My neighbors Aaron and Carisa are doing an extraordinary thing this holiday season – they are donating gifts to Angel Baskets rather than giving gifts to each other. “Why not give to those who really need it?” Carisa asked me yesterday.
In that spirit, here’s an organization that really needs it (and we need their example even more).
Moab, Utah’s Community Rebuilds not only provides affordable housing to local guides and low-income earners, but it educates student interns about natural building. Natural building, in this case, utilizes straw-bale construction, a technique originated in Nebraska in the early 1900’s and recently revived, because it provides excellent insulation, along with many other benefits.
“Straw is an agricultural by-product,” Founder and Executive Director Emily Niehaus explains. “Straw is the shaft of the wheat; no one eats it because it has zero nutritional value. It is generally burned.”
In the West especially, according to Niehaus, the burning of straw is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Utilizing straw as a building agent gives the farmer twice as much income on their yield, improves air quality and reduces reliance on wood as a primary building agent.
I ask Niehaus if straw-bale construction works in any climate. She says that it’s effective even in the dark, damp atmosphere of the San Juan islands off the coast of Washington. “Because we use local clay-based soil to coat the straw bales, the bales are well-sealed,” she explains. “The earthen plaster acts as a wicking agent, as long as the straw is perfectly dry initially.”
Community Rebuilds also installs solar power and helps the new homeowners recycle old trailers for money. In addition, they set up construction recycling on site, educating their interns on recycling construction materials, which account for a large part of our landfill waste.
If you wish to support Community Rebuilds in its work to improve their community and realize their MISSION to build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability and improve the housing conditions of their workforce, please visit their site here.
And to close with the words of the Grinch – “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
May all of our hearts grow three sizes that day.