>>MAT: Hey Everyone, in this video we're gonna meet up with Rob Greenfield. He's a really inspiring guy and now he's living in a tiny house that he built for only $1,500 USD using reclaimed materials. In this video, Rob is gonna give us a full tour and explain how all the systems work because in addition to building the tiny house, he's also collecting rainwater, growing and foraging 100% of his food, using a bio digester to create fuel and a lot more.
On top of this, he's doing all of this in an urban backyard. We're also gonna ask him about the challenges and benefits of his super sustainable lifestyle. So stay tuned because there's lots of good stuff in this video. [Music Playing] >>ROB: I really strive to live simply and so for me, this tiny house and this homestead that I've created allow me to live the simple life that I desire. I don't have any bills, no debt, no car, no driver's license and really a lot of that is possible because this little homestead allows me to meet the basic needs that I have and really prevents me from overextending myself from wanting more and having more than I can need.
I have food, I have water, I have electricity, the little bit that I need; and I'm able to live a pretty peaceful, content life here. [Music Playing] So this is the house here. It is pretty small as you can see. It's about 100 square feet, 10'x10' and one of the most important things for me when I decided that I was going to build a tiny house was that I wanted to do it in a way that had as minimal of an impact as I could. So for me what that meant was using repurposed materials. So this was built out of about 99% secondhand and repurposed materials and I did it for about $1,500 USD. One of my big goals through living simply and living sustainably is really to make it accessible to other people and to help them to be able to live in a similar way if they desire to. So I see some of these really expensive tiny houses out there that might be a $100,000 – $150,000 and my goal is to kind of show the other end of the spectrum of just how simple it can be, how inexpensive it can be and doing it in a way that really minimizes our environmental impact.
I'll take you inside but you know 100 square feet, it's pretty small. So I'm living in Orlando, Florida, in a very urban area. I'm just about 3 miles or so from downtown. So the way that I designed this house was to really fit into the neighborhood. I didn't want something that really stuck out. Since tiny houses aren't actually legal in a lot of places and I'm not putting it on wheels. So what I decided to do is build it to be basically just like a shed and that's the way that I really designed it. So what I used is mostly leftover materials from construction sites. So I'm using basic 2x4s and plywood. I used pallets as the foundation. The roof is just basic metal. These are secondhand materials, I got off Craigslist for the windows, same for the doors.
So building wise, it was a very simple design. I basically did research on sheds online and then adapted it for my needs. You know sheds aren't typically gonna have so much windows and such large doors for example. Here, in Florida, we deal with extremely hot weather during the summer. So one of my main challenges was designing this in a way where I'd be able to make it through our heat, our hot and humid summers.
So one of the most important things was just leaving the roof open so that I could have a breeze, a cross breeze, that just comes through here, same with the windows and the doors on either side. There can always be a nice breeze coming through here. Obviously, I don't have air conditioning and I don't even really have insulation. I used a burlap just as a cover and all that really is, is it just makes it look better so it's not plywood on the other side, but there's no insulation in there.
So this is really designed for the heat in the summers and the winter is a little rough because I don't have a stove or insulation, but the winter here is short and I made it work through my first winter. Other things, the bed is just designed out of leftover 2x4s from the build mostly and this is flooring from a house that flooded, same with the floor down here. I got this off of Craigslist. It was flooring that was from a house that had flooded and this was stuff that wasn't damaged but they were still getting rid of it. The desk is built out of pallets and leftover 2x4s. Most of the things that I didn't build I was able to find used. I got this chair for $15 for example from a garage sale. The shelves are from Habitat for Humanity, pretty basic, pretty simple stuff. You can see there's just not a whole lot here.
I always have a little bit a hard time with the tours because there's so little going on in here. But what's really going on is food. I'm currently doing a project where for one year, I'm growing and foraging 100% of my food. So what this house really is, is a capsule for my food. Over here, I have pumpkins that I grew last summer. These are called Seminole pumpkins. These are all ferments like honey wine and vinegars and ginger beer, jun and such. A small library of books, a lot of these are about how to grow food. More food down here. If I come back here this is another one of my food storage shelves. I have lots of honey. I have 4 beehives, 2 here and 2 at another place. Last fall, I got 75 pounds of honey.
