Outside of Taos, New Mexico, you’ll find a community of people living in off-grid homes made of garbage. The homes are called Earthships and were invented by Michael Reynolds. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1969, Reynolds immediately started to question much of what he had just learned. Why build houses with trees when forests are something we want to preserve? His thesis was published in Architectural Record in 1971 and the following year he built his first house from recycled materials.
The structures built under his direction utilize everyday trash items like aluminum cans, plastic bottles and used tires. Instead of using conventional (and energy-consuming) recycling methods, however, Reynolds takes the discarded item and recycles them as-is. His Thumb House, built in 1972, used beer cans wired together into “bricks,” which were mortared together and then plastered over. The brick design was patented in 1973.
Filmmakers Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells recently visited to Taos to learn more about this community.