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Earthships: Grow Your Own Food and Live Off the Grid

October 8, 2014       How It Works
Earthships Galore!
Passive Solar Home Design
for Off-the Grid Living

A group of concerned people have put together an organization called Earthship Biotecture, which has over the last forty years developed sustainable home designs that are passive solar structures with built-in water recycling and cistern capacities, self powered by solar or wind, and have greenhouse or garden areas for growing food right at home with minimal maintenance.

Earthship inside Greenhouse                                                   CC BY-SA 3.0 
                                       Amzi Smith - Own work for Wiki

Earthships are homes that can create its own electricity, harvest and filter rain water as well as recycle or treat its own sewage; and heat and cool itself without fuel and allow the dweller to grow his own food.  Built from 45% recycled materials like old tires and recycled bottles, the cost for putting a home is greatly reduced compared to a similar sized home using new materials. 

The Earthship Biotecture You Tube channel featuring their amazing
home design
All rights reserved Earthsip Biotecture.

The people behind the Earthship concept believe that a family can own its own shelter, stay alive and put food on the table, from food grown at home.  A person living in an earthship can survive whether he is a part of the grid economy or whether he opts out.  The design of an earthship allows one to grow his own food inside his home or adjacent food gardens, has self-sufficient independent power sources such as solar and wind energy modules, and it can harvest rainwater and recycle grey water to provide every basic need for the dweller to live comfortably.  Built with recycled materials and plans that allow even non-standard building components (zoning laws and building codes) to hold up a structure far better than even a conventional home can withstand the elements.  Even non-professional, unskilled builders can build an earthship.

A look at the Leyte location of the Philippine Wind Earthship, which will
be finished by Feb 2015.
  All rights reserved Earthsip Biotecture.

Tropical Earthship

Tropical earthships are designed with rounder shapes because these work better in the local climate and environment aside from being more typhoon resistant because the tropics are known for multiple typhoon crossings.  In the Philippines, one Earthship is currently under construction in Leyte where the Yolanda storm surge typhoon hit hardest.  The place is scheduled to be finished by February 2015.  Earthships are typically situated in areas away from zoning so you won't need a building permit because the construction methods are not conformed to urban zoning laws yet an earthship is structurally sound and can withstand the elements even better than homes designed according to building code standards.  Areas where an Earthship can be put up are called ‚Äúpockets of freedom" or areas free from regulations--such as a requirement to be connected to the power grid, being constructed of particular kinds of materials.  There are wide open spaces all over the world where one can put up his Earthship home without any problems.  If only ALL of the money used for overpriced temporary cramped shelters were put into an Earthship community, all the people now stuck in crappy housing would be having the time of their lives now.  But that's bureaucratic planning in the Philippines for you rather than smart and sustainable design.


Electricity or power in an Earthship design is provided by a prepackaged photovoltaic / wind power system. This energy is stored in several batteries routed to electrical outlets inside the house.  Earthships can have multiple sources of power, all automated, including a connection to the local grid, but it will survive if the power to the grid is cut off.

               Earthship water usage diagram.            
Illustration credit: htttp://

Earthship Roof Catchwater

Am earthship gets its water off catch water systems using rain.  These structures are built into conventional homes via roof designs that direct the water into a cistern.  But if a place has a drought, water might have to be accessed elsewhere, but for as long as there is rain in the geographical area where the earthship is located, the home will sustain its own fresh water supply.  An earthship water system can also be connected to the grid but it can subsist on its own.  The cistern can cool your home during the summer because it functions as a heat sink if designed or placed inside a home.

If you find yourself consideriing spending lots of money for some posh subdivision residence, think again.  A home as groovy as a hobbit's in Hobbiton, in the middle of nowhere, might be a better value, cost less and keep you alive during your lifetime compared to that fancy real estate deathtrap (if the supply grid collapses) that might cost you your shirt too.


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