Earthships. What are they? Are they talking about the Earth as a ship, or what exactly? Makes sense right? Sailing thru space and such. While I already knew the answer, I figured why not learn more locally if I can, so I did. Running ‘Anything Aquaponics’ here in Seattle, I have been interested in integrating Earthships into system designs for some clients, and having seen it done on a small scale I reached out to ‘Earthships Seattle’. They encouraged me to join their Meetup group and attend a meeting.
This past Monday I had the great fortune of dropping in on an Earthships Seattle meeting. Some attendees and myself were greeted by the host Florian at the door and ushered inside. Being among the first to arrive, we mingled while consuming the delicious appetizers as more members poured in. The food was just as diverse as the group; Individuals from all over the country, Central America and Europe. Stuffed peppers, pressed chocolate, and fresh bread from a Ballard bakery were among the many delightful hors d’œuvres. Once the group swelled to just over 20 folks the meeting formally began.
Event Organizer Sophie initiated a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ style of introductions to go around the room. Most people appeared to be new to the ‘ships’ as they are referred in these circles, but we privy to the concept and were inspired to drop in and learn more. A few members of the group have completed the Earthship Academy workshops and have built multiple ships all over the world. Tele-conference was also conducted for those who could not physically attend, but were still interested.
Following the introduction session a video clip from Democracy Now on Earthships was put on. The piece was on Michael Reynolds (the father of Earthships) the story behind the movement. One topic he covered that I bring up in my aquaponics classes is establishing local food security as a social dissent deterrent. Put more succinctly: feed hungry people and they are less likely to commit crimes.
Mr. Reynolds’ sense of humor was acceptably dry and industrious; poking fun at the global market machine by referring to glass bottles, soda cans, and used tires as ‘indigenous to all continents’. When questioned about his Architecture license being revoked by the government he confirmed the case. Reynolds went on to describe that because Earthships are so efficient and different that they do not abide by modern architecture’s international building code standards. After losing his license he came up with the term ‘Biotecture’, which ended up being the latter half of his new business ‘Earthship Biotecture’.
Other key points on the video to bring up for anyone not familiar are rather unbelievable to newbies. Benefits such as year-round indoor gardening, constant regulated temperature, solar/wind/alt power sources, and Eachship boasting a utility bill grand total of under $100 per year; those are the main head turners. Structures are on average comprised of 45% recycled or upcycled materials, and the rest purchased.
Upon the videos end, hearing their stories over the course of the night was rather inspiring. Some of the certified ship builders had actually spent months with Reynolds. From what I was able to gather, these homes average out to the same expense per square foot as a modern home. While that may be true, to this writer the benefits of Earthships drastically outweigh the plain functionless structure of the cookie-cutter boxes most of us call home.
Local Earthship events were mentioned as well if you feel like getting involved. What the group has dubbed the ‘Trash Studio’ is located in the Columbia City neighborhood of South Seattle. It is near completion and they have setup the final few workshop days on their Meetup.com page. Upcoming workshops are on the following dates and you can RSVP on their Meetup page: 3/16, 3/20, 3/27, and 3/29.
There are a variety of other opportunities for Earthships to be built in Western Washington which were mentioned, many of which are still up in the air, and our state’s legislators make it very difficult to approve plans. There are ways to work with city/county inspectors to get these projects accomplished and I’m sure there will be more information available as those respective projects move along.
About this time the meeting concluded and some people disembarked for home. I stayed and talked more in depth with those who stuck around, as well as signed up for some volunteer positions on the board. My aquaponics company keeps me busy, but there is enough downtime to contribute my time to helping this group get these ships in the ground (not off it).
If you are one of the people who actually practices being the change you want to see in the world, rather than just saying it, then you should definitely join this group! There are many other positions available for people to join this great group of skilled enthusiasts and certified builders. Workshops, meetings, and even road-trips to Earthships are among the activities they hold.
I personally had a fantastic time and am excited to play a role in the group. Can totally see myself turning from a professional Aquapon into a bit of a E-shipper/Shippie or whatever the proper moniker is. Please find them on meetup.com or on Facebook.