While UFO hunting and hot spring-hopping in Taos, New Mexico last week, we got to spend the night in an Earthship.
For all you non-hippies out there, Earthships are 100% sustainable, off-the-grid mansions made (almost) entirely out of recycled junk. We’re talkin’ old tires, beer cans, plastic bottles and mud. Admittedly, it doesn’t sound all that glamorous at first, but for luxury- and nature- loving free spirits like us, this place is a desert paradise.
A 15 minute drive outside Taos, across the Rio Grande Gorge, the Earthship World Headquarters is the largest “biotecture” community (a.k.a alternative eco-suburb) of its kind on the planet. Set on a sprawling 640 acres, a handful of fully-furnished “demonstration” ships are available year-round for nightly rentals — but, in the brochure’s words, “this is not just a hotel.” Well, obviously…
Read on for more!
After a tour of the visitor’s center (where you can nab a “God is Green” T-shirt or “Build Your Own” plan book), reception put us up in their slickest new model, “The Euro.” Not only was it super spacious with three king-sized bedrooms, two baths, a dining area, living room, and full kitchen, but we were surprised to find it tricked out with all the requisite mod-cons, including flatscreen TV and WiFi.
Of course, the main draw is the building itself, in all its eco-glory. All the ship’s power is gleaned from rooftop solar panels, while all its water is collected from rain and snow. During the day, sunlight streams in through slanted floor-to-ceiling windows running the length of the ship, which afford panoramic views of the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountains and create a literal “greenhouse” warming effect that the ship’s indoor garden loves. Forget having to go to the grocery or order room service; when we got hungry, we plucked fresh fruit from a fig tree and a grabbed handful of chard growing outside our room.
On extra-sunny days (even in winter), you might need to “turn on” the “A/C:” which involves opening small doors in the wall connected to cooling tubes that run from the half-buried back of the ship, inside. (We alotted an hour before check-out the next morning to sunbathing in the hall, it was so bright & warm!).
Thanks to this well-insulated system, the climate within never falls below 65 degrees. That means, even in the dead of winter when desert temps at night can drop to -25, you (and the plants) are always comfortable. Sheer geothermal brilliance, if you ask us. (Not convinced? We weren’t either, at first, so we laid out the down comforter in the closet for extra bedding before hitting the sack only to wake up in the middle of the night and shuck it off!).
Weird Stuff to Expect
The check-in process is pretty rigid (2:30-4pm only), and every member of your group must sign a liability waiver guarunteeing you won’t kill the plants (or animals, since if you’re staying in “The Phoenix,” you’ll have birds and fish for company). Oh, don’t be alarmed when you flush the toilet in the middle of the night and hear what sounds like a little jackhammer pounding away for a few seconds. That’s just the pump recycling used water to/from the plants. Also, if you go poking around the neighborhood, beware pissing off the occasional grouchy hippy with a holier-than-thou “eco-tude.”
The Final Word
Clean, comfortable, and, dare we say it, “crunchy-chic.” The night-time stargazing is the best we’ve seen anywhere outside a planetarium. Educate yourself and watch the Garbage Warrior DVD on-hand, to learn more about the evolution of Earthships and their progressive building methods.
We find it exasperating how so many hotels are trying to flaunt their “green-ness” these days in such silly, frou-frou ways. Suggested towel reuse and bigger soap dispensers? Puh-leeze, y’all. THESE are the green hotels of the future!
The Euro is available from $190 per night (and for weekly rentals), while The Phoenix (listed on the market at $1 million!) is currently undergoing renovations. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 575-751-0462.
[Photos: Suzanne Steinert for HotelChatter]