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A new relief shelter in Puerto Rico will be made from tires and mud

In Aguada, Puerto Rico, volunteers pack recycled tires with earth. Then builders carefully stack the tires into dome-shaped huts. The result is the island’s first “earthship”.

When complete next year, it will consist of five structures, built around a central garden and connected by a rain catchment system.

Despite the name, the earthship is not intended to move. Quite the opposite:

Melendez: “Each tire is like a 300 pound brick, so it’s definitely not going anywhere with the wind.”

That’s Lauralina Melendez of the nonprofit Colectivo Verdolaga. She’s long been fascinated by earthships, which have been built around the world since the seventies. But after Hurricane Maria, she knew she had to bring them to her native Puerto Rico.

She says earthships are ideal relief shelters because they’re strong and self-sufficient – with solar power and sewage treatment on-site.

So this first project in Puerto Rico is intended to show what’s possible. Melendez hopes it is the first of many earthships across the island.

Melendez: “If we go through another Maria, but we have earthships to rely on for water, for safety, and for community more than anything, that’ll change things so much.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Monica Isola is a bilingual biologist-turned-communicator who specializes in climate change, environment, and conservation.

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