VERNON - Vernon could soon be home to a bourgeoning building trend: an off-grid, self-sustaining structure called an Earthship.
The buildings — which feature recycled building materials like old tires and bottles, solar electricity, passive thermal heating and cooling, water collection systems, and indoor food production — are popping up all over the world from vacation rentals in Taos, New Mexico, to Kamloops, B.C. and Keli Westgate, a director with the Sustainable Environment Network Society, wants Vernon to be home to the next one.
“I have found the Earthship concept brilliant,” the producer, voice-over performer, social media manager and mother says. “It seems like the logical next step in our adaptation to a changing climate.”
Many have chosen to construct the unique, often adobe-style houses in place of conventional homes, but Westgate sees Vernon’s first Earthship as more of a community facility where like-minded environmental groups can meet, host workshops and provide educational resources.
“It seemed like there needed to be a home for all these types of things to go on constantly — a home base for all things sustainability. Vernon is looking for something to attract business and tourists, and Earthships come with a natural allure,” Westgate says, adding tours of the Earthship would bring a tourism element to the project.
After attending a seminar in Seattle hosted by architect and Earthship founder Michael Reynolds (of the film Garbage Warrior), Westgate was hooked on the building trend right away. She believes the Earthship design is something we can to do combat climate change in our daily lives.
“We have to make some serious changes. The time for sitting on our heels has passed. This really seems like a solution, and I’m really attracted to solutions,” she says.
Inspired by the seminar, she immediately launched into the world of sustainable living and took a course in permaculture, an agricultural system that integrates human activity with natural surroundings to create self-sustaining ecosystems. Now, she’s reaching out to the Vernon community for engineers, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, and other skilled people for help build Vernon’s first Earthship, and the response has been huge.
“I think the reason this has grabbed peoples’ attention is because it’s a solution and there are so many different ways people can get involved,” Westgate says.
She’s currently on the hunt for a five to 10 acre plot of donated, or affordably leased land close to town on which to build the Earthship. Design consultation with an architect is already underway, and Westgate hopes to break ground in the next year and a half. The buildings can cost anywhere in the ballpark of $75,000 to $350,000, less with donated materials and volunteers, and cost virtually nothing energy-wise to run over the long-term. Once constructed, Westgate believes the facility will inspire and help others to build their own residential Earthships. Her prediction is we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in the coming years.
“A lot of the things we do today, 50 years ago seemed crazy. I definitely foresee a day very soon where we’re going to watch documentaries and say, how did people live that way?” she says of our current building norms. “It’s an inspiring idea and I think people need to just follow things that give them that spark inside. This does that for me and it seems to do it for a lot of people.”
To get involved or for more information, contact Westgate at email@example.com.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.