, and I could still pack the fridge full and cook on four burners while I also roasted a turkey (ok, I never did any of that, I’m a terrible cook).
Having smaller and fewer appliances to power is an eco-friendly idea for home that comes by default when you live in a smaller dwelling. Maybe you don’t have a dishwasher. Maybe you only have a washer and not a dryer. Having smaller appliances doesn’t mean you have less capability; it means you adapt to what you do have. And by having smaller and fewer appliances, it also means your small dwelling will have reduced energy consumption.
Lower carbon dioxide emissions
In the winter we heat our homes, and, in the summer, we cool them. Regardless of the size of your house, we’re all the same. When we think about heating and cooling our homes, we think about the electricity bills associated with those actions. But have you ever thought about the environmental impact of them? Heating and cooling our homes produces carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. In the US, the average home emits 28, 000 pounds of carbon dioxide. The average tiny house (400 sq ft or less) emits 2000 pounds. By reducing the size of your home, you will significantly reduce your home’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Easier to go off-grid
When you hear the term “living off the grid” you possibly think of a cabin in the woods, with a cranky old recluse with a no trespassing sign on their fence. Across the globe, governments are giving subsidy for homes and businesses reducing their environmental impact. Everything from LED lightbulbs to installing solar panels on your roof. By providing a financial benefit to those looking to make the change, they are helping to normalize this growing trend.
Moving to off-grid living may seem like an eco-friendly idea for home that is too involved; too much effort to research, install and ultimately live with. But think about the following four easiest ways to introduce off-grid living to your small home:
Grow your own food
Start a garden in your yard and harvest seasonal vegetables. Not only will you save money, but you’ll self-sufficient (and probably darn proud) and healthier for it.
Rainwater can be used for watering your garden and plants inside your house. It can also be collected and used to wash your car, flush your toilets, for your laundry and even for showers. Depending on the filtration system you install, you could even possibly use it for drinking and cooking.
Solar panels are a great way to harvest the sun’s energy. In some areas, you can simply use it for your own personal home. In other areas where solar is a more common occurrence (ie Australia), you can potentially “sell” it back to the grid and receive a reduction on your home’s overall costs. I’d call that a win.
This one may be a little … further than some people are willing to go but hear me out. A composting toilet does not flush, so does not require water. Some models have a small fan in the “solids” section, but the fan uses very low amounts of electricity. The concept is that liquids and solids are stored separately – liquids are diverted into a jug and solids are put into a compartment with an organic material (ie peat moss or coconut coir) to compost. By having these separate, you eliminate odour, which is a result of the two mixing. The liquids jug usually needs to be emptied every 5-7 days depending on usage, and the solids approximately once a month.
Most people that live in a small space intentionally do it to serve a specific purpose – financial reasons, desire for a premium location, or just to live a simpler lifestyle. Through their compact living lifestyle and by implementing the above eco-friendly house ideas, they are having a big impact on our planet.