A house made of trash and tires in the NEK makes an eco-friendly ‘earthship’.

She stood in a circular hilltop clearing in the Greensboro woods Friday afternoon, speaking as a six-man crew maneuvered around a mass of scrap tires, cardboard and piled fill materials. “All this stuff, a lot of it is just garbage,” the Massachusetts native said.

That garbage is the material she’s using to building a home. 

Hatch and the work crew have been building an earthship, a type of house made from recycled materials that aims to retain a constant temperature, with less need for traditional heating and cooling. 

The design originated in the Southwest in the late 20th century, and it’s a “relatively new building concept in Vermont,” said Elle O’Casey, communications director at the state Agency of Natural Resources.

Until recently Hatch, a software developer, had been trying to live sustainably in her 19th-century Massachusetts home, at one point converting to geothermal energy. 

“I have wanted to minimize my footprint,” she said.

But she wanted to go even further: off the grid. The earthship concept, pioneered by architect Michael Reynolds, seemed ideal.

With its small pockets of people, the Northeast Kingdom appealed to Hatch as a good location, and last June she bought 11.5 acres off Bayley Hazen Road in Greensboro. 

She enlisted the help of Regenerative Retrofits — a building group led by Johnson resident Brenden McBrier — and since the summer the crew has been working three days a week on the planned 800-square-foot home.

The key idea behind earthships is to use abundant materials that would otherwise be discarded — namely scrap tires. In building earthships, tires are used like bricks; Hatch’s project calls for about 700 of them, and the walls of the home will eventually reach 13 tires high. 

Liz Hatch explains the design features of her earthship home under construction in Greensboro on Friday, September 25, 2020. An earthship is a home constructed of recycled materials that is designed to be heated by passive solar. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

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By Justin Trombly via vtdigger.com