Preserving Your Eco System Through The Hot Summer

As the world progresses into technology, building, creating revolutionising, so does the risk of damage to our ecosystem. We can see it as each year passes. Hotter summers, colder winters. Global warming is taking hold. While some people aren’t taking much attention to what is going on around them, there is action that everyone could take. Sometimes focusing on your own ecosystem can have a bigger impact in years to come. This is taking into consider the likes of soil, water and air in your surrounding area. With that in mind, here are some tips on how you can preserve your ecosystem and encourage people to do the same. The more people who get involve in small changes, the bigger impact it can make.

Making the most of water available

Rain is a fundamental part of everyday weather. Some people get more of it that others. But what we can all do is save that rainwater. Installing a rainwater tank in your water to collect rain from the roof, gutters and what falls into can be a great water saver in the future. Rain water can then be used up for things like watering your garden on the hotter days. Therefore underground water reserves in the ground.

Consider your recycling

We can all recycle a plastic bottle and tin can. We should hopefully have different bins that aid us to be more thoughtful about our environment and recycling. But there is still a problem with waste. This is why it’s worth trying to make more of your recycling habits. Perhaps reusing things or recycling things further. Our ecosystem can be affected by waste. The chemicals it can give off but also the damage it can cause to the land.

Make more of your outside space

While you can’t exactly plant hundreds of trees to replace the ones that are being demolished each day, you can make more use of your outside space. Plant trees. But also think about your local community. Perhaps there are green areas that could be used better.

Use recycled products

Buying products in the home that can be recycled is a great way to protect your ecosystem. But also buying products that have been created with recycled goods is just as effective. You are making a point of using alternative products and actually seeing that they are just as good. This may encourage other people to do the same. If people were more responsible with the choices they make they could be helping preserve the ecosystem more than they realise.

Think of your carbon footprint

Finally, making changes to your general habits can be a great way to preserve your ecosystem this summer. Especially as the weather is so good. You could consider leaving the car at home and walking to your destinations. Not only are you saving on the carbon footprint you make, but you are also getting regular exercise.

I hope this has enlightened you in a few different areas where you could make a real change.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Sustainable and Budget-Wise Living go Hand in Hand

By Helen Young


Many people assume that sustainable living is expensive and a luxury that only the very wealthy can afford. After all, organic vegetables cost more than regular vegetables,  and organic and sustainable living is very popular in the most affluent as well as the most forward-thinking areas of the country. 

This is a huge misconception.

Anyone can choose to live a sustainable lifestyle and pay attention to the environmental impact of the food they eat each day, and this can go hand in hand with budget living. In fact, you may even find that living sustainably is cheaper than living a mainstream lifestyle! Thinking about making the move to sustainable living and eating but have no real idea where to start? Here are a few hints and tips to gently introduce yourself to sustainable living:

Think About Where Your Food Comes From
One of the first and most simple changes to make if you’re working towards sustainable and environmentally friendly living is to think about where your food comes from. Of course surest way to eat sustainably is to grow and produce everything you eat yourself; but whilst some people may relish the idea of starting their own small vegetable patch, very few will have the land available to grow absolutely everything they need. If that’s the case then why not try to source all of your fruit and vegetables from local organic farmers instead? There are many benefits that come from buying direct from your local farm: firstly you’ll know where your food is coming from and can speak to the farmer directly about their growing methods and any chemical processes they may use. In buying locally you’ll also minimize the number of food miles your veggies have to travel before they reach your plate thus lowering the ultimate carbon footprint of their production. Concerned about your budget? It may surprise you to know that buying your veggies directly from where they’re grown is often cheaper than heading to the grocery store, provided the veggies you are looking for are in season and plentiful. Farmers are often pleased to sell on their surplus at a lower price, particularly items that don’t meet the grocery stores stringent aesthetic rules about size and shape but are otherwise tasty and delicious.

Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
It is the simplest of all sustainable methods and one that most children are taught at elementary school. Reuse, reduce, recycle. Reuse whatever items you can, reduce the amount of waste you send to land fill, and recycle whenever possible. Yet it is mind boggling and amazing how few adults manage to stick to this simple lesson! If your keen to make your home a more sustainable environment then start thinking about the waste you are producing; what could you be recycling, what could you be reusing? Small changes, such as purchasing a reusable shopper bag and using it in lieu of a plastic bag whenever you visit your local store is a very minor change but can have a big impact. Reusing and recycling can also help you to save money; you simply need to readjust your mindset and think creatively about the additional purposes goods you might ordinarily throw away could serve.

