Over the years, as I’ve become more and more in touch with the ways of green and natural living, I’ve started to become more aware of the things in my home that aren’t quite what they could be. We rent now for a variety of reasons, but one reason I’m grateful for that is because we’ll have the opportunity to build the house of our dreams when we’re ready.

Researching the best ways to build that dream home is something I’ve developed quite a passion for. During my research, I stumbled upon a concept that I find pretty fascinating: Earthships.

No, I’m not planning to blast off the earth in a ship. But I am planning to build a home that has everything we need to live sustainably on earth, and you can live in a sustainable Earthship, too.

If you haven’t yet heard of Earthships, you’ll likely find them just as fascinating as I do if you care deeply about our planet. Here are some of the main features that make a home a sustainable Earthship.

Use of totally natural and/or recycled materials

A focus on the use of local materials is of great importance in the construction of an Earthship. The focus is on sustainability and accessibility of materials.

The most common materials that create the outer walls of an Earthship are old, recycled tires stuffed with earth. Then those tires are covered in mud. Recycled glass bottles and cans can be used to make more colorful and unique interior, non-weight-bearing walls.

The use of these materials has a variety of benefits. They are more durable and resilient than traditional building materials like wood. They hold up better in earthquakes and they don’t rot or become susceptible to termites over time.

Little to no need for heating or cooling systems

Did you know that our planet is capable of delivering temperature stability without the need for pipes or wires? The sun is basically a nuclear power plant and the planet is a thermally stabilizing mass.

The materials used to build Earthships take advantage of the natural properties of earth to maintain comfortable temperatures in nearly all climates. Depending upon the climate in your region, you can adjust the design of your Earthship to accommodate your heating and cooling needs naturally.

Total power autonomy

The design of Earthships allows them to survive off the power grid (or it can be tied in, depending upon your needs). They are designed to produce their own electricity by using solar power and/or wind power.

The energy is collected and then stored in giant batteries, which in turn routes electricity into your home. You can have all the comforts of a modern home in an Earthship with the right design.

This Earthship is in Taos, New Mexico. Photo credit: Sue Stokes / Shutterstock.com
This Earthship is in Taos, New Mexico. Photo credit: Sue Stokes / Shutterstock.com

Sustainable, optimized water collection and use

While Earthships can have city water run to them, it’s not always necessary. Earthships are designed to collect water when it rains and snows.

That water is then used four times. The first time it’s used to bathe or wash dishes. It’s then cleaned and used to water indoor gardens. It’s then filtered again and used to flush toilets. Finally, it’s treated and used to water outdoor gardens.

Nothing goes to waste in the water use design, and the groundwater is never polluted, either.

Increased food independence

As mentioned above, Earthships are typically designed to have indoor and outdoor gardens. Because of the design of the water collection and use system, gardens can be watered using water filtered after other household uses.

You can grow pretty much any fruit or vegetable you want in your Earthship with the right plan. See the chart at the bottom of this page for more details on choosing plants for your Earthship.

Completely contained sewage treatment system

We discussed gray water being used to flush toilets after it has watered the indoor gardens. This gray water does not smell and is much more eco-friendly than using fresh water in your toilets.

In addition, once the gray water has been used to flush the toilets, it’s treated and ready to feed your outdoor garden. Don’t worry, the systems are designed to then flow to a conventional leach field, so there’s no worry about the treated water polluting aquifers. It’s really a well-thought-out design!

Examples of Earthships to inspire your design

This Earthship was created from bottles, tires and concrete. Photo credit: IrinaK / Shutterstock.com
This Earthship was created from bottles, tires and concrete. Photo credit: IrinaK / Shutterstock.com

Now that you know the general makings of an Earthship, let’s look at a few of the more popular designs. Earthships can come in all shapes and sizes!

If you’re not an architect, and you don’t want to hire one who’s well versed in Earthships, then your best bet is to go with the Global Model. It’s the most tested and built model to date, so you know it’s a good plan to go by. It’ll cost you about $230 per square foot to build the Global Model.

If that’s a bit rich for your blood (even though you’ll be able to rid yourself of most monthly household expenses) and you just want to get off the grid, then you’ll want to look at a Simple Survival design. You won’t get all the bells and whistles you can pack into the Global Model, but you will get what you need to survive.

Yet another option is to go with a Packaged Model. This design has some pre-fabricated components, so you don’t get as much flexibility in the design. However, you can lean on the expertise of the Earthship Biotecture to consult with you or even build your Earthship for you.

EcoWatch put together a stunning collection of Earthship photos you have to check out! It’s amazing how many different ways there are to style an Earthship.

Buy an already-built Earthship

Recycled tires make up a decorative element on one Earthship. Photo credit: Kangwan Nirach / Shutterstock.com
Recycled tires make up a decorative element on one Earthship. Photo credit: Kangwan Nirach / Shutterstock.com

Want to live in an Earthship without needing to design and build your own? There are plenty of Earthships for sale around the country. There are also Earthship Villages where you can live near other like-minded people who care about the earth as much as you do.

Would you consider living in an Earthship? Why or why not?

Featured image courtesy of IrinaK / Shutterstock.com

By Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.