Thermal mass: More than 30 tons of plaster and other mass on the inside of the house collects and stores heat from sunlight.
Forest-certified lumber: Along with local posts and beams, we used wood certified as sustainably harvested.
Recycled vinyl shingles: Located on the one "traditional" roof that holds our solar panels, these shingles are made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled material and will last more than 50 years.
Straw-bale walls: These fire-resistant, agricultural waste products (not hay) provide 18 inches of cheap insulation, keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer.
Reclaimed doors, windows, and kitchen cabinetry: Most of the doors and windows are reclaimed from predemolition sites.
Lime plaster: This ancient material (think of the longevity of lighthouses) provides waterproofing and is carbon neutral. (Contrast this with concrete, which is the sixth largest contributor to carbon emissions worldwide.)
Earth roofs: Plants absorb sunlight, convert heat to sugar and water, and keep the roof cool in the summer. Earth roofs provide water runoff protection and hold snow well, keeping us warmer in winter.
Cordwood construction: Local, renewable building materials—such as log-ends—were used to build some of the walls.
Solar hot water: A thermal system uses solar energy to heat water.
Local clay and stone: We repurposed local stone and unwanted clay gathered from a nearby construction site.
Passive solar design: Sun comes in through ample windows on the south side, naturally warming the house during winter.
Composting toilet: Americans use about 100 gallons of water per person each day. This toilet uses no water and provides rich compost as a byproduct, rather than wastewater in need of treatment.
—Linda and Scot DeGraf