Earthships & Self-sufficiency. Journey of Discovery Part IV: Present & Future Visions (ecoTrain)

in life •  2 years ago 

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Welcome to the final part of my 4-part series following my life-journey in learning about sustainable architecture and the experiences that came after my time working on an Earthship in India. Please check out my posts part 1 to 3 on my page at

https://steemit.com/life/@mrfunkymonk/earthship-biotecture-and-self-sufficient-housing-my-journey-of-discovery-part-i-ecotrain

https://steemit.com/life/@mrfunkymonk/earthship-biotecture-and-self-sufficient-housing-my-journey-of-discovery-part-ii-ecotrain

https://steemit.com/life/@mrfunkymonk/earthships-and-self-sufficiency-journey-of-discovery-part-iii-super-adobe-architecture-and-beyond-ecotrain

In this post, I would like to share my journey since living in Sweden and my thoughts, plans and sketches for building and owning my own Earthship-inspired home. There are a couple of sections in this post where I ask the reader to question the 'ideology' of self-sufficiency and basic philosophy of sustainability. Especially when it comes to planning to build a house in your own location.

This is by far the most testing post to write out of all 4 parts in this series because it is about the present chapter of my life. It is not based on past events. Because it is so challenging, I have done all that I can to make this post focused and precise.
In truth, I feel that the past few years have been a necessary detour to add to the bigger picture of 'life experience'.

What is my Definite Chief aim with Living Sustainably?

Although I don't own my own self-sufficient or sustainably-built home yet, I have experienced living aspects of a sustainable lifestyle for the past 3 to 4 years, that take time to learn whether I have my ideal house or not.

What are these Aspects?

I owe a lot of this to the lifestyle of my partners family, but I also owe a lot to Sweden's interest in sustainability as a whole. Nowhere is perfect, but I can only really compare Sweden to the UK where I lived prior. I was so happy and impressed with the lifestyle when I moved here and from time-to-time, I feel a great sense of gratitude.

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Growing your own food, for example, takes effort and time. It's a whole process with maintaining soil and crop; it's no quick feat. My partner Lisa is vegetarian so I have a mainly vegetarian diet, eating meat on average 2-4 times a month. We are in a collective who share chickens, where we get most of our eggs from. Supermarkets have a whole frozen meats section with sustainably managed, hunted wild meat like moose, deer, boar and duck. I do what I can to buy organic or wild. Sweden has the 3rd highest percentage of organic food consumption globally, which reflects the attitude towards a healthy diet and an underlying care for the environment. During high storms, Sweden produces enough wind energy to consume and exporting to other nations. Correct waste management and recycling are strongly abided by the public. It's a standard that driving schools teach students that by changing from third gear to fifth gear is a method of save fuel and having cleaner air. These points are made to build a broad picture of life here.

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I am driven by the desire to fulfil my visions or at least have a whole lot of fun whilst trying. I am continually looking to sustain a truly balanced and healthy lifestyle and a huge part of that is to live in a truly wonderful home. But what are my main visions? What are my chief aims?

I take a lot of inspiration from the book The Law Of Success in 16 Lessons by Napoleon Hill (actually 17 lessons) The book suggests doing a self-study. In reference to the 2nd law; A Definite Chief Aim, here are my personal objectives of my definite purpose:

1 A healthy and happy family and environment
2 Patience and confidence in myself and other people
3 Live sustainably and work within the field of sustainability
4 Share my knowledge for the betterment of others
5 Get paid generously for my knowledge and experience
6 Work with and be surrounded by active and inspiring people
7 Own land and a property that is an inspiring example of modern-self-sufficiency and a base for creative and influential development
8 Profitable methods of investing money
9 A passive income that supersedes my monthly expenses
10 Charitable efforts to better the lives of others and the greater environment

What are your Chief Aims in life? Please feel free to share them in the reply section.

What I Have Been Doing Since 2014

I left the UK at the beginning of 2014 to start a new life in Sweden with my partner Lisa. I really had no idea what life was going to be like. The feeling, however, was good! There was something attractive about living in a country with so much natural space and a society that functions more sustainably. Without knowing any Swedish and only a post graduate diploma in Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy, I was naive in thinking that starting a career within the sustainability sector was a probability, although I wanted it so bad! In the first half of 2014 whilst living in Malmö I searched for jobs in the construction-management, architecture and city planning sectors, but it ended with no result. I needed Swedish and I needed a Bachelor's. A hard lesson learnt in how inflexible the system can be where experience alone cannot replace a university degree. So I started learning Swedish and thought hard about what path I wanted to take.

