Are your pockets a little empty these days? Don't know what to do about the exorbitant amount of cash you funnel off to the utility monopolies every month? Wish there was just some fantastic, magical way to get free water and electricity, just the way God meant it to be?

Enter Earthship. The Earthship is a form of self-sustainable, environmentally friendly housing, fully capable of supplying its tenants with ample water, electricity, heating, and food to survive indefinately (although unless you enjoy living solely on fruits and vegetables you'll probably be making trips to your local, friendly supermarket on occasion) throughout the summer and winter months alike. All this, and it looks really cool, too.

Earthships are a lesson in recycling. What goes into making an Earthship? The foundation is merely packed earth (flooring added later, of course), and the walls are constructed of - are you ready for this? - used tires. Along with aluminum cans, old tires, which normally are hard to recycle and more often than not end up discarded in tire piles, are put to good use to create solid, insulative, and organic (no right angles for you) walls for an Earthship. Each tire is first placed exactly where the builder intends to have it in the end product, and then is extensively packed with dirt until you're left with a 200-300 pound cylinder of rubber and earth. It's important to have it where you want it before it's packed or chances are you'll never be able to haul it over to where you need it to be. Gaps between the tires are filled in with straw and adobe, and eventually everything is given a good coat of adobe and the end product is a solid, smooth, free-flowing wall that will stand up to most anything save for Armageddon and possibly Mormons. As mentioned above, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and other containers also can make up the smaller, non-loadbearing walls.

The roof is a fairly simple deal, made from reinforced metal sheeting and help up with wood beams (make only from the most nonendangered and otherwise plentiful trees, of course!). It is constructed at a slanted angle to trap, filter, and store rainwater in a cistern for later use. The water itself is recycled several times throughout its use in an Earthship. It is first used for drinking, showering, or otherwise being utilized by humans. After this phase of use, the water is run through the "greenhouse" (Earthship without plants? Unthinkable!) area of the 'ship, or in other words, the front hall of the place (we'll touch on that later). Once the plants have thoroughly soiled and helped themselves to the water, it runs to, of all places, the toilet! Obviously you won't care too much if your toilet water is already a little dirty, considering the terrible, unspeakable horrors you fill it with each time you lock that bathroom door. Once it's done its duty in the bowl, the water is flushed down into a solar septic tank. Exposure to the sun allows the liquidized waste materials to more quickly break down into less offensive forms, which then travel through a layer of various rocks, minerals, and other natural filters before getting reabsorbed as nutrients by plants outside.

The electricity isn't generated by water, but rather by thermal and solar power. While you may not be accustomed to having to conserve energy (unless you coat your lawn with solar cells), the good news is you won't have to!. First off, Earthships use extremely energy-conservative appliances. Secondly, you will never have to spend a single watt of power to heat your house because your house does it for you. Allow me to first explain just how an Earthship is constructed. In the front is almost always (unless you're feeling really adventurous) a long hallway from end to end of the house. All the rooms of the house are connected to one side of the corridor, and the other side is reserved for a long, long, row of vegetable matter (read: greenhouse) and plate glass. Windows all the way down, from end to end. This functions not only to keep those plants photosynthesizing (and producing food to shove down your pie hole), but to keep the house amply heated. During the day, your trusty tire-walls trap the heat generated from the sun through the windows and release it during the night to keep the temperature just right all year long. You'd think that those walls trapping the heat in the summer would make it sweltering hot inside, but on average temperatures in an Earthship stay in the mid-to-high 60s (Fahrenheit).

Earthships are inexpensive to build as well as maintain. Obviously, their self-sufficiency makes paying the utility bills either nonexistant or a cinch (you'll only be paying for electricity if you run out of all the stuff you've generated first), but because an Earthship's design is so easy and cheap to build (not to mention the availability of prepackaged Earthship plans that some companies will sell you that cover the electrical/water systems, septic tank installation, etc.), building an Earthship with amenities comparable to that of a regular house will cost you tens, possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a normal, whitewashed, cookiecutter home, especially if you and your friends/family do all the construction work yourself(selves).

I have yet to find any particularly large downsides of an Earthship over a regular house. Due to the solid walls, Earthships might be a little cool at times (a fireplace will fix that right up, though), and oftentimes they're a little on the small side, but that is mostly due to the sort of people who are usually attracted to Earthships: environmentally conscious liberal-thinking people who may or may not have a spouse but usually don't ride into town in a white minivan stuffed to the brim with the little'uns. There's simply no demand for big Earthships, although they can and do exist.

The Official Earthship Site (apparently):

Go there so you can actually see some pictures of what the hell I'm talking about here.

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