It's been plenty for me. It's a really important part of what I'm doing and then I do a lot of foraging so here's citrus, oranges, grapefruits, lemons. Here is papayas. I grow these in my garden and down here I've got a lot of my staples. So pigeon peas that come from my front yard, pumpkin seeds, lots of herbs, like onion and dried garlic. I've got things like my coconut oil that I make from coconuts that I forage and salt from the ocean. So the purpose of me living here in Orlando for 2 years and having this tiny house is a part of this project of growing and foraging 100% of my food for a year. So that's really what this whole house is based around. I live pretty simply, with pretty minimal stuff. This is my clothing shelf right here. All of my clothes fit pretty comfortably onto 1 shelf. These are some of my personal possessions here. Hygiene wise, I don't need a whole lot of things: a bamboo toothbrush; a chew stick, that's an alternative way of cleaning teeth; some essential oils; dental floss; not a whole lot, pretty basic stuff there.
In my last tiny house, I lived off the grid so I had solar panels to meet my electrical needs and I wasn't connected to the public utilities for water. For this project, I decided to be connected to the municipal electricity. One of the main reasons is the deep chest freezer. So I store lots of food in here, things like prickly pear cactus fruit. Bags of things that I'm trying to save. This is Roselle, for example. It's important to be able to store bulk amounts of food. Like this is yuca, for example. One of my staple crops. The thing about the deep chest freezer is it only uses about three dollars a month in electricity but I can store about 200 pounds of food.
I just have an extension cord that's running from the property that I'm on and I'm using less than $10 a month total. I was originally going to do solar panels but I'm just living here for about 2 years and realized, I didn't really feel like the trade-off of spending the money on solar and having them for a short period of time was really necessary and I felt like it's actually more sustainable to be connected to the grid for the little bit of electricity that I use rather than doing something like buying new solar panels.
So I have just 3 plugs to minimize the amount of electricity I can use. My computer is one thing that I'm often using, a lamp and other basic things. Underneath the bed, this is where I store things, plenty of space to store things. A lot of this is food oriented as well. One of the big things is my bee boxes. The honey supers for when they're not using those, just some very basic storage. I would have a bed on the ground, but it's kind of key for this storage. In an ideal situation, I'd like to have a loft but it just didn't quite play out this time. The bed works as a couch or my bed just simply pull it out like this and I've got my bed and then put it back, there's the couch. It's not always that simple or easy but behind it here is a mosquito net so you can see this place is very open.
I don't have screens in the windows so I have a mosquito net. At night, I put that over. I don't have to worry about the mosquitos at night. They get pretty tough here in the summer. I'm probably gonna put screens on the window and a net here and then put mosquito nets up there because it was pretty rough last summer. I decided not to do it on wheels because I just really don't want to be moving around a tiny house and because a trailer would have been the most expensive part. So, I built it right here on pallets and it will stay here. That's pretty much the inside of the house. I don't spend most of my time inside in my house. I spend more of it out in my community or out in my yard, and in my outdoor kitchen. So I'll take you outside now. So this is my outdoor kitchen behind me and I spend a lot of my time here.
In a normal day, I might cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of my favorite parts about this is that I drink rain water, so I'm not connected to the grid for water. I do have access to a hose but 99% of my water here comes from harvesting rainwater. I harvested on the roof of the tiny house and then for drinking water, it goes right into here and comes out pure, delicious fresh drinking water. Behind me is a barrel and I fill that up with water from the harvest from the property owner's roof. So that I have more surface area to harvest from and this is just a gravity fed sink so no electricity or anything like that.
It just comes out using gravity, using the weight of the water in the barrel, and then the water when I release it just goes down instead of going off into a sewer system to be a waste product for someone else to deal with. It just goes down the tube and then right out to the back where I've planted different water loving plants: bananas, for example and taro. I have a few ways to cook. I have a solar oven which I need to start using more now that it's gonna be summertime and my backyard is pretty shady.
