Photo by Kristen Jacobsen
Phoenix, one of the more opulent Earthships
Head to Taos, New Mexico, to experience this ultra-sustainable way of living.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be like George Jetson, luxuriating in a Skypad in Orbit City, summoning your robotic maid Rosie to do the housework as you go about your day? Well, you can—sort of. A podlike home set in a futuristic colony with almost no upkeep can be yours for a starting price of about $275,000 (or $185 a night).
At the Greater World Community, the world’s largest off-the-grid subdivision near Taos, New Mexico, you can buy or rent a fully sustainable, fully furnished home—or Earthship, as they’re called. The 70 Earthships here range from small, basic dwellings such as the Lemuria, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, dog-friendly unit that rents for $185 per night, to opulent desert hideaways like the Phoenix, which has three king-sized bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a cavernous kitchen, a jungle greenhouse with a fishpond, a waterfall, a variety of birds and turtles, growing food, and a fireplace. The Phoenix is the showpiece for the Greater World Community, and the entire house rents for $430 per night. Food is grown on-site, electricity comes from the sun, and water is collected from rain and snow. You can get Wi-Fi or go without. And while there’s no Rosie the robot, there are virtually no household chores either. The units are entirely self-sustaining.
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“Earthships are completely autonomous,” says Kirsten Jacobsen, Earthship’s education director. “These buildings are so evolved that you can’t really tell you’re not in a luxury, five-star hotel. They are beautiful, artistic, fully functioning homes with high-end bedding and flat-screen televisions. They have everything you need.”
Jacobsen’s personal Earthship is designed in the style of a Manhattan loft.
“My design sensibility is not as ornate or Southwest or crafty as the other buildings,” says Jacobsen, a New York City native. “So, my Earthship has concrete floors, stainless steel countertops, and halogen track lighting. Simple, modern finishes.”
The architectural firm that builds the Earthships, called Earthship Biotecture, is a model for sustainable living with homes based on the innovative, “Jetson-like” designs of architect Michael Reynolds. Commonly known as the Garbage Warrior, Reynolds built his first Earthship home in 1988 and has since built them in a variety of locations across the globe including, most recently, Kenawa Island in West Sumbawa, Indonesia, and a remote, car-free village on the Caribbean coast of Colombia called Capurganá. In addition to the 10 rentable Earthships at the Taos community, Jacobsen says both of these new Earthship communities have nightly rentals.
What about security? While the Greater World Community is private, it is not gated. The community gets the occasional nosy neighbor, she says, but nothing worrying. Renters receive a hang tag for their windshield, and visitors who take self-guided tours ($7) wear a badge as they wander through the community’s Earthship Visitor Center and education facility, which allows them to see a fully functioning Earthship. There are media rooms and exhibits, as well as outdoor pathways so guests can get a good look at ongoing construction projects. The community also offers guided tours of the entire Earthship community ($12).
So, is this what the future holds? As time goes on, will we all turn into ecologically sensitive George Jetsons?
“As we see resource depletion, rising utility costs, destabilization of water systems, and different global events, people will have to live in a more autonomous fashion,” Jacobsen says. “Whether or not you’re building an Earthship, decentralization is necessary for people to live.”
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