Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living

Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living

Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living

Sustainable Compromises: A Yurt, a Straw Bale House, and Ecological Living

Synopsis

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.
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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.

Excerpt

In the late spring months of 1973 I built a yurt on a high desert plateau thirty-five miles to the southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and began living there alone. I had just finished teaching fifth grade in the small, mostly Hispanic village of Tesuque. I was almost dead-dog broke, skinny as a rail, and barely twenty-three years old.

I didn’t have any idea what to do with my life beyond finding a place where I could live as cheaply as possible. Then friends told me about some land they had found that was for sale for next to nothing. Never mind that it was thirty-two acres covered mostly in cacti and sand or that it was a mile away from the nearest road, never mind that I knew nothing about checking deeds for proper ownership, much less anything about building a structure where a person could survive in such a place— I bought it. Besides, it looked like a good place to try out my self-romanticized vision of the starving artist: some half-crazed genius bent over his cabin’s only table, working under the light of a single kerosene lantern, while coyotes howled outside below a pale desert moon.

Soon, with the help of a few friends, I built an odd, cupcakeshaped dwelling on the land. I lived alone there for a little over a year before the rattlesnakes, the loneliness, the black widow spi-

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