When we look back at the 2010s a few years from now, especially the latter half of the decade, one trend observants might identify as key to understanding those years will be the trend toward simplicity.
Paring away the unnecessary has been identified as one way individuals can increase their level of happiness. (Fewer possessions equals fewer worries.) And advocates for more sustainable living have long known that when we are content with less, we dramatically decrease our burden on our environments.
Proud Green Home recently spent some time talking to Robert Glover. He and his wife, Ulrika, have leavened the mantra that “simplicity is sustainability” so thoroughly throughout their lives that some folks might consider the approach extreme.
The young couple—both in their 30s—live on a rented piece of land in Ventura, Calif., on the coast about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles. There, they have placed a tiny home and a large garden, the latter of which helps supply their vegetarian restaurant,The Harvest Café, just a few miles away.
PGH: Tell us about your tiny home.
Robert Glover: Well, first of all, Ulrika and I have a little restaurant. Our intention there was to have sort of a full-circle, small-scale, organic agriculture operation where we could support and have kind of an example for how small local farms can support local food systems and things like that. We rented a property that was about one acre to have a little farm and we had the opportunity to live on the property, too. So, we ended up having a little tiny house that we purchased that was locally made just as sort of a wooden house on top of a trailer.
The property has water, but no electricity. We use a 100-percent solar system and have made that a sustainable situation for us. We use a little camping stove without many other appliances or utilities or anything like that. And we've made it work really well and live a very happy life.
PGH: Just how tiny is “tiny”?
RG: The main floor space is eight feet by 16 feet, and overall, it’s about 12 feet tall. Inside, the ceilings are almost seven feet high. There is a loft, where we have a queen-size bed. Even though it’s a small space, it’s quite comfortable. We really enjoy it. Even though it’s built on wheels, it’s made of wood and is insulated and double-sided, so it’s pretty soundproof. We sleep really well.
PGH: That’s not a lot of space, even for two people who really love each other. Is it hard?
RG: It has a loft, so she can be up there and I can be in the kitchen downstairs area, and then we can kind of be separate. But you certainly need to be comfortable with the person that you're with because you don't have as much time apart.
I guess I'm surprised at how easily we were able to adapt. We went from a two-bedroom house that had tons of storage into this little, wooden tiny house. We have a storage unit that holds a lot of our things, and we switch out our winter clothes and summer clothes and little boxes. Things like that. We were like, “How are we going to do this? It's going to be impossible!” But we were able to figure it out. You only keep enough of the things that you really need in life and get rid of a lot of the stuff that you don't. That’s when you start to realize how much you really need. It's just kind of surprising how easy it has been to adapt and how much I don't really miss having tons more space and more things.
PGH: Any particular amenities you miss?
RG: The only source of heat we can have is to light a fire outside or we use like a little camping propane inside the house. Outside is a separate little shed that has our bathroom with a compost toilet and a shower, and the hot water is sort of on-demand. We have to wait like 10 or 15 minutes for it to get hot, and then we get about five to seven minutes at the max. Even in the middle of winter, it doesn’t get that cold out, but it can dip to 30-35 degrees in the morning.
PGH: Tell us about The Harvest Café, the restaurant operated by you and your wife.
RG: The restaurant is a full-time job for both of us. I manage the farm, and she runs the kitchen, does most of the menu design and does all the scheduling. And I’m also in charge of the payroll and keeping all the bills and insurances up and checking a lot of those backend things. It's still a pretty small business, with only about 10 or 12 employees. We’re about to go into our third year.
PGH: What’s on the menu?
RG: It's really family friendly, very healthy, all organic. And it's vegetarian food. We have eggs, cheese and milk for the people who want them, but we don't serve any meat, and that also reduces our carbon footprint a little
We can seat about 80 people total. We've done only breakfast and lunch the past few years. And we are just now going to try dinner in January. So that's our big plan. We have done a First Friday event for the last few years, which is just one dinner event a month. But we typically just have done breakfast and lunch hours until 4 p.m. We're open every day, and that's been a pretty good formula for us.
Want to see more? Enjoy this beautiful video featuring The Harvest Café.