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What Is an Earthship? Here's Everything You Need to Know

What is an Earthship, exactly? We have everything you need to know about the sustainable homes of the future.

Written by
Tehrene Firman

Imagine living in a home that's built with natural and recycled materials, has a built-in sustainable water system, and comes with everything you need to grow your own food. While that sounds like a dream, Earthships are very much a reality.

Michael Reynolds, the architect who came up with the concept of Earthships, build his first one back in the 1970s. Now, years later, there are more than 3,000 around the world—many of which are in New Mexico.

"There was an observation that the way we live on this planet is not really that stable and that secure, not to mention that ecological," Reynolds recently told Insider. "I observed those things and started trying to build a building that addressed them."

It's easy to see these homes—or vessels, as he calls them—are really cool. But onto the burning question: What is an Earthship—and how are they so much more sustainable than regular homes?

What Is an Earthship, Exactly?

Instead of taking from the Earth, these homes use what's already available to provide inhabitants with everything they need: "food, clean water, shelter, garbage management, and sewage treatment," says Reynolds. Because of how they're built and how you live in them, they're one of the most sustainable options in existence.

Many of the structures are built using wood, or upcycled waste like old tires, bottles, and metal from cars. They're built into the ground to regulate the temperature of the home, and feature windows on the south side. That placement is important: All that sunlight is key in heat regulation, as well as allowing inhabitants to grow food in an indoor garden.

Another smart design element of Earthships is the ability to collect rainwater, which is then used in showers and baths. The water that goes down the drain isn't wasted, either: It's used to water plants. As for electricity, they use solar panels and wind turbines.

How to Find One to Live In

Now that you know what Earthships are, you're probably wondering how to go about building an Earthship. Or, where to find Earthships for sale. Reynolds runs Earthship Academy, which teaches people the ins and outs of building one themselves. They're much more affordable than traditional homes, and those who want to build generally spend $20,000 to $70,000 depending on the model.

Buying a property outright, on the other hand, can be more expensive. The New Mountain Properties website has them listed at $275,000 and up. A really fancy model on the website—which "features an interior waterfall in the living room and a jungle where you can catch fresh fish for dinner"—is priced at $1.5 million.

You can make an Earthship as basic or as glamorous as you want it to be. (And there's also the option to rent one starting at $215/night to see what it's like.) Here are some examples of all the perks of owning one of these sustainable homes.

Take a Look Inside an Earthship

1. Solar Panels

The solar panels on the outside of this Earthship provide the home with electricity.

2. Greenhouse

Earthships come with a built-in greenhouse you can use to garden and grow plants.

3. Bottle Archway

The beautiful stained glass archway in this Earthship was created using old bottles.

4. Sustainable Shower

The water collected from showers is used to grow the plants in the garden.

5. Upcycled Materials

All the tiny details in Earthships come from natural and upcycled materials.