Garbage. According to Earth Fast Facts, each person throws away approximately four pounds of garbage every day. Also, 1/3 of all wastewater is used to only flush the toilet. According to the Clean Air Council, The United States makes up only 4% of the world’s population, yet it is the number one producer of garbage and each year, Americans throw out enough soda, cans, and bottles to reach to the moon and back—twenty times. Most of this garbage is continuously put into landfills, oceans, and undesirable places. However, some of this garbage is being transformed from unworthy items, to desirable belongings. One way trash is being made into a treasure is through homes called Earthships, created by Michael Reynolds. He declares the title biotect, like architect, put incorporates environmental awareness. Michael Reynold’s idea of using bottles, cans, and tires to build homes is out of the box, to a point where it doesn’t even meet current laws and regulations. He is trying to transform the world, one earthship at a time, to solve our trash crisis. He coined the title “Garbage Warrior” from a recent document about his out of this world homes. He says that, “housing is expensive, and people are not going to risk making it more expensive by doing things the codes and laws won’t allow.” However, he is willing to, and Earthship biotecture has lately evolved from some history, incorporates unique architecture, and is currently testing the law.
The history of Earthship Biotecture began to take shape in the 1970s with its founder Michael Reynolds, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati who has taken his work to a new level. There are three components he uses in his self-proclaimed “biotecture,” through Earthship homes. The goal of an Earthship is to create a home that is sustainable, can rely on natural energy sources, and is economically feasible to the average person. The homes he creates are mainly in Taos, New Mexico, where a community has been set up and where they are actually currently allowed. He, along with his staff makes these different looking homes in New Mexico because of the admirable climate to the structure of the home.
After a unique history, his different type of architecture was applied. Michael Reynolds took his education and put an evident twist to his architecture. He wanted to use materials that were easily accessible and close to the building site, including the use of recyclables. What makes Earthship’s unique are the walls that are made out of tires, then pounded with rammed earth to create stability. Then, cans and bottles are used as bricks, or fillers within the wall. Next there are several systems that are incorporated into the design. Water systems are used in the house, by collecting and storing water in a large tank, which is responsible for all water use throughout the home. Electricity systems are used thanks to solar panels, and wind turbines. Sewage systems are incorporated within the house by filtering toilet water to feed and water the gardens, responsible for the food production. Lastly, comfort systems utilize heating from the sun, and also from solar and wind energy. All these systems help make the home off the grid, and capable of all functions without the use of outside sources of energy.
The design of Earthships has resulted in regulatory problems. All of the unique architecture and systems behind Earthships, has an underlying factor, the law. As the planet is changing, the evolving regulatory system cannot keep up with the homes. In a web interview, Michael Reynolds shares the long process of receiving several permits needed to build any home. An overall building permit is needed for construction, along with a stamp by an architect or engineer. Also, a plumbing, electrical, and liquid waste permit is needed which look at the concepts of shelter, sanitation, and access to clean water. All of these permits are closely looked at when building Earthships because of their unique design. When building this type of home, there are many hoops to jump through. Earthsips can potentially be regulated but it may take years. In Michael Reynolds film Garbage Warrior, he passed a bill only in New Mexico called the Sustainable Testing Sites Act. This bill takes building sites and determines it as a test site. Government agencies allow for the construction of the building to be done first, and waits for approval afterwards. The present is being dealt with, and the future of Earthships and sustainable building has a path as well. Michael Reynolds focuses his building in “pockets of freedom,” or areas, like in secluded parts of Montana, where permits are not required at all. Also, third world countries are intriguing because of the lack of permitting, and there has been relief efforts in Haiti. He hopes that the pockets of freedom can help be an example and push for the construction of Earthships in more populated urban areas. Furthering the Sustainable Testing Sites Act currently calls for a potential executive order as well. This is where any power of a governor or president can mandate carbon-zero buildings and get a permit in only three days.
Earthship biotecture is a calling of the future, however to be able to take flight many obstacles must be met. The construction itself of the home costs no more than an ordinary home, and according to Dennis Weaver’s article in The Green Optimist, the monthly utility bill is only fifty dollars. Although it may takes years to get an Earthship approved in one of your communities, Michael Reynolds is promoting the building of these so called vessels, to eventually work towards construction throughout the whole country. By focusing on pockets of freedom and continuing fighting legal issues, an Earthship might soon make a landing in your own neighborhood. Earthship biotecture has lately evolved from some history, incorporates unique architecture, and is currently testing the law. However, the thought of what goes into the homes themselves makes you think what can be done with garbage in general. I challenge all of you to see what you can do to help the environment, whether it is living in an Earthship, or just recycling. Like Michael Reynolds, it is time for everyone to focus on sustaining our Earth, and ask yourself the question, what can I do to make the world a better place?
Watch “Garbage Warrior” in full length below!