Work With The Wider Community                     
One of the most important ways that you can begin your journey towards a sustainable lifestyle is by embracing the sustainable community and working together with your own community leaders. This will prove particularly useful if you are new to the concept of sustainability and would like some guidance and support: there are many local sustainability groups located throughout the country. Here you will be able to swap hints and tips, organic growers will be able to share or swap any surplus of produce and you may even find a volunteer network that you can join with the aim of supporting local projects and simultaneously spreading the sustainable message.

There’s no denying that true sustainable living is hard work and will take a huge amount of dedication. But it is possible to begin taking steps towards sustainable living, and bring an important sustainable message to your family, without making too many significant changes to your existing lifestyle.

Helen Young is a contributing writer to Better Farm's blog. She worked in health for more a decade before becoming a mother made her reassess things. With work being so busy and intense, she wanted to step back, spend more time with her babies while they were still young, and develop her passion for writing. Helen's work covers many topics from physical and mental health topics to food, nutrition
and sports.

Working Toward Zero Waste

Two years' worth of waste at Sandwich Me In in Chicago.
The Huffington Post last month reported on a restaurant that hasn't produced more than a bag of trash in more than two years because of its commitment to reusing, composting, and buying fresh with little to no packaging. The story is one we should all pay attention to; one that can inspire each of us to figure out ways to produce less garbage.

Justin Vrany, owner of Chicago-based restaurant Sandwich Me In, had the goal of being a "zero waste" restaurant in mind from Day One. His efforts to achieve that goal are showcased in a new short film produced by NationSwell.

Sandwich Me In runs on sustainable energy and sources its food from local farms, which means there's no packaging on the food. Food scraps to spent frying oil are all repurposed. Vrany even went extra lengths to ensure junk mail doesn't get sent to the restaurant.

So how'd he pull it off?

He plans menu items to intersect so no food is wasted. Every part of the chicken is used (bones into broth, breast into sandwich meat, smoked skins onto Cobb salad, etc.), and leftover vegetables are turned into veggie burgers the following day. He even gives his food scraps to farmers who in turn feed them to the chickens who in turn produce eggs for Sandwich Me In.

To keep costs down while he bought fresh, local foods, Vrany spent the first six months of restaurant ownership running the entire business, top-to-bottom, by himself. Making everything—even his own broth from the bones of chickens he buys—saved him even more money. That, paired with composting, produced practically no garbage. And now that the restaurant is starting to turn a profit, he's able to bring in people to help the business run even more smoothly.

So what's he doing with the trash he did produce? An artist who makes sculptures out of refuse recently came in to take the trash, which will soon become a new piece of art.

While at Better Farm we've certainly produced more than two bags of garbage in the last several years, we take a lot of steps to work toward zero (or at least, less) waste. The tricks we use are strategies any household could employ easily. Here's a short list:
  • Buy bulk. The bulk section of markets, where you scoop how much granola or rice you want into a bag, uses a cajillion times less packaging than when you buy a box of cereal or bag of rice. You can bring your own bags to the store, and buy exactly how much you need.
  • Clean with homemade rags. Old T-shirts, jeans, blankets, and even socks make perfect rags to clean with. You can wash them when you're done—and compost them when they wear out.
  • Clean with vinegar, baking soda, and other household items. You'll save a ton, have very little waste, and be utilizing eco-friendly products that won't poison any pets or people.
  • Cook from scratch. Buying fresh ingredients means we're not buying a whole bunch of packaging. It also means we're able to pronounce all the ingredients, and know what we're putting into those temples of bodies we have.
  • Compost. If it's a food scrap, paper scrap, cardboard scrap, or something swept or vacuumed, it's going to the compost pile.
  • Ditch the Styrofoam. You can bring your own doggy bag to a restaurant. And encourage your local businesses to ditch Styrofoam in favor of eco-friendly, compostable takeout boxes and bags.
  • No paper towels, paper napkins, paper plates, or paper sticky notes needed! We wash windows with newspaper. If something gets deep-fried (squash blossoms, anyone?!), we let it sit on newspaper or junk mail to let some of the grease escape. When we host dinner parties, we use real plates and wash them together after meals. At gallery openings, we drink out of real glasses. For napkins, we sew our own or use store-bought cloth ones. For scribbling notes or making to-do lists, we use the backs of used paper. Then we compost it.
  • Recycle. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it's amazing how much can actually be recycled that isn't.
  • Reuse. Freezer bags, bread bags, sandwich bags, egg cartons, and even the errant supermarket bag can all be cleaned and reused.
  •  Switch to Frozen juice. Every grocery store sells 100-percent (sometimes organic) juice in the frozen foods section. The concentrate comes in a little, recycleable plastic container that is infinitely smaller than a huge juice jug.  
  • Upcycle. Upgrade your lamps by changing the shade. Transform cabinets with a coat of paint. There's not always a need to toss something and buy new—learning to repair things, upgrade them, or give them a new use extends the life of an item, saves you money, and turns the tide on our culture's planned obsolescence for stuff. Also, it's a skillset that will come in handy throughout your whole life.
  • Use reusable shopping bags. There isn't any reason to use plastic or paper shopping bags. Ever. If you're forgetful, keep reusable bags in varying sizes in your car.
Got a great, green tip? Email us at info@betterfarm.org.
2 Comments

