How Downsizing Your Home Can Have a Huge Impact on the Environment by Brigid Ludwig

When it comes to reducing our impact on the environment, many focus reducing their consumption of harmful products or reliance on polluting energy sources. Going zero waste certainly helps combat useless waste production, as 29.9% of waste in landfills are containers and packaging.

Yet when considering what stands to make the largest impact on the environment, it’s sometimes a case of missing the forest for the trees. It isn’t only about what goes into our homes — it’s the homes themselves.

Though as a society we’re more environmentally conscious than ever, our homes have been growing in size for decades. According to a new study conducted by The Zebra Insurance, home sizes have grown 150% since 1980.

Building, cooling, maintaining, and supplying the average 2,386 square foot home requires a tremendous amount of natural resources and energy, while much of that square footage is wasted on game rooms and guest bedrooms that hardly see any use. Building bigger and better homes has simply become the standard, despite what the average American actually needs.

The tiny home movement seeks to simplify the space we live in order to live a more intentional and fulfilling life, by making a home only what you truly need. For the environment, living small also has a number of positive impacts.

Reduced Energy Usage

One of the areas that downsizing your home can impact most is energy usage. With fewer lights, less bathrooms running hot water, and most importantly, less space to heat and cool, a smaller home uses a lot less energy.

The average AC system in a standard-sized home might use 3,000 to 5,000 watts of electricity a day cooling the house, which equates to about 3 to 5 kilowatt hours (kWh). The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that for every 2.21kWh generated by coal, a pound of CO2 emissions is released into the atmosphere.

Though other energy sources like Natural Gas and Petroleum both release slightly less CO2, and more energy is produced than ever, it’s clear that cutting back on cooling and heating can greatly reduce pollution in the atmosphere.

You can reduce the toll of cooling and heating your home by reducing the overall size of your house, closing vents to rooms that don’t need to be heated, and opting for solar panels.

Fewer Materials

Though newer homes on the market boasting huge square footage do often come with the latest in green appliances, it’s important to consider the sheer number raw materials required to build a home over 2,000 sq ft. Depending on the size of the trees, it can take anywhere from dozens to hundreds of trees to produce enough board feet to build a home.

In addition, building a new, larger home often requires the demolition of older outdated homes which destroys resources, erodes landscapes, and disturbs natural habitats. Unless environmentally-friendly building practices are followed, building out a neighborhood of supersized homes can also create a huge amount of waste.

When buying, commissioning, or building your own home, consider the source and impact of the materials used to build it. When possible, look into sourcing wood from sustainably managed forests or reclaimed wood. Ensure that the design and build was carried out using the most efficient methods and with attention to reducing waste.

Simplified Possessions

Living in a home that’s only 350 square feet, you simply won’t have the space for more than you need. Whether you’re downsizing for the first time, or you’ve been living in a tiny home for a while, you have to be conscious about what you bring into your home, because there often isn’t space for it.

In a large home, excess clothes, decor, or random projects pile up easily. Many of us have boxes tucked away in closets and garages that haven’t been opened in months or years. However, in a tiny home there are fewer places for extra items to collect.

This ultimately promotes a lifestyle of reduced consumption and waste that has a positive impact on the environment. Though it may be difficult to do without some items, living smaller ultimately helps you focus on the things in your life that truly matter, without the distractions of unnecessary stuff.

So whether you’re looking to downsize your living arrangement to save money, or you’re ready to try out tiny living for yourself, consider that living small can greatly help the environment. A smaller home uses less energy, requires fewer materials, and supports a less wasteful lifestyle. When choosing your next home, remember how you can help the earth— and improve your quality of life by going tiny.

This guest post was provided by Brigid Ludwig.

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