Seth Connell

Raised between Hawaii and Seattle, I have had the best of both worlds. Anything Aquaponics is my gig, but I help with many other sustainable practices in the greater Seattle area such as permaculture, water conservation, and earthships. I try to be as raw vegan as possible, but don't always win.

Posts by Seth Connell

All Those Bottle Bricks….

Now that I had the basic concept of Earthships rooted in my mind, I began to do some digging on their materials. One thing that piqued my interest was the construction of the walls!  While it was apparent some modern methods were still used, the method of upcycling really caught my eye.  What exactly was it about these materials supplements that worked for the structure?  I decided to do some digging and try my hand at building an Earthship this past Sunday.  What follows should illuminate your imagination a little bit.

Plastic Bottle Bricks.  Sounds simple enough, and simple it is!  Plastic bottles are among the many industrially indigenous materials to every region of the earth.  They come in all sorts of colors and shapes.  Once stuffed to the brim with plastic bags they are stacked in staggered lines layered with cob to build a wall.  I investigated and found an article from The International Association of Advanced Technology and Science*1 that found these walls to be 20 times more structurally sound than normal brick walls.  So what about the other brick replacements?

Glass Bottle Bricks.  Those three words might stir up a scene of a bar fight, but I assure you it’s something quite more beneficial.  Used not just for structural strength and heat retention, but also as a means to beautify.  I discovered last Sunday at the Seattle Earthship build that you do not just shove a glass bottle in the mud and repeat.  You want to collect like colors so that you can cut off the necks and duct tape them together. Filling them with liquids is not advised*2

Bottle wall

Bottle wall

Beer Can Bricks.  Same principle applies as with the plastic bottles mentioned earlier; only they do not have to be stuffed with plastic bags.  The metal void both reinforces the concrete and serves as an air pocket for insulation.  Once stacked these walls are given a face coat of cob/mortar and sometimes plaster.  Using these materials means you spend less on your mortar or cob mix.

Cob – This is a term some of you may not know about.  It is a natural alternative to cement or mortar mixes that has been around for thousands of years.  The basic principle is to mix sand and clay together with a binder to create a stone-like material.  Binders come in the form of straw, plant fibers, and even hair.  Mix until globby: not too runny, but not dry.  The cob secures and weights down all the bottle/can bricks you have laid then essentially turns to stone.

I was able to experience this past Sunday at the Earthship Seattle build and had a great time!  Florian guided the attendees thru what to do to finish a glass bottle wall.  Some of us worked with sifting clay and making cob, while others set bottles in place and lay cob in a fashionable manner.  There is still much to be done there, and with regular workshops there is plenty of opportunity for YOU to come participate (for those of you interested*3).  See you all next week! – Seth

*1 Plastic bottle Brick Study –

*1 Glass Bottle Bricks –

*3 Earthship Seattle FB –

An Aquapon’s Delightful First Earthship Meeting

Earthships. What are they? Are they talking about the Earth as a ship, or what exactly? Makes sense right? Sailing thru space and such. While I already knew the answer, I figured why not learn more locally if I can, so I did. Running ‘Anything Aquaponics’ here in Seattle, I have been interested in integrating Earthships into system designs for some clients, and having seen it done on a small scale I reached out to ‘Earthships Seattle’. They encouraged me to join their Meetup group and attend a meeting.

This past Monday I had the great fortune of dropping in on an Earthships Seattle meeting. Some attendees and myself were greeted by the host Florian at the door and ushered inside. Being among the first to arrive, we mingled while consuming the delicious appetizers as more members poured in. The food was just as diverse as the group; Individuals from all over the country, Central America and Europe. Stuffed peppers, pressed chocolate, and fresh bread from a Ballard bakery were among the many delightful hors d’œuvres. Once the group swelled to just over 20 folks the meeting formally began.

Event Organizer Sophie initiated a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ style of introductions to go around the room. Most people appeared to be new to the ‘ships’ as they are referred in these circles, but we privy to the concept and were inspired to drop in and learn more. A few members of the group have completed the Earthship Academy workshops and have built multiple ships all over the world. Tele-conference was also conducted for those who could not physically attend, but were still interested.
Following the introduction session a video clip from Democracy Now on Earthships was put on. The piece was on Michael Reynolds (the father of Earthships) the story behind the movement. One topic he covered that I bring up in my aquaponics classes is establishing local food security as a social dissent deterrent. Put more succinctly: feed hungry people and they are less likely to commit crimes.

Seth R. Connell

Seth R. Connell

Mr. Reynolds’ sense of humor was acceptably dry and industrious; poking fun at the global market machine by referring to glass bottles, soda cans, and used tires as ‘indigenous to all continents’. When questioned about his Architecture license being revoked by the government he confirmed the case. Reynolds went on to describe that because Earthships are so efficient and different that they do not abide by modern architecture’s international building code standards. After losing his license he came up with the term ‘Biotecture’, which ended up being the latter half of his new business ‘Earthship Biotecture’.

Other key points on the video to bring up for anyone not familiar are rather unbelievable to newbies. Benefits such as year-round indoor gardening, constant regulated temperature, solar/wind/alt power sources, and Eachship boasting a utility bill grand total of under $100 per year; those are the main head turners. Structures are on average comprised of 45% recycled or upcycled materials, and the rest purchased.

Upon the videos end, hearing their stories over the course of the night was rather inspiring. Some of the certified ship builders had actually spent months with Reynolds. From what I was able to gather, these homes average out to the same expense per square foot as a modern home. While that may be true, to this writer the benefits of Earthships drastically outweigh the plain functionless structure of the cookie-cutter boxes most of us call home.

Local Earthship events were mentioned as well if you feel like getting involved. What the group has dubbed the ‘Trash Studio’ is located in the Columbia City neighborhood of South Seattle. It is near completion and they have setup the final few workshop days on their page. Upcoming workshops are on the following dates and you can RSVP on their Meetup page: 3/16, 3/20, 3/27, and 3/29.

There are a variety of other opportunities for Earthships to be built in Western Washington which were mentioned, many of which are still up in the air, and our state’s legislators make it very difficult to approve plans. There are ways to work with city/county inspectors to get these projects accomplished and I’m sure there will be more information available as those respective projects move along.

About this time the meeting concluded and some people disembarked for home. I stayed and talked more in depth with those who stuck around, as well as signed up for some volunteer positions on the board. My aquaponics company keeps me busy, but there is enough downtime to contribute my time to helping this group get these ships in the ground (not off it).
If you are one of the people who actually practices being the change you want to see in the world, rather than just saying it, then you should definitely join this group! There are many other positions available for people to join this great group of skilled enthusiasts and certified builders. Workshops, meetings, and even road-trips to Earthships are among the activities they hold.

I personally had a fantastic time and am excited to play a role in the group. Can totally see myself turning from a professional Aquapon into a bit of a E-shipper/Shippie or whatever the proper moniker is. Please find them on or on Facebook.

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