Living with the land: Florida's first Earthship (video)

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Meet Bryan Roberts, the contractor for Florida's first Earthship in Manatee County and founder of Eco-Tech Construction.

An Earthship is a concept founded by Michael Reynolds, a.k.a. The Garbage Warrior. Mr. Reynolds wanted to design a home that took care of the people that lived within it. He utilized reclaimed material such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, and the infamous used tires to build the walls of the Earthship. In the permaculture design philosophy there is no such thing as waste, it is simply a unused resource waiting to be utilized.

Mimicking nature Mr. Reynolds as well as the Florida Earthship utilizes a greywater system that uses the water from kitchen sinks and showers. This water can be used to water plants and in toilets in the home. Utilizing water more than once allows the Earthship to drastically reduce its water use. The water will come from a nearby well, as well as from 6,000 gallons of stored rain water from the home's roof collection system. In Florida, our water supply is at critical levels - if every home began utilizing their water more than once we wouldn't have problems with our water supply. Greywater is thefuture we all need to be investing in.

The exterior walls are built up using dirt-filled used tires. Each tire when filled completely are over 300 lbs in weight - no hurricane will move this home. These tires add thermal mass to the building keeping the inside temperature stable so it's easier to cool. There will be no air conditioner on this house.  The home will be cooled using tubes running underground bringing hot air from the outside and cooling it under the constant 68 degree Fahrenheit temperature found just a few feet below. In most net-energy homes the air conditioner is the main concern with lowering your energy bill, by eliminating it completely Eco-Tech enables the Earthship to be completely grid free. Solar panels will create the energy for the home.


The community aspect of building a Earthship is also one of the most inspiring parts of this project. Students from both USF and SPC's Sustainability clubs came out to volunteer. People interested in creating their own Earthships as well as the seeing technologies utilized were in attendance for education as well as stuffing a few tires full of dirt. Even the owners of the Earthship, Michael and Denise Pfalzer, came out to move some dirt and tires. Eco-Tech is open sourcing their information for free to all to utilize as they wish.

Even the landscape will change to permaculture design. A permaculture design course had taken place back in March at the site. The students designed the landscape to become an edible food forest (fruit trees surrounded by vegetable ground cover with legumenous trees/plants as well) so that the couple could eventually live off their land with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Swales and ponds were dug up to alter the water flow so the land would be less swampy and more fertile. Floating wetlands will suck up and utilize any extra runoff from nearby farms that might cause algae blooms to start. It's an extrordinary site seeing this ecologically-based system only a mile or two from typical agriculture that is nothing more than long rows of dirt covered with plastic and sprayed with with nutrients and pesticides.

On the two hour ride home from a long day volunteering I couldn't help but ponder all my life experiences leading to these last few months. As I mentioned in my first blog, I spent my teenage and young adult life working in the construction industry in Pasco. We built homes out of cheap materials to produce way too many homes causing a glut that Florida will have to contend with for years to come. As my framer friend mentioned "We worked ourselves out of a job". These homes were all built with money in mind, not efficiency. We could put as many people as we needed to work retrofitting these homes to be more self sufficient and people more self reliant. This shift of thinking will be so radical to the mindset of before.

I see pioneers abound throughout the Tampa Bay area. We have to move away from linear thinking that produces waste and is reliant on a dominator society. This transition to a partnership culture where we respect and partner with nature and each other to achieve a lifestyle worth living is the most admirable course we can pursue in our lifetimes. We are not just securing the future for ourselves, but we are helping to secure the future for human beings as a species. It's all but a choice, we must chose to live permanently on this planet or we will lose the opportunity to live at all. Earthships are such a way of living in partnership with the world.

Thanks for reading, Please share this blog with others!

Eric Stewart

Director of Code Green Community

Follow me on Twitter: @code_green

Previous Posts:

In previous posts, I declared the problems that our country faces. The point was not to be pessimistic but to maturely point out the weak points so we can find solutions. We face mounting debt, a dependence on a finite power source stored beneath the Earth that may have peaked production, the baby boomer generation about to enter retirement, a lack of savings, and a consumer culture built upon a dominator society that depends entirely from receiving it's inputs of materials and things from far away. This society is unsustainable and will need to transition to something different by choice or by collapse.

This society arose when we began valuing things, more than people. It is not a recent event, but an event that has playing itself out for thousands of years. I spoke of a permaculture path. A path to improve our economy to be environmentally friendly and get us off our addiction to fossil fuels. As a by-product of utilizing these permaculture design principles we will have healthier food, cheaper costs of living, meaningful work repairing the Earth all as we return to the community way of thinking and away from individualism. We must create a partnership society, partnering with the Earth and one another to repair the damage.

What does this look like though? It's easy to state abstract ideas on digital paper, but how about an example locally?

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