A sustainable, minimalist lifestyle surrounded by the great outdoors is a dream for many people. One couple who recently purchased property in Malakwa plans to live that dream and says many more people can do the same.
Buddy Boyd and his partner Barbara Hetherington, who recently retired and sold their zero-waste recycling depot in Gibsons, stumbled upon the Cedars RV resort in Malakwa while on a cross-Canada trip and decided to purchase a site there and use it for a zero-waste tiny home.
“We just kind of said to each other, this is a really cool place,” Boyd said.
Boyd and Hetherington, both Zero Waste Canada board members, were drawn to Malakwa while making a coast-to-coast trip in their Chevrolet Bolt electric car. The reason for their stop was the electric vehicle charging station at the Malakwa Supermarket; a level-three, fast charger which Boyd says is a rarity in rural areas of B.C.
With their car charging and their interest in the community along the bank of the Eagle River piqued, Boyd and Hetherington got their first look at the Cedars RV Park. Boyd, who has a keen interest in affordable housing options, said the site at the Cedars was one of the most reasonably priced he has seen.
Keeping with their zero-waste ethic, Boyd and Hetherington decided to have a small zero-waste home built and placed on the site. The home will be constructed by Ted Allsopp, who owns Hummingbird Micro Homes in Fernie.
“For our zero waste tiny home project, we needed to find a builder who gets the zero waste thing,” said Boyd. “Our goal is to start with our zero waste tiny home, then get into community design, from a zero waste perspective. It’s a very good fit with Ted and Hummingbird.”
Allsop and Hummingbird Micro Homes were a driving force behind the Bluegrass Meadows Micro Village in Terrace, a community of micro homes created to address a rental accommodation crisis in the area. The village, which has 15 tiny homes and an additional 12 vacant sites, opened in fall 2015.
The construction of the home will be as unique as the home itself because it will take place on an off-grid property which Allsopp owns on Mabel Lake east of Enderby. Design of the tiny house is underway and Boyd said he expects construction to begin in the next few weeks, with hopes of finishing it before the snow flies.
Some of Boyd and Hetherington’s specifications for the home were efficient insulation and a water system that wastes as little as possible. The house will be fitted with a waterless urinal. Boyd said they are also in the process of salvaging discarded fixtures for it so they do not have to buy new. He noted a portion of the original floor from the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver that he purchased when the legendary concert venue replaced it will also be used in the tiny house.
Along with giving them a place to live, the construction of the tiny home is one of a series of projects undertaken by Boyd and Hetherington to draw attention to the zero-waste lifestyle.
The most recent and ambitious project for the couple was the coast-to-coast, zero-waste road trip which led them to Malakwa in the first place in 2017.
Boyd and Hetherington dipped one front tire of their electric vehicle in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria before making the more than 7,000-kilometre journey to Qidi Vidi, N.L. to dip the other tire in the Atlantic.
Along the way, Boyd and Hetherington continued their efforts to produce as little waste as possible, bringing their own cups, kitchenware and reusable bags as well as an indoor composter in order to dispose of food waste. Boyd said at the start of the trip he thought maintaining zero waste on the road would be difficult but, with a little organization and planning, found it could be done more easily than expected.
“It was amazing, we were so stunned by how little effort it took,” Boyd said.
Boyd and Hetherington’s vehicle was adorned with numerous stickers promoting zero waste and other environmental causes, but Boyd said the biggest attention-grabber was the couple’s dog, Piper, who came along on the continent-spanning journey.
As Piper likes to hang her head out the window when riding in the car, Boyd was concerned for her eyes and so had to teach her to wear a set of goggles before they set off. He said Piper is an old dog who isn’t keen to try new things but eventually grew accustomed to her new eye wear.
Boyd said there were tangible benefits to trying to produce as little waste as possible on their cross-Canada journey. The trip cost Boyd and Hetherington only $160 in electric vehicle charging fees.
Once the couple has their new home in place at the riverfront RV site in Malakwa, they look forward to going camping in the surrounding area and to hosting get-togethers to discuss and promote the zero-waste lifestyle.
Boyd said he finds the waste-reduction efforts run by the B.C. government inadequate.
“It’s important to put the narrative forward that zero waste does not equate to a bunch of curbside bins to pick up food scraps and recycling and that’s what the government is promoting right now,” he said.
“We have to change the way we live, the way we shop and the way we eat to even hope to be more sustainable.”
Boyd said he and Hetherington are doing what they are doing in an attempt to demonstrate a way to live more sustainably.
He said after selling the business, they could’ve invested what money they had in retiring as comfortably as possible but instead decided to go out and try to prove a theory – that living less expensively and more sustainably is possible by moving into a smaller home.
“In our little urban centres, we’re not fixing the homelessness problem, we’re not fixing the affordable housing problem, we’re not fixing things like that,” Boyd said.
“Everybody knows we have a problem with our waste and everyone knows we have a problem with housing affordability – this is kind of the intersection where those two both meet.”