It's Not Enough to "Go Tiny" as Individual Households - Our Communities must also Become Smaller
Greetings earthlings! It's been a while since I posted an update. The quick news: vegetables from the garden have been harvested (and were delicious!), a compost and recycling system is underway, and we are updating our HVAC system to something more energy-efficient (heating & cooling makes up a large portion of a household's carbon footprint).
The numerous repairs we've been making to our house this summer recently sent me on a stress-induced escapist daydream about the tiny house movement.
You may have seen television shows like "Tiny House Nation". Or perhaps you've seen an actual tiny house (there is a small community of tiny houses in my state).
I must confess: I ADORE tiny houses. I love the combination of minimalism and eco-conscious engineering. I love the non-traditional and unique designs. I especially love that they occasionally stir up controversy: they force people to ask tough questions about housing, the environment, and the right to have a roof over your head without being forced into lifelong debt.
But I'm not writing this to endorse tiny house living, or discuss the pros & cons. I'm writing this to say that tiny houses alone are not enough.
I cannot say that I live in a "tiny" house, but I do live in a small house; it is comparatively tiny to the 2,000 sq. footers in the area. And despite it being quite old (about 80 years old), it is in great condition. While the idea of ditching my mortgage is appealing, working with the property I already have is far more simple than trying to build from scratch. We will continue to weather-proof and insulate and price out solar panels for the roof, and make this house as eco-friendly as possible. It will not be necessary to "go tiny", and even if we did, it would not be enough.
The majority of our communities are designed in a way that requires travel- usually by car. This is not necessarily true everywhere, but here in Midwest America where public transportation is limited (or absent altogether) if you don't have a car, you're basically stranded. Some of the bigger cities have trains, or buses, but many people don't live in the city; they work in the city, and live about 20-30 miles away in the suburbs. This means most people commute, adding more exhaust to the atmosphere.
And it's not just work either, many people have to travel 20 minutes or more for supplies and appointments. Larger businesses drive out smaller ones, often sourcing products from long distances rather than local, adding an even larger footprint. Many end up ordering what they need online because they can't find what they need nearby, sometimes as far away as the other side of the country.
The easiest way to summarize my point is this: it's not enough to "go tiny" as individual households, our communities must also become smaller. Resources need to be less spread apart and more locally produced. Jobs that can be done from home in a remote setting, should be done from home. And for anything that cannot be accessed nearby, sustainable and reliable public transportation must be established.
Imagine being able to walk a block or two from home to buy food grown a mere a mile away. Imagine buying a new outfit made by neighbors who get their wool from the family who owns the sheep farm right down the road. Imagine the next day, rather than driving an hour to work you simply sit down at your home computer and clock in through a remote network. And when you do need to travel a bit farther away, there's a station right around the corner with affordable fares and electric buses.
Imagine your children attending smaller schools with smaller classrooms, where teachers can give each child more 1-1 time. Imagine knowing exactly who you could call in your area to have your roof fixed, instead of desperately reading through dozens of internet reviews while rain leaks onto your dining room table.
Imagine accessible social programs targeting your specific community's needs: homelessness, people struggling with addiction, and mental health support. Imagine knowing your neighbors, really knowing them, and not needing social media to feel connected.
Imagine your entire city feeling as much like home as the building you live in.
Personally I think that idea sounds even more appealing.