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Hinged Bench from Old Doors

This bench, made from old, discarded doors, has a hinged top for huge amounts of storage space.

We kept busy last Saturday building the frame for a sauna, installing a lot of lights and new sound equipment in the Art Barn, and increasing storage in the barn's studio space. For that, Greg and I made a hinged bench that doubles as seating and storage.

For the sides of the bench, Greg cut one side of pocket door in half, using the other half as the front of the bench. He reinforced the walls and front by nailing the pieces together and screwing them into a small wood frame running along the floor and wall.  

When the base was all put together, we started on the top. We realized pretty quickly that we'd need a support beam running along the length of its center; and we had to put a piece of wood into the wall so the whole thing wouldn't move. 


We hinged the top door to a piece of wood screwed into the back of the frame so that the entire top of the bench can lift up for storage. We plan to make another one of these so we have two long benches underneath the bank of windows on the second floor. In total, this project cost us $0, the only expenses being hinges (which we had), and the correct screws for the job (we used 2.5").



Got a great DIY project you'd like to share? Email us at info@beterfarm.org.

Progress on Frame Ceiling


We blogged recently about a ceiling design for Better Farm's Art Barn that will utilize donated, discarded frames. We "broke ground" on the project a couple of weeks ago, and have already used up the frames given to us by Fort Drum and Focal Point Frames. Here's how we went about the work:

Firstly, it's important to always keep your end-goal in sight:
This photo from the New York Times is of a ceiling created out of discarded picture frames by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion.
1. Line up all matched frames in a row.
 2. Using a power nailer, connect corner pieces.
3. Use a chop saw to shorten sides to fit between ceiling beams.

4. Begin the laborious task of power-nailing the frames to the ceiling...





Got some frames you can donate to the cause? Email info@betterarts.org to help out!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Turn Plastic Barrels into Decorated Planters


Why spend hundreds of dollars at a garden store buying painted clay planters when you can make your own with discarded plastic barrels? Cutting a few 50-gallon drums in half and utilizing your mismatched, extra paint from previous projects around the house can yield large planters that will look like the real thing once you're done and have established plants, vines, or even edibles in them.


DIY Decorated Planters

Materials
50-gallon drums
Jigsaw
Drill with 1/2-inch drill bit
Dirt
Small amounts of paint (any kind will do, as you can always seal the paint with outdoor poly coating)
Paintbrushes
Rags

Instructions
  • Using your jigsaw, cut the 50-gallon drums in half and clean well (inside and out) with your rags. Allow to dry.
  • Drill holes every 8-12 inches around the base of your bins for drainage.
  • Decorate! We used a Southwestern theme, but be as creative as you like.
  • Place your planter where you'd like it.
  • Fill with dirt.
  • Plant!




Got a great upcycling project you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Gallery Ceiling Will be Picture-Perfect

This photo from the New York Times is of a ceiling created out of discarded picture frames by Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion. The image became our inspiration for the gallery ceiling in Better Farm's Art Barn.
Thanks to donations from Focal Point Custom Framing and Fort Drum, Better Farm's Art Barn is about to have a gallery ceiling fittingly made entirely out of upcycled picture frames. It's a lesson in upcycling, but more than that we like to think of it as a very literal intersection between art and sustainability. In return for keeping hundreds of old picture frames out of burn pits or landfills, we get to use them to create a thing of beauty—and a thought-provoking thing at that.

