Going Green

Tree Hugging Home

Recently I got an email from a good friend about a very interesting home featured in The New York Times this past week. Have you seen it?


Architect Roald Gunderson and his family (below)


Is it just me or does he look exactly like Liam Neeson

Anyway, this talented man has made a career out of working with trees.


He built his home and greenhouse using WHOLE trees for structure after many years of bending and pruning them...

“Curves are stronger than straight lines,” he explained. “A single arch supporting a roof can laterally brace the building in all directions.”

According to research by the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, run by the USDA, a whole, unmilled tree can support 50 percent more weight than the largest piece of lumber milled from the same tree....(What!?? Crazy.) So Mr. Gundersen uses small-diameter trees as rafters and framing in his airy structures, and big trees felled by wind, disease or insects as powerful columns and curving beams.


Love this room! And love this fact:

“For every ton of wood, a ton and a half of carbon dioxide is locked up,” he said, whereas producing a ton of steel releases two to five tons of carbon. So the more whole wood is used in place of steel, the less carbon is pumped into the air."


<Talk about a railing design>

“I’ve taken 20 trees per year off one acre, for 12 buildings,” Mr. Gundersen said. “You can never tell that we’ve taken out that much wood.”

After he built the house for his family he built this solar greenhouse for his wife with thick straw bale walls...

and to top THAT off: Ms. Baxter manages a community forest project modeled after a community-supported agriculture project, in which paying members harvest sustainable riches like mushrooms, firewood and watercress from these woods.

I wish I had time to manage a project that cool. 

And I wish I had a greenhouse like the one above to nurture a garden. But as I look at my DEAD herbs I think I should wait on that...

Garden rip

via wide open spaces

Back to the amazing tree house...


"In architecture, how materials come together and how they are connected is really the god in the details," Gundersen said. "The connection is where things will fall apart," he said, adding that the crook of a tree "has been time-tested by environmental conditions for 200 million years."


Driftless Farm Bookend Branching Columns_small_crop_001

If anything makes me want to GO GREENthis article does. I have a heart for trees and it has always made me sad when I see one go. :(

 Powerlines, shmowerlines.

 Instead of knocking down trees why not build a house with them or around them?


For the Whole Trees Architecture website click here.

Click here to read the full article by Anne Raver

Photos by Paul Kelley for The New York Times

A Belated Earth Day...

 Im with stupid

Maybe my lack of post yesterday was for a reason- to prove the point that every day should be Earth day! 


(See, I know what I'm doing.)

 I read an article in DWELL magazine this past week called "At Home in the Zone" that was really interesting and inspiring. It broke down all the different ways you can 'go green' in your home without turning back into a prehistoric caveman. Although it was entertaining it was also very convicting. So I thought that it would be a perfect post to introduce Earth Day to my <millions upon millions> of readers. :)
p.s. I will give a quick recap of the article (written by a witty young fellow named Dan Maginn)- with his bullet points for each area of the house. 
Dan's comments in black.
My sub-comments in blue.
Anything offensive or over the line- definitely Dan.

 If we really want to make a difference in the environment, the challenge* is to design an effective strategy: one that balances our desire to live sustainably with a desire to live comfortably. Although some of the steps we can take are small, others are much greater. 
But know this: Sustainable Design doesn't have to suck. 

That's the issue with me: I want things to look pretty. But the pretty doesn't necessarily mean the eco-friendly. In fact, it usually doesn't. I'm constantly torn! I've got my grandmother (Damommy) in one ear telling me to keep all the lights on in the house- even when it's daylight outside!! And then in the other ear I hear our earth crumbling into a plastic, toxic mess! 
But one thing is for sure: I want to work hard on being more eco-friendly. God only gave us this one earth so we should take special care of it, right?? 

The All-Over Zone

1. Get with the Program
If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, chances are it's sucking dollars out of your pocket and shooting carbon into the atmosphere. 
2. Ventilate
Make every effort to utilize your HVAC system only as a last resort. Open windows, and supplement the effect with (good looking) fans. For example:

3. Shun the Sun
Unwanted solar gain in hot months results in unwanted increases in energy bills. Exterior Awnings (no) and indoor window treatments can add to the design of your home while blocking rays.

The Food Zone
1. Get Cooking!
Buy locally and buy in bulk. Keep your car in the garage and have the neighbors over for dinner.
2. Recycle
As a goal- limit yourself to one trash bag a week for your household. (I told you it was convicting.)
3. Retool.
Take a good look at your kitchen. (Dan, we are way ahead of the game on that one.) If your appliances are over the hill, replace them with Energy Star appliances. 
Energy star
(look for that label)
4. Still drinking bottled water?
Shame on you, Earth-hater. (Ouch) Install an undersink or faucet-mounted water filtration system and drink up. 
Or look into buying a Sigg bottle! It's cool to carry a Sigg bottle. Cindy Crawford sports one... and so do I! And we are basically one in the same :)
Purchase one here!

