Tiny houses and zero waste

I’ve recently read two books which can be paired together nicely, so that’s what I’m doing.      Enter Tiny House Living and 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.   


In the last few weeks I’ve been watching Tiny House Nation on Netflix, fascinated because my own ideal is a country cabin of probably under a thousand square feet. Tiny House Living visits people who have chosen to live in tiny homes to probe the why and how, before shifting to the reader and using similar case studies to offer tips for how interested persons can design tiny house and a life that can live within it. This includes legal considerations, since states and municipalities are surprisingly hostile toward the tiny-house experiment. The book didn’t have the technical information I was looking for (the various ways people approach plumbing and electricity, for instance), though I was able to glean some information from the case studies. Composting toilets seem to be the norm for these operations, and wood-burning stoves apparently popular despite the fact that they’re not sustainable in the least if many people in an area are using them. All told, the book was a fine addition to Tiny House Nation and the other media I’ve been pursuing, but not particularly memorable.


101 Ways to Go Zero Waste proved to be similar in spirit. At first glance, the book is merely a book-long list, with a lot of recipes that could be dismissed as filler were they not that point. If you can make your own cleaning products, you don’t have to keep buying them in disposable bottles! The idea behind zero waste is alter the linear economy – -the production, consumption, disposal model — so that, as much as possible, goods keep doing a loop-the-loop between production and consumption. There’s a complete book on that called Cradle to Cradle, I think, if you are interested. Anyway, a lot of the content is just green or organic living material on overdrive: Kellog calls for readers to abandon disposal products for reusable ones; kerchiefs over Kleenex, for instance, and offers alternatives and recipes for avoiding the need for disposables. More interestingly, however, she writes on the Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle philosophy and argues that those Rs are listed in that order for a reason: reducing our consumption is the most effective way we have to not contributing to the landfill problem, because recycling is far less efficacious then people think. Contaminated goods — a paper envelope with a cellophane ‘window’ for the address, or a paper plate with grease soaked into it — often compromise entire bales of products to be recycled, meaning those who are serious about recycling need to do due diligence and prepare their refuse accordingly. Otherwise, they might as well skip a step and chuck things into the garbage. Since Reducing is the most effective thing we can do, Kellog argues for do a veer toward minimalism and voluntary simplicity.    Although quite a bit of the content was irrelevant for me personally (those written about makeup and feminine products),   I strongly appreciated Kellog’s     inclusion of minimalism.

Both of these books to me speak to examining our lives,  realizing what within them adds the most value — that which isn’t throwaway, in either sentiment or substance — and then making time and space to enjoy them more by letting the rest go, as we can.


About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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12 Responses to Tiny houses and zero waste

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    i’ve spent quite a bit of time following tiny houses on the net: it’s really appealing and if i was single and younger i’d probably try to experiment with it… living simpler is also attractive, although more difficult for those older people in an established routine… timely post…

  2. Marian says:

    A few years ago, I was seriously looking into building a tiny-ish house, then got scared away by the legalese and general hassle. It seems very practical, though.

    • The legal problems are the reason so many people have chosen to treat theirs as RVs and build them on wheels. That, and the fact that you can literally drive off makes it easier to avoid hostile legislative zones. My only real concern with tiny houses is how they’d hold up to a storm. I don’t know if they’d be more wind-resistant than say, a house trailer.

    • I’ve become similarly fascinated by people who convert vans into stealth campers or even semi-permanent residences — ripping out all of the seats, then building shelves, etc into them. I’ve seen one man who even had a primitive kitchen! It demands a similar kind of thinking to tiny house building.

      Bike shop owner with a kitchen, whose setup involves sliding panels for cabinets, and furniture that can adjust into different things. Brilliant all around.

      • This isn’t the one I intended to link to, whoops. Will add a fresh link tonight away from work..

      • Marian says:

        I know that wasn’t the one you meant to share, but that’s really neat! 🙂 My mom has been really into these videos, too…she showed me one where a guy constructed an entire fiberglass camper from scratch, wish I could find it now. I’d probably go a little crazy in that tiny of a space, but I guess a lot of them do seasonal work so they’re not spending all day in there.

      • I would need room to pace, at any rate! Here’s the one I meant to post last night:

      • Marian says:

        Bellingham! I knew he was one of my people…flannels, man bun, and mason jars. 😆

        Seriously though – that’s one AMAZING setup. I love he took the extra effort to make it beautiful inside, it really seems like a home.

  3. Mudpuddle says:

    i’ve had the same fantasy… but i wonder about the reality: people do all that work and then get tired of it pretty quick, maybe… but even doing it would be a challenge, figuring all that out…

  4. great book study says:

    My husband and I have been watching Living Big in a Tiny House via YouTube, and personally speaking…I’m obsessed! I had no idea there was a series on Netflix. We’ll have to check it out. And I’ll be looking for the book. I’m curious why the wood burning stoves are not sustainable, if many in the area are using them.

    • Enjoy the series! It’s seven or eight episodes, I think. 🙂

      As to the unsustainability, using wood for all heating and cooking purposes would require constant fuel, Several people living near the same acre of timber would — to me, thinking of history’s example — quickly exhaust fallen limbs and trees and then start needing to fell new ones. I don’t know how much exact cordage a wood burning stove like that would go through, but I know most of England was deforested because of the amount of people needing wood for fuel. Even one off-grid man I’ve watched on YouTube with acres of his own timber-bearing land uses a gas stove for his regular cooking, meaning the wood-burner’s role is warming the room.

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