The all-natural, organic conundrum

I was in Sprouts Market the other day and noticed the decor. It was made up to be like the interior of a barn or an outdoor farmers market. The way they achieved that effect was to use a lot of unfinished wood and green and orange paint. Sprouts sells of a lot of organic stuff, all-natural this and no-hormones that. Evidently people who shop there like this kind of thing: farms, wood, nature. They’re concerned about things like global warming, industrialization and de-forestation.

I wondered if this presents a conundrum for them: They like to be surrounded with natural materials, not synthetics. All-natural cotton or hemp clothing, and natural, not synthetic wood furnishings. But all this wooden decor means that trees had to be cut down to make it. Either that or you have to manufacture fake wood finishings. Isn’t this a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation?

In the last couple of years on HGTV there has been a show about “tiny houses”. At first the idea was to build homes with just the bare minimum of space needed to live in, so you have less area to heat and cool, cutting down on your “carbon footprint”. But then the trend started turning towards tiny houses on wheels. That way you could up and relocate without much trouble, or travel around and see new places while taking your home with you.

This is what we old folks used to call a motor home or a trailer.

The problem with motor homes and trailers is that they are industrially mass produced. And that’s bad. Plus they use big engines to haul themselves around, causing a lot of pollution. Huge carbon footprint. Much better to live in an all-natural tiny home. That you haul around with a truck. With a big engine.

Not only must mobile tiny homes be hauled around with trucks, but something made entirely of all-natural wood is heavy. Industrial-scale RV manufacturers have spent decades figuring out the lightest, most efficient materials with which to build motor homes — aluminum and plastic are generally lighter than wood — and also have designed them to be reasonably streamlined, all of which translates to lower fuel consumption. Whereas not only are tiny homes on wheels made entirely of wood, they’re also not designed with aerodynamics in mind. Usually they’re just big, heavy (but fashionable!) wooden boxes on wheels.

Again the conundrum: Mass-produced items are efficiently produced items, efficient to make and efficient to use. The manufacturers have every incentive to make them so, in order to increase both sales, and profits on sales. But people who build their own mobile tiny homes out of all-natural wood — who evidently can’t bring themselves to go RV shopping — what is their incentive?

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