With people becoming more aware of how their lifestyles can impact their environment, we’ve seen a slow but sure shift of people adopting the idea of living a fuller life, with less stuff. That might mean reining in impulsive consumerist habits, flying less, eating and buying local, or living in a smaller home. The notion of a simpler lifestyle is catching on and not only with the younger generation: It is also making sense with a growing number of boomer retirees who want to leave a healthier planet behind for their children and grandchildren.
Buddy and Barb are one retired couple who are walking their eco-conscious talk. Based out of British Columbia, the couple was known in their community for running an eco-depot, in addition to participating in a zero waste, cross-country road trip in an electric vehicle back in 2017. They’ve since retired, and are now happily living out part of their golden years in a custom-built tiny home that is tailored to their needs, and informed by their zero-waste approach to living. We get a tour of the design process behind their charming zero-waste tiny home via Exploring Alternatives:
As the couple explains, their decision to go tiny stemmed from a lifelong concern for the environment, and for the fate of future generations. But there had to be some compromises, due to current building codes, as Buddy explains:
“When we were interviewing builders, we were telling them about the zero waste concept, about trying to build a tiny home that incorporates some of the principles of zero waste. [But] the way that building codes work is that you have to use new materials. That’s basically it. But we wanted to see if we could incorporate as many used materials in the project, but also being energy efficient, and water efficient, so that we could find special appliances, so that we’re using less water, and [installing] windows that are super well-insulated, so that it doesn’t take as much energy to heat the house. The whole concept was being very efficient and more sustainable.”
In the end, the couple chose the company Hummingbird Microhomes to build their tiny home on wheels. The house measures about 10 feet by 30 feet, and is CSA-approved, meaning that it can be legally towed on the roads, and can be parked in any place that accepts conventional recreational vehicles.
One of the major features of the home is the rooftop deck, which helps to almost double the usable footprint of the home. The couple says that though they had to lower the interior ceiling height slightly in order to accommodate this feature, they say it’s well worth it as it adds extra outdoor space that could be used for leisure, gardening, or installing extra solar panels.
Stepping inside, we see that the layout includes an open-plan kitchen and living room. The kitchen is laid out with one long and large counter, with an extra flip-up table at the end. The couple opted for open shelving, rather than bulky cabinets, as well as a smaller drawer refrigerator. Their compost bucket has been built right into the counter and works well with the Foodcycler, a countertop machine that accelerates the transformation of food waste into compost.
The living room comprises two parts. The first part includes this upholstered bench, which can transform into a guest bed when part of it is pulled out.
The second part of the living room is this raised area, which has yet another sofa bed, and a television placed on top of a decorative woodstove, which also hides a mini-bar inside. Part of the floor here has been built with a piece of flooring that has been salvaged from the dance floor of a renowned Vancouver ballroom.
Beneath the living room is a large storage room, which also has the couple’s freezer.
Back into the kitchen: We see a set of small doors that lead into the couple’s loftless bedroom. This “reverse loft” design eliminates the need to climb up a ladder to get to a loft, and the couple says they prefer this cozy room, which has two operable windows for cross ventilation.
Above the bedroom, we have the bathroom, which features a senior-friendly shower with a bench, as well as a special toilet of Australian make that has a built-in sink. This design helps to conserve water, as water used for hand-washing is then stored to flush the toilet.
Much of the home’s design revolves around reducing water and energy usage as much as possible, as well as reusing materials. The couple is not aiming for zero waste perfection but is striving to try their best to contribute positively to the way they live and do things. As Barb says, tiny homes can be a positive component of a more sustainable solution, especially for aging folks:
“I think that tiny homes are a wonderful opportunity for all ages. They are a tremendous [type of] accommodation for seniors, depending on the design. You could be maybe living on the same property as your family, but still have your own space. Even [for] children, it’s a [great] ‘first home’ experience, because tiny homes are much more affordable.”