Steve Letendre
Careful readers of the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs know that it is never
a wise thing to build a house out of straw. But humans have used straw
as a building material for centuries, and Green Mountain College prof.
Steve Letendre (economics and environmental studies), his wife Kathy,
and their daughter Emery are part of the straw bale revival. Their home
in Middletown Springs, which they built in 2004, serves as a showpiece of
sustainable construction that’s pleasing, comfortable and resistant to the
trials of nature. “We liked the aesthetic of the straw bale house, which has
a southwestern adobe look,” said Steve. He points to a long list of other
practical and environmental advantages. The bones of the house are post
and beam timbers, which were harvested and milled from a local wood
lot. The straw is an agricultural waste product that, when tightly baled
together, gains a second life as a building material. Straw bale houses are
extremely snug. With an R-value of about 35 (compared to the standard
R-19 for conventional stick-built construction) the Letendres are realizing
dramatic energy savings. Built largely of tightly packed bales and stucco
around a sturdy post-and–beam frame, the house is very resistant to fire
and has proven to be extremely durable. “We hired a contractor who was
very knowledgeable in this type of construction, but we also needed lots
of volunteer labor to stack and plaster the straw bale walls,” Steve said. “It
was an unforgettable experience—friends and family just showed up and
lent a hand.”
James Thivierge
Lack of reliable public transportation is often a drawback in rural America,
but Rutland County has “The Bus,” an extensive network operated by
the Marble Valley Regional Transit District (MVRTD). To encourage use
of public transportation, Green Mountain College pays a discounted fee
to MVRTD to provide free transportation for students, faculty and staff.
James Thivierge, GMC’s sports information director, rides it whenever he
can from his home in Rutland to Poultney. “I’d say I ride the bus 70-80%
of the time,” said James. “With the multiple stops, it takes a little longer
than driving, but it’s much less stressful. I also free up a parking space
on campus for someone else.” During a hectic week, when GMC athletic
teams are in action, he can use his commute time to catch up on work. He
estimates that each round-trip on the bus represents about $5 in savings.
“When I’m driving, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m generating a lot of
carbon emissions for one person. When I ride the bus, that carbon output
is distributed among 20 people. Making use of public transportation just
makes sense from an environmental and economic standpoint.”
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