Earthships: Sustainable homes made from recycled materials, powered by weather

The eccentric-looking homes are built out of reclaimed materials and are powered by the weather.

TAOS, N.M. – One man's trash is being turned into another man's home in northern New Mexico.

For the past 11 years, Judy Sutton has lived in this community of Earthships, sprouting from the New Mexico soil.

"It's great. I love it. I feel grounded," Sutton said.

The eccentric-looking homes are built out of reclaimed materials and are powered by the weather. They utilize recycled building materials and harness the weather for heating, cooling, water, and electricity.

"There's really nothing I don't like about it," she said.

It's a concept first pioneered 50 years ago by Michael Reynolds shortly after graduating with a degree in architecture.

"It was me looking out there, at the clouds on the horizon, and going, 'Damn, this looks pretty ominous for the future,'" Reynolds said.

With environmental issues in mind, Reynolds has been perfecting the homes here in the desert of northern New Mexico, striving to build the most self-reliant and eco-friendly home possible.

"It encounters the natural phenomenon of the planet and is able to provide much more security and much more of everything in a renewable way," Reynolds says. 

The backbones of the buildings are made out of recycled tires filled with packed earth, which help insulate the buildings and regulate their temperature.

Earthships also utilize reclaimed wood, metal and bottles in their design.

"Garbage is better-made than most of the garbage that you buy as building materials today," Reynolds says.  
South-facing windows heat the Earthships, electricity comes from wind and solar, and rainwater is collected using a catchment system.

"At this point, I'm going to try to let it speak for itself, so I'm going to get it out there and let people say, 'I want one,'" Reynolds said. 

And for Earthship owners like Sutton, an environmentally friendly lifestyle that's also brought a sense of independence.

"I don't know what more you could ask of a house," she says.