Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

August 2, 2019 by  
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Minimalist living is as old as time, but the tiny house trend sweeping across North America and Europe has influenced many people to downsize, declutter and live simply. A new investigation into the habits of tiny house residents reveals that living in smaller houses encourages people to adopt more sustainable habits across the board. What are tiny houses? The unofficial definition of a tiny house is typically any single housing unit under 500 square feet. Many tiny houses are on wheels to get around state and federal government laws that limit the minimum habitable dwelling size. Because of this restriction, tiny house owners often own the transportable housing unit but not necessarily the land that it is on. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? The media and tiny house designers market the micro-dwellings as environmentally friendly alternatives to large family homes. Sellers encourage prospective buyers to downsize their possessions and kiss their mortgages goodbye in exchange for experiential riches like travel and financial freedom. Though they take up less space and store less junk, few studies exist that actually prove that living in tiny houses is more sustainable. Little house habits Maria Saxton, an environmental design and planning PhD candidate, studied the impact that downsizing into a tiny house had on inhabitants’ sustainable behaviors. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews of 80 downsizers who had been living in their new tiny homes for at least a year. She calculated their individual ecological footprints before and after the move and examined which behaviors changed for the better and which changed for the worse. Her research discovered that on average, residents reduced their individual footprints by 45 percent after they settled into a tiny home, which is a huge reduction. She also found that the move and new lifestyle impacted other aspects and behaviors even without the inhabitants realizing it. Ecological footprint is usually calculated by determining the amount of land that it would take every year to support an individual’s consumption. The average American’s footprint is 8.4 hectares per person per year. That’s about the equivalent of eight football fields per person. Among those who downsized to tiny houses, the average footprint was approximately 3.87 hectares per person compared to a per-person average of 7 hectares before the move. How tiny houses encourage sustainable living Remarkably, housing-related behaviors and consumption patterns weren’t the only changes that the residents experienced. Of more than 100 individual behaviors examined, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. For example, tiny house residents tended to shop and buy significantly less than the average American and less than they themselves did previously. Without room to store additional items, tiny house inhabitants simply could not support their old consumption habits. While 86 percent of behaviors changed for the better, about 13 percent changed for the worse. For example, tiny house residents tended to eat out more to avoid the frustration of cooking in a cramped kitchen. These residents recycled less because they had limited space for sorting and storing recyclable materials. They also tended to travel more, including both adventure trips and traveling further for basic items, likely because many tiny houses are located in more rural areas than where the owners previously lived. According to a separate investigation into the habits and motivations of tiny house dwellers, the majority of downsizers simply kept a storage unit. So, while they had fewer items within an arm’s reach, they hadn’t really committed to a minimalist lifestyle, and they could still support the overflow of their overconsumption. Smarter designs to support sustainability According to Saxton, the results of this study are critical for tiny house designers as well as to influence archaic laws that restrict tiny houses. If tiny house inhabitants truly do live more sustainably, towns and cities should be encouraging residents to make the move. Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home Architects and designers of the little abodes can also use the results of the research to integrate designs that address the prohibitive factors causing that 13 percent shift to less sustainable behaviors. For example — how can the kitchens be larger and more functional? How can trash and recycling storage be expanded to accommodate proper sorting of recyclable materials? Despite the tiny trend, housing is growing in size and destruction In 1973, the average house was 1,660 square feet, but by 2017, the average house sold was 2,631 square feet . This represents a 63 percent increase in the average size of a house in just 45 years. Although the tiny house trend skyrocketed among a niche corner of the population in over-industrialized countries, the majority of people still think bigger is better, which comes at a cost to the environment . The construction of oversized houses means loss of natural habitat and biodiversity , including the fragmentation of ecosystems to clear the way for new housing developments. In addition, the carbon footprint of the materials and construction industry is enormous. Commercial and residential buildings together contribute 39 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions. This includes the transportation and sourcing of the building materials, the energy needed for construction and the environmental cost of maintenance. Maybe they are just another trend, but maybe tiny houses can be a small solution to global warming on an individual and community level. At the very least, the research concludes that cities and towns should re-examine existing laws that discourage tiny house dwellers from owning land or remove the wheels to at least allow residents to feel a sense of permanence. One town, Spur, Texas, adjusted its laws and sells itself as the first tiny home town in America. As the trend continues, other towns and cities would be wise to follow suit. Via The Conversation Images via Paul VanDerWerf , Christoph Scholz and Nicolás Boullosa ( 1 , 2 )