In the UK I had worked in the bicycling industry with Cycle Surgery in Camden Town, London, and had already many years of cycling experience. The bicycle was very much my best friend.
During those first months in Malmö, I put some of that experience back into a project called Cykelköket (bicycle kitchen), a government supported scheme that takes old disused bikes and offers the public a space to repair and then own the bikes, for free. I helped people repair their bikes.

We eventually left Malmö and moved to the countryside outside of Halmstad, my partner's home town. This is where we built our summer house a few years prior.
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I continued learning Swedish and found what jobs I could to get by. I learnt that moving to a new country without a job can be difficult! Nevertheless, I was adapting to the lifestyle and I learnt firsthand just how important it was to get out there and show a willingness to learn. Sweden supports new citizens in taking apprenticeships, for those who find the job sites themselves.
By the end of 2014, I was eager to get some work-experience and my partner's mother suggested I go into Trek Bikes' head office for Scandinavia to apply for an internship. They happily accepted me on a 3-6 month term! It was a dream come true and I ended up staying there for 7 months. I learnt a hell of a lot about head office retailing, about supreme quality bicycles and components and the of the world of competitive cycling. The guys really made me feel part of the family. Although the company did not eventually have a need to create a position for me, it became one of the most profound job experiences that I have had.

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Since then I have been studying to become an Electrician. I plan to eventually own or be in an organisation with a company that focuses on providing and installing sustainable intelligent power, water and heating systems for homeowners. ground source heating, photovoltaic and rainwater recycling systems. My partner and I are currently renovating her father's garage into a house as a stepping-stone to our next investment or home. Here are two photos from before and during construction.

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Around 2015, I turned my eyes to the world of investment. I wanted to learn and do more to educate myself about where I could place my savings to generate a residual income. I was by no means financially ready to invest a lot of money, but it didn't stop my partner and me from learning. Property, Stocks, bonds, cryptocurrencies, SRI's. These all suddenly became real and valid areas of research, and by the beginning of 2015, I had started self-teaching myself online, how to understand charts. I listening to audio and video files and read books on how to get into the mindset of an investor. We have visited houses posing as potential homeowners, intending to learn more about investing in property. This has felt like a vital detour outside of wanting to build my own house. A choice that I plan will one day aid me to build my own home.

Earthships in Sweden

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Michael Reynolds came to Sweden to give a talk back in 2011, briefly talking about a model that uses two buffer zones or (greenhouses) instead of one to deal with the colder climate. (This can be found on Youtube in the video 'Michael Reynolds at KTH in Sweden, Earthship' at 22min 45sec)

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There have been a few attempts to build Earthship style houses in Sweden. At present, I've been able to find information about four; In Mobodarne, in Skövde, in Hällekil and one by Marcus Lewitzki.
I was in communication with Marcus 5 years ago. He forefronted the exposure of Earthships in Sweden who named the adapted design The Flagship Movement. He explained that his attempt to build one failed because the walls did not store enough thermal mass, giving heating problems. A video about the construction process of the one in Mobodarne can be found on Youtube under the title ‘(Earthship) Solarship i Sverige/Solarship in Sweden (Passivhus)’. Unfortunately, the Earthship built in Skövde was built without planning permission and it is uncertain if it is being used at all.

What Do I Envision for a Sustainable/ Self-Sufficient Home & What are My Thoughts?

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It is still very early to be planning where I would like my house to be situated. In the end, it may not even be in Sweden. I'd like to think that if it is in Sweden, it would be somewhere near where we are now on the very south-west coast outside Halmstad. The fact is, the climate here is much more like mainland Europe due to the warmth and moisture coming in from the coast. During the winter, snow rarely settles here for any long period of time. Going inland 20km from here is another story. Snow can sit on the ground for three months (or more) and the climate is noticeably colder. I wonder if a standard European model would work in my location???

Another major factor that I have considered is housing standards in Sweden. For perhaps centuries, building standards have had to be tighter simply because the winters are so cold. Good house design with consideration for insulation, ventilation and water has needed to be considered, especially recently.

