Earthships: Calling All Earthlings

Here is something you may not have heard about. I hadn’t heard about it either until a few weeks ago. It’s a trend in sustainable green housing and homebuilding that is spreading across the globe and even locally.

What are Earthships? They’re all about sustainable design and the creation of self-sufficient home systems, i.e., electricity, water, sewage, heating and cooling. The ultimate goal is to construct homes that have a “zero carbon footprint”. They are built and function without fuel, and ideally, they can produce a significant amount of food, so they should cost little or nothing to operate.

The real hallmark of the Earthship homes is the use of tires. If you’re driving down a road and see a structure made of tires and solar panels, it’s probably an Earthship. And the idea is that all other materials used in the construction are discarded—no new materials get used, so that is how a zero carbon footprint is achieved.

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The architect behind the company-movement-trend is Michael Reynolds. He’s been working to perfect the concept for 40 years. While there are different models to choose from, they are designed to meet standard building code requirements so you can get a permit no matter where you reside. One of Reynold’s key objectives was to make housing so affordable that people all over the world, of any means, could own a home.

Plants are an essential component of Earthships. Not only are they aesthetic and can contribute to reducing the grocery bill, but they also function to maintain the air quality of the home. Those of you familiar with grey water recycling will be interested to learn that in Earthships, grey water from the sink or tub is recycled and purified by feeding through an indoor planter before being used to flush the toilet.

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For people living in and around Ottawa, you can get in touch with local residents who share a passion for Earthships.  They have information on adapting designs for Eastern Ontario and the laws and regulations related to building one in this area. From what I’ve read, they get together regularly and you can even volunteer to work on an Earthship under construction in order to gain some experience. 

You don’t have to leave the “galaxy” to find an Earthship: in fact, one is under construction now about 40 minutes south of downtown Ottawa, near Kemptville.
But, if you want to get really adventurous and go to the Earthship Visitor Center in Taos, New Mexico, you can actually rent an Earthship house for a night and try it out!

The official Earth Ship website