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Whether we like it, or even believe it, the inhabitants of Planet Earth live in a world of constant crisis. Prospects for our future seem bleaker every day as economic, environmental, and energy concerns dominate the political landscape, hold the promise of collapse and cast a shadow of doubt over tomorrow.

While it has been said that a revolutionary change in the way we live our lives is our only hope of abating these dilemmas, very few real solutions have been offered. However, a small shift in the framing of this issue may very well be the key to that transformation. Following are a few (very) exciting examples!

Sustainability enthusiasts the world over are embracing a new way of life in response to these 21st-century issues by focusing on where we live, rather than how. Instead of living in typical houses, which carry the promise of lifelong debt and "on the grid" water and energy dependence, these pioneers inhabit self-sustaining and beautifully unique homes made almost entirely of recycled materials, known as Earthships.

EARTHSHIPS! What a beautiful concept! But what, exactly does it mean?

Earthships are the brainchild of world famous architect Michael Reynolds, who has spent the past four decades perfecting a style of home building called  Biotecture,  an approach that emphasizes sustainability, livability and affordability. What this means in that the home should care for its inhabitants instead of vice versa.

 Reynolds has finally conceived of a structure that satisfies human needs for water, food, shelter, and energy and is built from materials that would otherwise be trash sitting in a landfill. In our world of crisis, Earthships offer an alternative dwelling for a new way of life that is beneficial to its inhabitants as well as the planet.

One Man's Trash is Another Man's Home
Though you would never guess it when looking at a finished Earthship, these beautiful buildings are made largely from used and discarded tires and recycled soda cans and bottles. The tires are filled and packed tightly with dirt using a sledgehammer, resulting in a type of brick that is then laid out and stacked according to the specifications of the Earthship. Then, mud is used like a mortar to fill in the spaces between the tires . Builders also use glass bottles to build up walls as well as for decorative purposes.  Then the frame is finished and covered with stucco or plaster. Since earthships are made primarily of these recycled materials, they are relatively inexpensive to build. In fact, some places will even pay you to take their used tires. As a result, the cost of building an Earthship is drastically lower than the cost associated with a conventional home.

The Driving Force of Life

Relying on recycled materials for its construction is not the only way that Earthships interact with and benefit the environment. In fact, it is just one of many. Earthships are built on the premise that water is precious and limited,  a reality that has become increasingly recognized and troubling in recent years. As a result,  Earthships use rainwater to supply the household rather than drawing it from the ground or local water supplies. Rainwater is channeled from the roof into cisterns that then feed the water into an organizing module that filters and pumps the water into the home for consumption. Pretty nifty, right? But the Earthship continues to make use of the water even after its initial consumption. In fact, it uses it four different times in all. After its initial use such for conventional activities such as bathing and washing clothes and dishes, the water, now considered "greywater," is pumped into the indoor botanical cells (which we will get into in a moment) and the toilet. After the toilet is used and flushed, that water, known now as "brown water" is then pumped to a separate filter where it is treated and used by outdoor botanical cells or contained in septic systems.    

The Sun is Shining

In line with increasing electrical trends, Earthships rely on solar and/or wind power for their electricity needs. Solar panels make use of the sun's energy and store the power in batteries similar to what would be used to power a golf-cart. The electricity is then converted to AC and then channeled to an organizing system that can be easily wired by electricians to supply power throughout the Earthship. While some might be skeptical about using solar and wind energy to provide electricity to their dwellings for fear that zero winds and a cloudy day might result in shortages, but fear not. Earthships are naturally heating and cooling thermal mass and solar homes. By being vaulted into the earth with massive glass windows facing the sun, maintaining a steady temperature requires little more than opening and closing the shades. This is yet another way in which Earthships are drastically less expensive than conventional alternatives.  Furthermore, this method of insulation, production and consumption is less vulnerable to fluctuating energy costs as it is free from exploitation by corporate and political middlemen. As electricity expenses are sure to rise as fossil fuels and other energy resources diminish all around the world, Earthship owners are sure to be shielded from the impending crisis by virtue of living harmoniously with the earth's natural rhythms.

The Earth Shall Provid
Earthships also provide for the nutritional
needs of inhabitants. If gardening is an art, an Earthship is a canvas. Varyings degree of sunlight and warmth can be found throughout the structure, and botanical cells are placed all around the Earthship to provide a variety of growing conditions. Therefore, growing many different food producing plants is simply a matter of locating the right location for each plant. Plants receive regular watering when inhabitants bathe or run their washing machines. Since the buildings provide for these basic needs, indoor gardens are found in most Earthships. While some plants are there for aesthetic purposes, most inhabitants use them as nutritional sources.  Interestingly, banana trees are one of the most popular plants among Earthship owners.

Earthships are sustainable homes for a sustainable future. While sustainability is the name of the game when it comes to Earthships, these buildings are also among the most beautiful homes that we have ever seen. While one might expect to pay exorbitant amounts of money to live in homes like these, the fact is that they are very affordable. All one has to do is get more information and purchase plans from to ensure that your Earthship will meet local codes and regulations, gather some used tires and start building.  If you're looking for a truly green lifestyle and a future of independence, Earthships may very well be the answer for you. 

Without a doubt, we here at Dish Magazine have yet to find a more effective path to sustainability and financial freedom! / Issue 168 - September 2018
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