Everyone needs to see this video. Produced in 2007 by Free Range Studios and narrated by Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff is an animated short film about the life cycle of all the things we use in our daily lives – things like clothing, toys, paper, packaging, and construction materials. How are the natural resources mined and harvested? Where are the products manufactured? How are they transported to a shelf in the store? And where does the waste go after you toss it in the garbage or recycling bin?
A few things you’ll learn: The US has 5% of the world’s population but consumes 30% of the world’s resources. The average American throws out 4½ pounds of garbage a day… and indirectly produces 300 pounds of garbage a day from the manufacturing processes. There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use today, and none of them have been tested in combination to see what effects they might have when mixed.
Free Range Studios has since put out several other videos, and offers several steps to take action – for example, you can sign up for Catalog Choice to eliminate junk mail from your life, or take the Plastic Free July Pledge.
Here’s another fun one. A group of extreme skiers from the University of Vermont renovated a school bus into a traveling home so they can seek out the continent’s best powder. Team Notion’s blue skoolie has a kitchenette, a tiny wood-burning stove, and bunks to sleep seven. Check out their video from last year – just a taste of the adventures they’re planning for the coming season.
Compared to the Outdoor Research-sponsored tiny house for ski bumming, Team Notion’s abode on wheels is more functional than pretty on the inside. I like how they can open the rear for equipment storage. The bus still lacks a bathroom, which means the team relies on gas stations and the ski resorts for their hygienic needs. And they might consult this list of free overnight parking lots before they decide where to ski. (Then again, maybe they don’t bother.) Fuel economy is probably in the low 10s, and lift ticket prices are through the roof, so this sort of adventure only makes sense with a sponsorship.
But none of that matters when you’re having this much fun, right?
Chairs are awkward when space is at a premium. The most comfortable ones to sit in take up the most room, and vice versa. (Have you ever lingered over dinner while seated in a folding chair?) Fortunately, lots of products give you the best of both worlds.
Expand Furniture, based in Vancouver, wins for the most unique ways to hide chairs when you don’t need them. Their accordion loveseat stretches from 8 inches long to 24 feet, allowing you to transform it into a single office chair or a serpentine sofa or a dinner-party bench that seats up to 16. (The company sells a variety of expanding tables to go with them, as summarized in this video on boredpanda.) I’m also excited about the Ludovico office combination, which shoehorns both a removable chair and a folding desk into a functional file cabinet. If it’s padding you crave, there is a cushioned ottoman (perhaps a seat for one) that opens into five stools.
Chairs that stack tend to be more comfortable and take up less space than those that fold. They’re a nice alternative if you want to store a lot of seats for when a crowd comes. The lifeedited house (namesake of one of my favorite blogs) uses the Eco chair by Swedish designer Voxia, a sleek compression-molded plywood seat that stacks so tightly the owner fits ten of them into a narrow closet. Resource Furniture, famous for popularizing the modern Murphy bed, offers a stackable dining chair of its own in the sturdy Alpha design.
Eco stacking chair.
Alpha stacking chair.
None of these chairs is cheap. You’ll find plenty of stacking or folding chair options for less money (think IKEA) with correspondingly less function and durability. But a better value judgment to make is how the freed-up square footage in your home might save you from building an addition or moving. As Resource Furniture president Ron Barth has pointed out, small space design is less relevant than optimizing the space you already have.