The gallery space in Better Farm's Art Barn.

Since I moved to Better Farm in 2009, the Art Barn overhaul has been one of our biggest and ongoing projects. We've cleared out years' worth of hay from the second story, added bank after bank of windows, rented dumpsters to haul out all the old and broken stuff that had been piled up over the course of decades, added track lighting and gallery walls, and turned the whole space into a studio and art and performance gallery. In the fall of 2011 we added recycled soy sprayfoam insulation on the first level, and in the spring of 2012 added a second-story deck overlooking a natural amphitheater (to check out the unreal sound quality for yourself, be sure to visit us at this year's betterArts/Better Farm Open House & Fundraiser.

I've been kicking around a bunch of ideas for the ceiling on the first floor of the Art Barn, which betterArts uses as its gallery space:
I considered using old barn wood, then wondered about using some old siding we have in the wood shed. Many people suggested sheet-rocking it, or zipping down some slab wood to use. Then, Fort Drum donated a bunch of old, broken picture frames to us. I recalled an article in the New York Times about Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion, a man who builds recycled houses—which is to say, he takes building materials destined for the dump and builds homes with them for next-to-nothing.

In one of the images from that article (see above), he took picture frame corners to create a zig-zag pattern across the ceiling of a house. This was the perfect solution for our Art Barn ceiling! I set about finding a frame shop locally that might be willing to donate more frames to betterArts to use in the non-profit's gallery space.

Tracy Spencer from Focal Point Custom Framing in Watertown was extremely gracious and said that while the company seldom has broken frames, they do have some small frames with defects and discarded moulding. I met with Tracy Saturday morning and picked up the bounty—we're hoping to continue working with Focal Point in the future to get the project completed (many frame pieces are required!). Tracy also through in some beautiful suede matboard that we can use for arts & crafts projects in the community.

Here's Focal Point's display wall, also indicative of what our ceiling will look like:

 My car, stuffed to the gills:

Back at the Farm, I got the Ryobi chop saw out and ready to make 45-degree cuts on the frames:

Then began the extremely tedious process of piecing all the frames together:

We will get chopping this week and should be able to get a quarter to a full half of the ceiling completed before the open house in May. Stay tuned for updates!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Roadside Installation: The Doors

Keep your eyes peeled as you drive by Better Farm! Artist-in-residence Mike Brown has been working on an ongoing series of paintings on doors for several years now; culminating this week in their installation throughout the property at Better Farm.

The brightly colored doors can be seen along the outskirts of the property; dotting the treeline, punctuating hillsides. Two are in so far; but there may be up to a dozen by the time the installation is complete.



The process of putting the doors out on display capitalizes on the synthesis of art and sustainability. Thee doors were upcycled and saved from a landfill or bonfire fate, having been collected from neighbors in Redwood. They're notched into stumps of standing-dead trees we harvested for fire wood at Better Farm.

I wandered outside yesterday to catch some photos of the guys doing their thing. First, they notch out the tree stump:


Then the door is fitted into the notch and stabilized:

Here's another one in a clearing out back we call "Strawberry Fields":

Stay tuned for more art installations in and around the property in 2013!

Whet Your Pallet

This pallet adirondack chair was featured on Green Upgrader.

Building with pallets is a great starter upcycling venture. They're made of solid hard wood, they're readily available (just track down some friends who work construction), and they're oft-abandoned after they serve their purpose. Here are just a few wonderful ideas we tracked down online over the last few months.

For compost bins:

...For tables...

...For shelving...

...For storage...
 ...For seating (or sleeping!)...

...For outside bars:

...For work-room stairs...

...For bringing in-house forts to a whole new level...
 ...for plants...


...for storage...

Got a great upcycling idea you'd like to share? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Upcycling 101: Island altar

An old church altar becomes a kitchen island.
It was way back in 2009 when we scored two 12-foot church pews from Calcium Community Church and made them the centerpiece of our dining alcove. It was about a year later when we updated the alcove and gave the space a truly spiritual overhaul:
  
Since then, I've been eyeing a church altar (origins unknown) that was collecting dust for years out in the Art Barn. We'd cleaned it up and used it as a buffet for gallery openings; but in my heart of hearts I knew it was destined to join the church pews in the kitchen. In a recent burst of renovations that added a new bathroom, shrunk another, and moved doors and refrigerators around (stay tuned for those before and after photos!), it was time.

