Jul 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:51 AM EDT

Living in Tiny Homes is Good For The Planet, Study Says

May 16, 2019 08:30 PM EDT

Tiny House
(Photo : Pixabay)

There is a sudden increase in interest in living in tiny houses, these are livable units that usually measure under 400 square feet. The increase in moving to tiny houses is driven by the constant media coverage that claims that living in tiny houses is environment-friendly.

It may seem obvious that downsizing to a tiny house would reduce our environmental impact because it means that you'll occupy a smaller space and you will consume fewer resources, but there is little research done on this matter that can actually measure how one's environmental behavior change when they make this move.

A study was done to show how downsizing can influence environmental impacts. Around 80 downsizers were surveyed, they had lived in tiny houses for a year or more and their ecological footprints in their prior homes and their current ecological footprints in their tiny homes are were calculated. Around nine in-depth interviews were conducted to learn about behaviors that changed after downsizing.

The study showed that among the 80 tiny home downsizers that are located across the United States, ecological footprints were reduced by 45%. It was concluded that downsizing can influence a lot of parts of one's lifestyle and it can reduce impacts on the environment in numerous ways.

The trend started in the early 2000s when one of the first tiny home building companies was founded. Tiny homes are housing approach that can help reduce excessive consumption and building material waste. There is no definition for a tiny home, but they are small and efficient spaces that value quality over quantity.

Those who chose to downsize to tiny homes did it for a lot of reasons, it includes living an environmentally friendly lifestyle, becoming mobile, simplifying their lives and possessions or achieving their goal of being financially free since tiny houses cost less than the average home.

Many assessments of the tiny house lifestyle have asserted without any quantitative evidence that those who downsized to tiny homes will have a lower environmental impact. Some reviews show that tiny home living may even lend itself to unsustainable practices.

The study identified that out of more than the 100 behaviors that changed after downsizing, 86% had a positive impact while the rest were negative. Some choice was adopting to capsule wardrobe approach, harvesting rainwater and carpooling, and these reduced their environmental impacts. Others could expand their footprints by traveling more and eating out often.

There weren't a lot of negative behaviors presented in the study, but there are still discussed. Some participants drive longer distances after moving to rural areas where tiny homes are parked. Others ate out more because they have small kitchens and they even recycle less because they do not have the space to store recyclable and they also have less access to recycling services.

These identified negative behaviors are important because they can give us the idea of the negative implications of living in tiny homes and enables designers to do something about them. Nonetheless, all the participants in the study decreased their footprints by downsizing even if they do not do it for environmental reasons. This means that it leads to people to adopt behaviors that are better for the environment overall.

(Photo : Maria Saxton)
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