For one innovator, sustainability is about scale. Having founded the eco-news website Treehugger — often described as the “Green CNN” — four years ago, Graham bought two tiny apartments in New York City and crowdsourced a competition for an interior design that would let him hold dinner parties for 12, work from home and still have enough space for an overnight guest or two. Dubbed Life Edited 1, the 420-square-foot apartment’s clever design gave birth to a website of the same name, showing the world how to “live large in small spaces.”
“The easiest way to go green is to go smaller,” Graham Hill tells Ever Manifesto. “America has really super-sized itself in the last sixty years, and it’s just not working for us on an environmental basis, nor on a happiness or mental basis.” With more than half the world’s population now living in cities, Graham’s home is a savvy solution to the competition for space and resources that defines our urban present. With his home receiving a hugely positive response — the New York Times labelled it “the apartment of the future” — Graham set up lifeedited.com in order to create a movement around small living. “We talk about less, but better”, as he puts it.
“We have to have stuff — you’re not going to be running around in a loincloth. But, on the clothing side, we have thirty times the clothing we used to. It’s crazy.” While buying sustainably may appear to have a higher price tag — “as you’re not taking advantage of people, and/or the environment” — Graham believes “sometimes the more expensive things are actually the cheaper things: a pair of shoes that are more expensive but last four times as long are actually half the price.” The aim of LifeEdited is to help people “become conscious about what they’re bringing into their life, to make sure it’s great stuff that’s going to last a long time, stuff that you’re really going to love, instead of just having lots of it.”
We have to have stuff — you’re not going to be running around in a loincloth. But, on the clothing side, we have thirty times the clothing we used to. It’s crazy.
A former industrial design student, Graham thinks that “if we’re smart enough about how we design and use technology, we can create smaller lives that are really compelling and allow us to live within our means, both environmentally and mentally.” Currently in a long-distance relationship (his girlfriend lives in Los Angeles), Graham’s biggest environmental challenge is flying. “It’s a tricky one — i’m the son of an airline pilot — but I do think there is a scale.” As a weekday vegetarian (and author of an ebook of the same name), he gives the example of worrying about keeping the tap running while you’re brushing your teeth. “If you want to save water on a yearly basis, then skip two steak meals instead. Meat production is an immense drain on water.” While he applauds the efforts of those who do turn the taps off in the morning, “if you really want to make a difference, it’s not going to be about the fine calculations of using a reusable cup, it’s going to be putting new windows in your house, adjusting your heating by a few degrees less, or yes, skipping an airline flight.”