Earthships: A Revolution in Sustainable Housing

Earthship in Taos, NM.

I love earthships. The first time I set my eyes upon these beautiful, self-sustained structures, I knew that I wanted to build one for myself and live in an earthship community. While there are many types of sustainable living options, the earthship is unique in that it uses little to no fossil fuels for typical amenities. This is possible by:

  • Collection of water from the roof as well as rain and snow melt which is then purified.
  • Electricity comes from the sun and is then delivered to electrical outlets through the form of a sustainable prepackaged power system.
  • All water is reused by means of indoor and outdoor treatment cells that contain, use and reuse all household sewage water.
  • Most houses have a garden inside them and this not only provides a comfortable atmosphere to live in but provides a source for home-grown food.
  • All earthships are build from recycled materials.

So how does one move into an earthship and where are these earthship communities located? Well there are many options including the opportunity for an individual to build their own earthship from recyclable materials. Another option is to buy an earthship from a company that builds them. A company that currently builds earthships is Earthship Biotecture. Earthship communities are located around the world but one prominent community is located just outside Taos, New Mexico.

If you would like more information about earthships, feel free to visit these websites:

~ Michaela Steiner

Going with The Current

Current FilmFor over a year I have had the amazing opportunity to go through the process of producing a documentary film with a great friend and co-producer. I have been with it from its conception of the idea, to the birth of it, and now to a growing product which we can be proud of.  It is something I could have never pictured five years ago. And now, the trailer has just been released and I am full of excitement and nervousness.

It is a film about water issues in the Southwest United States that follows a group of friends from the headwaters of the Animas River located in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado over 400 miles to the Glen Canyon Dam, which makes up Reservoir Powell. We follow the river as it transforms from snow into wet ground, to a small trickle, and then into one of the largest man made lakes in the West. The river goes through old mines which still release high levels of heavy metals into the stream high in the mountains. As The Animas reaches Durango, Co it enters high population density and high agricultural use, both of these have negative effects on the river system.  In Farmington, NM it meets with the San Juan River and keeps the name. The Juan, at this point is on the Colorado Plateau and in a very desert like region. In the desert is where the river lives the rest of its life. After a couple hundred miles, the river dies.

It turns into a nasty, muddy, stagnant body of water. Reservoir Powell eats the San Juan and the Colorado river and turns the moving water into one of the most beautiful sites. This beauty comes with the cost of massive environmental damage. Just a few of the issues caused by the reservoir are, loss of native fish habitat, the drowning of what Ed Abbey called one of the most beautiful canyons he’s ever seen, and the degradation of water quality.

So what? Why does this all matter?

Wherever you are sitting right now, you need water to survive. How much water do you have where you live? Do you live in the East where there is an abundance of water? Or do you live in the American Southwest where we have a limited amount of water and a growing population? Regardless, water quality and quantity are going to become or already are a topic in your local government and regional papers. Anyways, think about how you use water today, tomorrow, and the next day.

~ Stephen Witherspoon

For more information, please visit

Reclaimed Art: Toilet paper roll wall art

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

So much of what we end up throwing out or recycling could become something new. Reclaiming materials before they go to the landfill or even get recycled is a much more eco-friendly alternative. In this post, I’ll be showing you how even toilet paper rolls can turn into something beautiful without that much effort.

How to make wall art from toilet paper rolls

What you will need:

What you will need.

Materials and tools you will need.

  1. Toilet paper rolls (the amount will depend on the size of your piece).
  2. Sharp scissors
  3. Clothes pins
  4. Acrylic paints and a palette to mix them
  5. Paint brushes
  6. Ruler
  7. Pencil (and eraser in case you make a mistake)
  8. While glue

Stage 1: Planning

Step 1

Step 1: Decide on shape and design.

You can work with any number of shapes and your design can be as large as you want (also consider that the more rolls you have, the larger it can be).

For this example, we are going to work with leaf shaped toilet paper rolls and a wreath like design (which is a great eco-friendly holiday season decor piece) shown below.

Design Example

Design Example

Stage 2: Prepping

Step 2.1

Step 2.1: Mark cut measurements.

2.1  Grab the ruler, the pencil, and the toilet paper rolls and make 1 inch markings along the length of the toilet paper roll as shown above. You can vary on the size of your markings, but keep in mind that if they are not deep enough, they may not show as much, and if they are too deep, they may not glue together very well (see side view of finished piece below for an example of the 1-inch depth). You can also play with using different depths, if that’s an effect you’re looking for. In these examples, all pieces are the same size.

Depth view

1-inch depth view.


Step 2.2

Step 2.2: Draw cut guides.

 Next, use your ruler and pencil to draw cut guides to help you cut the toilet paper rolls.

Step 2.3

Step 2.3: Cut toilet paper rolls.

2.3 Next, use the scissors to cut the toilet paper rolls along their markings.


Step 2.4

Step 2.4: Paint toilet paper roll parts.

2.4 Next is painting, so pick out your acrylic paint colors and paint brush and go for it. Make sure to coat the toilet paper roll piece well and get every little corner. Let dry a little and check to see if you missed any spots. It should look fully coated when you’re done (see example below). It is also helpful to paint the outside first, set it aside to dry, then paint the inside as well (and don’t forget the edges, as they will show the most in a front view). If you want an iron look (which actually looks really good), use a black with a little brown in it. If you’re going for a holiday look, red and greens work well. You can also play with textures and with mixing colors.

Painted example.

