Last week I did an on-line test to check the carbon footprint of Tiny House Ontario; according to this particular test (link to details here: http://tinyhouseontario.com/2013/01/18/carbon-footprint/) the house and heat together use .003 metric tons of carbon (MTC) a year; however, with my lifestyle the numbers rocketed up to 3.01. This means I must make a lot of improvement in the way that I live to make the worldwide goal of 2 MTC/year. I challenge other Tiny Housers, as well as the wider community to take this free test.
Truthfully, I feel a lot better knowing the surrounding forest brings down this number substantially, as a matter of fact THO’s forest absorbs all my carbon and then some. This means that even if I drove a Hummer, I am personally carbon neutral. Contrarily, I want to find ways that I, can decrease my personal impact on the planet. So I went to the library in order to gain some more understanding on this difficult topic.
There I found Mike Berners-Lee’s easy-to-read book How Bad Are Bananas. In it, he explains that the footprint of lifestyle is bigger than the toe-print of a home. WHAT? I thought, you mean a mcmansion is less polluting than tiny me on my tiny motorbike? Sadly, this seems to be true.
Berners-Lee shows a diagram. In it, the toes represent: gas, electricity, and exhaust-pipe. The foot represent: flying, other, food and stuff. While reading, I was shocked to see that Tiny Housers, while trying to change the assumptions of society about the idea of need vs. want, and about our footprint on the earth are actually, only really facing somewhere between ¼ to ½ of the equation. We still eat, travel/fly, we still need stuff (albeit less), and we are still doing other activities, such as eating at restaurants, going to films, work and drinking. Indeed, it is the lifestyle of human beings that is the largest part of the problem.
Therefore, while Tiny Houses are doing their job for the environment, Tiny Housers may not be doing all they can to make their footprint… TINY.
I am not suggesting that Tiny Housers are driving Hummers and flying to Japan to dine on Kobe beef. What I am saying, is I am guilty. I see simple ways I can bring my carbon footprint down and because of this, I assume that others may also be making mistakes that can easily be adjusted.
Here are the three major ways in which I pollute.
1. I am a bit of a road tripper. I like to skip to town and visit friends, join them for a meal, attend music and writing events or simply to pick something up at the hardware store. I also enjoy getting on my motorbike to drive up the winding country roads just to feel the wind. To combat this, in 2013, I will try to keep better lists in order to combine errands into social or work related trips. I think I can decrease my kilometers traveled by half just by settling into a more organized routine.
2. Until a year and a half ago, I ate and drank as a “foodie” trying chocolate from Switzerland, treats out of Poland and so on; I tried food and beer from all around the world without knowing (or accepting) that my lifestyle was creating a lot of carbon in absolutely unnecessary ways. After becoming a Tiny Houser, I learned about the impact of my diet on the planet, so I made a lot of changes already. I eat a diet with a lower footprint now. I am vegan and I cook most of my own meals already. Even so, it is my hope that this summer will be a better growing season for my garden, and now with the better water catchment system underway, I should be able to supplement water in dry periods. This year, I will try again for a zero mile diet but this year I have actually got backup plans.
3. While I was aware that food has a footprint, I did not think of my land debt at the bank for land or Googling, as having a carbon footprint to the extent that it does. I don’t know yet what to do about using my computer except to say that I will try to be aware. As for the debt, obviously this has to go. So I will continue to pay it down; actually more proactively, I hope to earn a more money this summer so hopefully this goes well.
In short, I believe it is easy for me to make a few simple changes to reduce my impact on the planet. Further, I wish to both caution and challenge other Tiny Housers who while trying to set a good example, with respect to their home to be aware, by ignoring their lifestyle they also ignore the big picture when it comes to their footprint.
I respectfully submit that that as a movement if we do not tackle our lifestyle we are not really accomplishing the bulk of our goals. I hope that by being aware of our personal carbon footprint, that we as a group can be nearly as good as our brilliantly clever, lovely, environmentally conscious, Tiny Footprint, Tiny Homes.
Laura Moreland is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings and lives in her tiny house in Eastern Ontario with her husband and four dogs. You can learn more about Laura through her website “Tiny House Ontario” here.