An experiment with voluntary simplicity in American culture.
Welcome to the Gold Thread Tiny House Blog
Welcome to the Gold Thread Tiny House Blog - firstname.lastname@example.org
Buckminster Fuller once said, "If you want to change how somone thinks, give up; you can not change how people think. Give them a tool, the use of which will cause them to think differently." The tiny house is just such a tool.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Gold Thread Tiny House and Solaqua Power and Art: Collaboration For Strong Communities
Two years ago I approached Jody Rael, the owner of Solaqua Power and Art, and presented him with an idea to design a tiny, mobile house embodying the ideals of simplicity, affordability, and beauty; a clear alternative to prevailing trends in American culture. At the time I was entering my final year as an undergraduate student at Goddard College and was seeking a practical thesis project. I desired to create something real, something directly applicable to world affairs, not just another paper to be read and then set upon the shelf to catch dust.Constructing and more importantly living in a tiny house has applicability not only to myself, but to individuals like myself who desire a simpler lifestyle with an environmental footprint closer in size to the world average.A tiny house can be an effective tool to teach myself and others how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Unfortunately, early attempts to realize these plans went nowhere.I tried securing a loan for the project at the banks in town and met unconscionably high interest rates.Loans such as they offered seemed like more of a liability than an opportunity, so I passed it by. Similarly, attempts to find indoor building locations came to naught.People liked my idea, but did not want to open their doors. Soon after, I decided to forgo the tiny house idea all together.
However, on a whim, I stopped into Solaqua Power and Art and I found something else. They were quite warm to my idea. In fact, they had already been thinking along similar lines and wanted to develop a line of sustainable houses powered on solar electricity.With many other projects in the works, including a thriving renewable energy business called Sundog Solar, Jody Rael invited me to spearhead the tiny house project using their facility.
The prospect of building at Solaqua seemed to me nothing less than a dream come true.Even though the buildings there are still evolving, the facility they have is a truly impressive one.The buildings are powered by solar electricity generated on location, and some are heated by a furnace that consumes recycled vegetable oils- waste from local restaurants. I could not have thought of a better environment for a building project that focuses on sustainability. Further, Sundog is equipped with specialized tools, and a great staff with a broad knowledge base. Brian Bean, Steve Mammoser and many others not only welcomed me into the space but offered technical help and valuable insights along the way. Their endlessly positive, can-do attitude made me feel that the world actually did want this tiny house to come into being, something I had formerly been unsure of.
Solaqua Power and Art did not ask me for rent or a monetary compensation. Their generosity has given the tiny house project a big boost and I hope to contribute to their success in many ways.As I reach into the community I continue to be a spokesperson for them, offering publicity through essays, online publications, and at speaking events around the region. If there is a decision in the future to collaborate on the development of new tiny houses designs,first hand experience being gained today will be important for the success of a future, expanded project.
Further, we all benefit from the network of relationships that have been forged along the way, whether personal or business in nature. Though perhaps difficult to quantify, my hope that these efforts come to benefit Solaqua in one way or another.
After beginning work at Solaqua, the stiff headwind I had experienced early on seemed to change direction, flinging open other doors. For instance, the regional construction supply company Herrington Inc. and owner Ed Herrington put their support behind the project.Family owned and operated for over a century, Herrington’s Building Supply, millwork, and stone yard maintains stores in Chatham, Hillsdale, Hudson and Millerton NY, as well as Lakeville CT. The majority of the non-recycled building materials used in the construction of the tiny house has come through them. Local companies like Herrington’s have something friendly and personal about them, especially compared to the multinational conglomerates like Home Depot and Lowes. Great customer support, free on-time deliveries and a friendly atmosphere have proved a real asset. Other companies such as Pella Windows and Doors, in Renseleer NY, have been a support for the tiny house project as well, providing free consultations and special pricing on their great casement windows.
