Green Home Living

by Sherrie Kelly

Lanika & Sean

You know the song “It’s Not Easy Being Green” by Kermit the Frog? Kermit, it turns out, was very wrong.

One of the coolest perks about being students on the Sustainability Semester is our access to field excursions. Really, that’s just a fancy way of saying we have a ton of field trips, ranging from traveling to Nature’s Storehouse for class and heading to Boston later on in the semester. This past weekend was no exception. For the majority of the day on Saturday, we toured the North Country in our van to visit a number of Green Homes.

Our stops were varied and unique, each one boasting different visions of sustainability.      

We traveled to homes built with super insulation to homes of straw. First, we visited the Montan’s house, a super high tech take on energy efficiency. It was built to capitalize on the heat provided by natural southern light, and designed with approaching old age in mind. Next, we visited solar guru Scott Shipley. He has equipped his house with an array of solar panels to produce enough electricity for his family’s needs. After, we drove to Turtle Hill, a self-described “unintentional, intentional community.” Our first stop brought us to Jane George’s circular straw bale structure. The home is constructed out of local materials: stucco, straw bale, and beautifully crafted timber. Finally we made our way to the pioneer home of Turtle Hill, belonging to Ann Heidenreich. This magical, mystical place was complete with an indoor garden and lots of turtles.

Though each of the homes were equipped with unique features, the values that drove everyone’s sustainable lifestyles were comfortingly similar. Each aimed to incorporate certain aspects into their homes, mirroring their ethical beliefs. To be as energy efficient as possible, many of the homes included passive solar in their design, as well as sourcing as many local materials as possible. Welcoming us into their homes was no deviation from their normal lives: community was a huge part of the homes we visited.

Each of the homeowners emphasized the value of working and sharing with neighbors. Sometimes we forget the value of human interaction in this technologically advanced age. By integrating the knowledge developed among members of a community combined with the computing power of the 21st century, more innovative and fulfilling solutions come to fruition. We learned that Scott Shipley was installing solar panels for the Montan’s home, and that Jane’s family helped build a sugar shack to be shared among neighbors.

We ended our tour with a potluck dinner, where Ann lured us into her kitchen and community with the promise of warm home-cooked dishes and live music. We spent our evening amongst Turtle Hill’s finest green home livers, mingling and munching on the best food and conversations St. Lawrence County can offer. It’s amazing how soul satisfying it can be to sit down with strangers who share your interests and ethical values. Not only did we inquire about their lives, but everyone was welcoming and eager to learn about our adventures in sustainability as well. Laughter sweetened the air as the Fox and the Feather band began to play.

As we piled into our van under the impressively star-speckled sky, many of us wore smiles. Not only did we make new friends, but our understanding of sustainable living nearly doubled in size. Green livin’ can manifest in any number of different ways to reflect the personalities and interests of the homeowner. As we drove away, many of us recalled elements of the homes we wish to someday incorporate into our own lifestyles.  

It is easy being green, Kermit, and it happens to be a lot of fun too!

pic 1- The Straw Bale home we visited on Turtle Hill

pic 2 - Walking as a group to check out a local sugar operation

pic 3 - Outside Ann’s passive solar home on Turtle Hill

pic 4 - Inside Ann’s home where our potluck took place

pic 5 - Solar panels on Turtle Hill