The newest surprise climate-saving tool is straw walls, and the Big Bad Wolf may have underestimated the First Little Pig’s shelter, the Washington Post reports. Instead of drywall or insulation, contractors stack the farm waste around buildings’ skeletons and then coat it with plaster. The eco-friendly result looks like stucco and keeps buildings cool.
Running as thick as 22 inches, the walls take up more space than standard construction. Other drawbacks include high labor costs and the potential for composting if moisture sneaks in. But the International Straw Bale Building Registry proudly lists 538 projects that include the stalks. "It's just so alive," says an architect who put a straw addition on his house. (Read more ecology stories.)