How a Northern NY couple live a low-impact lifestyle

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) From the wise words of Henry Thoreau-- you need food, fuel, shelter and clothing in order to live. I'd say Rob Roy has that down.

"Long story short-- we found this property. Now, we can provide our own food, fuel, shelter and, well, clothing we usually buy," Roy said with a laugh.

Roy, the director of the Earthwood Building School, built the homes himself using a cordwood masonry style. That's where you stack logs transversely and bind them together with insulated mortar which is Portland cement-based. Roy told me if building it yourself, it could cost $40-$50 per square foot.

"We need cheap shelter and I wanted to be mortgage-free," Roy said.

They also save on their energy bill using solar power and 12 golf cart batteries.

"I have sucked up 1 gallon of water of out the well [using a bicycle-driven pump] and I've pushed in into this 80-gallon water holding tank," Roy said.

So, no water bill either but he definitely gets his workouts in.

"If I do it 30 more years, I'll live to be 100," he said.

For food, his wife, Jaki, maintains the raised gardening bed.

Roy said he spends about $500 a year on firewood. All that wood is to heat his home. The main house is an earth-sheltered home.

"Forty percent is tucked into the hillside," he explained.

And you might notice the "living roofs" on top of the buildings. Beneath the grass, there are several layers of material including a planking roof, a waterproofing membrane, 4 inches of installation and a draining system. I asked if they were durable and Roy thought that was pretty funny.

"This will support 130 pounds per square foot. You could have 400 130-pound people and it wouldn't fail," Roy said.

The biggest thing Roy emphasizes is taking the time to do something yourself.

"I always say a dollar saved is worth so much more than a dollar earned because we have to earn so many dollars to save so precious few," Roy said. "That's my philosophy."

And Roy says in addition to being cheap, these homes will last at least 100 years.

The Roys teach classes on Cardwood Masonry. Click here for more information.