Painted example.


Stage 3: Assembling

Step 3.1

Step 3.1: Glue pieces together.

3.1 First: make sure to lay out your design to have a sense of how you want the pieces to connect to each other. Then, grab a section of 2-3 pieces and with a brush, apply a small amount of glue to one of the sides touching each other.

Step 3.2

Step 3.2: Clamp glued pieced with clothes pin.

Clamping view from above.

Clamping view from above.

3.2 Immediately after applying glue, use clothes pins to hold pieces together while glue is drying. Wait at least 5 minutes before releasing “clamp”. Continue to repeat steps 3.1 and 3.2 until you finish assembling your design.

That’s it for today!  I hope you enjoy this post and please share your own tips on how to reclaim materials to give them a new life!

Thanks for Your Sustainable Thanks

Do you know what happened in the year 1621? If you guessed the First Thanksgiving, you would be correct! 1621 was witness to a successful harvest season for our pilgrim friends (finally!), and their Gourdswanting to thank their Native American contemporaries who had so graciously taught them how to manage the land and its yields. Today, close to 400 years since, Thanksgiving is still a time to be with family and friends and give thanks for all the good things we have in life. Something to think about this holiday season is how important the earth is to each of us. The oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, the sunshine we need to stay healthy, the snow we ski in, the mountains we hike in, the soil we garden with; all are a valuable part of the earth that we should stop and give thanks for. And what better way to give thanks to the earth this Thanksgiving than by making our Thanksgiving dinners more eco-friendly?! In honor of the earth and in the spirit of thankfulness, I have composed a list of things you can do to say ‘thank you!’ to the environment this holiday season.

First of all, consider buying an organic, free range turkey. Not only are you ensuring that your turkey had a lovely little life outside of a cage, enjoying organic food, but you are also making an investment in the environment: organic farming practices are way less harmful to the earth than standard bird farms. You might even try to buy your organic turkey from a local farmer, thereby purchasing a great tasting, healthy bird for your table, and also racking up the good karma points by supporting local business.

Secondly, and on the same note, why not buy your green beans, pumpkins, cranberries, and sweet potatoes from a farmer’s market? Not only will you be supporting your local food producers, you’ll also be saving fuel and carbon emissions caused by shipping. Can it get better?

Third, if you are having a large gathering over for the holidays and are dreading doing dishes, consider buying compostable disposable plates and cups, instead of Styrofoam and plastic tableware.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on your eco-friendly Thanksgiving dinner. Remember to say ‘thank you!’ to the earth and all the good things that come with it this season, and have a wonderful and safe break!

And finally, because I am an anthropology major and a total nerd, here’s a small list of food typically eaten at this time of year that was domesticated in the Americas: turkey, chocolate, squash, and maize. If you’re eating any of these things over the holidays, think of the Neolithic people domesticating them thousands of years ago, and be sure to thank them too.J

~ Anna Crona

A Different Story

FloodOne minute we were laughing in the outdoor kitchen, appreciating the rain for the break in the heavy, humid heat. Then came the water. All it took was a glance upstream, and suddenly there was too much. The rain turned from friend to enemy.

I grew up in New Mexico, where the problems I faced with water revolved around wondering if there would be enough to water the trees this year, or if the Rio Grade would run dry. 3,650 miles south, I was faced with a phenomenon I had never dreamed of experiencing. Tena, Ecuador lies in the middle of the rainforest, barely accessible by road and rich with culture. In the week that my exchange group lived here, I was exposed to more plant variety than nearly anywhere else on the planet, more monkeys trying to steal my school utensils than anywhere else I have every been, and the largest flood in this part of Ecuador in 36 years.

The water did not rise gradually; instead it came as a wall ripping out trees as it went. The inconspicuous creek, usually around five feet deep, rose by ten in an instant. I watched, beyond words, as the hungry water swallowed the steps from the beach to the kitchen one at a time, creeping its way to my feet. I felt no fear, only awe at this point. Floods were something I had never experienced before.

The rain did not stop.

The next morning I looked at all that was left of the brown swirling flood the night before. Our harmless river was still swollen, it had left silt as a slick carpet across everywhere it had covered, six inches in some places. Rocks had been pushed to new locations, plants uprooted, and a tree, twenty feet tall had been placed across the steps to the kitchen. This is an annual flood in Tena.

This flood was the excited gossip of our group for the next month, until we encountered a sobering reality.

January, two years ago Macu Piccu Peru made international news as floods pushed the side of a nearby mountain down into the tourist village of Aguascalientes. The surrounding lowland, the lost farmland, buildings, bridges, houses, schools, crops, livelihoods, and people to the same floods did not even make Peruvian news. The small indigenous village of Qoqocullo is built literally on the side of a hill, and lost their entire savings of seeds for planting when their community center was washed away. The three computers in the village were also lost. Our flood seemed like a joke compared to what these beautiful people had endured. The hardest part of their tearful story to hear, was that though the government had sent swift and efficient aid to Aguascalientes, the population of Qoqucullo had been living in plastic tents with no clean water for close to three months. Their hope for the next years crop had vanished with the seeds.

Both floods were caused as a result of global warming, which led to heavier rains, and therefore landslides. These experiences impacted me into action, working with people to protect the environment and those who are severely impacted by it. This experience led me to the Environmental Center at FLC. I hope I can make a difference, because reading about global warming is informative, but experiencing it personally, is a whole different story.

~ Hallie Taylor Wright