Location: Maui, Hawaii
Location: Maui, Hawaii
“Life is not about volume. It’s not about having 800 friends. It’s about having a few really great friends.” – Graham Hill, founder of Treehugger and LifeEdited. LifeEdited is a start-up focused on developing space-efficient architecture that is built on the belief that less stuff can bring you more happiness. Graham lives part of each year on Maui, where he’s building a 1000 sq ft, off-the-grid home that includes a soon-to-be electric 1973 VW Thing.
First, let’s talk about the VW Thing that you’re converting into an electric car.
Tell us a bit about your most recent big project, LifeEdited.
LifeEdited is about small living. We believe that if you’re smart about how you apply design and technology, you can create really compelling ways of living that are better for the planet, better for your pocket book, and better for you. If you think about it, we own so much stuff today that we have to look for our own stuff amongst our own stuff. How crazy is that?
Small living is not for everyone. But we believe it is for a lot of us. Many of us are chasing the wrong things. More space and more stuff doesn’t translate into more happiness. Life is not about volume. It’s not about having 800 friends. It’s about having a few really great friends. It’s about relationships and quality time.
What’s it really like, living in a tiny home?
It’s great. If the space is done well. It’s like living in a really high-end hotel room. It’s clean and organized and feels right. Don’t get me wrong, I like stuff. But less of it. Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” looks at things like this: does this bring you joy? If not, get rid of it. It’s a great way to look at things. Once you start to learn how to do that—to let things go, to be more conscious about what you bring into your life, and to make sure it’s stuff you really love—it’s just great.
You live on Maui. How have you seen the ocean changing, for good and bad?
The ocean is powerful…it’s terrifying and yet beautiful. I love it deeply. I’m an aquaholic. I love surfing, kite surfing, free-diving, paddle boarding…I’d grow barnacles if I could.
In 2010, I was lucky enough to be crew on my friend David de Rothschild’s boat, the Plastiki. It was a 60-foot catamaran made out of recycled plastic and it had 10,000 2-liter plastic bottles in its hulls. Plastiki was sailed from San Francisco to Sydney. This translated into spending a lot of time crossing the Pacific at a very slow speed (~3 knots). That was seven years ago. And the most alarming part about that trip was just how little we saw. The ocean is a desert compared to what it used to be.
In Maui, it feels a bit different. The turtles have come back. I see them every time I’m surfing or snorkeling. The humpback whales too. But in general, the ocean is in big trouble. There was a time when the ocean was so massive in comparison to humanity. But that’s not the case anymore. There is a tipping point for everything and we’ve reached that tipping point. Luckily, there are a lot of brilliant minds working on the future of our oceans today. So hopefully, we’ll be smart enough to turn it around.
What’s your outlook on travel?
I like adventure and places that are truly different. Developing countries like Mali and Cambodia. Travel makes you reflect on how you live your life. It teaches you new things. And it tends to remind you how incredible your life is, as well as the world around you.
You put on this lens, when you travel. The lens makes you open and curious. It allows you to look at everything with open eyes and curiosity. It stops you from pigeon-holing and blindering yourself, the way you do at home. So there’s this wonderful state that you end up in. And it’s great to bring that back home. That feeling where everything is new and unknown.
I’m actually the son of an airline pilot. So, I was able to fly free on standby until age 25. The irony and travesty being that the free passes end before you can really afford to travel. In architecture school, I did things like flying to from Ottawa to Chicago for the day. Running around like a maniac checking out Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. Then eating some deep-dish pizza and coming home because I couldn’t afford a hotel.
Is there a travel memory you’ll never forget?
I was traveling through Vietnam. And I was alone in Halong Bay. The landscape there is just incredible, with these immense towering islands. I wanted to get out amongst them and stay out, so I booked a boat. It seemed kind of expensive at the time, which was a bit puzzling. When I get down there, I realize it’s a 60 or 70-foot boat. There’s enough space for 40 people! But it’s just me, the captain, the chef, and a few other staff. We docked in the bay as the sun set. And it was this incredible hot, starry night. We were drinking cold, crisp beer and eating amazing seafood. After dinner, we were doing back dives off the boat. To top things off, it was all phosphorescent. I slept on the top of the boat that night in a pair of wet surf shorts. It was that hot. No blanket, no sheet. Just me and that starry night.
If you could send one thing into the future, what would it be?
My life always seems to come back to the ideas of Buckminster Fuller. He is a genius and a nut. So if I could send one thing to the future, I would send a bunch of Buckminster Fuller writings.
The New York Times: Living With Less. A Lot Less.
TED Talk: Less Stuff, More Happiness