A sustainability expert and his friends built a tiny house as an answer to a big question: How can we make our living more sustainable?
Boris Lebedev has three jobs. One of them is giving lectures on sustainability at the local university. The second one is landscaping—which usually happens after his lectures—and involves climbing trees to trim where the machines can’t reach.
But even though Boris likes the diversity of these two tasks, it’s the third job that he’s most passionate about: building tiny houses.
As the world population continues to grow, and our total carbon footprint increases, so too does the need for affordable, sustainable, and space efficient housing. Boris and his friends tapped into the current trends of minimalistic living, downsizing and the tiny house movement to build a prototype of their own.
Now Boris, his girlfriend Fiona, and friends Jonas and Feli are running a growing tiny house initiative. The project is meant to inspire people to choose a different lifestyle in the format of a 16-square meters one room house, equipped with solar panels, rainwater filters and a decomposing toilet system. According to their calculations, these features eliminate 75% of the inhabitant’s carbon footprint compared to normal housing.
They’re currently showcasing their houses and gardens by inviting politicians, companies and anyone interested in the many festivals, events and workshops they host.
We met up with Boris (online) to talk about his easily moveable houses, which are currently standing on some wasteland next to a railway in Munich.
The below conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: Wasteland… mobile houses… this sounds illegal?
Bruno: Well, from the beginning it was kind of guerilla, as the houses were placed in no man’s land. But eventually we got contacted by people with land, offering us to use the land legally. The place we are at right now is just wasteland, a big area where people come to dump their garden trash. That’s the beauty of these houses -- they work everywhere. At this location, we are able to hold lectures, invite politicians and hosts festivals and workshops. For example, we are running a workshop about how to build a self-sustaining insect hotel. Oh yeah, back to the question… There are a lot of legal issues if you want to take on this lifestyle, and we need to work with and adopt the legislation in order to use land for housing in a more sustainable way.
“The place we are at right now is just wasteland, a big area where people come to dump their garden trash”
But can you live in a tiny house during winter?
Yeah, it’s no problem at all even during a crazy winter like this one, with temperatures down to minus 20 degrees. It is of course cold if you arrive at night but the stove, together with your presence, will heat the house up. During daytime, you don’t even need to use the stove. We’ve placed the house in a sunny location with big windows facing the sun. It gets really comfortable.
Who shows interest in this type of living?
Most of us living in a big city just want to find a flat that is affordable; we more or less don’t have a choice. But now there is a trend where we want to be close to the nature, and we are more aware of, and want to decrease, our carbon footprint. A lot of the people who contact us for more information on how to live like this are not environmental activists, they are just mainstream middle-class people looking for an alternative.
“A lot of the people who contact us for more information on how to live like this are not environmental activists, they are just mainstream middle-class people looking for an alternative.”
Is this how we will live in the future?
There are a lot of theories on how we will live in mile high skyscrapers to fit all of the people within the big cities, since that obviously would save a lot of space. The only problem with this is the fact that we are… humans. Most of us don’t want to live up in the sky, we want to be closer to nature. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important to work on those ideas, but at the same time we have to act now and look for simpler, fast adapting solutions: like how to use space more efficiently and ecologically. That’s why Tiny Houses is a good, sustainable, choice. For instance, less and less people are driving cars – and what to do with the parking lots? The Tiny House works in the city as well.
What do you want to achieve with this project?
Our big goal is to inspire people to minimize their individual carbon emission, so in a way it’s not only about how you live, it’s about how you are living. I’ve started to act as a “Tiny House Consultant”, helping people who want to take on this lifestyle. As I mentioned before, it’s a lot of legal administration and it feels great to be able to help someone make a change for the better. I hope that I soon will be able to work with this full time. I think they call it “Ikigai” in Japan, it’s my passion, mission and profession. My reason for being.