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Interest is surging in tiny homes – livable dwelling units that typically measure under 400 square feet. Much of this interest is driven by media coverage that claims that living in tiny homes is good for the planet.
It may seem intuitively obvious that downsizing to a tiny home would reduce one's environmental impact, since it means occupying a much smaller space and consuming fewer resources. But little research has been done to actually measure how people's environmental behaviors change when they make this drastic move.
Doctorate - Design - Planning - Gap - Knowledge
For my doctorate in environmental design and planning, I sought to fill this gap in knowledge by developing a study that could provide measurable evidence on how downsizing influences environmental impacts. First I surveyed 80 downsizers who had lived in tiny homes for a year or more, to calculate their ecological footprints in prior housing and current ecological footprints in their tiny houses. Then I conducted nine in-depth interviews to learn about behaviors that changed after downsizing.
I found that among 80 tiny-home downsizers located across the United States, ecological footprints were reduced by about 45% on average. Surprisingly, I found that downsizing can influence many parts of one's lifestyle and reduce impacts on the environment in unexpected ways.
Decades - Building - Trend - Homes - United
In recent decades, the building trend has been to "go big." Newly constructed homes in the United States generally have a larger average square footage than in any other country in the world.
In 1973 the average newly constructed U.S. home measured 1,660 square feet. By 2017 that average had increased to 2,631 square feet – a 63% increase. This growth has harmed the environment in many ways, including loss of green space, increased air pollution and energy consumption, and ecosystem fragmentation, which can reduce biodiversity.
Concept - Minimalist - Living - Centuries - Movement
The concept of minimalist living has existed for centuries, but the modern tiny-house movement became...
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