Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Live Deliberately: Stepping Lightly

I will be 100% honest. Saving the environment was not, and probably still isn't, at the top of my list for reasons I built and live in a tiny house.

At the same time, I recognize the benefits of treading lightly and I really don't think it hurts to try to be more conscious. Essentially, the environmental aspects of tiny house living are a pleasant byproduct of the lifestyle.

For many other tiny housers, this is the number one reason they decided to make the transition. There is room in this movement for everyone.

Since I am no expert on this topic, I do want to point you to an article that I think gives a clear picture of how tiny living can be good for the environment. Simply by reducing your footprint in a tiny house you are starting out from a place of conservation.

In regards to our own story, there are a few ways in which the tiny house has changed the way we think about protecting our planet. The most obvious way is our water usage.

When we lived in Atlanta there were frequently droughts in the summer. The city and surrounding suburbs would ask families to conserve their water by doing things like turning off the water when you're brushing your teeth or not flushing the toilet every time. I dutifully did these things but I often wondered how much of an impact it made.

On average, each American uses 100 gallons of water a day! Much of that water goes to flushing our toilets which uses the same water supply that we drink from simply to eliminate our waste. If you turn off your faucet while you're brushing your teeth, how many gallons do you really save?

Our decision to keep our tiny house off the grid allowed us to experience water in a very new way. We decided not to plumb the house and instead we use water from our natural spring filtered with our Berkey, a gravity fed filtration system. We experimented with several shower options including gravity fed solar showers like the kind you might use camping. We also tried the propane heated pump. Finally we crafted an air pressurized pump shower using a garden sprayer and a shower nozzle. Each shower is about 2 gallons and if we heat about a half gallon of that water in a tea kettle and pour it in to the room temperature water we have a luxuriously hot shower.

Simply by changing our lifestyle we went from 200 gallons a day in our suburban Atlanta house to about 5 gallons a day in the tiny house. And don't worry, we're clean.

How can you change your relationship to the environment by living more deliberately?

11 comments:

  1. Hi Laura,

    Always love to hear about what you're up to next! Love the new thread on Living Deliberately. I have experienced some major changes in my life this past year and have decided to follow Thoreau's advice as well and live my life deliberately and not come to the end and find that I had not lived. His quote went through my head so much when making my decision to live tiny (much tinier than you even - I'm going to be moving into a teardrop trailer and hitting the road in about 1 1/2 months). Talk about downsizing and clearing things out!! WOW!! It's been painful and overwhelming - but also feels good to be rid of stuff too (still have a ways to go though).

    I LOVE your shower and am planning to make one like yours. Now that you've had / used yours for a while, anything you would change? Is your shower head still working O.K.? I have read some comments on that particular one not holding up well and wanted to know from someone who could give me the real scoop. I found another brand that has a 1.5 gpm rating - but no on/off switch. How long does the spray last after pumping up? Do you think not having an on/off switch would still work if I just pumped up when I needed the water?

    Thanks for your help on this and I look forward to reading more about your living deliberately and other fun in 120 sq. ft. (Oh, my cats wanted me to add "More Piglet posts PLEASE!" :)

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    1. Thanks for reading, Jordan. Your adventure sounds amazing. I can't wait to hear more about it.

      I still love our shower. Ours is different from the commercially available one I posted a little while back. At the time we didn't know you could buy such a thing, so we made one. We simply bought a garden sprayer and a nozzle with an on/off switch and the right plumbing parts to connect the two. The only thing I would do differently is find a way not to have so much hose because with both the sprayer hose and the shower nozzle hose we simply have too much hose! I would recommend making sure you have an on/off switch. That is what makes the showering experience successful for us. Since the act of pumping creates pressure you wouldn't be able to regulate how much water it spits out at you and if it isn't pumped up enough you get no water pressure what so ever. I usually have to pump the shower up twice while I'm using it - the first time with as many pumps as it needs to feel the resistance from the pump handle. The second time is just to give it a little more juice to finish my shower as it begins to lose the pressurized air.

      Best of luck to you in your journey and if there is anything else you need feel free to message me directly through my Facebook page!

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  2. Dancing Fox a.k.a. paul davenport

    LOVE that S H O W E R (!!!!!!!) idea. Way 2 cool! (Talk about living {and loving} the simple things in life.) I'm agoing' ta git myself one of those dang thangs! Yeesirrebon. I am !!

    2 everyone....

    be safe, be happy and pass on the wisdom,

    DancingFox

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dancing Fox a.k.a. paul davenport

    LOVE that S H O W E R (!!!!!!!) idea. Way 2 cool! (Talk about living {and loving} the simple things in life.) I'm agoing' ta git myself one of those dang thangs! Yeesirrebon. I am !!

    2 everyone....

    be safe, be happy and pass on the wisdom,

    DancingFox

    ReplyDelete
  4. For simpicity and convenience, I still like the Sun Shower, which is a two or three gallon heavy duty plastic bag with a hose and small shower head. The bag can be placed in the sun during the day and when ready for use, easily hung by its handle inside a shower stall or on a pole outside to give a very satisfactory shower.

    IN ANOTHER MATTER, I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUILDING A TINY HOUSE IN HONOLULU HAWAII. ANY SOURCES AVAILABLE?

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  5. Your post is very insightful. It is so very true that it is easy to begin taking things like water for granted. This is also true for things like electricity. When the power goes off, the whole world changes in an instant.

    Interestingly, this kind of dependence on the grid to supply things like water and power are very new to our species. Only a few hundred years ago people everywhere were much more independent, self-reliant and capable. That kind of independent thinking and the required survival skills seems to be largely missing in modern so called civilized society.. That makes us entirely dependent and, dare I say it, vulnerable.

    The more you are able to do for yourself, the more cool you have over the course of your life. In the event of disaster or economic collapse, your low impact, off grid lifestyle may be the most valuable thing you have.

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  6. Paint the water pump black and leave it in the sun. Won't have to heat the water.

    Fred H.

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  7. Some water usage notes which I was able to find using Canadian data - I am sure the data exists for the USA as well.
    Water usage per person has dropped in the last 20 years as more houses are metered and there is a financial incentive ro reduce. Canadians now use on average about 278 litres/person (about 70 US gallons).
    Only 57% of municipal water goes to households.
    About 13.3% of water provided never makes it to the end user - it is lost through leakage and maintenance.
    That household average includes watering lawns and other outdoor use. The EPA in the US estimates about 30% of domestic uses is for outdoors. The EPA also figures about 50% of that amount is wasted (runoff, evaporation, etc).

    I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't conserve water. I was off-grid for a whole year, fetching water from a stream 1 mile away. I know the physical value of conserving. I'm just saying that the habits to reduce water usage may lie elsewhere than taking shorter showers.
    Now I can't understand why anyone runs the water anyway when brushing their teeth - what's the point? but maybe taking a longer shower shouldn't leave you guilty, especially if you are already off grid.

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  8. This is very interesting blog! Thanks for sharing! I am curious to hear what you do with your waste water?

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