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August 15, 2022

Are Earthship Homes the Answer?

For over 30 years, a group of sustainably-focused folks have been living off-the-grid in Earth-sheltered living in Taos, New Mexico. Now, the rest of the world wants to follow suit.

While early pandemic headlines across the United States warned of shortages on everything from toilet paper to meat, one group of Americans felt immune to the tumult.

Out on a high desert mesa of northern New Mexico, this group lives off-the-grid in Earth-sheltered “vessels” that capture rainwater, produce energy and even foster indoor plants with runoff water. They settled in the desert back in the 1970s with humble intentions: to build a wholly-sustainable community. But the Earthship residents are now experiencing their moment of fame as many Americans are looking for alternative, less consumptive lifestyles.

“When the news shows water pipes freezing because the power lines have gone down or the high cost of propane for heating and then [queues of people] waiting in line for water, people will inevitably think, This is not that secure,” said Earthship Biotecture founder Michael Reynolds. “While all that was happening, I was walking down my hallway barefoot harvesting tangerines and tomatoes.”

With his shoulder-length long blond hair, twangy American accent, and unfaltering commitment to sustainability, Reynolds is an architect-turned-movement leader. His ultimate goal? Living within the Earth’s bounds.

“We know this is available now. It is not rhetoric, it is not a pie-in-the-sky idea,” said Reynolds. Far from it.

As of late, sustainably-built, off-the-grid shelters are now global, sprouting up everywhere from Asia to the Caribbean. And since a big component of Earthship life is offering sustainable solutions at all price points, house designs are available as part of an app.The academy offers in-person and online classes, teaching sustainable building techniques, concepts and designs; classes range from $1,200 to around $2,700. For example: the Earthships in Taos mesa typically run around $600,000. They are also immensely popular. At time of writing, there is no additional inventory available as each vessel is already booked.

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