And so now that it's summer, there's gonna be more sun so I'll start using that more. I have 2 stoves. I have a regular propane stove that I fill up a 5 gallon or 20 pound propane tank and that's what I currently am using at the moment. And then I also have a bio digester that turns food waste into methane that I can cook with. That hasn't been able to produce as much as I need. So I still need to keep my propane stove. I'm hoping I can get that thing running to the point where I can be completely independent of the fossil fuels but for now, I'm still using the propane. So I also can cook with wood. It is just wood that I gather from the neighborhood from fallen down trees or heat treated pallets that are clean to cook with and if I have a large project like boiling lots of salt water, I'll use this. I'd like to have a rocket stove, but just haven't gotten around to making one yet. Over here is the bio digester. So food waste simply goes down into here and it's basically like a stomach.
The bacteria in here creates methane as one of the byproducts of breaking things down. The methane is collected in this bladder here. And then this is pressured, goes through just a little pipe that goes underground over to my stove. So that's one way that I deal with food wastes. Another way is right here and this is the compost bin. So the compost bin is extremely simple. It's one of the simplest forms of compost bins out there. it's just some chicken wire wrapped around into a circle and this is a way for me to not put my burden on others, not put food waste to the landfill where it makes methane. But instead it turns into a healthy, nutritious soil that I can then use to grow more food. So here is one of my favorite plants.
If not my favorite plant in the backyard, and this is my toilet paper. It's called the blue spur flower. It's got many common names and not only does it actually smell great because it's in the mint family. But it actually is just about one of the softest plants you can possibly imagine. So I grow my own toilet paper. I haven't bought toilet paper for about 5 years and I just come over here, pick some, and then go over to the toilet. The amazing thing is that this actually stays good after being on the plant for a while. I've had it sitting here for 5 days and still being soft and strong. So that takes me to the compost toilet. I've mentioned a couple of times already, but really my lifestyle is designed to not place my burdens elsewhere, but instead to take things that would otherwise be a waste product and utilize them to add fertility to the world, make the world a better place.
Poop and pee is something that a lot of us are just basically kind of scared of that we think is this horrible thing, but it's not. It's something we've been doing for millions and millions of years and it can be dealt with in a way that's environmentally responsible and actually can grow us food. I have a pretty simple system here. This side is for urine. This is just used for the nitrogen and this is really great for plants like bananas, papayas, and it's diluted using water. So mostly fruit trees, bushes, and such. The poop, I just use sawdust as the covering it up medium and then there's a 5 gallon bucket under here. That is then composted. It's called Humanure and it's supposed to be composted for a year; and then that can be used for fertilizing fruit trees and such. So this is the compost toilet, very simple system. The entire thing probably cost $30-$40 something like that. It's mostly leftover materials from the build. So next I want to take you to the shower I shower with rain water.
It's really my favorite way to shower. This is a pretty simple system. I'm using a 275 gallon tote. This is on the homeowner's house because I want to maximize my rainwater harvesting. Hundred square feet captures quite a bit of rain, but this house captures more so basic, pretty simple rainwater shower. What I love about this shower is there is no such thing as wasting water. All I'm doing is slowing the water down from the sky to the time that it reaches the ground and then actually this water is watering a banana tree that I've recently planted that will hopefully grow tall into many and all of that treats the greywater and hopefully will grow me bananas. So you might be wondering how do I get around? Transportation? A bike. One of the keys is to have a bike rack to throw baskets on here to carry what I need.
I also have a trailer that can carry 300 lbs on it. So I got rid of my car about 6 years ago now. Seven years ago now I've been car free and do most of what I need to do on my bicycle and with the trailer. Alright, so I'm gonna take you out to the garden and one of the most common questions is: How does this work? How are you living here? Do you own the land? Do you rent? and so what I'm doing is a work exchange. There's millions of unused backyards all across the United States and what I decided to do is find a way where I could be of benefit and of service to someone else and meet my basic needs at the same time.