So, first things first. A group of us went out to the Art Barn to assess the situation and start the process of cleaning the old altar up. Here's Jaci removing some old, mismatched and cobbed-together cabinetry:

Next, Greg used a small sander to get the paint off the top of the altar. Then it came time to move it (note that new farm truck Jackson's sitting on!):
 To replace the old cabinets, we're upcycling the lower front board from our driveway piano and affixing it with pivot hinges. Here's Adam demonstrating what that will look like:



Eventually I'll have a kitchen sink installed in the center of the island. But for now, it's a great work station and spot for casual conversation while cooking is underway. Bring on the soul food.

Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Slab Wood Furniture

Benches and end tables made from slab wood.
Whether you're short on cash and in need of some indoor/outdoor furniture or you just love the way rustic building looks, here's a simple and free way to deck out your patios, decks and interiors: slab wood.

With a table saw, some slab wood from your local lumber mill (often discarded by them, free for you!), a few wooden dowels, some screws, wood glue, and a little help from your friends, you'll have your guests guessing what boutique you went to in order to find this one-of-a-kind furniture.
Slab wood donated by Grisanti over at Redwood Lumber

Because all pieces of slab wood are different, and because your needs will be different, there's no sense in us offering sizes for cuts of wood. Just make sure your legs are even lengths, your seat or table top is wide enough, and you offer appropriate support for weight. We used a table saw to make all our cuts and trimmings.


Here are Greg and Elyna cutting down the boards:

And visualizing the finished product:

 Pre-drilled holes get screws, a dollop of wood glue, and some dowels:


 And voila:


Got a great DIY project to share? Itching to volunteer your time and expertise at Better Farm? E-mail us at info@betterfarm.org or call (315) 482-2536.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Upcycled Planters


Everything from old ceiling fixtures to colanders can be upcycled into planters, saving you lots of money and keeping untold amounts of random old items out of landfills.



With a recently completed renovation on one of the bathrooms at Better Farm, we found ourselves with an old toilet and sink that were just begging to be planted. For aeration and to cut down on the amount of necessary potting soil, we lined the bottom of the containers with stones, sticks, compost, and hay; then made a layer of rich topsoil. We planted our flowers directly into that mixture, and voila:


To fill the front space of the sink, we took the front of an old drawer and attached it to the other structure.

Another idea, though one requiring a little more space, is our piano tomato planter:


Got a great upcycling idea? Send it to us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Earth Ship Construction, Part I

Image from Real Adventures.
Since blogging in January about earth ship construction, we've been holding on to our empty glass bottles and collecting discarded tires from our neighbors. And today, we'll break ground on a small earth ship cottage.

An Earthship is a passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials. The structures are by design completely self-sufficient and in harmony with the environment.
Earthship Construction
An earthship wall: glass bottles and mortar.
Earthships are typically constructed from old tires, bottles, cans, adobe, stucco, and wood—in other words, a lot of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
So how does it work? Here's the full run-down.
The term "earthship" was coined by Taos-based architect Mike Reynolds to describe his particular brand of environmentally sustainable architecture. As such, the phrase is virtually synonymous with the thermal mass, off-grid, earth-rammed tire and aluminum can-based "U-room" constructions that Reynolds has made famous on the Taos mesa. The rolling sea-green sage-covered Taos mesa which many earthships now populate easily becomes a metaphor for the ocean (an ironic one at that). One might speculate that this was part of what conspired to birth the phrase. The most solid origins of the term however are in the earthship's very character and philosophy. An earthship requires the much more active participation and alertness of its occupant in order for the dwelling to achieve optimal performance. In this regard, an earthship occupant is more of a pilot or sailboat captain than a neutral passenger. He or she must remain casually attentive to his changing environmental conditions in order to respond appropriately and derive peak levels of control and utility from his vessel.

The path of water in an Earthship:

  • Water is caught from roof catchment systems and channeled via silt catches into cisterns.
  • Cisterns gravity feed a DC pump and filter panels (WOM).
  • A Pump and filter panel (WOM) pushes water into a pressure tank and conventional household water pressure is the result.
  • The Toilet is separated from drainage system of all other household plumbing fixtures.
  • Water is used in a conventional way such as bathing or washing dishes.
  • Next, this water is then drained into linear biologically developed interior greywater treatment and containment systems.

