A major reason for downsizing to a tiny house is sustainability. It is the recognition that human beings are generally wasteful creatures, that is motivating many to do something about it.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average waste generation in the country stands at 4.9 pounds per person per day. When it becomes Municipal Solid Waste, only about a third of it is recycled or composted.
It is a ticking time bomb, and we’re glad that people are waking up to this realization.
As the tiny living movement welcomes more people, it is paramount that we do not repeat the mistakes we made while living in regular houses. By its very nature and without even trying, a tiny home will generate a fraction of the waste a regular home produces. That does not however mean that improvements cannot be made.
There are more steps you can take to ensure that your waste generation in a tiny house is even less than it currently is.
5 Ways you can reduce waste in a tiny house
Eliminate Food Waste
Americans have a very peculiar habit of buying everything in bulk. While in some cases this is understandable, most of it is pretty comical and frankly unnecessary. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans waste 30-40% of their food, worth tens of billions of dollars annually.
That is a lot more than any other country on earth. In fact, the US wastes 5 times more food than China, and 13 times more than India.
Although the US is the richest country on earth, we still have around 12.3% of American households that are food insecure. This makes the wastage very much a moral issue.
The best and most effective way to reduce your food wastage is to buy what you can comfortably eat. There is no reason to hoard plenty of food in the pantry.
When cooking, be conscious of the servings, and do not cook more than you think you can eat. If some dinner remains, rather than throwing it in the trash, reheat it the following day for lunch.
Some tiny home dwellers choose the lifestyle for some form of off-grid living, which means frequent trips to the grocery store may not be possible. If that’s the case, purchase foods that have long shelf lives, particularly canned or frozen foods. Fresh products, while healthier, may not be the best fit in this case.
Repurpose food waste
Some amount of organic food waste is inevitable. We are not asking you to go consuming juice pulp, or banana peels. It’s true that with a proper wash, foods like carrots, parsnips and potatoes can be eaten with their skins on. It is actually healthier to do so.
However, the waste that cannot be consumed in any form still doesn’t have to end up in your trash can. It can find new life in your garden for example, as compost.
Reduce plastic use
It is probably the most destructive waste we can generate in a house-hold. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, meaning they’re very bad for the environment.
Since you have already chosen to downsize to a tiny house, you are already one step closer to taking a sustainability path. The easiest type of plastic you can cut out is single-use. Your grocery shopping doesn’t have to come in a shinny new plastic bag every time. Start using reusable bags instead.
Avoid one-time use plastic bottles of water and instead use flasks and other durable water bottles. Whenever you can, don’t purchase foods that come wrapped in unnecessary layers of plastic.
For food storage, ensure your containers are reusable over a long period of time.
Re-use and Repurpose other house-hold waste
If we were to be honest, very little of our house-hold waste gets recycled once it goes into the trash.
Even with those labelled ‘recyclable’ and put into the proper trash can, only a small percentage of them end up back on supermarket shelves.
Re-using certain items in unexpected or unintended ways can make a huge difference.
For instance, things like wine bottles can be transformed into decorative items, which would look great in your house, and maybe even be a source of income for you.
Cans and tins can be used for storage; car tires can be made into sandals or swings or tables; textile waste can be transformed into dolls or pillows or other more useful pieces of clothes etc.
YouTube and Pinterest are not short of creative things we can do with our junk.
If you are not very good with your hands, you can help out others in the DIY world with the raw materials. There are online communities where you can meet willing takers.
To wrap it up, strive to always re-use, re-purpose or recycle.
Reduce your energy and water waste
This is even more important in a tiny house, particularly one not connected to the grid and other services. When you are in the middle of nowhere, every drop of water counts, and every kilowatt hour is precious.
Consumption of both energy and water should be heavily guided by common sense.
Americans are generally very wasteful when it comes to energy, only topped by Canada. However, Canada is much colder and therefore heating takes up most of that.
Some of the basic steps you can take to conserve your water and energy include:
- Wait until you have a full load before using your washing machine.
- Take shorter showers.
- Not having the tap running as you brush your teeth, or shave.
- Wash dishes in a bowl rather than flooding the whole sink.
- Soap your hands before turning on the tap.
- Use natural light.
- Turn off electronic equipment like laptops or TVs when not in use.
- Turn off the air conditioner when not at home, or when the weather is favorable.
- Keep your refrigerator at an ideal temperature.
- Use energy-saving bulbs.
- Insulate your home.
Individually, any of these steps may not seem like much. But taken together, you will save yourself a lot of money, and help the environment as you do so.