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Inside the Homes Made of Trash

A new short explores the “radically sustainable” earthships of Taos, New Mexico.

Inside the Homes Made of Trash

From The Atlantic and filmmakers Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells comes the story of the Earthships, a community of unconventional off-grid homes in Taos, New Mexico. The buildings are 45 percent recycled materials, including tires, cans, and plastic bottles.

Michael Reynolds, who began building the trash-based abodes after he graduated from architecture school in the 1970s, is an interesting bird, what Lichtman calls an “anti-environmental environmentalist.”


“I’m so sick of ‘recycling’ and ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ and ‘organic,’” Reynolds says in the short film. “They’re rhetoric things. This is just my opinion, but...so many people are so righteous: ‘Why do you use concrete? Why do you use oil-based products?’ Who cares? I’ll use anything I can—even if it’s my mom’s down jacket—I’ll use anything to make buildings that show people they don’t need infrastructure.”

Most Earthships are built like horseshoes, so that their large, sun-facing windows can absorb as much sunlight and heat as they possible. The homes are completely independent from local utility grids, and collect energy from the sun and wind and water from the sky. Earthship dwellers—there are now about 65 homes in Taos—even use their own sewage and gray water to water and fertilize plants.

But these are no eco-hovels. Look at the inside of this Earthship, which is certainly more impressively furnished than my Apartmentship:

Image via Wikimedia Commons user Domenico, Karena

“I love living here,” Earthship resident Sally Margolin tells the filmmakers. (She and her wife have lived in their home since 1997.) “I like that you have to be very conscious living in an Earthship, conscious of what the sun is doing, conscious of the weather.”

Those who are interested in the Earthship lifestyle but not yet ready to live in a palace of tires can take advantage of another New Mexico venture: nightly Earthship rentals. “These rentals come with Wi-Fi and smart TVs, and have a bohemian-chic interior that will appeal to design-minded folk,” Lonely Planet writer Anita Isalska assures anxious travelers in the website’s 2014 ranking of top 10 “eco stays.”

Lichtman and Wells directed the short film for their podcast The Adaptors, which explores how earthlings are adapting to a changing planet.

(Via Grist. Cover image via Wikimedia Commons user Biodiesel33)

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