Environmental Impacts of Living Tiny

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“What’s the environmental footprint of living in a tiny house?”

Living in a tiny house is not all that different from living in a regular house. Just like any other couple living in a full size house or apartment, the biggest influencers to our environmental footprint actually stem from the choices we make day to day. However, living in a tiny house makes it much more apparent what the impacts of our choices are. We will break down how our environmental footprint has changed in a few key areas since we have moved into our tiny house.

First, and possibly the most important topic to cover is water usage and waste. This is especially critical for us because we live in California. The entire western half of the United States is experiencing one of the largest droughts in history. Aquifers and reservoirs are at their lowest-ever points, and it is only getting worse. We strive to use as little water as possible and reuse as much of it as we can.

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We have 3 water tanks aboard our tiny house trailer; fresh, grey, and black. The fresh water tank is where freshwater is stored before we use it, however we usually have the tiny house hooked up to ground water, so we don’t keep this filled. The water we use from the sink and shower are then drained into the grey water holding tank.Unlike in a normal house, our used water does not go into a drain, and to a sewer, and out to sea. Instead, we reclaim the vast majority of it, and water our garden with it. Pouring the water we used to wash our hands and dishes over our garden may sound like it would hurt our plants, however we only use natural and biodegradable soaps and cleaning products. The plants love being watered every day, and we end up recycling almost all of it into delicious, healthy, organic food. When did we become such hippies?! Another way we save water is by taking short showers with an ultra low-flow shower head. Lastly, The black water tank is where our waste is drained into, which we have to empty every couple weeks. Our process for this is pretty simple: dig a hole, empty the waste, cover the hole. In a year or so, the microorganisms will have turned our waste into rich soil- just don’t mess with it before then! Not a very fun task, but it works!

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Before we moved into our tiny house, we would sometimes forget to turn off the lights or the tv in one part of our apartment while we were busy in another room. In the tiny house, this is not an issue. We have one room, one small TV, and 4 lights. If any of those are on, we know it, and it is on for a reason. During the day, the skylights and windows provide plenty of natural light, and at night we will write, hang out outside, watch a movie, or read with just a light or two on. Our utilities are included in our current situation, so we aren’t sure of just how much electricity we use, but we imagine it is a very small amount!

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We also have two solar panels mounted on the roof, which help keep our batteries charged up. The batteries power our lights, and some other electronics inside our tiny house. We hope to someday add two more panels, as well as two more batteries, and a DC to AC inverter. This setup would allow us to disconnect from shore power, and get all of our electricity from the sun. The only problem: this setup would cost a pretty penny. Someday!

Our tiny house trailer makes use of propane for many things. We use it to power our heater(which thankfully we haven’t had to use much yet), our stove, and our hot water heater. Our refrigerator can even run off of propane (although we use electricity when we are hooked up).

We have two propane tanks attached to the trailer at a time. We have been using the tanks for over a month, and we just had to refill one last weekend. They last much longer than we expected!

One final and not so fun topic to talk about is waste. Inorganic and otherwise… We recycle nearly everything. Our food scraps go to the goats and chickens that live on the property, or to the compost bin. We already talked about “human waste” above. We bring all of the plastic, glass, metal and paper packaging from the food we buy to the recycling center. What cannot be recycled gets brought to the landfill from time to time.

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We hope this was informative, and helps inspire our readers to consider ways to reduce their footprints. We are always looking for new ways to reduce our footprint, so please let us know if in the comments if you have any ideas!

Dana
Dana is a bike nerd through and through, but also loves to tinker, make, and photograph. You can find him hiking, skiing, or mountain biking most weekends. Check out his personal site for cool data visualizations!

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