These sustainable homes are 100% off the grid, have 0 utility bills and are made of recycled trash

Earthships not only help the environment but also your wallet — is this the future?

SAN ANTONIO – With climate change bringing warmer climates, erratic weather and drought, your home could easily cost you lots of money.

This includes high utility bills, possible damage from storms and even lost access to necessities, like thousands of homes experienced during the deadly 2021 winter storm. It’s why since the 1970s, architect Michael Reynolds invented the concept of Earthships through his company Earthship Biotecture.

These homes can function independently and completely off the grid, and are also sustainable and friendly to planet Earth.

“Conventional housing is almost like being sort of on a life support system in a way, you know, the only way that conventional building can exist is with all these tubes and wires, being connected up to it and mechanically sustaining it,” Phil Basehart, an Earthship builder and educator, said. “Where the Earthship has none of that.”

Basehart has lived in an Earthship home for over 20 years. He builds them and educates others about how they work.

“When the grid goes down or when there is a big weather event or something like that, I’m not having to hustle my family into some kind of shelter or leave or evacuate,” Basehart said. “You can weather those things in an Earthship-type building.”

Earthships are built with natural and recycled materials like tires, bottles and cans with energy conservation in mind. Earthships are uniquely designed to produce water, electricity and food for the people that live in them. Earthships don’t have utility bills because they are 100 percent off the grid, capturing water and producing electricity with solar and wind energy methods.

Earthships are always 70 degrees inside no matter the heat or cold on the outside. Basehart explains this is done by using a system of thermal mass (thick insulated walls of recycled tires packed with soil) and passive solar heating.

”We also cool with convection,” Basehart said. “So we kind of harness these natural phenomena and heat and cool the buildings passively. And they’re oriented towards the sun.”

Every drop of water that lands on an Earthship roof is used four times over, with the roofs built to catch water.

Basehart explains the water is used in a cycle first for drinking, showering and then flushing toilets. Then that greywater is used to water plants that generate food.

Sewage is contained on-site and treated. These homes can subsist and even thrive without taking water from the ground or municipal sources. The biggest obstacle Basehart said they face can be city code violations, which is why most are built in rural areas.

“Generally, there’s a way to work around it,” Basehart said. “All of our buildings are stamped by an architect or engineer so that right there takes a lot of liability off of the county or the city. So there’s ways around it, but yes it can and has been challenging.”

Basehart said these homes are not only practical but living this way also helps out the planet. He said climate change is real, and real changes on how we live need to be made.

“We do need to start to wake up to how our comfortable lifestyle here in the US is impacting the environment around us,” Basehart said. “And it is a real thing and there are solutions and they’re not they’re not uncomfortable solutions.”

Some of these homes can be million-dollar homes, but some are designed to be simple and affordable. If you want to learn how to build your own Earthship, the group has an academy that teaches people.

Earthship Biotecture also has a non-profit that builds sustainable Earthships all over the world for communities in need.

WATCH: KSAT’s Sarah Acosta explains earthships, sustainable homes that are 100% off the grid

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About the Author

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

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