2020 has brought not only COVID-19, political and societal upheavals, but also the stark realization by millions of consumers that they simply consume and product (waste) too much. The personal-sustainability movement has been drawing more attention by the day and one of the most commonly asked questions that suburban and rural environmentalists have is, “what’s next?”. Tiny homes and off-the-grid huts have been creeping their way into mainstream media and the sustainability movement is faced with a dilemma: use new products to build efficient small homes, or go full frontal and use recyclables?
Eco-centric households are typically still connected to municipal power grids and water utility companies. While some places in the world offer options to rely on solar power via the regional power system (like in New York City), environmentalists may have a hard time partaking in the larger system when it is still tied to oppression of certain groups, and environmental degradation.
This is where Earthships come in! Originally developed by architecture innovator Michael Reynolds, Earthships are cropping up in popularity as more people are able to work remotely and don’t need to rely on close proximity to cities for work.
Earthships are composed 100% of recycled and earth-made materials. This means anything from old tires to steel grates, to mud can be used to construct the home. Adventurous architects revel in the use of recycled materials and there are definitely plenty of tires, the most common material for Earthship construction.
Indeed, ~2.5 million tires are discarded in the U.S. each year, and more than 2.5 billion rest around the planet in total. The only places where they can go from the landfill is to some sort of recycling purpose – so why not into the walls! Many Earthships also feature indoor foliage, like grass floors and walls, which help regulate temperatures and keep the home stable through wet and dry seasons!
The fundamental premises of Earthships are that they are self-reliant, they don’t tax the occupant or the Earth, and are incredibly unique. If architecture is about innovation and exploring resource use, Earthships definitely qualify as a right of passage for home developers.