On a sprawling mesa just northwest of Taos, New Mexico, architect Michael Reynolds has spurred the development of a series of off-the-grid homes, nicknamed “Earthships.” These homes use passive solar technology, wind power, recycled water, old tires, car batteries, glass bottles and pretty much every off-the-grid technology there is except the kitchen sink.
Most of the earthships are low-rise, single-story structures that are long and narrow, with one side generally built into a hill and its opposing side being two walls of glass, with plants usually occupying the space between the two walls. Many have some fanciful turrets or towers attached at some point, but plenty are very simple. Yet despite the variation, the common factor among them is that they were constructed by the homeowners themselves, reflecting their personal style.
In 2007, Reynolds was the subject of a documentary entitled Garbage Warrior, which is a great introduction to his philosophy as well as telling the story of several of his building projects in both New Mexico and around the world. Visitors to the earthships can drive by on both Route 64 take a tour (either with a guide or without, but springing for the guide is suggested) and several can even be rented for the night as well. Or sign up for the Academy, where you can learn how to build your own earthship.
Know Before You Go
Make right off of Route 64 just west of Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. You can get a small self-guided tour with limited access for walk-ins, however for the full tour that includes seeing the interior of several Earthships, you should book online in advance.