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Most of us can only dream of a life without bills to pay, but for Craig and Connie Cook, creators of Wind Chasers, that dream has become a reality in the form of an Earthship, the place they call home.

Located near Lake Erie, Ontario, their "dwelling" was built using 1,200 recycled tires (which they acquired and had delivered for free).

Pioneered by Mike Reynolds, Earthships are a type of passive solar house that are made up of a combination of natural and upcycled materials, such as earth-packed tires, bottles, and cans. Making these homes the perfect sustainable housing option for the throwaway culture of modern society.

What is most intriguing is that these spaces interact solely with both the sun and the earth to provide all the necessities needed for homeowners.

Connie and Craig’s Earthship is a testament to sustainable and affordable off-grid living with a side of charm, feasibility and self-reliance. The couple now gets to experience life without any strings (or bills) attached. The only challenge? They must be in tune with the environment around them (which would be a challenge for some of us!

Instead of being hooked up to hydro, the couple uses stored thermal/solar energy gathered from solar panels, for heating and cooling. As well as a combination solar and wind power from on-site wind-turbines that they've constructed, for electricity. The couple collects and filters their own rainwater, using filtration systems installed on the roof and connected to the home. They’ve even avoided paying for a septic system by using a composting toilet! Now that's true genius.

What’s more is that, since it is a thermal mass and passive solar home, they get to enjoy a stable comfortable temperature of 20-22 degrees Celsius year-round. This is done without any external energy or furnace, since the walls absorb and maintain heat. Additionally, the windows, which have been designed at right angles to the winter sun, guarantee warmth in the winter and just enough sunlight to sustain the planter in the summer.

Oh, that’s right, they even have an indoor planter, where they grow and produce a lot of their own food with options ranging from sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and bananas. There is hardly anything this couple can’t do from the comfort of their own home, for a fraction of the cost!

Who knew saving the environment could be this inexpensive and pleasant? It might be time for all of us to consider launching our own Earthships, for the sake of the environment and our wallets.

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“How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see.” (Bob Dylan) Lyrics that feed into my brain as I take a late evening walk through the city. As a wanderer, I amass great pleasure in the act of walking around cities; soaking up the subtle stories that each concrete structure and city block hold within them.

Over the course of my four years in Toronto, I have come to believe that one of the most phenomenal aspects of cities is their public sphere, understood through the experiential process of walking its streets. Through this endeavor, the issues of poverty, homelessness, isolation and overall anxiety have become increasingly apparent. It is there, in the ever so rushed walks of pedestrians, in the traffic jams that regularly occur, and in the number of empty and crushed faces of those begging for a few loonies on the sidewalk.

What I have come to realize in my years of study, observation and experience, is that the root of our global concerns lies profoundly in the fact that we as humans have become selfish, greedy and apathetic. We have become so caught up in our own lives and needs, that we have failed to see the consequences of our actions; both on other people, and especially on our planet. It has become ever so important to acknowledge that the well-intentioned notion of adjusting one’s oxygen mask before assisting another, has taken a turn for the worse, resulting in a self-consumed society that strives merely for individualistic gain. This issue is one that should be placed under great scrutiny, since it appears the plane might just be crashing. If we don’t care, then who will care? And if we don’t change then, who will change?

Our vision and understanding has become so tunneled, and as Alex Steffen comments on, our current lifestyles would take at least 5 to 6 other planets to accommodate. And the disheartening fact is that there are millions out there would can’t afford basic rights just so that the mere few can excessively consume various voids away. Another very important point that Steffen brings up as well is the developing world’s assumed need to keep up with the developed world, trying, however unsustainably to meet existing technology benchmarks. I have come to notice a few things in my years of study and existence, firstly, is just how unsustainable and apathetic we and our lifestyles have become, and secondly, just how toxic our relationship to one another has become as a result of that.

This constant need to “Keep up with the Joneses” is beginning to take on all of us in the worst of ways. We have gotten so caught up in being perceivably “better” but in reality we are just creating voids that are constantly leaking and we must find ways to maintain them.

What Steffen mentions in the TEDtalk is actually an important note that we should all try to apply to our lives, even as small as within ourselves. He inspiringly mentions a few vernacularly and sustainably designed solutions that work all the better and are all the more beautiful because they stemmed from the source and not a perceived “better” technology. We could all benefit a little from recognizing the power locally and internally before reaching out to comparisons and equally average “better” solutions, maybe then it would not seem so difficult to live more sustainable lifestyles. The potential is there, in our homes, and our daily lives, we just need a major shift in perspective in order to see it for what it truly is.

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The Ojo Norte Straw Bale House project, a single storey home in North Bay Ontario, is truly a testament to the benefits of Straw Bale construction and its potential for vernacular, sustainable housing.

Brought to life in in September of 2017, by the University of Toronto’s Design-Build student group The Future Living Lab; who aim to design sustainable and affordable living solutions. The layout and construction of the home was designed to optimize cost savings and energy efficiency.

Straw-bales are made from waste product and can be purchased locally in North Bay. The panels offer excellent insulation and construction can be done easily with supervision; the owners and the students played an active role in raising the walls.

The result is also quite aesthetically pleasing, allowing the home to have thicker and textured walls. Thus, the material is worth considering as a more sustainable and affordable option for construction; allowing us to give new life to the otherwise wasted material.

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