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Mike Reynolds, the garbage warrior

In the 70s, Mike Reynolds invented Earthships built from waste. A crazy idea that propelled him to the rank of global sustainable architecture star. During his architectural studies at the University of Cincinnati Mike Reynolds began looking at different ways of using waste to construct buildings. In 1972 he finished building Thumb House, using everyday waste such as beer cans, assembled to form bricks. It was one of the first houses of its kind in the United States! Thumb House laid the foundations for Mike Reynolds’ Earthships and the concept of "biotecture". He set up an experimental community in Taos, New Mexico, where he built the first Earthships using natural local materials and waste: aluminum cans, glass bottles, food cans, etc. One of his great ideas, were these walls, made of worn tires filled with compressed earth which naturally regulate the inside temperature. Gradually, dozens of colorful, comfortable houses with organic, soft shapes, landed in Taos.

Partially buried, facing the sun, Earthships are passive, energy-autonomous buildings with their own water management and treatment system. Off-the-grid houses that care for the environment and their residents in symbiosis with nature. Earthships are entirely self-sufficient. They can be built just about anywhere. They don't need to be connected to any utilities, and they don't harm the environment, nor do they require any significant sacrifice in terms of living standards, unless you're fond of long showers. They are heated by the sun, generate electricity from solar and wind energy, and catch rain water from the sky. They process their own sewage through plant beds, which also provide fresh bananas all year round. Plus, they're built from materials that would otherwise be regarded as problematic waste, particularly tyres. Packed with earth, stacked like bricks and plastered over, tyres make the perfect building material, says Reynolds.

In 1990, architecture’s governing body in New Mexico withdrew his architect's license - for 17 years! In 2007, the documentary film Garbage Warrior, a moving testimony to this difficult period, traced the life and work of Mike Reynolds and brought him to the notice of the general public. Today, the man is regarded as a hero of the environmental movement, and thousands of Earthships – from the Global Model to Single Survival, built for the first time in Haiti – have spread to every continent. Students from around the world come to New Mexico to learn how to build these Earthships - incarnations of a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle at a time of climate change and international crises.


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