Interest is surging in tiny travel homes that combine all the features of a cosy home with the benefits of a travel trailer into one cohesive unit, but did you know that owning a tiny home is also eco-friendly? Tiny homes are livable dwelling units that typically measure under 400 sq ft. While some people don't go anywhere in their small home, preferring to stay put and live and work in the same place, there are many others who travel around in their own small dwellings.

A young couple talking in the doorway of their tiny house
Research finds that owning a tiny home is also eco-friendly. Image: Tony Anderson/Getty Images

The interesting thing about it from an environmental perspective, is that according to research by Maria Saxton, people’s behaviours change when they downsize to a tiny home. Maria analysed the behaviours as part of her doctorate in environmental planning and design at Virginia Tech to establish how downsizing influences environmental impacts. She found that among 80 tiny home downsizers located across the US, ecological footprints were reduced by about 45% on average, and that downsizing can influence lifestyles and reduce impacts on the environment in unexpected ways.

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The Napa Tiny House can be hitched to a trailer.

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According to an article published on The Conversation, Maria found that the average ecological footprint of the downsizers was 3.87 global hectares, while the average American’s footprint is 8.4 global hectares. Another finding was that housing was not the only component of participants’ ecological footprints that changed. "On average, every major component of downsizers’ lifestyles, including food, transportation and consumption of goods and services, was positively influenced," she says.

A young couple in the bedroom loft of tiny house
Downsizing can influence many parts of one’s lifestyle and reduce impacts on the environment in unexpected ways. Image: Tony Anderson/Getty Images

"People were more likely to eat less energy-intensive food products and adopt more environmentally-conscious eating habits, such as eating more locally and growing more of their own food. Participants travelled less by car, motorcycle, bus, train and airplane, and drove more fuel-efficient cars than they did before downsizing. They also purchased substantially fewer items, recycled more plastic and paper, and generated less trash."

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Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons of Tiny House Expedition outside their home.

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Maria's research identified more than 100 behaviors that changed after downsizing to a tiny home, and approximately 86% had a positive impact. Harvesting rainwater, adopting a capsule wardrobe approach and carpooling were found to reduce individual environmental impacts., which suggests that downsizing leads people to adopt behaviors that are better for the environment.

You can read the entire study here.

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