Every few years, discussions about using straw bales as a building material come up again. As our environmental challenges mount—from wildfires to hurricanes—straw bales seem to offer a sustainable answer. And as we in the American West seem to find ourselves in “fire season” earlier with each passing year, it’s time to ask: Has the humble straw bale’s moment finally come?
By MEA MCNEIL
On a frigid, eight-acre farm just outside downtown Sebastopol, Paul Kaiser has devised a hyper-intensive form of organic agriculture that is grossing more than $100,000 an acre. And, he believes, saving the planet at the same time. Yet a number of farming experts see trouble on his horizon.
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
More than two decades ago, a Cuban farming revolution that had nothing to do with ideology bore a bounty of fruit. What could the U.S. learn about sustainable agriculture from its much smaller neighbor?
By CHRISTOPHER D. COOK
While the fashion industry continues to produce more and more clothing made from synthetics, with all their harmful effects, we’ve ignored the wonders of wool. The material is natural, durable, and endlessly renewable; more important, its creators (the sheep) can help regenerate the soil, along with the world’s drying, fire-prone landscapes. Fortunately, a wool revival seems to be underway.
By JUDITH D. SCHWARTZ
Mark Sturges doesn’t advertise and clients have to find him by word of mouth, but find him they do. He’s become a master of an agricultural art as old as agriculture itself: basic compost.
By KRISTIN OHLSON
Photography by MARK STURGES and KRISTIN OHLSON
The town of John Day sits in the middle of Oregon’s High Desert country, threaded by an abused river, surrounded by a dying timber industry, and getting hotter and drier every year. Enter Nick Green, a new city manager, with grand, out-of-the-box ideas about rural sustainability. Can his vision survive?
by JULIET GRABLE
For generations, the Isbell family of Arkansas has been tinkering with innovations in rice farming. They were the first American farmers to grow elite varieties of rice for sushi and sake, and have pioneered rice cultivation methods that can conserve water and slow climate change.
Story by DAVID RAMSEY
Photography by KAT WILSON
When you put on a stylish jacket made of rayon, vegan leather, or even recycled plastic, are you sure you’re helping the planet more than if you had bought one made of animal leather? In this journey down a very twisted rabbit hole, sustainable fashion expert Alden Wicker, founder and editor-in-chief of EcoCult, finds answers that may not be particularly comfortable for the animal rights movement.
By ALDEN WICKER
Every few years, some new razor system hits the market pledging to save your face and your pocketbook. Virtually all of them miss the boat, because the golden age of shaving occurred 50 years ago. The good news is that all that vintage gear is still available, and a few entrepreneurs are now making beautiful modern versions. A visit with the American craftsmen who are making what might be the best of those razors.
Story and Photography by TODD OPPENHEIMER