On April 3, Mills college hosted the Creative Animal foundation’s tiny house behind the tea shop. The house is 203 square feet, Creative Animal foundation co-founder Tim Davison said. He and his partner, Stephanie Arne live in their tiny house. Their website says they are “a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing education and science through programs dedicated to conservation, environmental sustainability, wildlife preservation, and the protection of our world’s oceans and waterways.”
I got to talk with Davison and ask him a few questions. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.
Q: What’s this about?
A: Over the last year and a half we’ve been living in it full time, been all across the United States and I think we’re close to 12,000 miles now
About 40,000 people have come into it, saw what tiny living is like in real life
Out of the millions of people who have seen them (tiny houses) online or on tv, 1 percent have seen one in real life, let alone go inside one. So were the only people on the planet who are doing this type of project. You can go to conventions where you seen 50, 60 of these, but we’re the only one taking a house to people and it’s been really great. We speak about wildlife conservation on a daily basis and this is our tour bus, our educational exhibit, living quarters so we really wanted to walk our talk and share with others the good, the bad and the ugly about trying to live more sustainably.
Q: How did you get started with the Creative Animal organization but also money-wise, do you work from your home? What is your income for this kind of living?
A: Steph and I have worked with animals our entire career. We’ve worked at zoos, at rescues, done a lot of outreach and educational programming speaking to people, speaking at people, usually, and between the two of us we’ve spoken to a few million people about conservation and it seemed like everybody was just talking about what you can do to help animals and no one was really showing or doing in a sense, especially when it came to the daily lifestyle. With this we wanted to walk our talk and try to live sustainably ourselves and then share that with others. So we started a nonprofit called the Creative Animal foundation.
So we started the nonprofit and then went on tour, and it was really hard to get people to wrap their minds around what we wanted to do and what we were trying to speak about, but once we started, we started to get some play with some bigger entities. Bigger universities, bigger museums, bigger zoos around the country, its been really great. We’ve been doing it now for a year and a half, traveling, speaking, and we’re also filming a documentary. That’ll be done sometime next year.
Q: About living in a tiny house?
A: About the American lifestyle, so it’s called The American Animal, and as the most wasteful country on the planet per person, where are we today, and who are the communities and people who are trying to make it more sustainable. So we are going to compare and contrast America with different lifestyles around the world, and say ‘this is how much we need to survive’ and ‘how much is too much?’ ‘How can the average person help out?’ Because I don’t think anybody’s really demonstrating that.
As far as the costs go, tiny houses in general vary a lot in cost. The average Do-It-Yourself project is about 30,000 dollars with new everything and you do all the work, but we’ve heard of people getting it down to 5,000, 10,000 if you recycle, refurbish, that type of thing. All the way up to high end, custom built, about 130,000. Ours built out like this is about 80,000.
As far as travel expenses, we unfortunately have to pay a lot in fuel to get to tour around the country. We traded in our prius for a big diesel truck, so we pay fuel, you have to insure it just like a regular house, we have to pay extra insurance since we do open houses and things like this, but campground fees is the other big one. Since we’re mobile, we get to skirt around a lot of the zoning laws that are an issue for people who want to park it permanently, but we’re in campgrounds all the time, and it does vary between free, and a hundred dollars a night let’s say. Average is about 30 bucks a night, so that’d be 900 bucks a month.
Q: How frequently would you come across a free place?
A: If you seek them out, you can come across them all the time. You can go to tryittiny.com, you can rent tiny houses, or you can seek out landowners who want to rent out land, so that’s a great resource. There’s several others online as well. An app called allstays is phenomenal. It maps our every campground in the country and all the free parking as well.
Q: When you were talking about how the American lifestyle affects the environment and animals, how exactly are you addressing that through this foundation? Are you focusing on one specific animal? Are you donating proceeds to different foundations? Where do your proceeds come from?
A: We have funded the tour off of donations, so our background is doing educational programming on conservation and wildlife. So we’ve done that aspect of it, and we know that education can help. We’ve seen it happen we’ve seen how it can work. We wanted to take the house around to show in an actual practical sense of this is what you can do on a daily basis. I wish we had more money, or could raise more money and have more infrastructure and manpower, to raise money to give to specific organizations, but those people, the ones who are doing well, are fundraising their own money. It would be great if we could fund all those nonprofits, but nobody else is doing this. Nobody else is meeting the people where they are and I think that, to the bigger entities like National Geographic, and Carnegie Museum, and the Smithsonian, they have seen what we’ve been doing and they’ve been blown away because — one of my favorite quotes is “you guys are actually speaking to people” and it just blew my mind that everything is so top down to these big entities, that they were so fascinated that we were doing this grassroots style program.