Garbage Warrior is a 2007 documentary about the American architect Michael Reynolds, which was directed by Oliver Hodge. Reynolds is known for his unconventional methods of building houses called Earthships. Those Earthships are built from recycled materials – such as old car tires, used bottles, or cans – and are practically energy independent. Energy is harvested by solar panels, the buildings’ architecture provides geothermal cooling, potable water is collected from the rain and most or all of the food can be grown inside the house. According to Reynolds a family of four could easily survive in such a building without ever going to the store or paying for utilities like water or electricity.
The documentary shows Reynolds in his every day life, building Earthships in Taos, New Mexico, with his team. It also points out Raynolds’ struggles when he had to face state regulations and federal building codes. Critics point out that Reynolds’ Earthships do not comply with conventional rules of safe architecture since the buildings are not connected to the electricity and water grid and room temperatures cannot be regulated sufficiently. Criticisms have resulted in Reynold losing his architect license, thus his Earthships have been shut down for more than 7 years. Reynolds always admitted that none of his buildings are perfect. Mistakes are important to learn from in order to evolve better solutions. Much like biological evolution, architecture continues to evolve as well. This is why Reynolds requested permission for building earthships on controlled test sites in order to optimize their design. Reynolds’ need to fight against conventional laws in order to build carbon neutral housing, shows the insanity of the bureaucratic obstacles to passing progressive environmental bills in New Mexico and the US in general.
After Reynolds failed in getting his bill passed, which would have allowed him to build on controled test sites in the US, he and his team travelled to the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean to build Earthships for people who lost everything due to the tsunami in 2004. Architects, engineers, and the general population tried to learn from Reynolds’ methods and were grateful for his help. Within a few weeks Reynolds and his team built up Earthships from local waste materials, which were also able to collect potable water from rain. In 2006, the US board of architects heard about Reynold’s work on the Andaman Islands and invited him to reapply for his architect license. Finally, in 2007 Reynolds’ request for permission to build on controlled test sites was approved by the State Legislature.
Garbage Warrior is a very impressive and inspiring documentary about a visionary man who wants to make a change in sustainable living for the good of humanity and our planet. The full documentary is available on public video platforms such as YouTube.