Local volunteers hard at work on building a self-sustaining greenhouse out of donated and up-cycled materials.

There’s a building northwest of Edmonton which, as it stands, might not look like much, but it’s the groundwork for some lofty green goals.

Right now, it looks like piles of excavated dirt and some earth-filled tires stacked on top of each other nestled in the side of a hill, however Edmonton Greenship organizers hope that, by the end of next summer, it will be a fully-functional, self-sustaining greenhouse made of only up-cycled materials and a place where people in the Greater Edmonton Area can come to learn about eco-friendly living.

The project is based on the idea of an Earthship, the self-named product of Earthship Biotecture, a company which has been creating its namesake for the last 40 years.


While the idea may be similar, the Greenship will function as a greenhouse, rather than a domicile.

“In its essence, it’s to prove a point. We want to prove that we can grow food in our own backyards in a passive way with minimal effort as long as there’s proper design to begin with,” said Dori Lavy, the project’s construction manager, or “captain.”

The Greenship is located on land owned by Aspen Centre for Integral Living, and, though its design is still malleable, depending on the amount of support its creators get, the going blueprints are calling for a 400-ish square foot build.

“Because we’re building with mostly upcycled materials, it’s kind of a chicken or egg scenario. Does the design come first or does finding the materials? It’s a bit of a balance of those two things,” said project manager Laryssa Toroshenko.

The design, as it stands, will allow the Greenship to collect its own rain water to feed future produce. Its windows are aimed to the south to take in as much sunlight as possible, and it is designed to take in as much solar warmth as possible to be slowly released by the tires.

So far, every part of the build has been donated or simply found. Things like gravel from road construction and other erstwhile junk that would have been chucked are welcome, the organizers said.

“We spent $90 total on stuff to support the process, but no money has actually been spent on the building itself,” said Toroshenko.

Next year, organizers hope to begin the grant application process in earnest in the hopes of purchasing some solar energy tech to power hydroponic pumps and other small, off-the-grid gadgets.

This granting process will also shape how the Greenship comes together.

“It will be equipped with everything one needs to make this kind of greenhouse. What that will be will depend on what we want to grow and what we want to do in there,” Toroshenko said.

“This thing really takes shape as we’re building it. What these details end up becoming will show their face in time … It’s a downright miracle, to be honest.”

The build has a core crew of around eight people, though, according to Toroshenko, volunteers around town have come to help the construction.

“We got a lot of community support from all walks of life. We had volunteers from ages six years old up to 50-some years old,” said Lavy.

“There’s not a single paid member in the whole organization.”

Excavation began on May 21, and the construction will need to stop over the winter.

Produce created in the building will be sold by Aspen Centre, the group’s parent organization, at farmers markets to fund educational seminars held in the Greenship and other educational events.

Education, the organizers said, is a main component for the Greenship, and anyone interested in helping out or taking a look at the build can email greenship@aspencentre.org