my mom decided she'd rather not deal with a Christmas tree. At first, I was crushed-I'm not a Christmas fanatic, but I have some pretty solid positive associations with the smell of pine and the warm glow of colorful lights.
I thought about how crazy it is to buy a dead tree, and how little time we'd
actually use it before throwing it in the alley, and how many needles trees
leave all over the place. Avoiding all of those complications started to make a little sense.
Still, I had one remaining objection- I'd
made ornaments as Christmas gifts for my family. If we didn't get some kind of
tree, we'd have nowhere to display my creative generosity and artistic
live in a tiny house, but I figured that this would be the time for a tiny
alternative tree. Here was our compromise:
Check out that style!
actually a rosemary plant, which is pretty great- it smells awesome, and we can
put it in our garden in the spring. We found it at Trader Joes for under $10.
some other tiny tree ideas that I brainstormed. They can support ornaments, smell good, and are cool
-The cut top
of a tree, stuck into some foam or a pot of dirt
-A beautiful branch
-Other small potted trees- living trees that can be
replanted outside are a great idea
It's probably too late this year, but whether you live in a tiny house, apartment, dorm room, or
normal sized space, a tiny tree is a great alternative. To me, my tiny rosemary
tree represents simplicity, responsibility, and future possibilities of roasted
potatoes. It's about time.
Recently, I got the chance to talk with Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life
website about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. Ryan has been blogging
about sustainability for a long time, sharing
information on simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible
lifestyles. And we think he's awesome.
Ready for some holiday building
Now, he's working on a tiny house of his own in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's starting to get well into the
building process, and has been begun blogging about his experiences.
He admits that finding
time is no easy task- in addition to working on his house managing the very informative blog, Ryan
works two other day jobs! He sets a pretty good example for all those professionals that
fear they'd never have the time to build a house, huh?
Ryan has worked out an ideal situation for himself through yet another job
of sorts- he house sits for friends, and they're letting him build the house on
their property- as long as he looks after the land and mows the lawn every so often, he can be there
for free. This is a great arrangement- if you have anyone in your life with a
large piece of property that likes to travel, I'd highly recommend working out
A solid start
Ryan will be checking in with us throughout the process, and will share informative photos and videos of his build on our blog. He's excited to have a winter break from his
day jobs coming up soon for a solid couple weeks of building!
In the meantime, check out Ryan's Tiny House Checklist for a great
introduction to everything that goes into tiny house building.
This spring, Hampshire College Professor Gabriel Arboleda taught an unusual class: Reinventing the Toilet (course description). Addressing the fact that a single flush toilet can contaminate thousands of gallons in just one year of operation, he and his students will attempt to build alternative workable toilet models.
An important class? I think so. Many Tiny House folks would agree, having found that the mobile lifestyle necessitates flexibility when it comes to things like electricity and plumbing. Of course, there's an easy solution already at play, and it's something we don't think twice about doing with cows: composting.
I recently tried my first official composting toilet, and loved it. Our friends Pepper and Dylan built this awesome composting outhouse on their property in Healdsburg, CA, and were kind enough to let me, ahem, try it out.
Who knew an outhouse could be so beautiful?
In addition to the requisite crescent cut out, the outhouse has a light, a nice big bucket of a cedar chips, and a magazine rack!
A pleasure to use
Plenty of open-minded people like Pepper and Dylan are pushing the envelope with practical, conscientious ways to dispose of waste: while we wait for Arboleda and his crew to envision the next big alternative, we can manage pretty comfortably. While making a separate outhouse is a viable option, the bucket and cedar chips method can easily be applied in any tiny house.
In addition to the composting toilet, there's the incinerating toilet. Incinerating toilets are a bit more high-tech than a bucket and some cedar chips (though there are plenty of more advanced composting toilets available). Essentially, they incinerate your waste, converting it to a clean, non-polluting ash. An incinerating toilet can be powered a regular outlet, by gas, propane, or of course, solar panels. However, it uses more electricity than a composting toilet, and doesn't provide rich and useful fertilizer!
No matter your preferred commode, there's a reason colleges like Hampshire are highlighting the urgency of reinventing something most of us take for granted. We are far too distanced the effects from our own, for lack of a better word, crap. With the help of sophisticated indoor plumbing, most people never had to accept that what comes out of their body actually goes somewhere.
We want to live responsibly but we also want to live in a sanitary and safe. When choosing how to outfit our houses, we can think outside the porcelain box and attempt to do both.
I once met a vegan who ate plants because they were closer
to the sun. His reasoning: if plants get power from the sun, animals eat
plants, and we eat animals or their byproducts, we get shortchanged in the sun
department. By simply eating plants, therefore, he figured would close the gap and be fortified
with much more solar energy.
Luckily, the universe has finally come to its senses and
allowed cheese-lovers like myself an opportunity to harness the power of the
sun in a less calcium-deprived way: solar panels.
Soaking up the sun
It's hard to think of a better way to power a tiny house. After
all, you can get sunshine pretty much anywhere you bring your home. Install a
panel or two on the top of your house and boom! Good to go! Or, you can try my personal favorite and use a plug
and play system. This way, you can place your panels wherever you'd like.
(See also: A Tumbleweed in the Sun)
Given the small scale of a Tumbleweed, a little
energy goes a long way. On a sunny day you've got yourself a pretty bright
little space already, and you'll probably want to spend your hours basking
outside on whatever gorgeous piece of land you're currently calling home. Then,
when the sun moves on to power another hemisphere, you tap into your stored
supply of solar juice, turn on a couple light bulbs, plug in your two or three
necessary electronics, and live it up.
That said: yes, the sun is great, and with some smart
investments, we should be able to do all we want electricity wise. But the
first way to save money and help our earth is to scale down our usage in general. Just because the sun shines fairly
reliably doesn't mean we should go crazy with it- after all, our usage of
electricity goes beyond what's powering our devices. We have to think about who is making
them and how, what they're contributing to on a larger scale, and if we
actually need all of them on a regular basis.
Start by figuring out what uses the most power, then figure out if there's another way you can swing it. For instance, an electric water heater will use a good amount of electricity. Instead, why not try a simple passive solar water heating system?
You can read about how Laura decided which appliances made the most sense here.
In a tiny house, you'll probably find it easy to realize exactly how
little you need- the rest will seem like clutter in no time. So live simply
with solar power, and live simply with your solar-powered devices. But more
importantly, get out and run around in that sun!
Have a good story about your solar powered tiny house?
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