Remember when sharing used to be a common neighborly activity? A cup of sugar or maybe a power drill didn’t seem so odd to lend to those that lived around you. In this day and age, it seems as though we are putting up more and more fences and letting fewer and fewer people into our personal lives. But the opposite is the case for a small community in Pyrites, New York.
I sat down with St. Lawrence Chaplain Kathleen Buckley to discuss the lifestyle that has brought her community together and benefitted the environment at the same time. She, along with around eight other homeowners, established a goal of sustainable living. Many of these homes are heated with passive solar energy, meaning harnessing sunlight for use as natural heat. Only a couple of the houses use active energy, using solar panels to convert solar power into electricity and heat. Buckley’s house specifically is heated with wood pellets. She uses about two tons of pellets annually, yet spends only $300-$600 on heating in an entire year.
The houses in this Pyrites community share many similar qualities, including an open floor plan that allows for heat to disperse equally throughout the home, double-insulated walls, triple-insulated roofing and triple-paned argon filled windows. All of the homes are orientated towards the south to maximize solar gain, and the roof shape maximizes winter sun while minimizing summer sun.
The main goals of this small community are to conserve energy and natural resources as much as possible. To do this, the community members try to shop and eat locally, grow their own food (including raising chickens), and freeze and can fruits and vegetables. In the future, the community hopes to host a variety of environmental awareness classes. When asked whether she saw these acts as a project, Buckley responded, “We don’t see it as a project, but more of a lifestyle choice to try to live simply and to use fewer resources by sharing.” Regarding her plans were for the future she said, “This is an ongoing project for which we are always looking for new ways to be more efficient and conserve as much as possible.”
Many members of the community have backgrounds in environmental studies and have dedicated much of their time to improving knowledge of sustainability in different parts of the world and within the North Country. An interesting quality that is common throughout the community is the idea of sharing resources. Buckley has her own fully stocked tool shed that she allows all community members to use. Others share what they can, including produce, tools and services. There have been several problems with this system of sharing but Buckley explained that the process “requires much more communication and coordination, when conflict arises we have to address it. It’s hard for some, but we try the best we can.”
The idea of sustainable living is not a new one, but recently it seems to be making progress in many places. It is nice to see that even a community as small as Pyrites has decided to put in the time and effort towards making the world a cleaner and healthier place.