A few years ago I met Rhodes Waite when we attended a tiny house group talk hosted at a Permaculture gathering. She was in the beginning stages of designing her own tiny house. We fell out of touch but just recently ran in to each other at Yestermorrow Design and Build School in Vermont. She happened to be at the school for a week-long tiny house design workshop and I was there on a work-study for Permaculture design! It was great to catch up and hear about what she was learning in the class and see her completed tiny house. Below are pictures of her home in Asheville, North Carolina and her thoughts on tiny living and the workshop she took at Yestermorrow.
How do you power your tiny house?
It is wired just like a “normal” house, 12/20 wiring and a small breaker box. I have a female recessed outlet in the exterior wall that an extension cord plugs right into. So I run it to the house who’s yard I’m in. I set it up so that an inverter and solar panel could be added in the future, but for now it’s on the grid, so to speak. Electric bill runs $5-$10 a month.
What is the biggest challenge for you living in a tiny house?
This is probably the hardest question you asked, as nothing comes to mind right away. Hmmm…it’s probably that I haven’t been settled in one location long enough to really feel stable as I’d like to. That’s more of a life circumstance and choice thing than a tiny house thing, but ideally I’d like to live in a tiny house in one location (I’ve moved it twice in 6 months). Other than that there aren’t really any challenges. I find myself wanting more space sometimes just to be able to stack a few boxes or get into projects, but it’s not a big deal.
What are some of the advantages?
I love it, I love it, I love it!!!! I have no mortgage or rent (just a tiny tiny house payment), and I own my house! Wherever I go my space stays the same, and it’s an amazing space. It feels so good to live so small, because it doesn’t feel small at all. The title of the class I just took at Yestermorrow sums it up well…”Less is More”! There’s really not a way to describe the feeling of lightness and freedom that comes with simplifying one’s life. I love knowing where everything is all the time. I love being able to clean my
entire house in 5 minutes. I love feeling so connected to the resources I use and don’t use to live my life and power my house. I love the simplicity of where my “wastes” go…to the backyard. I love the life and character my home holds, it feels great. I love everything being within arms reach.I love the coziness. I love loving where I live.
Today I found this video and it struck a cord with me an many different level. First and foremost was the practicality of this couple’s approach. What started out as a necessity meant they were able to live comfortably, without debt and prosper greatly. From time to time I speak about fiscal security (which is in our mission for “Tiny Living”) and I also believe gardening allows you to have a stable, healthy food source that is sustainable. So check out this video!
Yet another group of students have taken the dive and started their own Tiny House; it is very exciting to see students getting exposed to alternative housing options! Even better that they are building Tiny Houses out of reclaimed materials for under $2000! The house is 8 feet by 12 feet and fully insulated, all that is left is to add plumbing and a solar electrical system.
During the design and construction process, students adhered to sustainable building practices including use of reclaimed materials whenever possible. Some of the lumber and windows came from Re-New Building Materials and Salvage in Brattleboro, Vt. The threshold to the front door is slate from a local quarry. The door and windows were also recycled.
Three years ago I set a goal for myself to start growing most of my own food. Many of you might remember this past summer when I got my chickens, I had put up some post about them (see them here). Well now they are almost full grown and soon to lay eggs.
I then learned of quail which have a few unique attributes that really appealed to me. In my journey to grow my own food, I have set another goal to design everything to minimize work put in, maximize what I get out, to integrate ergonomics, set the stage to ramp up production in the event of a long term crisis (think Katrina) and develop a high level of diversity.
Quail does all these things, they are raised in a square foot per bird, are able to be kept on wire without harm (so dropping simply pass through the mesh) to minimize cleaning, they are prolific breeders laying 300 eggs a year, and I have two species of birds to add to my chickens, making a higher diversity.
Growing up in New Hampshire, I took many class trips to Stonyfield farms, but as a child didn’t grasp at what was going on with the company, or how big it would get. At the time the farm, while a viable business, was still very small. Now I live in NC, 1000 miles away and drink their milk. Gary Hirshberg talks about how his company’s dedication to sustainability has been able to drive out costs and bring in revenue. Below are 5 principles that he feels are key to scaling green/sustainable business, that even scale to business making 100′s of millions of dollars.
1) Be activists where we shop
Hirshberg stated that consumers have to drive the demand, so we all must do our research and make sure that we’re buying the greenest product (which might not always be the local product). 2) Recycling means we’ve failed
Businesses have to figure out how to reduce and reuse so that recycling is unnecessary. 3) Organic is not just for the elite
Organic foods often seem like they’re only available to those with enough money to buy them, but Hirshberg is adamant that it doesn’t need to be this way. We need to make organic foods affordable for everyone. 4) Design sustainable products and packaging
Hirshberg noted that Stonyfield Farms recently switched all of its packaging to plant-based plastic. He stated that while that reduces the company’s oil consumption, corn isn’t a perfect option. So they ensure that they counter their footprint with GMO offsets, which goes to literally paying GMO corn growers to switch to non-GMO corn. 5) Engage in politics
Hirshberg pointed out that the five largest agriculture interests spent $28 billion on lobbying since 2008. Organic businesses have to get active too, pushing for the regulations that protect the environment and businesses together. He also noted that we have to become more open source — Stonyfield Farms keeps no secrets, letting their competitors know their moves because they feel this will lead to faster advances on sustainable practices.
Here are two videos, shorter version first, longer second. they are great videos by the CEO (CE-Yo, for yogurt) talking about being sustainable and the business case for it.