Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living (Our Sustainable Future)
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Living simply isn’t always simple. When Alan Boye first lived in sustainable housing, he was young, idealistic, and not much susceptible to compromise—until rattlesnakes, black widow spiders, and loneliness drove him out of the utilities-free yurt he’d built in New Mexico. Thirty-five years later, he decided to try again. This time, with an idealism tempered by experience and practical considerations, Boye and his wife constructed an off-the-grid, energy-efficient, straw bale house in Vermont.
Sustainable Compromises chronicles these two remarkable attempts to live simply in two disparate American eras. Writing with hard-won authority and humor, Boye takes up the “how-to” practicalities of “building green,” from finances to nuts and bolts to strains on friends and family. With Walden as a historical and philosophical touchstone and his own experience as a practical guide, he also explores the ethical and environmental concerns that have framed such undertakings from Thoreau’s day to our own. A firsthand account of the pleasures and pitfalls of living simply, his book is a deeply informed and engaging reflection on what sustainability really means—in personal, communal, ethical, and environmental terms.
my stash of odd pieces of lumber, concrete blocks, plumbing materials, nails, screws, clamps, and tools. Amid this clutter, I found a few odd pieces of extruded polystyrene (the solid pink sheets I used in order to insulate my foundation when I could not get the ecologically better mineral-wool boards). I worked the better part of a day cutting the insulated boards to size and screwing them to the insides of my box. My evolving plan was to cover them with an insulated aluminum fabric and then
does not smell. It has a container that is ventilated so that all odors are removed to the outside. That continuous flow of fresh air speeds up the decomposition process. Unlike the stagnant pit beneath an outhouse, the circulating air in a composting toilet helps to establish a diverse community of microbes, which quickly break down the waste. When a composting toilet is working properly, it produces a dry, fluffy, and odorless compost material. The compost is excellent for flowers and trees,
work on the house. While the straw bale house was now enclosed with doors and windows, the inside was nothing but a large, empty space. There were no interior walls, giving the vacuous room a forlorn and lonely feel. After teaching, I would race to the building site to work for hours until dark and exhaustion overcame me. As the weeks trudged on, I cut and measured and swore and hammered and cried. Little by little the skeletal insides of the house began to take the vague shape of walls and
while that we were going to win.” He said that soon people developed vested interests in the victory to come, so now “we parcel off into little groups, whether it’s feminism, or politics, money, or religion, whatever it is, everyone is jumping up and down in front of it, until nobody can see it clear anymore.” We must stop jumping up and down and once again see how life depends on the interdependence of all things. The only way to do so is to confront the pollution of our own consciousness. As
owning property and building a house. He explored the necessity of keeping warm, of clothing, and of being able to feed oneself and one’s family without having to work endless hours. During his two-year experiment at Walden, Thoreau raised beans that he sold to pay for the rest of his food. He kept meticulous records of every penny coming and going and wrote about his diet of bread, rice, beans, peas, potatoes, pork, sweet potatoes, sugar, fish caught from the pond, and, as one of several