A typical “what to bring to school” list for college students might include: a desk lamp, a mini-fridge, a throw rug, a trash can. Rob Dunn, a Green Mountain College senior from Henniker, N.H., has a somewhat different list: one 12v 35ah (12 volt 35 amp-hour) Deep Cycle battery; 5 gallon bucket of sawdust (for the composting toilet); several jars of natural peanut butter (survival food in case the produce freezes); as much kindling and firewood as possible!
By now you’ve deduced that Dunn’s living arrangements are somewhat unconventional for a college student. He lives in a “tiny house” he constructed himself last year, located on leased land about five miles from the liberal-arts college in Poultney, Vt. He lives off the grid and supplies his own fuel for a Rocket mass heater, a hyper-efficient wood stove with a six-inch by six-inch firebox that keeps the house toasty in the winter.
Borrowing from design principles he learned in his Renewable Energy and Ecological Design (REED) classes with prof. Lucas Brown, he built the structure with future inhabitants in mind (he is required to leave the house behind when he graduates).
“I designed it around simplicity, ease of build, and sourcing from environmentally-friendly materials,” he said.
The list of necessities for life in the 96 square-foot tiny house are dictated by space and efficiency, but Dunn does not sacrifice all comforts. He makes space for his record, CD and cassette collection, powered by an inverter connected to solar panels. His total living space approximates that of a typical college dorm room–a second story sleeping loft frees up most of the floor space for cooking, studying and just hanging out with friends.
Rob made several efforts to give away or sell many of his possessions—clothes, tools, and miscellaneous items. “It was hard at first, but after the second or third ‘purge’ it got a lot easier to figure out what I really needed and what minimalism really felt like.”
See some of the national coverage Rob has attracted: