Thursday, June 25, 2015


On Earth Day a few years back, I inadvertently participated in the festivities by getting sucked into a movie called "Garbage Warrior" on the independent film channel.  It follows the  exploits of "renegade" architect Michael Reynolds and his crew as they design and build "Earthships".  The film chronicles the main character as he looks to design, develop and build off-grid homes utilizing natural found materials and recycled items, including used tires, bottles, cans and the like.  Reynolds at first worked under the radar in Taos, NM, developing on some land that no one else wanted.  There were, of course, no available utilities or infrastructure anywhere near the site, as that was the point of his experiment.

Beer Can Wall.  My uncle had one like this, kind of...

The real draw of this film, as with any good documentary, is the protagonist.  More so than what the main character does with his skills and resources, the conflict is what sucks you into watching.  Eventually, after decades of free reign, the authority having jurisdiction over the community in which Reynolds works and lives begins to question what he is doing.  They now have zoning ordinances and building codes, and the Man begins to come down on him.  It is now a story of "Us" against "Them".  Now, this man with flowing white hair who wears dirt covered clothing and boots has to clean himself off, comb his mane and do battle with his adversaries on their own turf.  He goes off to the State Capital in order to draft a resolution that would allow for his kind of development, where there is no need to connect to the utility companies, water is collected from rainfall and sewage is treated on site.  His efforts fall on deaf ears at first and, without ruining the ending of the movie for anyone interested in seeing it for themselves, he is determined to persevere.

No straightedges required.

After his initial setback, the movie crew follows Reynolds to the Pacific Rim post tsunami to build a single family, self sufficient home in just a few days while teaching the displaced people how to continue the practice.  As with many documentaries of current figures, the filming ends before the whole story is complete.  A postscript describes Reynolds' efforts in post-Katrina Louisiana, and the viewer is left with some hope that the Establishment may be coming around to understand Reynolds' ideology of sustainable homes.  His ideas are now looked upon as possible solutions for a world in seeming turmoil.

Discarded tires help create a home.

While none of us here are looking to fight the local planning standards to allow used tires as the foundations for either schools or retirement facilities, we have been involved with some innovative concepts that really do buck the system.  And it takes quite a bit of resolve to persevere and a Client with vision who is willing to pay for  something they believe in.  It often takes that initial fight and precedent to smooth the way for future endeavors, and sometimes the person leading the fight looks more like a hippy than a lawyer.

One of our projects, using reclaimed barn beams for stair treads.

For more about Earthships, check out the website:  Worth a look!

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