by RANDI CANTRELL | photos by Samantha Gleaton Photography

Earth-Friendly Family

James and Josie Petitt have lived in Vista for almost a decade. While James, an engineer with ViaSat, Inc., is originally from Albuquerque, NM, Josie grew up locally and graduated from Rancho Buena Vista High School before studying Evolution and Ecology at UC Davis. James received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University in New Orleans, and the two eventually crossed paths while playing arena soccer at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA. Josie reflected, “James played goalie, and I was a struggling defender. He kept using his great soccer skills to save my misses. Then we decided to go rock climbing and have been together ever since.” Their adventures together include living in Northern California while Josie pursued a Master’s in Environment and Community at Humboldt State, spending a summer set-net fishing for wild Alaska salmon on Kodiak Island, and, more recently, building the first straw bale home in the City of Vista.


Unique and completely earth-friendly, the house uses straw as insulation for the exterior walls and is constructed with more than 80 percent reused framing material. With the addition of a grey water plumbing system which reuses water from showers and sinks to water landscaping, rain barrels that collect 1,300 gallons of rainwater at a time for additional irrigation, and a three kilowatt solar panel electric system, it is clear that the Petitt family is doing everything they can to decrease their ecological footprint. They shared, “We feel that this is the responsible choice to make in order to care for our future generations.” Their home also contains recycled and upcycled items, including a once-abandoned farm sink, reused cabinets, and even a piece of plexiglass from one of the old Shamu tanks at Sea World.

Parents: James and Josie Petitt
Children: Cedar (10), Paisley (6)
Community: Vista
Hometowns: James – Albuquerque, NM; Josie – Vista
Occupations: James – Engineer; Josie – PK Operations Coordinator
Pets: Cat – Benny; Red-eared slider turtles – Turtley-Werteley, Tickle, and Tommy; and six chickens – Dove, Snowflake, Liberty, Sunshine, Chocolate, and Oreo
Favorite Places in Vista: Alta Vista Gardens, Moonlight Amphitheater, Frazier Farms, The Yellow Deli


As owner-builders of the project, the Petitts had a large role in both design and construction of their home. During the 30 months of planning and 19 months of construction, James and Josie led the construction schedule and hired subcontractors to help when needed. They also received an outpouring of support from volunteers in the community. “We had more than eight volunteer parties, averaging 25 people at each work party. Josie and her mom would prepare breakfast and lunch for the volunteers, and we would all work together to get as much accomplished as we could,” said James. “Their smiles and encouragement made the process worthwhile,” added Josie.


When they venture away from their beautiful home, the Petitts enjoy hiking and camping, as well as baking, watching their chickens, crafting, and riding their scooters to Josie’s parents’ house just up the street. James and Josie are also active on the PTA and School Site Council at Cedar and Paisley’s school. Both children play piano, and while Paisley enjoys dance and gymnastics, Cedar has taken an interest in robotics and computer programming. No matter what they’re up to, it’s all a part of their adventure together in Vista.