Activating the Earthship Army – White Paper
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

December 8, 2018

2017 April Academy

After participating in the Earthship academy located in Taos New Mexico in April 2017, I like many others was set on the idea of building an Earthship. For those that do not know, an Earthship is an off-grid home that follows six principles of heating/cooling itself, collecting its own rain water, growing its own food, powering itself, managing its own waste, and being built from reclaimed waste, chiefly tires, cans, and bottles. In this way, one lives in what could be considered a space ship or almost completely self-reliant home, but built right here on earth. Thus, the Earthship.

The biggest two challenges I observed

Reclaimed cans and tires allow Earthships to be labor intensive and cost-effective

in the faces of those around me to begin building their own Earthship was the need for significant labor and budget. Although there are larger Earthship designs out there costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, I believe through design, budget can be significantly reduced and indeed found a beautiful Earthship built on the mesa where the owner spent $35,000 in materials for his very own one bed, one bath. This leaves the challenge of labor.

How does one go about getting started on such a labor-intensive project? How do we activate graduates of the Earthship Academy to indeed follow through on their Earthship builds and spread the word of sustainable housing far and wide through successful examples? I believe that answer is found in the creation of the Earthship economy.

Let’s say for a second that

Typical bottle wall – Typically beautiful

one-week equals one credit. The academy is 4 weeks long and therefore 4 credits. Participating in an Earthship build following the month-long training program as is currently part of the academy graduation curriculum is another 4 weeks, therefore 4 more credits. Once the student satisfies the 8-week program, those 8 credits are released to the individual and they go live. Now say a student wants to start a build. They can offer 8 credits or weeks for anyone else who has completed the first two stages of the program and wants to participate in their build. People interested in their own builds can go and help this individual achieve key milestone in their project while claiming credits. Thus, if someone comes and puts in two weeks and then goes back to their own project, they now have their 8 credits from graduation plus 2, and now can offer 10 credits.

Thus, while helping others achieve their dreams, people are also banking their own time, which eventually can go into their own Earthship dreams. Thus, the Earthship army becomes activated and time/effort becomes a currency to its own, thereby creating liquidity within a group of people passionate about realizing sustainable housing.

Greenhouse and all

While, initially the currency or time bank would be managed manually by the Earthship Academy, ultimately, the whole process could be put on the block chain and banked hours could actually be bought and sold for hard currency in addition to traded for time. The value of time would fluctuate with real world valuation of someone’s time for a given week’s work. This allows USD inflation to be included within the model. As more students graduate, more credits are added to the market in a natural inflation process that allows the market to grow in a sustainable manner while being tied to a fundamental market indicator. This is the future growth of the market potential should it be adopted and eventually placed on a block chain down the road.

So what are the benefits, the risks, and the challenges in activating the Earthship army?

Benefits to Earthship Academy:

  • Academy students will be more likely to participate in a build project run by Earthship biotecture following classes in order to obtain live credits and participate on the open market, thereby improving graduation rates for the Academy.
  • More humanitarian projects can be planned and built around the world.
  • Other people will see this growing economy (Earthship time), and will be more inclined to apply to the academy.
  • The Earthship army grows and Earthships uptake becomes more prevalent throughout the world. (Tomato economy)

Benefits to Earthship Academy students:

  • Individuals can obtain help for difficult project moments where multiple hands are needed to achieve the build phase; i.e. pouring concrete, pounding tires, plastering, moving vigas into place.
  • Individuals without excessive income can dedicate months of their time towards other projects, building up a time bank for their project.
  • All people arriving on site for a build already will have 1 month of experience and therefore ideal workforce for assisting in new builds given previous experience at the academy.


  • While this effort does create some work for the Academy, having to manage a new process, I believe the benefits and added value far outweigh the cost of oversight.
  • What does a week or credit entail? There will need to be some definition of a credit and steps to validate credit transfers, (8-hour day, 5 days is logical).
  • Bad experiences can happen. Allowing people to post a review of their experience will incentivize credit offers to do their best to provide an enriched experience, i.e. lunches on site, rides to and from town, etc. Example: If I have 8 credits and a person has a bad experience claiming my first offered credit, I may struggle to get 7 more people to show up for my remaining 7 credits.

How it could initially work:

After completing both the 1-month Academy program and a humanitarian build, Earthship Academy students earn 8 credits that go live and are allowed to participate on the open market. The Academy can backdate credit for all students to date and issue new credits going forward. Earthship Academy acts as the time bank to start (excel format). People looking to spend their credits submit their request along with the phase to be completed, a synopsis of the effort, and number of credits available with location. Those are listed on a dedicated website. Credited graduates seeking credits can claim them, first come first serve and are required to commit to the offered time frame. Credit seeker and issuer take a photo together in front of the work completed and submit it for credits to be transferred along with reviews of each other. That is it… to start.

Of course there will eventually be difficulties and a 3-strike policy could be implemented before someone gets kicked out of the market. Additionally, with the growth of Academy numbers and students, the market could eventually need additional resources, ideal for block chain adoption at that point. The key is to start it today as it empowers both the company to realize higher participation in builds and realized Earthship construction that is student led. Action is key and creating a simple economy of Earthship time will promote just that.

If you are reading this and participated in the Academy and think it is a good idea, please forward it to the Academy with your own voice. The only way it comes to pass is if you and I make it so and that the Academy oversee it to give an initial cohesion, validity, and functionality. We are the Earthship Army and it is time to build the future.


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