Going all in with an Earthship
When it comes to sustainability, environmental friendliness and energy efficiency, what’s your limit? How far are you ready to go in the service of your planet and your fellow human? This is not an insignificant question, and it’s not an easy question to answer. It’s important to keep in mind that people around the world – even people within a single neighbourhood – have different resources available to them, different responsibilities and different beliefs or understandings. There is no one answer the question, because not everyone is going to be able to go as far as others. For some, installing some simple tools like an EcoSwitch in their homes and opting to wear a jumper during the colder months is all they can handle – and no one can really say that they are wrong without knowing the details of their lives intimately.
For others – and maybe for you – their commitment to improving the world’s use and management of resources for generations to come goes all the way to an Earthship.
Off the Grid
What’s an Earthship? In a nutshell it’s not a ship at all, but rather a house following the design leadership of architect Michael Reynolds, who conceived of the concept in the 1970s. An Earthship is not a single, monumental design for a home, but rather a collection of commitments.
Earthships are built out of 100% recycled materials, like old tires or even soda cans – any material that can be reclaimed and formed into a reliable and safe building material. Earthships are designed to be completely off-grid, relying on solar panels built into the structure for power needs (and thus are able to reduce electricity use from the grid to 0%) and rainwater collection for water supplies. Earthships are designed, in short, to run completely naturally, relying on superior insulation for cooling and heating, and the wind, sun, and rain for all other needs.
Total Commitment to Saving Energy
Earthships are Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects – there is no company currently offering to design and build them for you, although plenty of resources exist. About 2,000 Earthships exist in the world today, and their owners are generous with the details of their design, construction, and the challenges they have faced in getting them built and working at peak efficiency. They are also very proud of how they’ve been able to reduce energy use in their lives to essentially zero.
As more and more Earthships are built they are slowly becoming more mainstream, especially as more people asses the costs of the ‘traditional’ energy-guzzling lifestyle. As more and more people seek to reduce their personal power consumption, they are discovering that they are limited by a conspiracy of traditional design and construction techniques. Plainly put, traditionally-built homes are not designed for energy saving, and no matter how committed you are, you typically run up against hard limits regarding how energy efficient your home can be through insulation and thermostat monitoring. Even the introduction of solar power and rainwater collection systems in a traditional home cannot match the zero-waste and zero-emission status of an Earthship.
Energy Saving Fundamentals
Earthships are carefully designed to take advantage of every possible natural resource. They are often designed to be built into hillsides or caves to take advantage of the natural insulation of the Earth itself as well as reduce the amount of materials and resources needed for construction. Since they are DIY projects, they often incorporate the personalities of their owners, with some incorporating greenhouses and livestock to make their owners truly 100% independent.
Earthships are not minor projects. They are expensive (typically costing $200,000 or more) and there are often challenges in local regulations – many local governments do not understand their construction, and getting required permits can be a challenge. It takes dedication and commitment – and personal resources. That’s why you have to start off with the simple question: How far are you prepared to go in the service of future generations? There are no wrong answers – but if your personal answer is ‘all the way,’ then an Earthship may be for you.