Tiny House Living

An e-mail newsletter for living sustainably

In the Chinese countryside, one can often see single railroad cars converted into what appear to be single family homes. They look almost identical to the original railroad cars, save windows in the front and a billow of smoke from the pipe on the roof. Usually, you’ll see several cars parked in front and a conglomeration of a number of the cars in a makeshift neighborhood.

Rural Chinese folks remodel their used things into eco-friendly housing because it’s cheap, not because they care about their carbon footprints. Unfortunately in the west, we think of eco-friendly options as the expensive alternatives, luxuries for the rich and necessities for nobody.

Still, some are trying to change these perceptions about people who make environmental choices, illustrating that reducing your footprint can be both ecological and economical. Specifically, these individuals live more environmentally conscious by reducing the size of their living spaces, which, in turn, reduces the impact of their habitat.

Tiny House Living, an e-mail newsletter published each Wednesday, rounds up the best stories on the web about living sustainably, literally or figuratively in a tiny house. The blog also links to stories about trends in architecture.

Of course, some of the most interesting stories on the newsletter about people living in tiny houses. In a YouTube video link featured on the site, a couple displays their 144 square foot home in the Northern California mountains, a secluded and electricity-free space that they share and in which they eat mostly fruits and vegetables. Diana and Michael Lorence lived in tiny homes for nearly 30 years before settling into their current location, at which Diana cooks nearly all of their meals in a metal pot over an open fire.

Certainly, most examples featured on the site are not so extreme. The newsletter also features a number of tips and appliances to buy when outfitting small spaces, in small houses or otherwise. In her post “I Can Really Cook in my Tiny Kitchenette,” Tiny House blogger Heather Neilson gives examples of kitchenware and cooking equipment that can be utilizing in outfitting a small kitchen for heavy-duty use.

Articles on how to create your own tiny living space are also featured in the newsletter. The blog “This Tiny House” details how Seattleite Phil Thiel turned a shanty boat into a houseboat with a few minor adjustments. He’ll send you plans about how to make your own boat for only $150. 

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of our Economy, Energy and Environment

There is not getting around that the world is the brink of a global economic and energy crisis. As unemployment continues to grow unchecked, gas and home energy prices continue to climb through the roof.

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of our Economy, Energy and Environment is a no nonsense look at the state of the world and the environment. It shows us how the next twenty years will much different than the last and that the environment will pay for current mistakes and trends.

What makes The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of our Economy, Energy and Environment so impactful is that it doesn’t pull any punches and yet places everything in front of you in a calm and non-partisan manner. The author doesn’t paint a doom and gloom picture or choose one side over the other, he just sees where the world is going and makes us think about the impact that everything has on everything else.

With the international financial community in a shambles and constant unrest in oil producing countries, the world’s nation’s cant hold on for much longer or ignore the truth of what’s going on. The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of our Economy, Energy and Environment is an eye opening look into a problem that most of the world is ignoring. As our country ventures into deeper debt, what do you think will pay the heaviest price? It’s the environment on the chopping block when legislators need money fast to pay their bills.



Environmental Books: Check the Dates

Environmental books are a lot like meat that’s sitting in the refrigerator. You’re going to want to check the freshness date to make sure it’s still good. The world of environmentalism changes quickly and just as one study verifies one thing, another study contradicts it.

When you are on the lookout for an environmental book, you’re going to want the freshest on the market. You need to check the print date and what edition it is. If you know that a book has a second edition and the store only has the first, then you know not to buy it.

Beware of buying environmental books at garage sales and resale shops because they can be years and sometimes decades from being fresh on the market. How can that impact your thought processes? Books that don’t have the latest information can provide out of date facts, figures and information.

The environment is a volatile topic of discussion and you need to make your decisions based on the most current information. Without it, you could make an ill-informed decision and that can come back to haunt you.

The last thing you want to do is be in the middle of a heavy debate or conversation and quote in accurate information. It makes you look ill-informed and behind the times and it stops the debate in its tracks. No one will want to continue the debate because your information can’t be trusted.

When you want to get a book about a particular environmental subject, check the dates before you buy and then see if there is a new edition out with more up-to-date information.

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle

Children learn about recycling from an early age. It has become an important of living in a modern society. My 6-year-old has even chastised me for my lack of recycling in the past and put me on the straight and narrow.


They know that recycling is important because it saves the environment and keeps out landfills from becoming too full. The aspect of recycling that lack is the why of recycling. Why does recycling a plastic bottle save the environment.


In The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling, a plastic bottle is followed from the very beginning to the very end. Children can see how they begin at a refinery where the plastic is created to the manufacturing plant where the bottle is created. They move on to the grocery store shelve, you house and the garbage can to a recycling plant. The finals journey is the bottle is transformed into part of a new fleece jacket for people to wear and stay warm.

Children can see how these bottles are created and how recycling allows them to be used for better things. The bottle no longer becomes an abstract concept on a piece of paper because they can see how the bottles that they drink from can eventually become the very clothes they are wearing. This book is a great way for children to learn not only the importance of recycling, but also what can be made from recycled goods.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About the Environment

We all know about Sam and his Green Eggs and Ham and about Horton and the Who, but despite the death of Dr. Seuss, books continue to be made featuring his characters including The Cat in the Hat. There has been resurgence over the last couple of years in interest for The Cat in the Hat.

A new television show has brought the car to a whole new generation. One of the ways the cat is becoming popular is in a slate of new books that are both fun and educational. Several of the topics in these books are meant to teach children about the importance of protecting the environment.

There is one where the cat takes Sally and her brother to the rain forest and they discover about the varied life and how it impact the world. The Car in the Hat is a popular children’s character and has a lot of impact on the education of children. By turning the many nonsensical rhymes into a way for children to learn about the environment, children are learning about it at a much earlier age.

