That's right, there is such a thing as the small house movement, kindled from the desire of people of all ages, from many walks of life, to live more gently on the earth. We can only bring you a few highlights of this movement today, and as time goes on, we can share how green seniors participate in this movement.
To start things off, in this photo Greengranny (center) and her husband (the photographer) are hosting a dinner party for three guests in their 23-foot travel trailer, a part-time home that doesn't move. Greengranny (Joyce) has written several posts in her blog www.greengranny.org about her life in this small home.
Little House on a Small Planet (Shay Salomon; The Lyons Press; 2006; 265 pages) describes a wide variety of small homes and the people who live in them. Many photographs, including 14 pages in full color, bring this volume to life, highlighting the diversity and creativity that is possible. Shay and her photographer Nigel Valdez visited more than a hundred unique homes is researching this book. The owners span all age groups.
A different approach is taken in Put Your Life On a Diet - Lessons Learned from Living in 140 Square Feet by Gregory Paul Johnson (Gibbs Smith; 2008; 144 pages). It's a slim paperback with a how-to approach on downsizing ones dwelling and ones consumption in general. The last chapter, "Resources for Simple Living," includes books, communities, education and workshops, designers and builders, publications, small house plans (websites), and online tools for smaller living.
Gregory says of living in his very small home:
"I find that I am still using about two thousand square feet of space, just as I had in the past. The difference is that the other 1,860 square feet that comprise my office, the gym, the laundromat, restaurants, and other spaces are not mine to maintain anymore--they are shared with others."
Seniors, even the green ones, may not wish to copy what Gregory and other young people do so easily--crawl up ladders to sleeping lofts or shower only at the gym. However, there are alternatives for those a bit up in years. At http://sustain.ca/ one can find "Rapid Rooms" with dimensions of just 4 by 5 meters manufactured for use in the UK. These small houses, one room plus a bathroom, are designed as handicapped- accessible pre-fab units and could be placed behind a home to accommodate an older relative's needs.
Small homes are "green" by their size alone, requiring less land, less building materials, less furniture, and less energy to heat and cool. However, the pre-fab home industry is developing a variety of small homes that are so "green" they can be used as off-grid dwellings. Some of them need no foundation and therefore do not disturb the earth, and can be moved into place by being towed on the highway from the point of manufacture.
Just how green do you want your small home to go? It seems as though there are options for everyone's pocketbook, lifestyle, and taste. If you like the sleek modern look or prefer cottage charm, there are options for you. If you want to live off-grid in the mountains or in a village hundreds of years old, there are small home options around the world that fit your fantasy. Most of us just want to find options possible in the communities we live in today, and those options are expanding.
In future posts we hope to show you more examples of how green seniors actually live. Meanwhile, please contact us if you have an example you'd like to submit with a photograph. Send your small home examples to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only send examples that you are willing to have published on this blog, please.
Look for future posts that begin with "Green Seniors/Small Homes" in the title.