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New home construction often requires lots of lumber, foam insulation, drywall, and siding. But not in Roslynn McCann’s case.

“We built our house … with straw bales, earthen plaster, earthen floors,” she says.

McCann says that when designing her home in Moab, Utah, sustainability was foremost on her mind.

So she chose non-toxic building materials, including rectangular bales of straw, which create thick, well-insulated walls.

And to avoid burning fossil fuels, McCann bought rooftop solar panels. She says they generate enough electricity to meet all of her household’s energy needs — including heat, cooking, and lights.

“We wanted to completely step away from the fossil fuel industry as much as possible. And so [we have] no gas line, so we have no gas bill,” she says.

To conserve water as Utah gets hotter and drier, McCann installed what’s called a gray-water system. Water from the shower and washing machine flows into pipes that drain directly onto the landscape, watering her fruit trees, herbs, and perennials.

McCann gives tours to people interested in seeing how the house is built and functions. And she envisions a future in which sustainable building and living is the norm, not an anomaly.

“It’s just the way we should be building our houses,” she says.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media