Five years ago, after a series of traumatic experiences with slumlords-posing-as-nice-people, I decided to stop renting and create my own tiny home. I needed something with wheels that was well-built and affordable, one that would allow me to implement eco-friendly systems including solar energy, water conservation, and a composting toilet.
Given my financial resources and a disinclination to dive into a costly or complex building project, I opted for the most straightforward solution: purchasing a used shuttle bus, removing all the seats, installing a floor and then casually engineering an interior that relied on bungee cords, i-bolts, super-glue, and careful placement.
During my second year of living in the shuttle bus at a residential park near Cloverdale (Sonoma County), California, a group of undergraduate students in my San Jose State University environmental studies class took on the challenge of performing a carbon audit on my lifestyle. Their semester project involved calculating how many tons of carbon I produced annually, so that I could purchase the requisite number of trees to offset the carbon I used, thus creating a carbon-neutral lifestyle.
The students’ project coincided with the visit of a filmmaker to my bus, a young man in the same age cohort of my students who developed a YouTube channel “Alternative Living Spaces” devoted to covering creatively downsized homesteads: tiny homes, van life, house boats, etc.
When Dylan first added the video “University Professor Science Professor Moves into Shuttle Bus to Live Carbon Neutral,” he had 75,000 subscribers. Now he has 650,000. And the video just hit one million views.
True story: within those one million views was a Latino musician, Carlos, who was a friend and colleague decades ago when I was a student at Boston University and he was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. He watched the video, suddenly realized who was featured in the video, showed the video to his family and immediately reached out to me via my website.
Carlos got in touch because he was suffering from “ecoanxiety” or “climate grief” – a recognized state of mild to severe depression impacting people all over the globe who deeply care about the state of the planet but feel they are relatively powerless to change things.
The messages in the video: that living small is possible, that you can do so relatively easily, that an eco-friendly lifestyle can be inspiring, and that we are all connected, are messages I’d like to see amplified.
As an instructor, a writer, an artist, and an environmental justice advocate, I’m constantly thinking about the best ways to get the message out. Given all the different types of people, and the ways we are attracted to, and digest information, I’m constantly pondering: which medium/media will reach the most people, while being easily accessible?
Yes, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, ResearchGate. I have my own YouTube channel, and I manage this website and another one for my media consulting business, Beauty and Love Publishing. All told, I probably have about 5000 followers – a modest number.
Yet because I believe in a balanced lifestyle, I’m not a frequent poster and don’t spend that much time scrolling through the various apps. This is why I am so thrilled that the YouTube video has managed to reach far more people than I could dream of, via all those other social media outlets put together.
It is possible to use social media for good. Thank you, independent filmmakers. Thank you, YouTube.