We live a relatively green life. I am a writer in the sustainability field and my husband builds green homes for a living. We live sustainably—a move we find not only reduces our carbon footprint, but also saves us a ton of money and makes us healthier too. When we bought a farm in the Northumberland Countryside, it was only natural that we would look to a sustainable housing solution. But what could we build that would be eco-friendly and fit in with our limited budget? A tiny house, of course!
Let me start by saying that tiny house living is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of sacrifice and determination. You have to live and work in very close proximity to your family and there are no doors to slam when you have an argument. It also means parsing down your possessions to those few functional and essential things you can fit into a very small space which you will either find cathartic or challenging.
But for every difficulty associated with tiny house living, there are a dozen perks, the most attractive of which is price. Building a home that doesn’t require a mortgage is a truly wonderful thing. Not having any bills provides you with a freedom to pursue your dreams.
We also wanted to build a home that would be gentle on the earth, so we went completely off grid. This required the installation of a solar system and battery bank, a gas furnace and wood fireplace, a rain-water catchment system and a composting toilet. That means no mortgage and no bills for the win.
Our designer, David Shephard, had to really be creative to deal with the tiny spaces. He got some inspiration from other tiny homes and from the boating industry that has found some really great solutions. For example, the hydraulic table can be raised to serve as the dining table, or lowered to coffee-table height. We can move it from the dining area, to the living room and also out to the deck if we want to eat el fresco. The log-burning stove was originally designed for a yacht, but fits in perfectly in our tiny space and does a great job of heating.
We used recycled and reclaimed materials wherever possible and some interesting techniques too. When a neighbor had to tear down his barn, we used some of the wood to create an interesting ceiling and a space-saving barn door that slides over the bathroom.
Instead of spending money on exterior cladding, we used a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban where cedar boards are charred with a blow torch. When you char cedar, it burns a beautiful black and releases oils which seal the wood to protect it from the elements. The exterior is them sealed with linseed oil.
Our tiny house allows us to enjoy the expansive views of the forest. It allows us to live lightly on the earth and reduces our cost of living. While living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone, it can be an enormously rewarding way to live life mindfully.
Get all the specs for the tiny house here.
Tips for Living Sustainably
- Stop buying already! Collect memories, not material goods. Need something? Check your local classifieds for used items instead of buying new ones. Organize clothing swaps with your friends so you share your resources. Join a local tool library rather than buying your own tools and learn to fix things there rather than replacing every appliance that breaks.
- Cut your commute. Carpool (you can find apps that will match you with someone who works and lives near you) or bike. If you bike or walk to work—even just a couple of days a week—you’ll be richer and healthier!
- Reduce your meat intake. Just a few vegetarian meals a week can really cut your carbon footprint and save you money. Beef production is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. Giving up meat completely will reduce your carbon footprint more than giving up your car.