Catching up with 'Big Hearts Tiny Vegans'

An interview with the ultimate tiny home DIY duo!

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It’s been over a month since we delivered a custom 24’ trailer to Leala and Zach in Courtenay, BC. Together they run a vlog and instagram titled, Big Hearts Tiny Vegans, where they chronicle their adventures of moving from the big city to beautiful BC, in search of the good life. Leala and Zach have made tremendous progress building their own tiny home, and we caught up with them to ask about the process.

1. You have talked about the importance of living deliberately and simply. How does going tiny embody these ideas for you?

For us, going tiny embodies an escape from the everyday rat race. We often found ourselves in cities, paying high rent, for poorly managed places. The rent in cities is so high that we felt trapped in a cycle of living to work instead of working to live. Going tiny will enable us to have exactly what we need, while affording us the time we want to embrace the things we love. Simplicity, to us, is a life without financial burden. Without that burden, we can finally be purposeful with our time, and spend it bettering either ourselves, or pouring it into our passions. Or maybe just finding a bit more peace, and kicking up our feet more than now and again.


2. What have been the greatest challenges in this process so far?

We are still in the infancy stages of the build. That being said, we must have gone through five thousand million different designs before we settled on the one we are currently constructing! The construction process so far has gone fairly smoothly, but at every stage there is a lot of research that has to be done, and there is a bit of stress that comes along with that. Probably the biggest challenge though, is the delicate balance of regular life and tiny house building. Working, paying bills, and budgeting materials can be a pain. When we are on a roll though, it is a lot of fun. Seriously, a lot.


3. I know you're still in the early stages of construction, but what do you consider to be the most important aspect of your future home? Where are you planning on focusing the most energy?

The biggest thing for us is making the space feel like a home. We also are attempting to keep the build as green as possible, and plan to use recycled material for our siding, flooring, and cabinetry etc. Also using eco friendly wood finishes, to keep our space as clean of VOC’s as possible. At the same time, we don’t want to compromise the structural integrity of our home, or have leaky windows. So finding a balance has been a primary focus of ours.


4. What do you consider to be the most common misconception about living tiny?

I think the most common misconception is that there is not enough space for life. We have been living in tiny apartments with two dogs for years, and we have always liked the intimacy of closer quarters. It does allow for a closer relationship, more cuddles, and less clutter. Since dogs are den animals they love it too. We think the real misconception is in standard housing. People feel they need a ton of space to have personal value. We used to feel that we needed more personal items to have a personal identity. We were among the ranks whose items defined them.  After letting go of all those unreciprocated attachments, finding value in people has proven to be far more rewarding.

5. What is the most surprising thing you've discovered through this process so far?

We can build stuff!! If you look at it one step at a time, divide it into small goals, they are perfectly achievable, and does it ever feel good to drive in that last nail and step back and see what you have accomplished. Seeing it all come together is so rewarding. Surprising that we haven’t broken down yet… yet…


6. Do you have any advice for those who want to follow in your DIY-live-vegan-and-tiny footsteps?

An ethical vegan lifestyle has led us to where we are today and having less of an environmental footprint feels like the next gradual step for us. At the start of our journey we had to take a good hard look at the way we lived, the way we were socially conditioned and feel the void that was longing to be filled. It was through that process that brought us to a shift in perspective. The truth we come back to and need to remind ourselves of is that there is no planet B. How can we make a difference and embody the compassion we wish to see? I guess our advice would be to take an honest look at where your compassion lies and encourage yourself to live there. We try to find multiple uses for many materials such as clothing, building supplies and even food! Trying to give life to things that have been cast aside is a creative challenge that benefits the environment, which is why we wanted to take on a DIY tiny house project! As far as an ethical vegan lifestyle is concerned, we found that embracing or eliminating one thing at a time is a great place to begin. The journey grows as you grow and it is important to let go of judgment of yourself and the world around you—take it one day at a time. It is empowering to know that the way you choose to live, can make a world of difference!

7. Are there any specific building materials or products that you’ve found to be particularly helpful in building your tiny home?

One product we love is called Eco Wood Treatment. It’s all natural and commonly used in Banff and Jasper national parks! We used it to treat our plywood. You add it to water, it goes on easy and so far, it has been amazing. It’s also super affordable! Check out the product here.

Can’t get enough of Big Hearts Tiny Vegans? Follow their journey!

