Tiny house communities: a model for sustainability

Mangold, Severin, author
Roberts, Anthony, advisor
Mahoney, Patrick, committee member
Cafaro, Philip, committee member
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At a time when the human population faces extreme environmental risks from the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a search for environmentally sustainable solutions is necessary. A recent iteration of the cohousing movement in the United States is pushing for more sustainable lifestyles by developing communities of 'tiny houses'. Tiny house communities offer a plausible solution to climate change due to their reduced carbon footprint, increased focus on living with less, and overall escape from debt. More importantly, recent research shows tiny house enthusiasts embody environmentalist tenets within their drive to live with less in a smaller space. However, little research examines how living in these communities promotes pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. This study addresses this gap using two original surveys to examine (1) the motivations, philosophies, and socio-demographics of tiny communities and (2) the effect of community integration on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors in these communities. I argue that community integration plays a key role in increasing the environmentalism of tiny house community residents. Tiny house community members' levels of pro-environmental behaviors increase as a result of being highly integrated into their communities. While members tend to already exhibit high levels of environmentalism prior to joining a tiny house community, being in the presence of others and forming relationships with other community members creates a synergistic effect that specifically increases levels of pro-environmental behaviors. The more socially integrated members are the more exposed they are to new pro-environmental behaviors that they might not been aware of prior to joining the community. The first survey identifies the motivations, philosophical influences, and socio-demographics of tiny house enthusiasts. Sociodemographic questions included questions about respondents age, income, education level, race, and gender. The second survey asked participants to rate their levels of pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors, in addition to questions about community attachment, community integration, community impact, and basic sociodemographic about their age, income, education level, race, and gender. Most important was the measure of community integration; this was measured by asking participants to name at most 10 people who they interact with regularly. Through the use of multivariate OLS regressions, I find that community integration is positively associated with pro-environmental behaviors net of prior pro-environmental behaviors, age, community impact, and religion. I also find that age exhibits a marginally significant negative association with pro-environmental attitudes. Thereby this thesis provides initial evidence for the pro-environmental nature of tiny house communities as a result of community integration. While community integration was found to be a key predictor pro-environmental behavior, the same could not be said for the pro-environmental attitudes. Furthermore, community attachment did not exhibit any significant associations with behaviors or attitudes.
2021 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.
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tiny house
sustainable living
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