Liberal Studies


Through a Grand Valley State University course on “Wicked Problems in Sustainability”, our team was formed focusing on energy efficiency. Inefficient energy within our homes is one of the biggest culprits in unsustainable energy use; “The amount of energy wasted by 75,000 average American homes in a single year is equal to the waste that occurred in the 2010 BP Oil Spill” (erc-co.org). Looking at more energy efficient ways of living, we explored Earthships. “The Earthship is the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building” (earthship.com). As a design that has been evolving for the past 40 years, it is built from recycled materials, includes a built-in greenhouse, has its own water filtration system, and has a focus on off grid capabilities. We relied upon the "wicked problems framework", and scaled the wicked problem of sustainable living down into a small experiment where introducing a workshop for the local community would bring knowledge to interested community members and become a powerful tool in rethinking sustainable housing. Our group is interested in the ways in which the homes we live in can be more energy efficient. We are proposing a local workshop that would include general Earthship construction, costs, hands-on building with tires, codes and regulations. In Irvine and Kaplan’s (2001), “Coping with Change: The Small Experiment as a Strategic Approach to Environmental Sustainability”, the authors suggests that “People have an inclination to be threatened by change; humans are much more comfortable with the known than the unknown" (p. 714). We plan to bring familiarity to the general public by talking with local stakeholders experienced with the Earthship model and incorporating their knowledge in the workshop.