Earthships: hokey name, rad idea
The idea is this (quoted directly from their website): to have a home that “causes no conflict, no stress, no depletion, no trauma to the planet earth. Just as the human body is a result of the various systems that support it – (circulatory systems, nervous systems, respiratory systems, etc…) so must the Earthship be a product of the systems that support it. In view of this, we have made the Earthship systems both understandable and available to the common everyday human. Systems are generally 25 percent of the construction cost of a home, providing little to no utility bills every month.”
They’re built entirely from natural and recycled materials, including dirt, tires, and glass bottles. They collect and filter rainwater, making it potable. Electricity is supplied by solar and wind power. There are built-in greenhouses to grow food year-round, and other plants help out with certain aspects of home maintenance. They’re not expensive to build and cost almost nothing to live in.
Probably the most interesting thing about the design is the way the walls are built and how efficient they are at maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature regardless of what’s going on outside. Large, south-facing windows allow the sun to come in and hit the ‘thermal mass’ i.e. the structure of the house, which is composed of car tires filled with compacted dirt. They act like a heat sink, trapping heat, and releasing it slowly if the air cools, reabsorbing it if it gets hot again, keeping your home at a happy 70 degrees (21 C). And you don’t need a team of experts. You can do it yourself. Pretty damn cool, huh?
The other half of the equation
The environment isn’t the only consideration when we talk about sustainability. The way we live our lives should also be psychologically sustainable, not just for you personally, but in a way that doesn’t have a negative effect on future generations. Too many people work jobs they don’t enjoy, or work 2 jobs just to be able to afford all the bills. As a society, we lose out on what those people would have had to offer if they were relaxed and inspired instead of stressed and run-down.
The focus of earthships is really on living in symbiosis with the natural environment, but think of the effects that this kind of architectural ideology would also have on the inhabitants. Parent’s would have more time to teach and support their kids. Without having to worry about where food is coming from or who’s paying the bills, you have a greatly increased ability to engage in projects and activities that interest you and that could be of benefit to society as a whole. These homes bring their inhabitants self-sufficiency.
Self-sufficiency brings self-determination. And that’s something we’ve lost hold of and NEED to get back for ourselves. These buildings do that for you by being “radically sustainable.”
Just to be clear, this isn’t where you go out in the desert or the woods, build yourself a hut with sticks and hunt your dinner. You have modern appliances and comforts, you just do it in a way that’s sustainable and doesn’t require your participation in global destruction on a massive scale.
And what are the sacrifices you have to make? You can’t use more energy than you can produce, but you already know, deep down, that you really shouldn’t be watching Jersey Shore, anyway. If you’re thinking about building your own home, this is definitely something to consider.