STAYING IN AN EARTHSHIP
A sustainable holiday in West Sumbawa
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.
SOUTHEAST ASIA’S FIRST
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.
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.