Building Green is Building Naturally

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No sane man in the hands of Nature can doubt the doubleness of his life. Soul and body receive separate nourishment and separate exercise, and speedily reach a stage of development wherein each is easily known apart from the other.

Living artificially we seldom see much of our real selves, our torpid souls are hopelessly entangled with our torpid bodies, and not only in there a confused mingling of our own souls with our own bodies, but we hardly possess a separate existence from our neighbors.

John Muir, John of the Mountains, p. 77

This week’s green post looks at a way of building that has become a life style for the people who practice it, and points out some green news and blog posts that I thought were worth sharing.

looking up at a grove of redwoods

I hadn’t heard of the natural building movement until a few weeks ago, when my girl friend pointed out the 5th annual Natural Building Colloquium, taking place from July 27, 2008, through Saturday, August 2, 2008, at the Thunder Mountain Retreat Center near Bath, New York. The week long event is a hands on learning experience, covering topics like:

  • Strawbale
  • Cob
  • Timber framing
  • Earth sheltered buildings
  • Straw-clay infill
  • Community-supported agriculture
  • Living roofs
  • Thatching
  • Renewable energy (wind, solar, and more)
  • Natural plasters & finishes
  • Building with hemp
  • Alternative fuels
  • Log cabin construction

It looks like a fun way to spend a week. The Natural Building Network also has an international calendar of workshops in 2008, focusing upon natural building methods.

I’ve been seeing a lot of images of eco friendly skyscrapers and homes lately, which focus upon making buildings that use environmentally friendly building practices and materials, and renewable energy resources like solar panels. But the natural building movement goes beyond that to a way of building that “places the highest value on social and environmental sustainability.”

It focuses upon using local materials that are plentiful, or recycled, producing energy and capturing water locally. It’s a technology that is built by hands instead of machines.

It looks like it would be fun to construct and live in a naturally built home.

The US Green Building Council just releases their Green Home Guide. It provides a number of ideas and suggestions for renovation and retrofit projects that people can undertake to make their homes more green friendly. These aren’t naturally built homes, but we can’t all live in houses made of strawbale and cob, can we?

Some other stories that I noticed this week from Green Blogs:

This Saturday night, lights are going off across the world at 8:00 pm locally in each time zone to make a statement about climate change as part of Earth Hour. The cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are all participating, and I will be, too.

National Geographic launched a new magazine, called The Green Guide. It’s a quarterly magazine, but the web site looks like it contains a lot of information and blogs that won’t be available on paper.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I like variety in my diet, and this article has some nice suggestions for making dinner time part of a more sustainable life style – Ten Tips for Greening Your Plate with More Meat-free Meals

I remember seeing few chickens running around the streets of Philadelphia a couple of years ago when shopping at the Italian Market, and thinking that farm animals would be the last thing I would see in the City. So, I got a kick out of The City Chicken Project, in New York City.

One of the oldest methods of supplying drinking water to a home is experiencing a revival – Increasing water security with rainwater catchment.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about cars that get 200 miles to the gallon, and may someday roll off production lines, maybe. Until then, the Engine Repower Council is touting the environmental benefits of rebuilt/remanufactured engines. Thanks to Gas 2.0 which weighs in on the practice in Need a New Car? Nope, Just a New Engine!.

I’ve been trying to replace a lot of the lights in my home with those curley-cue compact fluorescent light bulbs – they do last a very long time. I broke one while replacing it. I wish I had known more about the dangers of cleaning up the mess – CFLs do contain enough mercury in them for you to be concerned about cleaning them.

How much of an environmental impact does shoe manufacturing have? Shoe stores?

A two part post answers some of those questions, and ends with a nice natural alternative to shoe polish:

  • Green Footing Part 1: Much Ado about the Shoe
  • Green Footing Part Deux: Local Shoe Subdue

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20 thoughts on “Building Green is Building Naturally”

  1. The Natural Building Colloquium looks so exciting. A real learning experience and a gathering of like minds. Gatherings like this can strengthen our resolves to be more kind to the place we call home.

    I am new to learning about the needs of our environment, but I am no less impacted just because it is so new to me. I wonder where my head has been for the time I’ve spent wasting our resources and it distresses me that I could have had my eyes in such blindness for so long.

    The way I see it, it’s never too late to start caring.

  2. Thanks for the great read Bill. I found this article very informative and interesting. I especially found the note on the dangers of cleaning up CFLs to be very interesting. I am going to pass that around! Cheers, Ross

  3. I’m planning to build my own house in the next couple of years, and I’m doing it using strawbale construction. It’s cheap, eco-friendly, insulates well, helps support an industry, has better burn tolerance than brick, and is WAAAAY cheaper than traditional brick and mortar.

    And I think it looks good too!

  4. Kimberly,


    There are a few things that I love about the Natural Building Colloquium from just looking at the pictures of the gatherings:

    1. Whole families are involved, from the smallest of children to family elders.

    2. Even when covered in mud, everyone looks like they are having fun.

    3. The point behind the whole thing isn’t in doing business as usual, with maybe some solar panels and recycled materials thrown in, but rather attempting to learn how to live more in harmony with the world around us.

