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Tiny House Living: Indoor Air Quality

gerber daisyA little over a week ago I finished up a 2-week intensive training in Permaculture Design. It was an awesome learning experience and got me thinking about tiny house design in new ways.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Permaculture, it is a term coined in the 1970’s  by Bill Mollison that follows a core ethic: to care for the planet, the people who live on it, and provide equal distribution of surplus. Permaculture design encourages folks to look to biological processes as a means of solving environmental problems and creating regenerative sources of energy, building materials and edible as well as medicinal plants for all peoples.

To be able to discuss solutions we had to go over the issues. Many of our Toxiclectures over the course of those two weeks had a lot to do with toxicity and public safety & health. It gave me pause to think about the quality of life provided by living in a small space. I find my quality of life to be equal and/or greater than living in a larger home.  One thing we definitely considered when building La Casita was material off-gassing. That’s one reason we really looked to reclaimed material but also a reason we tried not to use chemically produced paints, inks, varnishes or lacquers. We definitely used Great Stuff and the adhesive on the sheeting off-gassed. We attempted to balance that with the use of milk-paint and no-VOC paints indoors as well as tung oil on the Cyprus siding. Check out Ryan’s list of best low-VOC paints and non-toxic paints!

There’s a lot of toxicity to battle in daily life I had no idea about such as trichloroethylene (TCE) which is considered a potent liver carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute. This chemical is in lacquers  varnishes, paints, printing inks and adhesives. Benzene, a chemical in gasoline, plastics, oils, paints and rubber is known to cause skin irritation as well as many other health issues such as leukemia and bone marrow diseases. Formaldehyde is a third common chemical in products including particle board, facial tissues, grocery bags, natural gas and nail polish to name a very few. Exposure has been linked to asthma and cancer.

english ivyThe good news is that these chemicals can be absorbed by house plants! NASA conducted a study that explored the abilities of plants to provide better air quality. That research consistently showed that certain plants remove toxic chemicals from our indoor environments. In a tiny house carbon monoxide is an added concern. We have fans and often crack the windows but there have cold nights and we’ve noticed we aren’t getting enough air in our loft and wake up groggy and disconcerted. The top five plants that they found to clear the air of the three chemicals above and reduce carbon monoxide levels indoors are bamboo palm, chinese evergreen, english ivy, gerbera daisy and Janet Craig. To learn more, find the full report here.

There is a lot to consider when building and living in a small space but for mejanet craig plant indoor air quality ranks as one of the most important changes I can make to my overall well-being living the tiny life. Living in La Casita I’ve definitely learned that it’s the smallest of changes that make the biggest difference.

Your Turn!

  • What concerns about living the tiny life do you consider most important?
  •  How do you limit toxicity in your daily life?
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