Buying a new home is an environmental disaster

You’ve probably read plenty of articles on people moving to tiny houses or eco friendly houses and how great it is for their budget, the environment, etc. Maybe it’s just me but this now seems like a very partial picture.

Why? And why now? because my partner and I have arrived in our newly built and freshly painted apartment with completely bare walls, with only electric wires hanging from such walls. And it made me realize how building something new and moving in, is a complete environmental disaster.

Happy in her new pot
She is happy we moved!

Let’s remember here, that my partner and I very rarely buy new things. We don’t collect things, we have had the same furniture for years. I did a no-buy challenge 2 years ago which changed my spending habits dramatically… until this move!

Now? I’m bleeding cash and plastic.

Buying new things & tools

We had to buy so much stuff! A kitchen, wrapped in plastic, polystyrene and bubble wrap, including a fridge and a dishwasher, a dressing which is only half done, fixture for the bathroom, shelves for the cellar…

We still need plenty of things including curtains, curtain hangers and rods, lamp fixtures, bathroom fixtures… we still need a bathroom cabinet, the kitchen partition, kitchen is half done so we still need to install shelves or cabinets in part of it… Toilet roll holders as well, I guess! Mirrors… The list is probably longer! So more plastic wrapping in the future!

There are a couple items I bought which weren’t wrapped at all. A very small win. The ladder I bought to hang towels in the bathroom, the water proof rug I got, to not mess up the wooden floors when coming from the balcony. The baskets, to prevent my plants to leak on the floor. Not going to do the same water damage as previously!

You see, up until now, we were renting an apartment where the kitchen was fully equipped. There were built in dressing cupboards. In the bathroom, there were hooks to hang bathrobes, a place for the towels, lights were already installed… Indeed there was a mirror and our furniture fitted nicely. Even the cellar had shelves.

So we have been buying stuff, lots of stuff but tools were needed as well and these were wrapped in plastic too.

  • Concrete drills! Additional ones will be needed considering the number of holes I have to make. Luckily we already had an adequate drill, otherwise I would have needed one.
  • An assortment of electric tools to do the wiring including a wire detector. I have pictures of the apartment during the construction where I can see where the wires are, but I don’t have the exact position or all the pictures I need.
  • A level which was wrapped in plastic!
  • Lightbulbs and light sockets, including cheap ones to not be in the complete dark, until we find all the fixture we like.
  • Felt pads for the furniture & to protect the floors
  • A plastic tart to protect the outdoor table and chairs which we had in the kitchen until now. The tart was wrapped in plastic too.
  • An assortment of tapes and glue – yes wrapped in plastic for most.
  • I think the list goes on!

Tools will be useful in the long run, but honestly the costs & plastic adds up.

And as you can see from these lists, there is nothing extraordinary, nothing abnormal. Yes, the size of the kitchen wouldn’t be the same in a tiny house but it would still include pretty much the same elements (fridge, sink, oven…). We don’t even have a microwave, I just don’t like those and don’t use them! There would be less lightbulbs as well. Overall it would be less trash, but I feel it would still be a substantial amount.

Eucalyptus in my shower
Eucalyptus in my shower

Throwing things “away”

We have to throw a lot of things “away” as well. (Away is in quote marks because there is no “away”, no planet B)

All the plastic wrapping obviously from the stuff we bought, as well as a majority of the wrapping used for the move. We had kept a lot of the boxes from our previous move and some even dated from the previous, previous ones. There is a time limit to what a box can do.

We don’t have space to store them this time, so off to the recycling center.

I saw people buying boxes from the hardware store the other day and I wanted to give them my boxes! But I realized very few could still be used.

We also have to downsize. I’m not sure why because the apartment we used to rent is the same size as the one we have now. It’s different in configuration and the cellar is much smaller but there shouldn’t be an issue. Yet, there are plenty of issues!

Yes, I’m going to try to sell or donate what I need to get rid off. It doesn’t change the fact that on one side, we have to buy and buy stuff and on the other side, we have to get rid of stuff.

It kills me! I don’t understand the situation fully. The fact that I have to buy a mirror or lights to put in the bathroom is easy to understand. The fact that I have to throw away some other things is not.

The trash during the construction process

I now have no doubt that the construction process made a giant pile of rubbish, including or maybe especially plastic ones. You may think I’m naive for not already ‘knowing this’. It’s so obvious really. But what really puzzles me is the sheer quantity.

For example, the wooden floor came in cardboard boxes, wrapped in plastic. Same for the toilet with some more polystyrene… The painters used plenty of protective plastic which seem to be single used. Almost every material I saw being delivered had some plastic protective wrapping and I didn’t see everything.

I’m not saying they dump such trash in a landfill. But we all know that not everything is recycled, even if recyclable.

Nevertheless, the construction pile of trash was probably a giant one and now I’m adding more to it with all the things I buy to make such an empty space, livable (Yes, I need a kitchen! It isn’t something I simply want.)

It makes me sick. I’m ashamed.

There is no way for me to offset such quantity of trash

Even if I bought absolutely nothing until the end of my life, I don’t think it would offset the quantity of trash produced while building and fitting our new apartment.

That’s it. I have no solution to this. Just an awful realization.

One can diligently go to the recycling center. One can limit their consumption of material goods, especially new ones, as well as energy. One can buy, when absolutely needed, the most energy efficient appliance, second hand things… But it seems no one can get rid of plastic entirely.

Building a tiny house out, a cabin of sort, in the woods, with only material found second hand, sounds like a good idea. It still takes tools (and skills!) and may require to downsize as well. Well at least it would require me to downsize as well. Because, you see, the pile of boxes still left to unpack made me realized I’m still not a minimalist despite what the movers told me, despite all my efforts… but this shall be for another story.

This mirror is going to make me happy
This mirror is going to make me happy…. Because I will be happy again!

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