So I found someone here in Orlando that had always wanted to grow their own food and live more sustainably and the exchange is, I've turned their whole front yard into a garden and set up the rainwater harvesting, the compost and all of these things to help them live more sustainably and get to eat their own homegrown food, in exchange for me using the backyard. So this is the same thing that I did when I lived in San Diego. It's been a really great set up that allows me to live without a single bill to my name, with no debt, and live really simply at the same time being in the service of others. That's what it's all about. It's about how can we meet the needs of other people. So this is the garden. I have 6 gardens spread out throughout Orlando and I spend a lot of my time out here. It's amazing how much grows in a small space.
[Music Playing] I'm an environmental activist and an adventurer with a pretty simple mission of trying to make the world around me a happier, healthier place. I do sort of extreme adventures and activism campaigns to really catch people's attention and get them to think about important environmental and social issues that we just often don't think about. One of my big projects was Trash Me in that I lived like the average American for a month but I had to wear every single piece of trash that I produced, to create a visual of how much garbage just one person produces. I've biked across the United States 3 times on a bamboo bicycle, raising awareness about sustainability. I had gotten my life down to just 111 possessions and for 2 years, I traveled with everything that I owned fitting on my back to really just get people thinking.
The more that I've basically simplified my life, the less needs that I have, the more that I'm able to help meet other people's needs, the more than I'm able to really live in the service of others. So I really love the setup that I've created here because this creates that foundation of meeting my very basic needs so that I can spend my time helping others, inspiring others, educating others to live in a way that's better for the world, better for the earth, better for our communities and better for ourselves. A lot of people think by living with so little, people think you're giving things up. And so, you know the question of why I choose to have so little. Well, it's the opposite of that.
I've found that the more that I've given up, the more extraneous things that I didn't need, the more that I've opened up space to live with more purpose, more passion to do the things that I really want to do. So the reason I live with less, is that I can live with more so that I can spend time with the people that I love. So that I can spend time doing things that I love and so that I can live the life that I want rather than a life that is based around making money to buy more stuff or insure it or clean it or maintain it or organize it.
That's what it's all about living with less so that I can have more life. I have no desire to feed into any delusion that life is easy and no matter what life we're choosing to live there's challenges behind it. This lifestyle of simple living and of really trying to take responsibility for all of my actions and how it affects the world around me. It is challenging there's no question about it. I deal with so many challenges on a daily basis. Just to name a few: it's the constant upkeep. Whether it's emptying the compost toilet or filling my rainwater system or filling my water purification system or the time in the garden whether it's maintaining it or the amount of harvesting or preserving.
I do find that a small house tends to get messier a little easier because I don't have tons of space to store things away. So I do kind of find myself cleaning pretty often, but the good news is it's pretty short cleaning. It doesn't take long to clean up a 100 square foot tiny house. Living this outdoor life without air conditioning and without heat means that I am more at the whim of the weather.
I am sometimes cold in the winter and I am hot in the summer. So that's a challenge. But I've chosen not to outsource that burden to air conditioning. Which means burning huge amounts of fossil fuels. So it's worth it, but it is a challenge. The insects are a challenge here in Florida and not even having screens. Last summer, I got bit by a lot of mosquitoes. So that's been a challenge and with the outdoor kitchen, the insects are a challenge as well.
I'd like to improve and set up a screen around my outdoor kitchen to help with that this summer. So I'm constantly running into challenges living with so much less money. Last year, I made $8,000. The year before that, it was $5,000. So I live with very little money. That has its challenges. I really have to watch what I'm doing. And sometimes it definitely means going without things that I, in the moment, would like. But all of it is a part of the bigger picture that it is the life that I want to be living and the challenges are all a part of creating the lifestyle that I want which is living simply, living sustainably, being an example for other people who have a desire to live that way. So no doubt it is challenging but the challenges are definitely worth it. [Music Playing] >>MAT: I hope you enjoyed this video. If you want to follow Rob, you can check him out on his YouTube channel. I'll put a link to it in the description of this video. Also, don't forget to subscribe to our channel. We post a new video every single week about people trying all sorts of different alternative lifestyles.