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Tiny houses. I had one once. Twenty-eight square feet and rent free. The landlord really never helped me fix it up though. Wind blew in the front screen door and out the back where a wall should have been. I liked it just fine -- a dream home for a second grader.

What I called my “clubhouse” as a kid did have a few parallels to the tiny home movement that has been gathering momentum around the world this past decade or so. The simple structure I remember consisted of two used doors, a wall and roof, built by my grandpa onto the side of the garage from materials we scavenged at the neighboring farmers junk pile. There was already a door with mesh, like you might find as a garden gate, that became the clubhouse entrance. With the exception of a few nails my play space was free. Many of the small and often mobile houses for sale online also incorporate reclaimed materials with some boasting only perhaps four or five times the square footage of that 1980s clubhouse.

Over the past several months, my wife and I have been watching a tiny home reality show. Our two-bedroom house is not large by any means yet it is fun to see what it would be like to live in a place half the size. Lately, I have been thinking of how environmentally friendly tiny homes can be when done right.

First, consider demand for housing in general. Building a 350-square foot structure takes fewer resources than whatever is considered today’s average house in America. Though the smaller option is most popular with single people or couples, they would most likely have opted for a regular size house or apartment 30 years ago. A significant increase in demand for tiny homes would affect the amount of lumber needed by the housing industry, for example. So, the same number of units, only smaller, equals less materials.

Like any new structure, tiny homes can incorporate a range of green technology. A quick search online shows manufacturers are emphasizing the environmentally conscious sales pitch. Reclaimed lumber and corrugated metal are common building materials. One offering contained pallets, poles and tires within its walls. Another was built using dozens of old windows. If you have two to three months to wait one company will build you a custom place to live from a shipping container. Want to be off the grid? There are models for sale with solar panels for electricity and recycled water systems. Even the classic log cabin in the forest may have been built with sustainably-sourced logs from that property.

Small spaces do not appeal to everybody. There are ways to reduce your carbon footprint regardless of how much living space you currently maintain. However, tiny homes can make sense as a viable option. People who never would have considered the trend have changed their minds. Cost is a factor with the smaller route also more affordable. Kits can be found for less than $10,000. Mobility is another selling point. Companies offer a range of styles built on trailer frames. For prospective downsizing, retrofitting old buses can be attractive for people possessing the time and talent.

Lifestyle reveals our concern for the planet. Living in a tiny home can be part of an overall effort to be environmentally proactive. The option fits into the “reduce” category of the triangle if nothing else. Owning a tiny home sounds like an adventure and they’re cute too. Helping the Earth out could be motivation or a bonus, works out either way.

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