The Living Zone
1. Replace nearly all of your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (If only they could come up with pink ones... I'll need to write someone about that. In the mean time, we can paint them. *with high-heat resistance paint!!!)
2. New to you.
Use preowned furniture in your home. (Love it!!! Who wants to go to the flea market??)
3. Clean Green.
Research nontoxic cleaning materials. Then use them.
4. Beware the phantom load.
Off is the new On. Figure out a clever way to plug your small appliances and electronic gear into power strips, and then turn them off when you leave the house each day. consider the constantly flashing "12:00 a.m." on your coffeemaker a badge of honor. 
The Sleeping Zone
*You spend more time in this room than in any other home zone so get this right! 
1. Fine tune  your window shades.
Lowers the cooling bill!
2. Get a good (looking) ceiling fan.
Bedroom riverside martha
Let's talk about this beautiful bedroom from Martha Stewart Living... Great plantation shutters (blocking out sunlight during the day, lowering the bills!) and the unique ceiling fan overhead. Not to mention the lamp is off! They don't even have an alarm clock, and the dog!... well, he just looks eco-friendly. *This is a great example of how 'going green' can look pretty.
3. Get the TV out.
What are you watching TV in bed for? Among other things, the bedroom should provide you with a calming foundation to support your hectic day. True... I need this. AND THIS blanket:!!
Everything will be okay
The Bathroom Zone
Reducing your water usage is easy, and it doesn't mean you have to brush your teeth with a pinecone (haha, good one Dan) or weep with remorse every time you flush the can. As is the case with all resource usage, responsibility starts with understanding how much of something is actually needed to get the job done. (10 multi-colored sharpie pens?? Yes please.)
1. Use dual-flush toilets. 
install them. Use them. Hit the right button. 
2. Go low-flow.
Low-flow showerheads and faucets squirt sufficient amounts of water at you. Get in the way of the reduced squirt at the right moment, do your thing, and turn the water off. Easy. (Hmm... this is tough for me. I have to have good water pressure!!)
3. Purchase a robe.
It's hard to exit a hot shower on a cold day. But a great robe and hop out of the shower a minute earlier!
Give me a break.

*For more information about ways to conserve water go to "Water.. Use it Wisely" website where they give you 100 ways to cute back on water usage.
4. Buy natural. Buy bulk. Buy less.
Consider all of the products you use in the bathroom.... (No really, close your eyes and think about it girls) Now think of all the packaging, the plastic, the containers, the chemicals! Act accordingly.
5. Consider solar hot water.
The Utility Zone
* these are the silent killers of energy efficiency in your home.
1. No second fridge. It's the enemy.
Get rid of that thing, buzzing away down there in the basement. It costs more to operate than you realize. Besides, you have way too much of whatever the hell you have in it anyway. Just say no.
But wait a minute... you just told us to buy in bulk??! Sounds like Dan is torn too.
2. Slip into something more ecological.
Modify your laundry practices. Stay away from partial loads. Use cold water only. Get retro and line dry if you have the basement or yard space.
3. Clean your garage.
Sell your second car and get a bike. (Done. Well... the second part anyway)
4. Park your energy-wasting ways.
You really don't need to heat and cool your garage. 
The Yard Zone
1. Perform a yard-audit. (He did not say 'yard art' here! Please read carefully)
2. Install native plants.. they use less water and require less maintenance.
3. De-water. Plant a rain garden and collect rain in a barrel.
Rain barrel
4. Get dirty.
Maintain your existing dirt by mulching and create new dirt by composting your kitchen and yard waste.
5. Get lit.
Install a  motion-control sensor or timer on your exterior lights- or use a solar powered light.
The Human Zone (wake up, this means us!!)
Our behavior is just as important as any of the above bulletpoints.
Love the earth
1. Be smart about it.
2. Live small.
Size matters when it comes to home efficiency. If you're building new, build small. If you're renovating new, renovate small. If you're not building or renovating, then just live small. Or move.
3. Buy a calendar.
Map out your maintenance actions you will need to respond to seasonal changes. Plan ahead and execute your steps one project at a time.
4. Shape up.
Expand your comfort boundaries a notch or two by tweaking your thermostat a few degrees (Amen!) 
Why not start living responsibly now?
List 5 improvements or actions you think you can actually achieve and commit to them. 
1. I will use cold water onl y on my laundry cycles.
2. I will (try my very very best to) go through one bag of garbage this week.
3. I will turn off every single light in the house before I leave. Hoyt, quit rolling your eyes. 
4. I will throw out my little floor heater that keeps me warm in the bathroom and buy a pre-owned robe.
5. I will not build a large house this year.
(..... what? it's fair.... I'm buying a used robe for crying out loud!)


*feel free to share your list too!


So, yesterday I found out that Earth Day is coming up: April 22nd! We have some time to gear up for it so I thought I would share a video with you. A friend sent me this link a while back and I was hesitant to waste 20 minutes of my day for a stick-figure movie (not to mention my lack of attention span for anything black-and-white). But 15 minutes later I was totally engrossed in the "Story of Stuff" and have been changed ever since. I'm not even going to give you a preview, just promise me that you'll find 20 minutes out of one day this week and watch it. Some of you have probably seen this a thousand times but for those of you who haven't- prepare to be changed.
Introducing Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff...


To find out more information on how you can get involved visit the website: Story of Stuff

P.s. I do realize that I just posted an entire section on "STUFF" you can get at Target- so if anyone is preaching to the choir it's ME. 
I can't tell you that I'm not going to post great deals  on 'stuff' anymore but I will try my best to include more posts about ways that we can help our environment... Especially in the home! It's all about taking baby steps. And it's not always about what you buy, it's about what you do with it afterwards. 

One foot in front of the other...