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.