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Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

August 2, 2019 by  
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Plants from around the world are flourishing in four curved greenhouses in an unexpected place — directly behind the spectator stands of the new Simonne Mathieu tennis court at Roland-Garros, home of the French Open. Designed by the Paris-based studio Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés , the 5,000-seat sunken tennis court not only offers a strikingly modern space for the annual tournament but also offers a visual extension of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden, where the stadium is located. The steel-and-glass greenhouses were built to reference the historical hothouses of the 19th century but feature a modern, energy-efficient design built to the highest technical specifications. Named after the famous tennis player who played at the Roland-Garros in the 1930s, the Simonne Mathieu tennis court is a new venue for hosting the international tennis championships hosted every year in Paris. Taking inspiration from Auteuil’s greenhouses designed by Jean Camille Formige in 1898, Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés introduced new public space around the partially sunken tennis court in the form of four modern, steel-and-glass greenhouses that are visible from the spectator stands. Related: Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year “These new greenhouses form a glass backdrop, a case within which plants from four continents can flourish,” the architects explained. “They refer to the design of the nearby hothouses and are inspired by, without imitating, architecture in metal that, since the construction of the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, still stands, with its delicate relationship between light and structure, as the perfect model of airiness and economy.” Sheathed in double-pane glass for superior insulation, these curved greenhouses feature flora from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. A meandering paved pathway traverses each greenhouse. Because the greenhouses are a new addition of public space, they will be accessible to visitors throughout the year, even outside of the two-week French Open tournament. + Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés Via ArchDaily Photography by Erieta Attali via Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés

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Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

March 28, 2019 by  
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The production of energy-efficient light bulbs could be hurt by a new proposal. The Trump administration is looking to get rid of Obama-era laws that encouraged companies to make energy-efficient bulbs. If the regulations are rolled back, experts warn that less-efficient bulbs will increase energy bills and lead to additional pollution. The bulbs in question were not originally included in President George W. Bush’s 2007 law, which pushed for more LED bulbs . These products include decorative globes, often put on display in bathrooms, three-way bulbs and candle-shaped light sources. In total, these products make up around 2.7 billion bulbs on the market today. Related: This high-tech LED lighting could grow veggies in space The Obama administration attempted to place these specialty items under the 2007 regulations. But companies objected to the move and sued the government. According to  NPR , President Trump hopes to reverse the Energy Department’s position on the matter by not requiring specialty companies to follow the same energy standards as other bulbs. Experts, like Alliance to Save Energy’s Jason Hartke, believe the move does not make sense. Not only do these energy wasting bulbs drive up utility costs, but they are also terrible for the environment. In order to produce these specialty items, companies will have to waste enormous amounts of coal-powered energy for products that are inferior. “I just don’t understand the rationale behind trying to turn back the clock,” Hartke shared. “There aren’t many people out there clamoring for outdated light bulbs that use four or five times as much energy.” At the end of the day, the issue will likely end up in court, where a panel of judges will decide if rolling back energy policies is legal. Opponents of the move argue that the Department of Energy cannot reverse policies when it comes to energy standards. While the government and environmentalists battle it out in court, people within the lighting industry claim that they have no interest in producing bulbs that are not energy-efficient. The industry knows that efficient light bulbs are the future and that consumers want products that are both good for the environment and their pocketbook. + Department of Energy Via NPR Image via Geoffrey A. Landis and Kotivalo

