Land of Plenty

By you

Our readers across the country (and around the world) are making strides toward living a green life and creating a modern Land of Plenty. We’ve selected a few of their eco-accomplishments—both big and small—to share. Send us stories about how you’re trying to make a difference; we’ll publish as many as we can in an upcoming issue of the magazine. E-mail us at

This year we
decided to build a zero-energy, healthy house in Brookeville, Maryland, that doesn’t give my wife headaches from chemical off-gassing, which hap pened in our last new home. To help us, we found John Spears, a local architect who builds sustainable dwellings using compressed earth bricks. He’s completed many such structures in the past in China and South Africa, but I believe ours will be the first built in Maryland.

Currently, the 9,000 bricks for our home are complete, and we are ready to waterproof the basement walls and roof the house. The bricks are made from dirt excavated from the foundation. After mixing them with concrete, they’re thrown into the TerraBuilt Green Machine, which press es out bricks that are exceedingly energy efficient as well as fireproof, pest-proof, and soundproof. (The brick-making process can be viewed at

When complete, the house will also have geothermal radiant floors, a cistern to capture rainwater for bathing and washing clothes, and a Bodart/Gonay fire stove that can heat the whole house if needed. The home is passive-solar designed, and we hope to add solar cellsto the south-facing roof in the future. We will likely pay only about $100 a month in utilities for our 3,500 square foot home—far less than all our neighbors. In the fut ure our goal is to achieve complete energy independence.

Kevin and Maureen Hartnett
Brookeville, MD

After 30 years of thinking about green issues, we recently built a home and decided to do as much as we could to make it sustainable. In conservative Springfield, Illinois, there are no good examples to follow, and the contractors in the area don’t have much interest in green building yet, so we were on our own. After researching and planning the house for months, we spent a year and a half in construction.

We designed the house, with profess ional help from LaVonne Kern, which utilizes sustainable techniques that are practical for both the environment and our lifestyle. Flooring, decking, and counter tops are made of recycled or sustainable materials where affordable, and the blown (wet) cellulose insulation we used is made of recycled newspaper. Solar gain from large windows is stored in a thermal mass wall and super-insulation creates an extremely tight envelope around the house, preventing air leaks. The two-kilowatt photovoltaic panels on the roof supplement power from the conventional grid, and a roofmounted solar heater preheats water. Other sustainable items designed into the house include a rain water capture system that routes roof water through special filters into a cistern for use in the garden, an attic fan in the garage that allows cool air to be pulled throughout the house, and a recirculation pump that ensures hot water is available instantly.

Although some sustainable items may cost more initially, we found that there are many things that can be done for little or no extra cost to help a home be more sustainable. We’ve been living in our new home for almost a year now and love it!

Harv Koplo and Annette Chinuge
Springfield, IL

Issue 25

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