Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

Book Review: Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter: Scaling Back In The 21st Century

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Much like this web site, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter is a compilation of like-minded people’s stories. The common thread that weaves between the stories is the builders’ immense pride of place, a drive for independence and a vision that, when little goes to waste, life can have greater meaning.

From the Introduction:

In 1973, we published Shelter, an oversized offspring of the Whole Earth Catalog, with 1000 photos of buildings around the world. At the heart of the book were designs for five different tiny homes, with drawings by Bob Easton.

In those days, many people were looking for ways to escape the conventional suit/job, bank/mortgage, or rent/landlord approach to housing. In Shelter, we encouraged people to use their hands in creating living space, to be creative, to scale back, to start small.

Like a lot of other ideas from the ‘60s, this concept is popular once again. Tiny homes have been discovered not just by the public, but also by the media.

For one thing, the mortgage crisis has devastated housing in North America. Huge homes along with huge mortgages were, in the end result, unsustainable. Millions of people have had the rug pulled out from under them.

In addition, wages are down, jobs increasingly scarce, and rents even higher. We’ve gone through a long period of over-consumption, of people living beyond their means, of houses too big and incomes too small.

As we witness the end of a pie-in-the-sky housing boom, and enter an era of increasing costs for that most basic of human needs, shelter, there’s a grassroots movement to scale things back.

It may strike some that the tiny house movement is a group of near fanatics: They’ll spend hours tooling and re-thinking the use of their space; Efficiency is of utmost importance; and they’ve turned it into a kind of competitive sport. But when you think about their motivations for going tiny, these folks end up looking pretty darn smart.

Imagine yourself with a small spot of land. Now imagine that you are able to have a home on this land with far less investment than a traditional house would require. Maybe even without a mortgage. Then ask yourself: Do I really need a dining room if I always eat in the kitchen? Is entertaining outside a better option? What worldly possessions do I really need to be fulfilled?

Leafing through the stories in Tiny Homes Simple Shelter may help many feel that the dream of owning a reasonable, livable space is within reach.

While some of these spaces are artfully designed and lovingly adorned – fitting for any home décor magazine — others are built strictly for function with heaving shelves, overloaded storage compartments and hanging pots and pans. Regardless, the message is the same: a tiny house is an affordable, comfortable option for those looking to carve out their own space. One is only limited by imagination (and common-sense building principles).

The book is broken into the following topic areas:

Tiny Homes on Foundations – including the dreamy, lovely Kim and Jonny’s Cabin once featured on Design*Sponge.

Tiny Homes on Wheels – a clever way of skirting zoning and building regulations, and also (as something we think a lot about here) an opportunity for sheltering beginning farmers working leased or temporary land.

Tiny Homes By Architects – this is the jackpot for high design nerds.

Prefabs and Kits – Tiny is a huge industry!

Earthy Materials – Like cob, straw bale, rammed earth, driftwood and urbanite. These stories showcase some incredible low-tech skills.

Treehouses – Who wouldn’t want to sleep in the trees??

On The Road – Campers, busses, caravans and gypsy wagons fit to join the circus with.

On The Water – Boats and floating homesteads.

So…now that you’re a tiny house enthusiast, too, we want to ask a question in the spirit of HOMEGROWN: What five kitchen items would you fit into your tiny kitchen? The assumed kitchen items are already there (stove, fridge, sink), so tell us what you can’t live without! A commenter will be chosen at random to receive a copy of Tiny Homes Simple Shelter on Friday March 16th at noon ET.

HOMEGROWN Life: Visions of Urban Agriculture

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012






Call me nerdy, but I think planning and zoning is fascinating. Give me a project proposal or zoning code, and I gladly immerse myself in land use regulations, zoning jargon and mapping.  So when the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Mayor’s office held a kickoff and visioning meeting to rezone Boston for urban agriculture on Monday night, I was sitting front row, pencil in hand!

Image courtesy of City Farmer News

Boston is not new to agriculture. The Boston Common was used from 1634-1830 as a public livestock grazing pasture. The city has the highest number of community gardens per capita; 150 gardens throughout the city in which 3,000 members grow. There are currently 6 urban agriculture projects in Boston, and farmers’ markets in every neighborhood. A new pilot rezoning projectapproved last year by the city leases two parcels of land in South Dorchester to be farmed by local organizations.

But, this rezoning project is critical to the future of the local food system in Boston.  As it stands now, the current Zoning Code details 3 (basic) types of land uses for Boston:

  • Allowed by right use: A land use that is permitted as a matter of right. Board of Appeal approval is not required.
  • Conditional use: A land use permitted by the Zoning Code provided that it is found by the Board of Appeal to comply with certain conditions set out in the Code
  • Forbidden use: A use that is not permitted in a particular district because of harmful impacts on other allowed uses; e.g., noise, pollution.