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Energy-efficient light bulb production could take a major hit

160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

March 28, 2019 by  
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When it comes to tiny dwellings, we’ve seen everything from luxury homes to floating abodes, but when it comes to truly minimal living, the Elsewhere Cabin is the epitome of simple, functional design. Designed by Seattle-based architect Sean O’Neill , the Elsewhere Cabin is a 160-square-foot tiny cabin that is completely off-grid, and features a 10 inch folding wooden wall that allows the living space to expand out into an open-air porch. O’Neil designed the cabin at the request of Austin-based vacation rental company, Elsewhere. The company was looking to expand their property offerings with minimalist cabins for guests that were looking for a serene place to disconnect from urban life. As per Elsewhere’s request, the cabin can operate completely off-grid. Solar panels generate enough power for lighting, hot water and wifi. Related: A remote, off-grid cabin is elevated off the forest floor with log columns Using the company’s location as inspiration, O’Neil’s inspiration behind the cabin design was to recreate the feeling of sitting on a Texas porch. Long used to cool down during the searing hot days of summer or finding protection from the rain, porches are magnets for entertaining guests, dining al fresco or simply sitting and soaking up the beautiful views. To bring this inspiration to fruition, the architect created a 10 inch wall that folds out from the main structure to create a large open-air porch. The rest of the tiny cabin is a minimalist design. Clad in charred cedar siding, the jet black exterior blends into any natural habitat. On the inside, natural Chilean pine plywood line the walls, ceiling and flooring. Behind the folding wall is the main living space, comprised of custom-made furniture that was designed to be space efficient and multi-functional. For example, in the living room, one singular surface transitions easily from a desk to a sofa to a kitchen counter. The home has all of the basic amenities including a small kitchen that is equipped with all of the basics, a sink, countertop, stove top burners, etc. There is a bathroom, complete with a waterless toilet , as well as a shower and sink that draw water from an on-board water tank. The sleeping loft is located on the upper level, made possible by the pitched roof. + Elsewhere Retreats Via Dwell Photography by Sean O’Neill

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160-square-foot off-grid Elsewhere Cabin invites us all to live a little simpler

Gil Friend and Krista Huhtala-Jenks on urban planning in the age of mobility services

September 30, 2016 by  
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Transportation is on the move, and the convergence of technical, business model and social innovation—Mobility as a Service (MaaS), autonomous vehicles, sharing platforms, electrification, trip caps and more—stand to reshape the urban landscape. But the policy, regulatory and planning landscapes need to adapt as quickly as the technology. What’s needed, what’s happening, what’s possible—and what could go wrong?

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Gil Friend and Krista Huhtala-Jenks on urban planning in the age of mobility services

Deborah Acosta on using data to generate economic value

September 30, 2016 by  
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The inspiring data-driven story of how a sleepy residential community transformed itself into an innovation ecosystem.

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Deborah Acosta on using data to generate economic value

Swiftly accelerate pitch

September 30, 2016 by  
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Swiftly accelerate pitch

From Starbucks to Microsoft, trading Yahoo for Amazon

February 22, 2016 by  
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From tech giants to industrial powers, sustainability executives are on the move.

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From Starbucks to Microsoft, trading Yahoo for Amazon

Episode 17: Meet the White House CSO; Community solar goes corporate

February 19, 2016 by  
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The week on the GreenBiz 350 podcast: Mike Bloomberg’s next move on climate, the woman overseeing the sustainability of the U.S. government and the move to mid-sized solar.

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Episode 17: Meet the White House CSO; Community solar goes corporate

How to Plan a Low-Waste Move

September 26, 2013 by  
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Our top tips for a low-hassle, low-impact move will not only shrink the footprint of your move, but also help you save time, money and headaches.

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How to Plan a Low-Waste Move

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