Minimized: Living Large on Less

courtesy of airstream.com

courtesy of airstream.com

There has been a growing upswing in the use of mini-housing to solve individual economic and social constraints. From tree houses to trailers, boats to baches, many resourceful people are capitalizing on their personal environmental ethos. Additionally, the question of whether one can access affordable housing, environments of unique beauty or simply an independent lifestyle can be answered through innovation efficient uses of space. I for one embrace the notion.

From 2002 to 2006 I lived in an Airstream trailer nestled in the foothills of coastal California. For those of you not familiar, they are the classic shiny aluminum pods that originated in depression-era 1930’s America (check them out here). Like any small home, they take full advantage of every square inch and for the artful minimalist, they represent a wonderful balance of form and function.  Although mini-dwellings do not present owners with the potential equitable gains associated with conventional home ownership, they are becoming more relevant as a housing alternative to cash-strapped people or those with a guilty conscience for waste. Mini-dwellings have inherently low carbon footprints since they use a nominal amount of materials and energy to construct and operate. Plus they often have little impact on the physical environment since they do not require permanent foundations. Best of all, they provide all the emotional benefits of a vacation home. But the most valuable lesson that I learned from living in a small, somewhat remote space is my now relentless appreciation for resource and energy consumption. The simple fact that I had to carefully monitor their usages has instilled in me behaviors that continue to reap environmental and economic rewards.

The popularity surge in so-called micro housing has a grassroots start centered on an awareness and appreciation for being resource sensitive. The lessons learned from these experiences could revert back to larger and more complex housing solutions, and is yet another example of how making environmental sense is akin to making economic sense.

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