The Water Organizing Module

Water from the city, cistern, your well, etc. can all be hooked up to the WOM. Automated systems can manage your water levels.
Filters clean the water for human consumption and use. Bottom Line: Your home has normal plumbing; your plumber sees what they are used to seeing.
Electricity: Earthships produce their own electricity with a prepackaged photovoltaic/wind power system. This energy is stored in batteries and supplied to your electrical outlets. Earthships can have multiple sources of power, all automated, including grid-intertie.
Use: Washing machines, computers, kitchen appliances, print machines, vacuums, etc. can be used normally. No electricity is required for heating & cooling.
Adjusting to Temperature changes isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The comfortable temperature range in any earthship is largely provided for by the natural thermal stability of the earth itself. Many amphibians & reptiles survive winters by burying themselves below the earth's frost line. Below the frost line, temperatures hover at a fairly stable 55-58 degrees. The earthship design takes advantage of this by being dug partially into the earth, or heavily earth-bermed along the outer walls, or both. Skylights provide the release of built up heat in warm climates, and shading for frost glazing can control the amount of solar energy coming in. The orientation of the "U-rooms" and angle of the front-facing glass also play key roles in how much heat is absorbed or dismissed by the dwelling. In extremely hot climates, U-rooms may be pointed away from the midday sun. Additional cooling can be provided for by a pipe run through the cool underground and into the earthship for an all-natural air conditioner.
Earthships are built just about everywhere on the planet. Differences in climate and orientation to the sun play a key role on the design requirements for optimizing earthship performance for a given location, but location itself has not proven to be particularly prohibitive for this type of off-grid dwelling. .
Typical Earthships are made out of earth rammed tires. An earthship of the kind made notable by Michael Reynolds uses earth-rammed automobile tires in "U" shaped room modules for the primary structural load-bearing walls, and a combination of cement and aluminum cans for interior, non-load-bearing walls. Front-facing glass is constructed using wood-framing and large standard sized sheets of glazing. Roofs are usually built with wood framing and sometimes vigas as well as aluminum or rubber sheeting as waterproofing.
Tire Odors? There is no verifiable information to date that suggests that off- gassing of tires occurs in an earthship.
10 Steps to building a simple Earthship
  1. On the bare earth, mark the outer walls in a circular or U shaped layout.
  2. Lay the first row of tires, shoulder to shoulder along the wall line.
  3. Using the dirt from the inside of the wall line, firmly pack the tires until they are solid bricks. The earth cliff on the inside would be excavated down to roughly three feet in depth.
  4. Stack the second row of tires, in a staggered layout, on top of the first, paying attention to keeping them level with each other. Continue this pattern until the walls have reached the desired height.
  5. Fill any voids with empty pop cans and/or glass bottles and cover the tire walls, inside and out, with mud adobe, cement or stucco to create a smooth finished surface.
  6. The roof can be domed shaped, formed from rebar that is wired or welded together then covered with chicken wire and cement. Other options would be log beams or even traditional trusses. A skylight/vent is included in the design to the rear of the structure to help regulate internal temperatures.
  7. The front of the structure is a sloped greenhouse wall built upon a low wall of earth rammed tires and includes a large planter box on the inside. The glazing is recycled sliding glass door panels or similar materials. The entry door is constructed at either end of the greenhouse hallway.
  8. Any interior walls are constructed of a cement and pop can matrix that is covered by an adobe finish. All the planter boxes are built the same way.
  9. The house systems include a rain water catchment cistern, a battery bank, solar panels, power inverter and a composting toilet. The kitchen wastewater is filtered via the greenhouse planters which grow fresh vegetables year round.
Finishing touches include tile or flagstone floors, glass bottle accent windows and wood inlays. Two story designs can include spiral staircases and just about any kind of custom design feature you can imagine.
The exposed surfaces on the outside of the structure are coated with a layer of cement, mud adobe or stucco as the climate demands. Most of the external tire walls are earth bermed and the roofing material is chosen to facilitate capture of rain water for use inside the house. Of course attention must be paid to things like drainage and choosing the best southern exposure for the greenhouse front of the dwelling, but otherwise it is a pretty simple design.
 

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.