choice & community impact reflection

Hello friends,

All our thoughts cannot be distilled to a mere web post, but we will do out best.

We want to take a post to thank our Earlham colleague and friend who spoke with us for nearly 2 hour about how our project might reflect ideas that we did not intend. Together we reflected on what we mean when we say “environmental” and “community”, what kinds of impact we feel will happen as well as the idea of unexpected outcomes.

Additionally, I’d like to thank another student from Earlham who gave us feedback on our Google Doc regarding if our projects resources might take away from the much needed multicultural (resource) center. Currently, we are looking mainly at funding from our own pockets, the self designed internship fund, and external sources. Through integration into the Global Leadership Initiative, we hope to demonstrate this project to be part of Earlham’s larger plan. We recognize that funding is always a concern and we will do our best to be conscientious of how this project might impact the community.

To keep it simple here are some themes we touched on and are considering as we move forward (I will be using all my own words and speaking from what I took from the conversation):

  • what is our goal? could we accomplish these things without a tiny house?
  • some may perceive our project to be particularly privileged and exclusionary
  • whose values are we living out through this project?
  • what is our notion of community?
  • what assumptions are we making about the way our institution and society runs?
  • are we putting forth promises we cannot keep?
  • does the nature of the project inhibit our actual goal?
  • is this project just a way to have more control of our lives?
  • are our goals realistic via this tiny house project?
  • how can we think further about how this project can perhaps create a program for further change?
  • sustainable living is not always cheap.

I have the utmost respect for the perspective of our fellow Earlham student. While some other students may have similar reservations and feel this is not the best way to achieve long lasting change or effect, I will maintain my open minded approach and not just a call for support for our project, but for feedback and suggestions.

Some core ideas that I took away from this project were the long term and short term impacts. We may have a short term impact list, but we need to be more articulate in our long term plans. Similarly, how does “working outside the system” benefit the system? (in reference to achieving similar sustainable goals in a pre-existing house, rather than building another house).

Here are some additional plans we will aim to implement in a long term sense:

  • continue working with pre-existing frames to achieve similar sustainability goals such as:
    • working with the Sustainability Office to encourage partnership with the school to make sustainability goals come to fruition.
  • creating a May Term in which Earlham students can create their own on campus intentional living situations that are built sustainably
  • creating partnerships with Richmond to meet the needs of the residents and improve their daily lives in the ways they articulate
  • create a program in which Earlham students can partner with Richmond residents/businesses to improve housing and address any housing needs Richmond residents articulate

Further, I think at the crux of the dialogue we had today, reflects how we choose to live when our actions have real community impacts. In other words, how do we individual navigate community desires with our individual endeavors and choices.

  1. A good example of this is the smoke free policy that will be implemented for this campus come July 1. Click here for more info.

We see that this project is particularly self oriented in that we want to live in a sustainable, off the grid tiny house. There are serious implications for the community that may come off as being in disregard of the people and situations of our community.

We deeply strive for the self-growth and self-fulfillment of our values to pave the way for a future of academic success, through this project. However, we feel that this project, while selfish in that we will accomplish our personal goals, it will also help us more fully participate in community goals and the betterment of the community, in the articulation by the community, not by our exclusive values. ( Earlham’s sustainability plan has been articulated here!)

To conclude, the issues we face as a society today are very complex. Abby and I are doing what we feel is best to live out our personal land ethics and contribute to the Earlham, Richmond, and global community with respect to our human impact on planet earth. We are hugely open to dialogue and hope to have demonstrated that to at least one person 😀 today who felt that they could not get behind this decision 100% and wanted to present to us another perspective. We hope people feel that we can work collaboratively to both lift each other up, as well as the community, and world we inhabit together.

Please feel free to contact us whenever you feel moved to share your thoughts, perspective, ideas, critiques, and confusions about this project. We are happy and ready to discuss 🙂

Contact us 🙂

Our e-mails are and

You can also message us on our Facebook page, click here! 

❤ Lily & Abby


intention vs impact: choice and appropriation

Good afternoon friends,

I would like to take a moment to bring up questions for discussion and reflection that were brought up on our Facebook page by a student. Thank you for bringing these up! (to respect this person I will not use their name, as I have not asked permission).

We were directed to this article written in The Establishment that highlights the appropriation of poverty in the whole tiny house movement. I personally had not considered this perspective. As a privileged, adopted Chinese-American woman I own that my upbringing and personal qualities resulted thus far in my limited perspective on the whole movement. I apologize if this has insulted others, it was not my intention, but clearly could have been an impact.

This notion of choice is one I think of often, and I am thankful for the suggesting to reflect and think more about this notion of choice with regards to the tiny house movement. Here are some discussion questions I have drawn from the article:

  • Are tiny house movement participants aware of the impact on those who have only been able to afford living in small, mobile homes?
  • Are we aware that it has become trendy “with those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle–and it is troubling for one simple reason, choice.”?
  • Are we aware that the concept of a return to a simpler lifestyle could be insulting to those who have had no choice to live similarly “simple” lives?
  • Are we aware of the image of a “glamorized” tiny house lifestyle is insulting to those who had not had the choice?
  • Are we aware that this is seen as a sub-set of an “entire hipster movement” that is rooted in capitalism might be perpetuating inequalities and a system that does not support equality?  

I am humbled and am taking ownership of addressing these questions and concerns in our proposal as we move forward. I had not been aware of this perspective prior and am thankful that someone had the courage to call me out on a part of the picture I was clearly not able to see on my own.

As I reflect on my personal life and experiences with regard to “intention vs impact” and “choice and appropriation”, one element in particular stands out to me in the article regarding the authors history with rice. As a Chinese-American and as who I am, rice is inherently a part of my identity. Not to mention various prejudices and stereotypes brought about to my identity and assumptions about my affiliation to rice, I have never considered that I was appropriating someone who could only afford rice- that is had no choice to eat only rice. That being said, it doesn’t make my perspective wrong or right, just not fully informed. I have never known anyone who could only afford rice growing up, that is the nature of my life history. That also being said, I am more than ready and open to engaging in how my intention creates an impact that I am unaware of. I’d like to quote the end of the article because I think it speaks eloquently to a way forward:

But I do think it’s time to start having conversations about how alternative means aren’t a choice for those who come from poverty. We must acknowledge what it means to make space for people who actually need free food or things out of dumpsters, who participate in capitalism because they’ve got a kid at home and they are the only provider. Additionally, we need to shed light on the fact that many people who grew up wanting for more space and access to foods that weren’t available to them don’t understand the glossy pamphlets offering a simpler life.

Because, let me tell you, there is nothing simple about being poor. ~ July Westhale

Moving forward, I hope that hearts can be reassured that we are open to discussions about how this decisions impact communities that we may not have the knowledge or background to fully recognize. And we will do our best to address the impacts of our actions and choices.