During our holiday family gathering in New Mexico, we took the opportunity to go visit the Earthship educational center. We became interested in Earthships after we watched The Garbage Warrior, featuring eco architect Mike Reynolds.
Here’s the definition of an Earthship, according to Wikipedia:
An earthship is a type of passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials. Designed and marketed by Earthship Biotecture of Taos, New Mexico, the homes are primarily constructed to work as autonomous buildings and are generally made of earth-filled tires, using thermal mass construction to naturally regulate indoor temperature. They also usually have their own special natural ventilation system. Earthships are generally off-the-grid homes, minimizing their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels. Earthships are built to utilize the available local resources, especially energy from the sun. For example, windows on sun-facing walls admit lighting and heating, and the buildings are often horseshoe-shaped to maximize natural light and solar-gain during winter months. The thick, dense inner walls provide thermal mass that naturally regulates the interior temperature during both cold and hot outside temperatures. Internal, non-load-bearing walls are often made of a honeycomb of recycled cans joined by concrete and are referred to as tin can walls. These walls are usually thickly plastered with stucco.
The kids were all tired after a few days of skiing and hooked on the Undercover Boss television marathon, though this is often how their watching TV turned out…
You can imagine our surprise when they perked up when they heard about the Earthships and wanted to come see them. So, off we went.
The Earthship complex is about 15 miles out of Taos, literally in the middle of a desolate nowhere. I couldn’t even imagine how they sustain life out in this barren land – especially in the summer months when it’s hot.
Just when you think you’re lost, because you can’t see any dwellings and are thinking to yourself, who’d want to live out here anyways, you see some flat buildings in the distance.
The center itself is kind of trashy when you drive up, but that’s because they’re gathering materials and in process of building a huge structure.
To build an Earthship, you first gather garbage supplies like cans, bottles and used tires.
These raw materials, along with dirt (or sometimes a cob of sorts where New Mexican earth, straw and other things were mixed together), are used to create the structures, as below.
The structures are often quite fanciful and a lot of thought goes into bottle placement, by color and design. These photos below are a continuation of the half-built walls seen in the photos above, it’s just that the building process is a little further along.
Inside Earthships can look as “normal” or as funky as you like. Most Earthship owners must be funky people at core, because the insides often are whimsical or hobbit-like. (I love how they look but Thom wants it to look more normal if we ever do one.)
After 30 years of trial and error, they’ve figured out power and water systems and sell these standardized units for their standardized plans.
One central feature of an Earthship (besides complete self-sufficiency and sustainability) is that the front part of each home is a greenhouse. We visited this Earthship in the dead of winter (early January) with snow outside and there were tomatoes, herbs, lettuces, broccoli, peppers, and more.
Of course, you can’t get the family that’s spread around the world together without multiple photo ops, so here we go. The girls trying out model stances (I don’t think anyone’s going to hire us…).
It was impossible to get the guys all looking at the camera at the same time, so here’s the best we got.
Is there an Earthship in any of our futures???