When it comes to the actual stage of having the land, the money and the time to build my dream home, I would still have to properly explore everything an Earthship can offer to me in this part of the world. I want my house to be inspired by an Earthship and modelled on some of its features, however, I see so much opportunity with a model that is adapted to the infrastructure set up here in Sweden, as well as something that works for us in the countryside on the south-west coast. I feel that some of the integrated design features of an Earthship may not be needed, or functional in this location of the world, and for that reason, there are some questions that come to my mind that I'd like to answer, but I'd also like to put out it out there as something for you guys to think about. I welcome your thoughts in the reply section below. :-)

1 What are the Design Features of an Earthship and are they a design requirement?
2 What Resources are needed to support a house in your location, be is self-standing or conventional?
3 What does your location already have to Qualify a house Sustainable?
4 Is it the House that has to be self-sufficient, or is it the Lifestyle of the Occupants?
5 Is it more important that we Live Self-Sufficiently or that we have a Lifestyle that is Sustainable (Sustainability)?

There come many of my own views to answering these questions above.
The fact is, the very design of an Earthship is to provide every aspect of life that makes the house an "independent vessel" [Michael Reynolds]. They are; water, power, heating/cooling, ventilation, food, waste recycling & management and money saving. The question I have is, how many of these features are necessary for my location?

Water comes from the sky and can be stored and used for toilets or filtered for drinking. This is already an Earthship Design detail. Same with heating and cooling. But can it work just as well with Ground Source heating powered partly by Sweden's national wind grid and partly by solar panels on the house?
When it comes to fresh water in the countryside in Sweden, it comes from either drilled or dug water wells that are made for each individual home. This is a location detail and benefit.
Insulation is an absolute requirement here and I am in favour of having a house that works on the principles of thermal mass. But do the walls have to be built with car-tyres? Can it be built from Earthbags filled with 90% soil and 10% cement, in much the same respect as the Super-Adobe arches and domes built by New Earth UK and Iliona Outram? Can the south face be built out of straw bales?

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In terms of food production, does it have to be produced in the house itself, or can a separate greenhouse or permaculture patch be sufficient? We have a lot of water in Sweden, but a rainwater harvesting system may be enough to suffice.

This then comes to the next questions:

-- Is it the House that has to be self-sufficient, or is it the Lifestyle of the Occupants?
-- Is it more important that we Live Self-Sufficiently or that we have a Lifestyle that is Sustainable (Sustainability)?

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It may be enough that we can live a sustainable lifestyle without having a completely self-sufficient home and that by having all the design aspects on our land and in our lives, is enough.
It may be more than adequate that we extend and renovate an existing house to have the same or very similar effects of an Earthship. Given that some of the sustainability aspects are available to us on site, I would conclude that there is definitely a need for a new design to be found for the Earthship in Sweden. I would be overjoyed if I can be an influencing part in that process and I guess fate will tell.

For now, I would like to leave you with some more of my sketches.

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Thank you for reading my posts! I hope that you can take something of value from them. It truly has been a pleasure sharing my story in this 4 part series.

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You bring up some great questions.

I live in the wet tropics, we are trying an earthbag dome. Having time is a big issue, you basically have to stop other work to advance on the house.

Sustainability is more important than self sufficiency, but while self sufficiency gives us a lot of pride, learning to be able to live in a community is an increasingly important skill.

oh wow! i would love to try making an earthbag dome! it is quite some work of course.. but amazing way to build. I hope you get time one day to continue.. that is one to blog!

Would love to blog the building process of a dome!

do it!!!!

Thank you for your input @ecoinstant. In some respects, I'd have to agree.
Wow that awesome that you're building super adobe in the tropics! Have you got around the design issue of protecting the walls from rain? I've seen sketches of domes with reciprocal roofs and wooden/bamboo roofs, built into the dome walls themselves. How is the project going? One Love

The project is plodding along! Its only a single small dome and we hope to use this small one to figure out some of these problems when they come.

Im considering different sealants for the outside, and may consider something like a plastic cement for areas most afftected by water, such as the window eyebrows on the windward side. Im hoping that the water will just roll off if I seal it correctly.

If not, I'll have to design some sort of roof/porch/lookout to sit on top.

