Thursday, August 14, 2008


Last week while on a cross country road trip, I had the pleasure of seeing the Greater World Earthship Community in Taos, New Mexico. This is the world's largest self-sufficient residential development. It features expansive views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and 347 acres of commonly owned park land.

So, what is an Earthship?

Earthships were created by Michael Reynolds, a New Mexico architect, in the seventies. Over the past 35 years Reynolds has been perfecting these dwellings and has created a new form of architecture--biotecture he calls it--that employs by-products of modern consumption, like bottles and tires.

Earthships are completely sustainable. Not only are they built with recycled materials, they are built off of the grid, meaning they are not connected to municipal water supplies or utilities.

Water is caught on the roof when it rains and then pumped into the house for daily needs. Used water from cooking and cleaning (a.k.a. "grey" water) is harvested for interior gardening and it also goes in to the septic system. The "black" water is then pumped outdoors and used as fertilizer for exterior landscaping.

No air-conditioning or heaters are needed. The construction of the house, which employs solar and thermal heating & cooling, allows for a constant temperature of 70 degrees throughout the year.

Electricity is generated from solar panels and windmills.

Interior gardens provide food year-round.

Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler--Earthship owners don't get utility bills!

Even though the Earthships look a little like they came straight out of a Star Wars movie, they are actually quite "normal" inside. There are bedrooms, living rooms, bathtubs and showers, full kitchens, etc. You can cook on a gas stove and work on a laptop. (See the interior of the Phoenix Earthship here.)

There are three Earthship communities in Taos and demonstration Earthships around the world. The community I visited has nightly and weekly rentals available for people who want to experience living off of the grid. Click here for more information on Earthships. The Earthship site has tons of pictures, videos, and information!
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