a straw bale house reduce your carbon footprint?
I get asked this question in various ways and the answer,
of course, would be: "That depends on what you
would do, if you did not build a straw bale house."
I built this house, I came to realize that only the
exterior walls are made of straw and the other parts
are or can be just the same as any other house. First,
I'll explain what is good about straw. Straw is a natural
by-product of growing grain. It is the stalk. So, it
doesn't have to be manufactured and by using it, we
spare the farmers from burning it and putting more carbon
in the atmosphere. Two plusses. If you get it from a
farmer near your house, then it doesn't have to travel
far to get to you. Another plus. Chances are the materials
that you would have use to build your walls would have
required manufacturing, tree-chopping, and/or long-distance
travel. The other plus of straw is that it is an incredible
insulation and will therefore reduce your home heating
and cooling needs for all the years that you live in
your house, provided you live in an area that gets very
cold or very hot. I also like the fact that straw will
allow fresh air to go through it. I don't think that
helps your carbon footprint.
my home, I used recycled doors and windows, then I made
my floor out of clay and sand, more products that don't
require manufacture or long-distance travel. I also
covered my walls with earthen plasters that have the
same benefits. However, most people wire the house and
then cover it with stucco. Stucco is part lime/part
mortar and mortar requires high energy use in its production.
Also, with two-foot thick walls, you need a two-foot
thick foundation under them - more than most houses
main thing I realized by purchasing my own materials,
one lunch-time at a time, was how much beyond straw
goes into a house. All the interior walls require framing
plus drywall. It seemed like a few miles of electric
wire were used - every outlet, every light and every
plug requires wire. Plumbing pipes, nails, screws, roofing,
etc, etc. By purchasing my own materials, I was careful
with what I discarded, but crews that build houses are
often more concerned with time than with reusing scraps
of lumber. If you go by a construction site, you will
see lots of materials as waste.
I think one of the best things you can do to reduce
your carbon footprint is to build as small as you can.
That limits the use of every product required in a house,
use recycled wherever you can, inside and out, and purchase
the materials yourself, if you can. Or at least supervise
the waste. If you can use straw, great, if not, then
insulate your walls the very best that you can, considering
your environment. Be sure to insulate your ceiling very
well, and you can now get insulation from recycled jeans.
Use trees on the exterior to shade where you need shade.
You can do a lot besides straw to reduce the energy
required to heat and cool your house. One of those being
a willingness to let your house be warmer in the summer
and cooler in the winter. We human beings are quite
adaptable and strong creatures, really, if we stop pampering
ourselves too much. I've seen myself adapt to New York
winters, Arizona summers, Hawaiian humidity and desert
dryness. I let my house be in the 60's in the winter
and the 80's in the summer and I'm fine.
look at your other energy usage - dishwasher, refrigerator,
clothes washer and dryer, lights, tv's, computers, gadgets
of all sorts - and see what you can do to reduce the
energy usage of those items. I plug my tv/stereo into
a power strip and turn it off completely when I'm not
using it. Same with my computer. Energy-saving lightbulbs
are inexpensive and readily availalbe now in all sizes;
I have them everywhere. Oh yes, I harvest and use rainwater
for my drip system, too. I just like using what's free.
I don't have a dishwasher, but then my kids have left
home. I wash my clothes by hand and hang them in the
warm desert air. I know your needs will be different
from mine, but as a general rule - Keep It Simple!
a great day and be kind!