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The Story of “Less” Stuff

2013 April 24

By Ellie M. Kanipe

A couple of weeks ago, I met the coolest person. Stephanie totally inspired me. She’s part of a movement called the “Small House Movement”, and is actually moving into a tiny house.  And, when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  Her house is 130 square feet.  She’s chosen to live simply and in doing so to live sustainably.

This totally inspires me for a ton of reasons, but one that stands out is that by choosing this life style, Stephanie is significantly lowering her carbon footprint. Approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.  42 percent! (Learn more.)

At EPA, I work on sustainability – specifically looking at materials and how we can be more sustainable with the materials / stuff we use in our daily lives. The program I work on (Sustainable Materials Management Program) looks at what we use in our daily lives a little differently – to rethink the norm and instead look through a life cycle lens. In other words, when I think about the shirt I’m wearing today, I wonder where and how were all the materials to make this shirt extracted? Is the cotton organic, or is it made of recycled materials?  Where and how was the shirt manufactured, and how and how far was it transported to get to the store where I bought it? The problem is that we don’t think about our stuff’s lives before they come into our life.  Imagine dating a person without sharing life experiences before you met?  That’s what we do with the stuff we use daily!

While we might not feel like we’re able to lower our own carbon footprint by joining Stephanie in the small house movement, we can all rethink how we view our stuff, and take actions to simplify our lives. We can know where our stuff comes from, and in knowing make smart choices about what we choose to have in our lives. We can reuse, repair, and share. We can buy durable goods. We can stop wasting food, recycle and compost. We can use EPA’s iWARM widget. We can reflect on what we really need in our lives to be happy and act on it.

Stephanie inspires me. She reminds me that often less is more.

About the author: Ellie M Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. In her spare time, she helps people to simplify their lives by teaching yoga.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Luke permalink
    April 24, 2013

    Just live on a sailboat / house-boat then! Smaller and requires not much “stuff” either. Plus, you’re on the water. Can’t beat that.

  2. Julie Mraz permalink
    April 24, 2013

    We first need to think about the wall covering that goes into any home, we too have a tiny house but made with Toxic American Made Drywall through the FGD process or recycled/restamped Chinese Drywall. Wallboard in homes does not need to contain these toxins. All Manufacturers need to stop making it from the byproduct of coal used in Power Plants.

  3. Lana permalink
    April 24, 2013

    Less is more! This inspires me to do some spring cleaning and get rid of stuff I don’t need. She is only one person, right? I can’t imagine sharing 130 ft2 with another body…

  4. Jamie K permalink
    April 24, 2013

    I think my dorm room was about that size, and I had to share it with a stranger. :) In all seriousness though, I love tiny houses. I’d love to have one, but not sure where I’d put it or how safe it would be in tornado alley.

  5. wade permalink
    April 26, 2013

    Stephanie – I can give you answers for your shirt, almost 99% sure. The shirt was made in Asia with less than $0.30/hr labor. ( compare this to your pay rate). The cotton was not organic and was of virgin quality. It was shipped over 2000 miles. Why do I know, because the textile company I worked for was able to reduce their carbon footprint by about 95% when it had to close all but one (1) plant because of cheap foreign imports. (our employees would mot work for $0.30 / hr)

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