While they may find out about it middle school, The Cat in the Hat makes them interested in the environment before they even reach kindergarten. When they do hit middle school, the foundation of environmentalism and conservatism is already deeply embedded in them.

Children are the future of this planet and The Cat in the Hat is a steward of the environment.

The Great Global Warming Blunder

You can’t go to the local coffee shop or work water cooler without finding someone talking about the threat of global warming, either for or against. It’s a very divisive subject with countless books and television shows pitting one scientist against another.

The Great Global Warming Blunder by Roy Spencer, a former NASA climatologist, attempts to blow the lid off the debate and prove once and for all that Mother Nature has duped everyone. The book does a very good job of providing his argument in laymen’s terms. You don’t need a degree in climatology to figure it out.

Basically, he says that the Earth is much less impacted by the actions of the human race than you think and that Mother Nature has used her wiles to confuse scientists into thinking that too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a bad thing. According to Spencer, the recent warming of the Earth is caused by chaotic naturally occurring weather currents that have been warming and cooling the Earth for millennia.

The human race with all its technology really has overstated impact on the Earth and that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is actually beneficial in the long run. The global warming debacle has been fueled by group-thinking created this global panic that is completely unfounded. Regardless of what side you belong to on the global warming debate, you should sit down and read Spencer’s book. He provides highlights and information that will completely transform the way you think about global warming and its impact.


Food Versus Fuel

There are few debates here in the Midwest that will create an argument in the local coffee shop than should corn be used for fuel or food. The United States has a wicked dependance on foreign oil and the pollution from burning fossil fuels is killing the environment.


One of the more environmentally friendly ideas is the using biofuels to power out cars. Biofuels are made from a renewable resource, which requires no mining or stripping the land, and burns cleaner. Biofuels have two primary problems. There aren't many cars that can run near 100 percent ethanol fuel and should the materials used to make biofuels be used for food instead.


Food Versus Fuel: An informed Introduction to Biofuels is a high level book that discuss the science and economics of biofuels. For farmers, biofuels is a major boon. They have long fought the constantly fluctuating price of crops as demand decreases and the supply increases. Suddenly, corn and soybeans are being bought by the bushel by companies wanting to turn it into biofuels.


With the demand up and the supply down, the price goes up for the consumer and the farmer can line his pockets. The book provides a very balanced discussion on biofuels, making sure to take a look at the pros and the cons. Anyone living in the Midwest who undoubtedly have biofuel plants nearby should read this and make an informed decision.


The biofuel debate rages on from one end of the country to the other and opinions vary based on everything from location to income level.

Sometimes Reading Isn't Enough

I have posted reviews of many environmental books over the last few months. They have run the gambit of subjects from conservation to pollution and I have always tried to portray an even handed approach.


I try to identify any biases I see and provide you with an objective account of the various books. One thing I felt I was remiss in telling you is that reading about the environment is only the first step in making a difference for the better.


It isn't enough to know why something is happening, but you should be doing your best to make things better. It can be as involved as creating a local community group that helps clean up highways and other community projects or setting an example for your children when it comes to recycling and environmentalism.


These books provide a wealth of information about the environment and how industry and people can affect it. If you read these books and then live your life as if nothing has changed, then you are part of the problem. You have educated yourself and still refuse to do anything. How can we change the planet for the better, if everyone refuses to take a stand for what they believe in.


I'm not asking you to change your life. I just want to you to make a few positive changes that will have an impact on your local carbon footprint or environmental condition. Use these books as a source of information and then use that information to enact change.

Be Cautious of Subjectivity By Environmental Writers

I've always had an interest in the environment and I like looking at things from all sides. I realize that most issues have good and bad points on each side. The author of the book generally chooses one side over the other from the start and the rest of the book is from that point of view.


When I choose a book from Amazon or some other bookseller, I try to see if the author has any affiliation or support from one side of the issue or the other. For example, an environmental book authored by a member of a specific environmental group likely has a bias against big business. An author that works for or has backing from oil companies or other business likely has the opposite bias.


I may still buy the book, but I realize that I am likely getting a mostly one sided argument. Some subjects are hard to find authors that aren't biased one way or the other. Even books by professors from universities have funding from environmental groups and big business. You can't discount this when reading the book.


If you are looking for a book about a certain subject, I suggest buying more than one. A well informed decision can only be made if you are aware of all the arguments and you're not going to get that from someone who has an obvious connection to one side or the other. If you are lucky to find someone that puts out both sides of an issue, make sure to recommend it to friends on both sides of the fence.

Where Does Pollution Come From By C. Vance Cast

Children are going to be the first line of defense for creating a better and brighter future. It's important that they understand what pollution is and what it does to our environment. Where Does Pollution Come From is the perfect starter book for children ages 5-10.


If you can create a love for conservation and the environment at an early age, then it will carry on into adulthood. The book teaches children about solid, air, water and other types of pollution and how they effect the area we live in. They learn why they should throw their trash out the car window or leave it on the ground.


They understand why its important to recycle and keep as much trash out of our landfills as possible. Once they understand the various types of pollution, the book teaches what they can do to make the world a little better day by day. It may even rub off on mom and dad when their son or daughter asks them why the drive two blocks instead of just walking.


I was amazed at how much much information my children absorbed from this book. It isn't just presented in a cut and dry manner, but in a way that is fun and entertaining for them to read and understand. That, mixed with the great illustrations, creates a book that can really make a difference. Who knows. Maybe it will inspire the child that will eventually change the world for the better or a future presidents who takes environmental conservation seriously.