Learning to live sustainably with less and within a smaller space is an appealing concept to many, but the cost of building a ‘conventional’ tiny home from scratch may not be affordable to everyone.
While there are tiny homes to rent, there are also plenty of vintage trailers out there that can be purchased for cheap and renovated into small, sustainable homes, according to treehugger.com.
Taking the vintage camper route is Worcester, Massachusetts-based eco-designer and DIYer Mariah Pastell, who is transforming a 1960s Avalon trailer into The COMET (Cost-effective, Off-grid Mobile Eco Trailer).
Living in her restored vintage camper year-round, Pastel tows it to warmer places during the winter.
Originally purchased for $500, Pastel has gutted and redone the Avalon’s 8-by-14 foot (112-square-foot) interior.
Her plan is to turn this 1960s Avalon trailer into The COMET: a full-time healthy living space that is completely self sufficient and has no environmental impact.
The COMET will be an interactive space so that it can also serve as an educational tool and mobile classroom.
You may see things in The COMET that you wouldn’t see in a traditional home, but it will make it more fun to learn from, says Pastel.
The emphasis is on non-toxic, sustainably or locally-sourced, repurposed materials.
Pastel has redone the electrical wiring, installed non-toxic UltraTouch Denim insulation, and is now in the process of installing 555 watts of solar photovoltaics on the trailer’s roof.
She also plans to build a “bumper garden” out of cedar and aluminum soon.
She’s kept the original, hand-powered “rocket pump” for water, and has also opted for a composting toilet.
When asked by treehugger.com why she chose to renovate a vintage camper versus building a tiny house, Pastel related her experience:
Tiny houses are warmer because they have real insulation but are very difficult to move and tow, and very expensive for what you get. If I had had $20,000 and more time I would have maybe built a tiny house, but I had $500 and an urgent need. I love my camper and it was definitely the right choice.
The more people I interview and the more I see, I realize that the recycling of a vintage camper is superior to a tiny house on wheels green-wise in many ways, Pastel added.
People think that a tiny house means mobility, but that’s a misconception in my opinion. Towing a camper that was meant to travel down the highway and is somewhat aerodynamic is hard enough, towing a tiny house regularly is insanity.
The more I discuss with people the pros and cons, the more people that I know that originally wanted to do the tiny house thing end up going the vintage trailer route.
It’s a good argument for re-purposing all those old yet still usable trailers out there and on places like Craigslist; many of them have great retro design attributes and just need someone with the right do-it-yourself attitude to give them a second chance.
Eager to spread the word about DIY and tiny home living, Mariah Pastel and her partner Matt offer “tiny transition” consulting and design services, and regularly give talks and workshops all over the country. One of her favorite stops is the all-girls engineering program at Ann Richards School in Austin, Texas.
Pastel is a real inspiration to tiny home builders and power-tool-loving girls and women everywhere!
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