Archive for the 'Green Building' Category

FinnPo and the Maitreya EcoVillage

I had a friend in Eugene told me about an EcoVillage in downtown Eugene, OR, where I would surely find someone to write about for the blog. After finding the village, I wandered in and was greeted like an old friend who had not been seen for a while by a short, chipper man, with buzzed gray hair and twinkling eyes. He was FinnPo.

FinnPo in front of an Icosa Hut


After he finished some wood he was cutting for windows (where he lives, they make their windows), FinnPo and I sat down and talked about sustainability while we enjoyed some frozen plums. I discovered that FinnPo is a vision of sustainability through his interconnectedness with other people and living things. He is in tune with what brings a happy, pleasurable, and a spiritually fulfilling lifestyle. FinnPo gathers inspiration in part from The Ringing Cedars by Vladimir Megré, a true book series about the life lessons from Anastasia. Born in 1969, Anastasia grew up in the forests of Siberia where she gained infinite knowledge of humans relationship with nature, and the importance of interacting with the earth as a community. After Megré stumbled upon her, he realized that everything she taught him should be published. Subsequently, there are nine books that have sold over 10 million copies and translated in to twenty different languages with no advertisement. Her teachings include lessons on nutrition, ecology, sexual relations, the universe, and God. The books began a movement in Russia and beyond, inspiring self reliant communities that provide physical subsistence and spiritual fulfillment.
It is not a consequence that FinnPo lives in the EcoVillage, Maitreya. EcoVillages are rural and urban communities with a goal to become socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable. To live sustainably, Maitreya has five rules:
1. Renewable resources shall not be used faster that they can regenerate.
2. Nonrenewable resources shall not be used faster that renewable substitutes (to be used sustainably) can be found & developed.
3. Pollution and waste shall not be put into the environment faster than the environment can absorb and render it harmless.
4. The human population shall be kept low enough that the above three conditions can be met.
5. The above four conditions shall be met under conditions that are democratic and equitable enough that the people of the world will stand for it.

Inside the Cob house

Currently, FinnPo is one of 33 people who live on Maitreya, which takes up less than one acre of land. FinnPo builds Icosa Huts, small living huts that provide sleeping quarters and privacy. He helped start ‘Resurrected Refuse,’ a small business that reduces Eugene’s waste stream by putting materials that were to be thrown out to work. Minus the hardware, all the huts on Maitreya are made from salvaged materials. They share living, cooking, and bathroom facilities, and some have office space in the houses. Maitreya also has a straw bale community center, a house that is open for the public to reserve. A tactic of green building, straw is an agricultural waste product, and has a very high insulation value. As a guest, I slept in the cob house, a structure made from soil, clay, sand, and straw – imagine a house that when it reaches the end of its life can dissolve back in to the earth. Almost all of the space that is not taken up by a man made structure produces food, so whenever I walked in and out of the village I found myself ducking under grape vines or avoiding tomatoes. Also, a rainwater swale collects water to be fed back underground instead of running off into the sewers.
It was a joy to be a guest at Maitreya. Finn Po encourages us all to start the Ringing Cedars series, and after seeing such devotion and care for one another, I think I have to pick it up.

Timothy Fisher

After spending the night at the Werner’s, I rolled on down the road to stop by their neighbor’s house, whose owner I was told would be interesting to talk to. The first thing you notice about the property is a carousel; not exactly your average lawn feature, but after looking around more it did not seem too out of place. The barn next to the house is filled with paintings and wooden sculptures. I pulled myself away from them to introduce myself to

Tim and his daughter Anna

Tim with his daughter Anna

Tim, the artist and creator of everything I was looking at. I told Tim why I stopped by and he was glad to show me around even though his daughter (for whom he built the carousel as a birthday present) was visiting. His house is the subject of the post, as his resourceful nature has made his home very unique. The walls of his house are built from old solid core doors taken from the Middlebury College dorms (4 miles north of Tim’s home). The doors were removed when new, wheelchair-friendly doors were installed. Instead of the doors sitting in storage, Tim put them to use with some insulation, cement, and stone to create his house.
Floors from chalk boards

Floors from chalk boards

Wood doors were not the only material Tim scored. His bathroom floor is made of the old slate chalk boards that were removed to make room for new white boards. The lesson here is building materials are everywhere and, depending on imagination and creativity, may take the shape of something for which they are not typically used. It does not need to come from Lowes to be worthy of building with!

Tim, who is also in the process of fixing his solar hot water heater, has a garden even though his soil has high clay content. Digging a couple feet down and mixing in compost and sand has remedied that, allowing him to grow a variety of healthy vegetables and plants.

Anyone can visit his gallery, and even have a ride on the carousel! His address is 727 Fisher Road, Cornwall, VT 05753.