The Earthship crew and about twenty interns stayed in one concrete house with a tin roof while building the Earthship school in Sierra Leone. There were two bathrooms.

Sinks with no plumbing, a hole in the floor for a bucket shower and a toilet with tank not hooked up to water. It was a bucket flush… but there was no water. Water had to be hauled in for both shower and flushing. This meant that most of the time there was no water to flush with. So things got a bit stacked up in the toilet. This is how life is in third world countries.


These experiences caused me to hate bucket flush toilets and bucket showers but when I realized how much money and equipment it takes to plumb and pressurize toilets and showers I decided to attack the issue. We have now accepted the concept of bucket flush and bucket showers but have decided to make them both sanitary and a positive – even delightful – experience.

We achieved this in both Haiti and Sierra Leone. We have provided both shower and toilet facilities that have gravity fed water always available and contain immediate drainage to take the grey and black water away for secondary use in botanical cells.
We have for the second time now made these facilities work so well that we have grown to appreciate and actually like them as much, if not more, than conventional facilities. One reason we like them more is the fact that they are so cheap to execute – so direct – so practical and with a little “design” can be delightful experiences.

So now we are believers in this technology and of course now realize that it will be a long time – or never – before this is acceptable in the developed world. The developed world would rather make sewage go away – at least as far as the nearest river. They would rather make pressurized water systems that add thousands of dollars to the cost of a home. Thus, few people even in the developed world can really afford housing.

Our Earthship designs and dreams are evolving beyond existing regulatory structures and there is no turning back. The third world countries invite this while the developed world inhibits it. Guess where we are headed.

michael reynolds
returning from Sierra Leone