    It isn’t ever too late to start caring. 🙂


    You’re welcome. Thanks for your kind words. The dangers of disposing of CFLs was unexpected. I’ve been wondering ever since I read that article if the tradeoff of using less energy and less materials is worth the increase of toxic materials (mercury).

    Pete W,

    That really sounds like a wonderful endeavor. I hope that your house turns out as wonderful as your words paint it. I’m liking what I’ve read so far about the natural building movement, and want to learn more. I’m keeping that Natural Building Colloquium on my radar. It might be a lot of fun to attend.

  5. Have you heard of earthships? Another very cool green building application.
    Let’s hope the CFL gets replaced by LED lights very soon, before the mercury pollution on our planet gets out of control.

  6. I’m so glad that things like this are going on. I was on my way home yesterday and I pass a massive eye-sore of a power station. To my complete amazement on the other side of the road a sign has appeared that says “Say No To Eco-Town” and a huge arrow pointing at the proposed area. Frankly I’m quite flabbergasted!! Why is there not an arrow pointing to the massive eye-sore and environment damaging powerstation saying “Get rid of this monstrosity”???

    People have odd ideas and it’s refreshing to know that there are a growing number of people who do want eco-towns and green buildings. Maybe I’ll get a bigger board and stick it up next to it saying “Say Yes to Eco-Town”. In fact, why do we never see positive messages like that??!!

  7. Thanks, Richard.

    I’m going to try to write an environmental post here every week. I’ve been learning a lot as I write them, and enjoying what I’m learning.

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for sharing your amazement about the sign. We really take too much for granted that we shouldn’t, and too often don’t try to make changes that we should and can. More positive messages in more places are needed. 🙂

    Hi Jacques,

    Earthships are new to me. Thanks for the mention – I’ll have to learn more about them. I was surprised learning about mercury in CFLS – let’s hope that the alternative of LED lights is available quickly.

  8. You’re welcome Jeff.

    I’m really appreciating all of the green blogs that I’ve been reading. I’ve been learning a lot, and trying to share some of what I’ve been learning.

    I appreciate all of the great posts I’ve been seeing coming out ot the Green Options network. Thank you.

  9. Bill — Thank you so much for the various links to Green Options Media sites… we’re really glad that you’re finding our content useful. And, of course, thank you for this round-up on a site not necessarily devoted to environmental issues…

  10. Going Green = Link Development on Steroids ?

    You know its interesting William your post got me thinking, I have worked in the web marketing space for a few years now and I never thought that I would be able to lead a ‘go green’ initiative. Well finally this past year i was able to through my former company. I was able to pitch them on the idea that going green would make for a great marketing campaign on their blog…and it was.

    People were asked to enter practical applications of used voip equipment and once they entered in a blog comment they were then entered in a chance at a random drawing of all blog participants for a chance to win $1500 of store credit (which was even paid for by a manufacturer).

    The contest exploded our traffic by almost 1000%. It gained traction with in hours and was literally everywhere in the market. We ended up getting well over 400 back links, numerous industry mentions, and of course loads of valuable traffic!

    So what more could I ask for a going green initiative that was worth its weight in gold. Links, purchasing visitors and we saved a few trees in the process…

  11. Hi Dax,

    Sounds like a successful campaign.

    I do think that most businesses need to consider how they can become more socially responsible citizens in this world of ours. Its hard to miss the public desire to see more businesses thinking about and acting in ways that are more environmentally friendly.


  12. As a builder of homes, I’ve been promoting green building products for decks and siding. I feel that when I explain the benefits, customers agree and feel they’re doing their part to protect the environment!

  13. Hi Michael,

    Thank you. That’s encouraging to hear, that people are taking the environment into consideration when presented with information about the materials used to build their homes. I guess it helps to have someone presenting those options to them.

  14. Hi Bill
    It was good to find you website on building green, you have some fantastic articles on here. I noticed your city chicken project link was not working, I am a bit of a fanatic about living green and have started to keep a few chickens – I live in a town. I smiled when you mentioned chickens running around the streets of Philadelphia. What a lovely vision.

  15. Hi George,

    Thanks. I checked, and the city chicken project is still around, but was at a difference URL. I’ve inserted the new address into the post.

    There’s a chicken coop in a house about a block down the street in the town where I’m at now, with about 7-8 chickens in it. I love driving past and seeing them strutting around.

  16. Bill,

    I have been coming to your site for a long time for SEO information and never thought to click through on your Environmental category. Great article on this aspect of green living. Natural building ideas are something I have pondered as far as building a log home, but some of these other topics listed have sparked my interest even further. Looks like I have some more research to do before I build a home. I also live just outside of Philly, so I am going to keep my eyes peeled for these chickens next time I go into the city.


  17. Hi Jason,

    I’m glad that you did venture into the environmental category. Thanks for your kind words about this post – it’s definitely time for more on the topic.

    The chickens aren’t hard to miss if you head over the the Italian Market. It’s a nice Saturday morning/afternoon trip into the City, and you can get great prices on food while you’re there.

  18. France seem to be embracing this far more than the UK. Saw a “green” house feature on the front of a magazine cover and prominently displayed in train stations. Would love to see this kind of enthusiasm in England.

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