However, as I learned Monday night, if a particular use is not expressly mentioned in the Zoning Code, it is, by default, forbidden.  This applies to most agricultural land uses. In order for urban agriculture – the use of a parcel of land to cultivate food and other products with the intent of sale – to thrive, the Code must be revised.

Map courtesy of Boston Redevelopment Authority Pilot Urban Agriculture Project

As urban environments, like Boston, seek to become more sustainable, food and agriculture will play an increasingly critical role. I am excited to see my city take the first steps in becoming greener and creating a local food system. The expansion of urban agriculture in Boston will have profoundly positive effects on the city. A new chapter in the Code will increase residents’ access to local, fresh food, it will provide new economic opportunities to grow and sell food products, it will expand educational programs about healthy eating and agriculture for local youth, and it will utilize vacant lots and empty spaces in a sustainable and beneficial way.

At the meeting I was pleased to see a diverse group of Boston residents present, asking question, and providing their own visions for the future of urban agriculture. Mayor Menino voiced his enthusiastic commitment for agriculture and urban farmer and founder of Growing PowerWill Allen, the man who transformed Milwaukee into an thriving agricultural city, gave an inspiring presentation about possibilities for growth in Boston.  The meeting wrapped up with a spirited roundtable discussion and thoughtful comments from residents that left me energized for an urban agriculture revolution in Boston!

Even though this rezoning and planning is in it’s infantile stages, and I’m sure at some point this year-long process may become arduous, the prospects urban agriculture holds for Boston will be worth it.  Beekeeping, backyard chickens, and farms in my neighborhood? Let’s get started!

Photo Credit: Linda N., Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License


I am the Flock-Tender here on I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

Food Day 2011

Monday, September 19th, 2011

It’s official: Real food will have its day! On October 24, 2011 join millions of Americans at the table for national Food Day and eat real in celebration of sustainable agriculture, local and regional food systems, and healthy diets.

Photo courtesy of


Even though there’s been a boom in the number of farmers’ markets, local food systems, and emerging food cultures throughout the US, folks are still taking the easy way out at meal times, driving up to the fast food trough to get cheap, “convenient” nourishment.  Still fueling up on salty, fatty, processed foods and high-calorie sweets, many Americans are not reaping the benefits of the wholesome foods that sustainable farmers sow and are suffering from record-high rates of food related illness and disease.  The time for change is now!

The first-ever national Food Day aims to transform the American diet and inspire people to eat real.  The grassroots campaign has blossomed into a movement to get healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food on every table in America.  Food Day not only celebrates the good food movement, but it encourages everyone to cook real food from real farmers together.  Food Day is committed to six principles:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
  6. Support fair conditions for farm and farm workers


Join the movement by participating in a few of the hundreds of Food Day events and grassroots actions being held across the nation, or coordinate your own on your campus or in your community!  Visit to pledge your commitment to the campaign, take action to urge your Congressmen to support the eat real agenda and to fix our broken food system, or cook up a few of the Food Day recipes for your family and friends. has a ton of great resources to get involved in Food Day! Get your hands dirty in some soil or in the kitchen with our HOMEGROWN101s on planting and growing; cooking, baking, preserving; and making, building, and crafting.  These handy DIY guides have projects for growers, chefs, and makers of all-levels.  Host a Food Day event with other growing enthusiasts and build a hoop house for planting season extension.  Open your kitchen up to fellow eaters and start canning the flavors of summer for good eating all winter long. Or, work from out handy HOMEGROWN How-To cards and make yourself some kale pesto, a self-watering container, or save the last of your tomato seeds for next year.  Jar your pesto, save your seeds, and plant your rows with’s downloadable goodies – seed packets, canning labels, and garden sticks!

Start a conversation with others in the community about recipes, themes, and tips on how to get growing and cooking seasonally for your family.  There are plenty of folks who have joined our groups with their own tips and tricks to live HOMEGROWN – it’s like Food Day every day!

However you celebrate Food Day on October 24th be sure to share your photos, videos, and events with us on  From potlucks to house parties, community fairs and gardening days, you can get involved in the movement to reconnect with food and build a sustainable system of agriculture. Together we can all join the effort to feed the nation with the bountiful harvests grown and produced on America’s small and mid-size farms, and to support the farmers that grow and raise food sustainably and humanely.  In the name of food, farms and righteous eating, Happy Food Day!