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Patagonia founder builds straw-bale home to answer major issue with traditional houses: 'People are living in bombs'

"It doesn't have to be this way."

"It doesn’t have to be this way."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yvon Chouinard, founder of outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, has added straw bale home construction to the long list of his environmentally friendly deeds, Fast Company reports.

Straw-bale buildings use tightly bound blocks of straw for basic construction materials or insulation. The straw is left over from growing grain crops like rice, wheat, oats, and barley. This waste material has such a low nutrition content that it's not even good animal feed on its own — but it's great as a building material.

In August 2023, Patagonia released a short film about the construction project titled "Home, Grown." Chouinard says in the film that he's been interested in straw bale construction for 50 years. When architect Dylan Johnson approached Chouinard, his longtime friend, in 2021 about the project, he agreed to take part to show people a better way to build that will honor our connection to nature.

As Family Handyman explains, straw is cheap, and it insulates buildings up to three times as well as normal building materials. That means it takes less energy to keep the home at a comfortable temperature, whether heating or cooling it. 

Not only does that save the homeowner money, but it also lowers the amount of air pollution caused by powering the home, which helps reduce the temperature of the Earth. Also, while you might think of straw as very flammable, Family Handyman says that when bound together in bales, it's actually more fire-resistant than conventional building materials.

Meanwhile, Fast Company points out that straw contains a lot of carbon — a component of carbon dioxide, which is a common heat-trapping gas. By bundling that carbon away into long-lasting buildings, it can be removed from circulating through the air.

This isn't Chouinard's first foray into environmentalism. In 2022, he gave away his company's voting stock, placing it in a fund so that all the proceeds could go toward protecting the Earth from pollution and increasing temperatures. Patagonia has also completed and documented green building projects before, Fast Company adds.

"People are living in bombs," Chouinard told Fast Company during a phone call. "They're living in gas- or propane-fueled houses with cars parked outside. It doesn't have to be this way. We can run our houses on electricity and buy electric cars. I believe in market forces. That's why I'm in business. A lot can be done outside of government, just by being creative. Waste is not waste. It's an opportunity."

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