A sus­tain­able hol­i­day in West Sum­bawa

Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Marge (www.marg­

It was 11 p.m. and the light went off. The elec­tric­ity sup­ply for the day was fin­ished and we were ready to go to bed. It had been a long day of ex­plor­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing dive sites around the Eight Is­lands with base camp at the Earthships in Ke­nawa Is­land. Lo­cated just a 15-minute boat ride away from Poto Tano district, Ke­nawa Is­land is spread over 13.8 hectares of un­spoiled trop­i­cal beauty in Gili Balu district in West Sum­bawa.

The seven of us were all pas­sion­ate vol­un­teer divers who, on be­half of Eco Re­gions In­done­sia (ERI), were on a task to doc­u­ment the po­ten­tial of this area as a div­ing des­ti­na­tion and test the newly built Earthships. There were two pro­to­types built by sus­tain­able ar­chi­tect Mike Reynolds and his team dur­ing work­shops held in De­cem­ber 2016 and March 2017.

This pro­ject is a part of The Eight Is­lands Eco Re­gion, a com­pre­hen­sive sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment ven­ture sit­u­ated in the Poto Tano district, where the West Sum­bawa Re­gency has al­lo­cated an area of 1,000 hectares as an Eco Re­gion suit­able for the de­vel­op­ment of both eco­tourism and agro-in­dus­try. The re­gency has nom­i­nated ERI as the con­ser­va­tion, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and de­vel­op­ment gov­ern­ing body for the area, with re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­duce sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment rules and guide­lines for de­vel­op­ment in the Eco

Re­gion, pro­hibit­ing non-sus­tain­able prac­tices. This plat­form com­bines en­vi­ron­men­tal, cul­tural, so­cial, spir­i­tual and fi­nan­cial needs in equal bal­ance, and is set to cre­ate South­east Asia’s largest Eco Re­gion.


Mike Reynolds has been build­ing Earthships for more than 40 years and adapt­ing this self-suf­fi­cient build­ing con­cept to a va­ri­ety of

con­texts, uses and cli­matic con­di­tions. Dif­fer­ent adap­ta­tions of this self­suf­fi­cient build­ing have been built world­wide; some be­com­ing pri­vate res­i­dences, some of­fices, while oth­ers hol­i­day houses. Some Earth­sips have even been adopted within re­lief pro­grams for home­less peo­ple.

Due to its unique and di­verse de­sign, an Earthship build­ing re­quires a wide use of re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als such as glass and plas­tic bot­tles, as well as cans and tires. And be­cause of that, the Earthship has be­come many peo­ple’s “dream home”, mainly for its self-suf­fi­ciency in en­ergy pro­duc­tion which al­lows it to be com­pletely off the grid. In­deed, the Earthship has been de­fined as “a liv­ing or­gan­ism” be­cause it in­ter­acts with the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment as if it is a liv­ing be­ing, adapt­ing to the needs of who lives in it and to cli­matic con­di­tions.

The mass cre­ated by old tires stuffed with soil iso­lates the build­ing, so do the empty plas­tic and glass bot­tles which are also used for dec­o­ra­tion. Wa­ter is col­lected for hu­man use and be­ing re­cy­cled to ir­ri­gate the gar­den. En­ergy is pro­duced by so­lar pan­els and a so-called “breeze-maker” sys­tem on the roof that cools down hot air from the out­side and turns it into a nat­u­ral air flow that fresh­ens the in­door ar­eas. In Eight Is­lands, the Earthship team is col­lab­o­rat­ing with ERI for the es­tab­lish­ment of South­east Asia’s first Earthship branded re­sort and Earthship Academy.


To us, the seven divers and tem­po­rary dwellers, the Earthship has pro­vided suf­fi­cient fresh wa­ter to wash off salt and dirt, enough elec­tric­ity to charge our phones, cam­era bat­ter­ies and lap­tops, and light un­til af­ter din­ner. We had to use a gen­er­a­tor to fuel the air com­pres­sor used to fill the tanks, but no ad­di­tional cool­ing sys­tem such as fans or air-con­di­tion­ing de­vices was needed to keep us fresh dur­ing the hot days.

“The Earthship in­ter­acts with the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and uses the en­ergy that is on the planet,” ar­chi­tect Mike Rey­olds ex­plained in an in­ter­view. “It re­cy­cles waste and rain wa­ter and iso­lates from out­door tem­per­a­ture, thanks to the mass made

of com­pressed soil and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als such as tires, bot­tles and cans.” Each Earthship is pow­ered by so­lar, has its own grav­ity-based wa­ter col­lec­tion sys­tem and sep­tic tank. “The Earthship needs less en­ergy than a con­ven­tional build­ing. It needs less so­lar pan­els and no air-con­di­tion­ing. It gives you the essen­tials, pro­vides you with what you need but does not let you watch TV all day!” Reynolds added.

Earthships can be cus­tom­ized ac­cord­ing to the needs of the peo­ple liv­ing in it, but at the same time they ed­u­cate peo­ple on en­ergy con­sump­tion. “We need to be aware that ev­ery­thing is fi­nite. That en­ergy is fi­nite. Peo­ple don’t think like that any­more be­cause ev­ery­thing is pro­vided. They just need to pay for en­ergy and can have as much as they want. The Earthship takes peo­ple out­side of their lit­tle world to see the whole picture, and make them pon­der; do I re­ally need to waste wa­ter and power? To throw my garbage out and let my sewage go into the sea? Slowly, they start to see how cru­cial their par­tic­i­pa­tion in this planet is and it makes them stronger as a com­mu­nity,” Reynolds con­cluded.

The pro­ject of the Earthship Re­sort in Eight Is­land Eco Re­gion is pro­gress­ing – another con­struc­tion work­shop will take place in Oc­to­ber 2017, and this train­ing ex­er­cise will grad­u­ally in­volve more and more lo­cal con­struc­tion teams to build 33 Earthships and open them to the pub­lic.

It is true that the so-called sus­tain­able travel has be­come many travel agen­cies’ best seller. How­ever, on our short stay in an Earthship – the first one in In­done­sia –, we have had the in­valu­able op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence what sus­tain­able travel re­ally is. In­deed, it is more than stay­ing in a lux­ury ho­tel with a bam­boo roof. Sus­tain­abil­ity is a con­ver­sa­tion with the en­vi­ron­ment, a liv­ing in­ter­ac­tion with na­ture, peo­ple and our­selves.

Ke­nawa Is­land

The Earthship is nes­tled in South­east Asia’s largest Eco Re­gion.

The beau­ti­ful un­der­wa­ter life in West Sum­bawa.

Free dive in the West Sum­bawa wa­ters.

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