The Quintessential Black Farmer: Rashida's Earthship

Rashida Ali-Campbell and her earthship. Image courtesy of Rashida Ali-Campbell and Earthship Biotecture

by Kirtrina Baxter

In the wonderful world of sustainable housing, we have gotten to know many different ways to build environmentally-conscious, earth-friendly housing, so this new (well new for me since I am just learning of it) way to build green housing should come as no shock, even though the name speaks volumes…Earthship! Philadelphia is soon to be home to one of thousands of these green buildings that have been created around the world by designer and creator of “Earthship Biotecture”, Michael Reynolds. In this case, it is not Mr. Reynolds who is building it, but an African American woman named Rashida Ali-Campbell.

Sista Ali-Campbell first got the idea after watching a documentary called “Garbage Warrior” about Mr. Reynolds’ Earthships.  She was immediately awed by the idea and wanted one for herself. But Ali-Campbell’s dedication to service and community made her think of ways to share this new found idea. “If only we had a self-sustainable building like that, the money we were always so worried about could be used to help people find a purpose, pay off their debt and send their kids to school.” So sista Ali-Campbell decided she would build a school for low-income residents to learn sustainable building techniques in this unique urban “Earthship Academy.”

Earthships are entirely made of natural and found materials, things like tires, glass and plastic bottles, and crushed aluminum cans. The name was coined because they look like spaceships as tires packed with dirt serve as the building foundation. They have the ability to heat and cool themselves, and produce wind and solar energy while growing their own fruits and vegetables. Some of these homes even come with chicken coops for eggs and catfish ponds. Earthships have their own sewage system and collect and sterilize water. They are totally self-sufficient and utility free.
Since Philadelphia is home to tons of discarded waste and vacant land (they have about 75,000 vacant lots), and a decade ago Philadelphia made headlines for large city fires for the anonymous burning of tires, it is a ripe city for this type of venture. Ali-Campbell says that a vacant lot with lots of tires would be the ideal location. After four years of much negotiating with city zoning officials and a newly created landing zone, Rashida Ali-Campbell’s Earthship Academy is set to sail soon with a lot picked out and construction starting the end of this year.

Right now sista Ali-Campbell is fervently seeking funding support for this amazing endeavor. Look for her on facebook– she is also giving a webinar on Saturday!! You can also learn more about earthships on Youtube.