Walking the Talk in a Straw Bale House

Josh Bow moved into a straw bale house in October when he became a full-time staff member at Camp Lutherlyn. “I’d always wondered what it would be like to live there,” Josh said of Lutherlyn’s Terra Dei Homestead.  “It is such a cool concept and I’d known about it since I was a camper!”

Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect, Pennsylvania built the state’s first straw bale house in 1995.  The home was designed not only to be a camp residence, but also to be an integral part of the camp’s environmental education program, as a working example of sustainable living. 

The straw bale walls provide super insulation (R-40), which makes it easy to heat with either passive solar energy, through the south facing windows, or wood with the masonry heater.  The house reduces water usage by incorporating a composting toilet and gray water recycling system.  All of the flooring in the home is made from recycled materials and solar panels provide much of the electricity for the residence.
The homestead also includes an organic garden, small orchard, and an outdoor classroom.  Terra Dei Homestead is part of many of the approximately 100 school field trips the Lutherlyn Environmental Education Program hosts yearly.  School activities focus on renewable energy, recycling, and being good stewards of what God has created.
In November 2005, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (Penn Future) honored Terra Dei Homestead with it’s “Green Power – Turn it On!” award.  The award recognized Lutherlyn for using renewable energy and teaching others about it.
Josh gets interesting responses from people when he tells them that he lives in an “eco-house.”  “To most people, an eco-house means pioneer living, not modern living,” explains Josh.  “Instead of using smarter ways of being sustainable – like we demonstrate at Lutherlyn – people think of deprivation.” 
That was one of the reasons the house was constructed to be a camp residence. In the planning stages, Lutherlyn’s staff decided that it would be a much better example of sustainable living if someone was actually living there.  Throughout the last 18 years, 5 individuals or families have lived at Terra Dei Homestead.  Through this experience, they have expanded their own visions of sustainability and creation care, as well as those of the students that they teach.

If you would like to know more about Terra Dei Homestead at Lutherlyn, you can check out the virtual tour at the following link:  http://www.lutherlyn.com/what_we_do/environmental_education/terra_dei.html