Tiny Homes Are Very Eco-Friendly, New Research Confirms
The tiny house movement is an environmentalist dream's come true — less space means you need less stuff and you consume less energy. The problem is you have to live in a cramped space and dedicate yourself to the Marie Kondo credo of only having a few objects in you home that spark joy.
Moving into a tiny house can help you reduce your carbon footprint dramatically, especially in areas ancillary to housing, according to a new study from a PhD candidate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech, as Curbed reports. Maria Saxton spent a year looking into the environmental behaviors of residents in a tiny home — a house typically around 400 square feet. She concluded that, on average, people who downsized into a tiny home reduced their energy consumption by 45 percent.
To perform her study, Saxton surveyed 80 people who had moved from a full-sized home to a tiny home for at least a year. From her survey, she calculated their ecological footprints, or how much space they need to sustain their current behavior, including housing, transportation, food, goods and services. Her final tabulation showed that the average tiny home resident required 9.5 acres of resources to sustain themselves for one year. That was a precipitous drop from the 17.3 acres they consumed annually before moving into a tiny home, as the New York Post reported.
What's more though is before moving into a tiny home, the people in her survey already consumed less than the average American, whose footprint is 20.8 acres, according to Curbed. That means, after they moved into their tiny home, the people in her survey consumed over 54 percent less than the average American.
While some savings on resources are intuitive since a smaller space requires less energy to maintain, Saxton also found that on a measure of 100 different individual behaviors, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. The largest difference was in shopping. Without room to store things, tiny home dwellers simply bought less.
"As a whole, I found that after downsizing people were more likely to eat less energy-intensive food products and adopt more environmentally-conscious eating habits, such as eating more locally and growing more of their own food," Saxton writes. "Participants traveled less by car, motorcycle, bus, train and airplane, and drove more fuel-efficient cars than they did before downsizing."
While Saxton did find that every single participant reduced their carbon footprint significantly, she did notice some trends that were less than positive, but not indicative of all study participants. For example, she wrote that some in the survey had longer commutes since moving to a more rural area where they could park a tiny home. She also noticed an uptick in eating out, since smaller kitchens were less inviting to cook in. A few participants actually recycled less because they either did not have the space to store recyclables or they did not have a curbside recycling program.
That is not to undercut the positive impact and the potential of downsizing.
"I found that about 366 million acres of biologically productive land could be saved if just 10 percent of Americans downsized to a tiny home," she wrote in The Conversation.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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