On the one hand, I wish to publically acknowledge and thank Solaqua and these other wonderful companies for taking me under their wing, for their encouragement, support and trust along the way. However, if I stopped there I would fail to recognize more general, important lessons than can be learned from this experience.
Stepping back a bit further, we can view the events at Solaqua as one example of small businesses using their resources to breath life into new initiatives. When I began my project, all I had was a dream, some energy, and knowledge to realize it.Solaqua provided some of the tools and infrastructure needed to turn these dreams into a reality. They turned their place of business into a germination tank of sorts, sprouting projects they deem as socially and environmentally responsible.
My hope is that other small business owners, interested in facilitating positive change in their communities and the greater region, can take inspiration from this. If small businesses start to recognize themselves as a germinal place for new socially and environmentally relevant projects to be born, in addition to their traditional economic functions of providing goods and services, they will breath new life into our communities. The support that Gold Thread Tiny House is receiving is just one small example of this kind of regenerative partnership in action.
One concern that will undoubtedly be raised by business owners is, that they already struggle to stay afloat and have no extra time or space to “support” other people. I do not doubt that sometimes this is true. Perhaps it can only be possible for a percentage of businesses to branch out in this way. Far from being mutually exclusive, I believe that economic production and community regeneration in the way described above actually assist each other. Business’s can only be as strong as the social, environmental, and economic environment in which they dwell. By inviting in and supporting new projects, small business will increase traffic in and around their businesses. In turn, collaboration will increase name recognition and improved overall image of a business in the eyes of the community.As new projects take life, general economic activity will increase wealth in a region, which will eventually flow through all businesses in a community.
This is a fundamental shift in thinking from self-centered to community centered.It is not built on competition or disinterest between members of a community, but on mutual support and a recognition that, “we are all in it together”. In fact, we are all in it together.This shift in thinking and the partnerships that develop from it will become the very life raft keeping us all afloat.As an economy relying on fossil fuels for cheap transportation and production becomes increasing expensive and hazardous, connected productive communities are what we have to fall back on.We should start creating this today.
Out of all current problems facing society one has presented itself to me as paramount. When looking at unprecedented biosphere destruction, gross income inequality,high unemployment, community fragmentation and isolation, inefficient government, and underfunded education, one elusive problem really worries me the most. The issue is this: society is dangerously slow to change and implement viable responses to any challenge. “Too little too late” is the phrase that comes to mind.Society tends not to change until it is actually forced to, which is often too late.
The ability to change and adapt to a shifting environment is recognized as one essential characteristic of healthy organisms.Species with the ability to respond and change with a changing environment ultimately have secured a place in the future. They evolve. Those that do not perish.The same can be said of communities. Those communities that can become regenerative, interconnected and productive will make the transition into the future well.Small business stands well situated, if not to bring forth this change, to be a pivotal point on which such changes can occur.
We turn again and again to large government with the naïve hopes that they will provide the change we need.However, recent events have made it quite clear that change cannot come from there. Government today is increasingly controlled by economic interests focused on maintaining the status quo, accumulation of control into very few conglomerates, squeezing out small businesses whenever possible.As income inequality grows ever greater, we notice that these forces are achieving their aims. The trillion dollar plus “economic stimulus” that has come from Washington in recent years has all been borrowed. It’s a liability that hangs over all of our heads, and more so for the next generation. Meanwhile, scant are the changes to the system that allowed the economic crisis in the first place, a system that benefits the very rich.This is why we must look inside our communities for the change we seek.
Small businesses are amongst the most important assets of any community. They have amassed valuable capital in all its forms; facilities, staff, knowledge, tools, finance, and mutual trust. These can be gently leveraged for social and economic change. Through partnerships between small businesses and individuals society can begin to discover and realize important innovations that lie dormant in a community.Small businesses have the power to help people give life to these ideas.I believe that Solaqua Power and Art is one company who seeks to develop these new collaborations at their facility in Chatham, Ny. My hope is that other businesses in our region and in other communities around the country will see the potential inherent in such collaborations and follow suit.