What is an Earthship?

Logo: Sustainable Communities Initiatives

Pioneered 30 years ago by American architect, Michael Reynolds, today the Earthship is considered a world leader in low impact building, offering solutions to some of the major environmental problems we face today.       

The Earthship design principles of thermal mass, solar passive design, rainwater and autonomous sewage systems, and renewable energy utilisation create a self-sustaining space, capable of heating and cooling itself, meeting its own water and power requirements, treating its own sewage and provides the opportunity to grow food all year round.

Waste and resource reduction

The main building materials used are car tyres and aluminium cans, which reduces waste in landfill. The use of the excavated earth on site is also reused to ram the tyres and thus intercepts it from landfill. This high use of recycled materials ultimately reduces the depletion of natural resources, and recycled products such as timber are used where possible for the other building materials. Supplying all its own water requirements through a rainwater catch system, the building puts no demands on water resources and the use of a grey water system to flush toilets reduces water requirements further.

Reduction of pollution

As well as preventing waste pollution by physically reusing car tyres, the Earthship demonstrates how carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced through functioning without fossil fuel derived energy. Heating and lighting are provided through the principles of thermal mass, solar passive gain and by generating energy from wind, and solar power.  The in-built sewage system also demonstrates how sewage output into the external environment can be prevented and eliminate pollution potential to water bodies and coasts.

The ethos behind the concept is to provide low cost housing that has minimal running costs, which takes care of people and the environment.

Sustainable Communities Initiatives (SCI) is a registered charity, working towards building zero waste zero energy communities. They completed the UK’s first Earthship, the Earthship Fife Visitor Centre, which provides guided tours and information, as well as selling merchandise such as the Earthship Toolkit.

With the success of Earthship Fife under their belt SCI is now working towards creating a Zero Waste and Zero Energy (ZWAZE) Self Build Earthship Development of 12 Earthship homes. As a low impact affordable housing model ZWAZE has the potential to regenerate communities looking for a sustainable and self-empowering way of life.

SCI invites you to: ● Come on a tour of the Earthship and bring your friends; ● Buy a Toolkit if you have building/project questions; ● Join SCI for an annual fee of £10 and be placed on our mailing list, supporting our valuable work towards a zero waste zero energy future

Sustainable Communities Initiatives, Kinghorn Loch, Kinghorn, Fife  KY3 9YG

Tel 01592 891884

Updated information February 2020: 

Though our charity (SCI) has had to scale down its activities as a result of the financial recession, our Earthship is still available for visits, guided tours, workshops and individual advice. Please check our website for opening dates/times, for services provided and for publications in our shop.

Our Earthship is an opportunity to explore the possibility to take total responsibility for the impact our life has on the environment; how to apply the lessons learned to our current home/office, even if not living in an Earthship. If you are considering to build and Earthship or a different type of eco-house, we can share our experiences and discuss your plans from our perspective.

First published in CJS Focus on Recycling, Energy and Sustainability in association with The Centre for Alternative Technology on 22 May 2006

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