What Is an Earthship and How It Can Help Save the Planet

Imagine living in a home that is completely self-sufficient, eco-friendly, and comfortable. A home that grows its own food, collects its own water, and generates its own power. A home that is not only functional and practical, but also beautiful and unique. A home that is in harmony with nature, and reduces your environmental impact and improves your quality of life.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it’s not. It’s an earthship.

An earthship home is a type of sustainable housing that is designed to be off the grid and in harmony with nature. It is built with natural and recycled materials, and uses renewable energy sources, rainwater harvesting, and contained sewage treatment. It also provides a healthy and comfortable environment, and grows its own food and compost.

In this article, we will explain what an earthship is, how it works, and how it can make your life better. We will also discuss the benefits and challenges of living in an earthship home, and how to find or build your own.

An image of an earthship with the titles What Are Off Grid Earthships.

Table of Contents

What Is an Earthship?

Image of earthship global

The concept of the earthship was first described by Michael Reynolds in 1971. He was an architect and a visionary, who wanted to create a new way of living that was independent, creative, and fulfilling. The concept came from wanting to create a home that was not dependent on the conventional systems of society, such as electricity, water, and sewage.

Michael Reynolds Pioneer of The Earthship

He wanted to create a home that was not harmful to the environment, but rather beneficial and regenerative. A home that was not boring and bland, but rather artistic and expressive.

To achieve this dream, he started to experiment with different materials and designs, and came up with the idea of using earth-packed tires, glass bottles, aluminum cans, and adobe to build the walls, floors, and roofs of the home. It was Reynolds that first came up with the idea of using passive solar design, water harvesting, and food production to create a healthy and comfortable environment. In addition, he also came up with the idea of using a U-shaped layout, which maximized the solar exposure and the living space.

Earthship concept drawing

Reynolds called his creation an earthship, because he saw it as a vessel that floated on the sea of life, rising and falling with the waves. He saw it as a home that was self-reliant, sustainable, and comfortable. A home that was not only a shelter, but also a machine, a garden, and a work of art.

His first earthship was designed in 1988, and since then, he has built hundreds of earthship homes around the world, in different climates and cultures. He’s also taught thousands of people how to build their own earthships, through workshops, books, and videos. The Earthship Biotecture Academy was founded in New Mexico, where he trains students in the principles and techniques of earthship construction and design. 

He has also faced many challenges and obstacles, such as legal, technical, and cultural barriers, that have tried to stop or limit his vision. Also, facing many critics and skeptics, who have questioned or dismissed his ideas. He’s faced several failures and mistakes along the way that have taught him valuable lessons and improvements.

But never giving up on his dream, he continues to spread his message and mission of earthships, to anyone who is willing to listen and learn. You can learn more about attending the Earthship Biotecture Academy.

How Does an Earthship Work?

An earthship works by addressing six basic needs: 

  1. Heating and cooling
  2. Solar and wind electricity
  3. Contained sewage treatment
  4. Building with natural and recycled materials
  5. Water harvesting
  6. Food production

By addressing these six needs, an earthship creates a self-sufficient, eco-friendly, and comfortable off-grid home that works with nature, not against it.

1. Thermal/Solar Heating and Cooling

Earthships use passive solar design to capture and store the heat from the sun, and use thermal mass to regulate the indoor temperature. An earthship home also uses natural ventilation, shading, and insulation to keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Earthship Thermal Heating and Cooling

The glass wall that faces the sun acts as a greenhouse, trapping the heat and creating a warm and humid environment. The plants in the greenhouse also help to purify the air and provide oxygen. The heat from the greenhouse is then transferred to the rest of the house through vents and fans, or stored in the walls and floors for later use.

The walls and floors of the earthship are made of earth-packed tires, which are filled with dirt and stacked like bricks. The tires act as thermal mass, absorbing and releasing heat slowly and evenly. The tires are also covered with adobe or plaster, which adds insulation and aesthetic value.