2014, Environment  -   8 Comments
Ratings: 8.16/10 from 85 users.

Across a two acre stretch in New Mexico, a provocative experiment is taking place. These isn't the kind of test involving nuclear devices that we've come to expect in the desert, but one that attempts to imagine a sustainable society in the aftermath of such weaponry. After all, a post-apocalyptic landscape would require highly sustainable housing, and that's just what designer and ex-athlete Tom Duke has constructed. His unorthodox efforts are the subject of the documentary titled Earthships.

The houses look like futuristic throwbacks; part conventional and part science fiction. They're constructed with items most people disregard as useless trash. Glass bottles are used like bricks, sand filled tires lay the foundation for each structure, aluminum cans decorate the walls and spark a feeling of the majestic when met by the orange rays of the sun.

Inside, the walls are specially designed to absorb sunlight during the day, and expel heat at night. Thriving greenhouses, innovative ventilation systems and rows of windows further ensure constant and comfortable in-door temperatures. Gardens grow bounties of bananas, grapes and figs. Rainwater is collected and stored in wells, and later drained for use in the shower before being transferred to plants, toilets and outdoor vegetation. Yes, in an Earthship, even the toilet water is reusable.

The concept may sound wacky to some, but it's catching on larger pockets of the population, particularly as the modern world seems to veer deeper into chaos. Encouragingly for them, the cost of these houses has decreased substantially. The top-of-the-line model containing all the amenities - a structure known as the BMW of Earthships - sells for roughly the same cost as a traditional family home, but the energy savings incurred over years makes the investment even more appealing.

Duke guides through multiple housing models throughout the course of the film, explaining the special features in each, as well as the philosophies behind their construction. A seemingly average family man with a unique and valuable vision, he flies in the face of conventional wisdom regarding those who live off the grid. As told in Earthships, his story is not one of apocalyptic gloom and doom, but of hope, possibility and life-enhancing innovation.

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8 Comments / User Reviews

  1. LaMamaSims

    I really like the idea of reusing the water 3-4 times. I also like that he has plants growing off of his waste...after it's been cycled 4 times already. I'm loving all of the indoor plants as well. I'm wondering though, does he have any problems with bugs from all the plants and water? We kept two house plants in for the winter (never put them outside) and got so tired of the little gnats that we stopped growing plants indoors (except for in our aerogardens..they seem to be the only ones that don't cause bugs indoors). Thanks for the video! Very informative and the guys have some great ideas.

  2. Lee

    Whole lot of "free bricks"...Very cool...Sure as hell is a first step in a society that is otherwise bent on "waste."

  3. Mateusz

    Hi, everyone-)
    All I've got to say it this: if it is indeed sustainable and looks well into the bargain, I can't see any reason to run it down verbally.
    It seems a great project to me, although - sadly - not so easily tranferable into colder climates, and if one needs to commute than the means of transport is always an issue.
    Yet, on the whole, it is one of the more positive initiatives one can see implemented and shown inmedia.
    I would be interested to know more details, in fact.
    With kind regards,

  4. tref

    Eh.. talking about being simplistic and 'just for survival' but then moves on to talk about heating water for showering with sun collectors (survival, hot showers?). And just a bit later he talks how precious water is but still the smartest thing they came up with is a water toilet? I appreciate the idea and what they are trying to do (the use of tires was nice) but this got really silly, really quick.

  5. TheReality

    What a waste of time. For this bunch of idiots.

  6. Lindal

    The design is exceptional for the desert. Its also expensive to build. The design does not work well in the humid southeast.

  7. Nanette Ward

    YAY!! I have never heard of Duke - and the idea of his selling houses making money make me puke. So much for the warm fuzzy.
    I hope this Doc gives CREDIT to the Man who is Due.
    I would forgo the off-gassing rubber and go for my fav 'rubble' trench & French drain.

    Otherwise, I am a super-ardent preacher of all things earth-built. I could have a bidding war on my earth-building library if I so chose. lol

    One obstacle is the gasoline to go to and fro. NOTHING is close to them. Water (fuel cell) cars would be ideal. Extra tires, spare parts, tools, etc. Maybe a cheezy pop-up tent roof thing like that use at Farmer's Markets. - Keeps one out of the sun if need be, and they're compact.

    You can make a solar cooker out of an angled cut in the earth, line it with used CDs. :)

    I tell people all the time - "We're all gong to be Amish pretty quick here."

  8. Danielle Williams

    What is the exact location in New Mexico?