A Treehugger in Las Vegas

Graham Hill, founder of treehugger.com and lifeedited.com first visited Downtown Las Vegas a little over a month ago. Now he’s hoping to bring his style of living greener here, and his plans to do that won’t just bring about a change in our environment; they’ll change the way we think about how we live. The equation for doing that: less stuff equals more happiness.

Hill’s TED talk on the subject, aptly titled “Less Stuff, More Happiness,” has over 1.2 million views. In it he lays out the principle that we can all do with a little life editing. He cites the statistic that we in America are now living in three times as much space as we did 50 years ago. Despite that space, the personal storage business has grown to a $22 billion industry. We have space, but it’s never enough—we buy and buy and fill our lives with things that don’t really bring us happiness. Of course, all of that consumption has a negative impact not only on our psyches, but also on the planet.

Hill’s own New York apartment is just 420 square feet of space. He held a competition to design it in a way that makes it both functional and appealing while also requiring ruthless editing of his personal possessions. “I had always lived like a student. Despite knowing a lot about green, despite knowing a lot about design, I had never really done up a place,” he says. That process  lead to the creation of lifeedited.com, where Hill is continuing to share that vision. The company is designing homes, consulting on sustainability, and sharing ideas for how we can all live a life that embodies his ideal of “the luxury of less.”

For Downtown, Hill is creating a plan for an apartment building which will be primarily comprised of dwellings of approximately 420 square feet. Yes, that’s a small space. But with great design, innovative community programs such as product libraries, and engaging community spaces, the need for a large personal space is diminished. Such small apartments also create instant residential density which leads to a number of positive social side effects including increased productivity and increased happiness. And with less stuff to manage and maintain, residents will have, in Hill’s words, “More money. More happiness. More freedom. More calm.”

Hill also envisions the building here in Las Vegas as a show piece for future developments of the same kind. Such development can go a long way in reversing the status quo of disconnected lives lived in suburban sprawl. As a culture, we have made choices over the last several decades that have lead us to spend more time away from other people (driving back and forth from suburbia, for example.) Maybe what we really need is a little less space to feel whole lot more connected to the community around us. “I don’t think as a culture we have to beat ourselves up about it. We’re searching around trying to figure out how to live. We try different things and things we think are going to make us happy, don’t make us happy,” says Hill. “We end up curating our lives to the point of being disconnected. I think we’re realizing that ultimately we are really interdependent people who really want to be connected. ”

During his most recent visit to Las Vegas, Hill appeared on KNPR’s “State of Nevada.” To hear the broadcast, click here.