Environmental Innovations to Give You Hope

Find out why the planet’s not dead yet

| September-October 2008

This article is part of a package brushing off the gloom and doom with good green news. Also included are:
Tomorrowland : An eco-smart urban design competition turns “what ifs” into “what is”
Hiring Mother Earth To Do Her Thing : Are capitalists the new conservationists?
Green All the Lawyers : Legal expert Mary Wood on how Lady Justice could tip the scales
In Praise Of Economic Pain : The threat of recession could lead to an environmental boon
Special Online Project: Mother Earth’s Big Comeback

Green Building : Back to Basics

“Green building” is a media darling—it’s chic, sleek, and upwardly mobile. Depending on the scale and spirit of the coverage, says the Walrus (May 2008), it can also be a false promise: “In the interest of looking sufficiently slick for the photo shoots,” the magazines opines, high-end consumer periodicals often gloss over decades of humble experimentation in affordable, small-scale sustainable housing.

New Mexico architect Michael Reynolds, for example, uses recycled automobile tires to build homes completely off the grid. Other buildings are made from straw bales, adobe, compressed earth, cordwood, and cob.

While these techniques won’t make the cover of Vanity Fair’s next “green” issue, they share commendable qualities. They are time-tested (adobe and other types of earth building are among the oldest known); they are labor-intensive and low-tech, consuming less energy in the building phase; and they are relatively simple to construct, which, by shifting the workload to homeowners, increases affordability.

Jeffery Biss
9/15/2008 4:09:01 PM

How green is the construction industry when it requires the destruction of open space and wildlife habitat to sustain itself? It isn't, regardless of the arguments about "green construction". The only answer is to reduce human population to a sustainable level that minimizes our affects on wildlife and the natural systems and maximizes the benefits to all. Thinking that we can be "green" without doing so is pure delusion.