Instagram: @bigheartstinyvegans

Facebook: /bigheartstinyvegans

YouTube: Big Hearts Tiny Vegans

Interested in building your own tiny home? Purchasing one of our custom trailers is a great way to start your DIY journey on the right foot! Read more about our trailers here.

The Albatross 28' Tiny Home with 3 Bedrooms

Say hello to the Albatross.

Three bedrooms, one bathtub, seven appliances, 18’ of granite, handcrafted fir cabinetry + doors made with local wood, and a whole lotta love - that’s just a taste of what went into this 28’ Albatross tiny home. A lower bedroom with a built-in wardrobe and desk along with two private upper lofts gives you all of the space you need for spare bedrooms, a home office, space for camping gear, or just some extra storage room! A split air A/C unit means you'll always be the perfect temperature and with the full-sized kitchen appliances and ample cabinetry throughout you'll feel like you've got space to spare.

Why is Building Off-Grid More Expensive?

Lately I have noticed that we’re receiving an increasing number of emails inquiring about living off grid. How exciting! One of our goals at Rewild is to inspire people to embrace self-sufficiency and to live more sustainable lifestyles. The fact that our clients are routinely asking for solar panels, compostable toilets and rainwater collection systems is a sign that we’re doing something right. Or, rather, that you’re doing something right!

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Unfortunately, there is an abundance of inaccurate information about off grid living floating around the internet—particularly regarding how much it costs to build and run an off grid home. So, I took it upon myself to write this blog post in hopes of shedding some light on the true cost of off grid living.

First, it is important to consider your definition of ‘off grid’. The term generally refers to living without access to public utilities such as power, water and sewer connections. Living without these amenities is absolutely possible. (Lest we forget, human civilization was surviving just fine before the invention of the light bulb). However, when most people talk about living off grid today, what they mean is living off grid with the same comforts as living on grid. What they’re talking about is not just living remotely, but living remotely with working electricity, running and potable water, adequate bathroom and shower facilities, and the ability to cook and refrigerate food. So, if by ‘off grid’ you mean reading by candle light and peeing in a chamberpot, then yes, building an off grid home is less expensive than building an on grid one. But if you’re looking to live off grid with all the creature comforts, it’s going to cost you more than a couple of candles and an old bucket.

At Rewild, we design homes that function at varying levels of autonomy, or, for lack of a better term, ‘off-gridness’ depending on your budget and needs. Off grid additions can range from a supplementary solar system that powers your kitchen lighting and a small potable water tank, to a house powered fully by solar accompanied by a rainwater collection system with storage cisterns, filtration systems, and pumps that pressurize your water. Over time, (re)using these systems will save you money, as they are a renewable resource. However, the initial investment in off grid systems in unavoidably expensive. Think about it. It takes a lot of highly specialized technology to harness energy from a sphere of flaming plasma 150,000,000 kms away from us, store it, and then convert it to something that can power your Netflix account. To give you an idea of the price of these systems, check out the ‘Off Grid Gear’ page on Tiny Life Supply’s webpage. We source a lot of our off grid equipment and logic directly from them, and they are an excellent resource when it comes to researching the cost of living comfortably off grid.

Off grid systems also take up a significant amount of space and add a lot weight to your home. Because of this, off-grid homes are usually better suited for either permanent homes that can house some of their systems externally or bigger homes on larger trailers with a greater number of axles that can bear the additional weight—all of which add cost in materials and labour. Off-grid homes also require a lot more planning—both from a lifestyle and a design standpoint. If you’re serious about living off grid, we take special care to customize a system that suits your individual needs, based on your usage habits, appliances/electronics, and your intended parking location (i.e. how much sun and rain you can capture).

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Even relatively simple off grid additions can drive up the cost of your home. For example, the difference in price between a standard flush toilet and a Separett compostable toilet can be well over $1000CAD. Another good example to consider is your heat source. An average electric heater will cost anywhere between $50-100CAD, whereas a good quality propane heater or pellet stove can cost upwards of $1500CAD, with some of the industry's leading wood stoves costing up to $5000CAD, such as the Kimberly & Katydid stoves from Unforgettable Fire LLC which are frequently featured in tiny homes for their sleek design, super minimal clearances, and unparalleled efficiency (also available through Tiny Life Supply).

In the long run, being off grid has a lot of benefits, both for the environment and for your personal sense of independence and self-sufficiency. The initial investment to build an off grid home is high, but it has the potential to pay for itself over time. Ultimately, building an off grid home ain’t cheap—but in our opinion, the ability to live wherever you want, without reliance on anyone else, is priceless.