@ecoinstant If the Earth-Bags are still exposed (without render) it is possible to saw out sections where a wooden frame can rest and be jointed for a roof structure. Here are three photos I just came across online. I can really recommend thinking about this early on. If you would like more help, I can forward you to architect Tommaso Bazzechi of New Earth UK.

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This is fantastic!

Yes, I think so too, sustainability is more important than self-sufficiency, because there are many people being self-sufficient ( at least at the moment) but destroying their environment in the process.

Really? I haven't thought about that. Can you share exampes of what can be damaging to the environment whilst living self-sufficient?

Well, it depends on definitions I guess. Self-sufficient for me means, that you are able to produce or collect all or most of the things you need for a living yourself, maybe barter a bit with others. Now if you practice slash and burn, or chop forests down for agriculture or charcoal production you can be self-sufficient with that for the moment but in the long run it is not sustainable.
This way self-sufficiency does not necessarily always include sustainability.

Yes I'd agree with @likedeeler that I too feel sustainability is more important than self-sufficiency. We all have unique talents and I feel that it's better that we all work together to have a sustainable lifestyle and humanity overall than try and be self-sufficient.

I'd like to live in a sustainable property one day, but have no desire to build one, just not my talents! I support those who provide us organic, environmentally food and products but again have no desire to grow my own.

I love your dreams and desires and we need people who want to create sustainable housing for those of us who'd like to like in it but just aren't going to build our own!
Together we can create a better more sustainable world and humanity.

I really enjoyed your sketches!
In addition I think you pose a challenging thoughtful question about whether the dwelling or the lifestyle are more important for sustainability or long term environmental foot print. I wonder what answers you get. A lot of work went into this post. Very impressed. :)

Thank you @icmultitudes. Love and Om

Hejsan @mrfunkymonk - Introducerar #teamsweden ! Varmt välkommen! Superduper fet post, är också sustainable nerd! ;)
[ #teamsweden ] Uniting the Swedish Community | Get Your Own Custom Footer! - Original art @jnart

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Sverige_reko

Tack! Betyder mycket. Men varfor Upvota du din egna post? Ser inte bra ut!

Kul att höra @mrfunkymonk! :) Skulle säga att etiketten är att så länge en ger något av värde till andra är det okej att upvota sig själv. I detta fallet är det för att jag vill få den mer synlig så fler kan ta del av communityt vi håller på att bygga. Har en chat på Discord som du är varmt välkommen att besöka - https://discord.gg/2CeXkG

Följer med spänning! :D

First thing coming to my mind was @markwhittam ´s situation. So if you are going to have children, but wouldn´t be happy with the Swedish school system, then you probably wouldn´t build your earthship in Sweden but in a country which is more likely to fulfill your needs also on the schooling level.

Thanks @likedeeler. I am not really sure what to make of Marks family experience with the schooling system in Sweden. I havnt heard of anything like this and I can HOPE it is an isolated or localised case.

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

lovely to see some hand sketches.. the visions being born! Great post, lots of pertinent questions asked here! When its not sunday ill give my 2 cents here..

i think one question you ask is a very good one.. not one i hear asked very often.. would make a great QOTW!

Is it more important that we Live Self-Sufficiently or that we have a Lifestyle that is Sustainable (Sustainability)?

Cheers @eco-alex! I agree, it would be a good question to pose to the group. Love and Om

This is very inspiring. You have accomplished much. I've been working on my passive income for a while and wow it's been great!

I live in Santa Cruz and at the moment helping care for my elderly mother. She took care of me so I feel this is the least I can do. This puts me next door. While I will likely never be able to afford land in this area, I do have access to land, 17 acres my sister lives on. I've brought up someday wanting to build an earthship and they are open to it. There biggest concern is getting permits to build. This can be an exasperating long process in this county. I wondering if anyone else has had to deal with this or were their exemptions for building a sustainable Earthship? I'm going to find out and if there are none I may have to fight to get some put in place!

Thanks @tim-rumford. Have you seen the original architect, Mike Reynolds documentary Garbage Worrior? I can recommend it as great example and inspiration for how to get permission for an Earthship to be built.

Upvoting and following.

Its quite a reasonable job putting into this couple with some challenging questions that question lifestyle sustainability..
..impressive.

Thank you @nuges! Appreciate it.

Thanks for sharing... Love it.

I am happy you enjoyed it!

Wow p! Such a thorough article! I lov earthships! Someday I want to build one.