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Earthship's Exterior Botanical Cell


Joined: Jul 23, 2011
Posts: 4
Earlier last year I posted an idea for an alternative to a septic using plants in an enclosed box to biodegrade waste product.

I knew then that Earthship had something very similar and, in hindsight, I should have posted a link to the Earthship page outlining their "Exterior Botanical Cell" here:

That said, why isn't this idea more applied and developed?

It's basically a biosphere for waste management. The waste products in entirely controlled and contained with no contact with the surrounding environment through the whole process. It would seem to me the principle could be applied in varying degrees and scales to fit anyone's needs minus the emptying buckets.

I realize the bucket method is very efficient and inexpensive and what not, but, if one has the means, wouldn't a system that eliminates the bucket system be the ideal? (Also, the bucket system, in which the waste product is put in a compost pile is not exactly sealed off from the surrounding environment, btw.)

Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5749
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
It might be used less because of being more difficult to install in an existing house.....

Idle dreamer

Bob Segraves-Collis

Joined: Apr 17, 2012
Posts: 7
Thank you for the link. I have been fascinated by the Earthship concept and tried to find information on their systems for sometime. The link you posted is just what I was looking for.

The Outdoor Botanical Cell concept is a good one, but in many parts of the country getting it past the zoning board would be an uphill battle. I was doing some reading on additions to an aquaponics system that would yield food sources for the fish and found comments that some folks had been using "Biopods" to process human waste. Does anyone have any experience with that process? I was thinking that if one could us Black Soldier Fly Larvae to render the humanure to a compostable product that would then fed to worms in worm beds. By the time those processes had run their course the product should be fairly benign?
Tyler Ludens

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5749
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
You could use a worm composting toilet, which is easier to manage than BSF (which may be seasonal in cooler climates).....
R Scott

Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 3051
Location: Kansas Zone 6a

An exterior botanical cell is a fancy name for what is called a lagoon septic system here. One county over from me they allow lagoon septic systems because the ground percs so poorly. Here they don't
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Rob Meyer

Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 103
From my basic glossing over of what a lagoon septic system is, it's not quite the same as an earthship treatment system. It's very similar though. Where they differ is first in the use of solar glazing to heat up the sewage, thus increasing the efficacy of the anaerobic bacteria, and also the eventual killing of the pathogens with that high temperature, and second with the recommended usage of plants for the final treatment, which provides a yield that would otherwise not be possible, that is food or beauty in the form of exterior edible or ornamental plant cells. Additionally, the water can be routed back in once treated for use in again flushing the toilet. This could be especially useful in arid areas, which is where the earthship was developed.

The reason this system is not more widely used is mainly because of its complexity, and also because to the common person, it may sound like it might not be entirely effective. It seems to be largely overlooked in the world of sustainability, and I'm really not entirely sure why. One of the biggest problems of our time is how to deal with our waste, and it's largely viewed as a big hassle by most municipalities. Similar to all problems viewed with permaculture goggles on, with prolonged observation and planning, waste management can actually provide many benefits with little actual maintenance or long term effort by those who benefit. This is probably the most effective way of achieving such benefits that I've seen, and perhaps if a concerted marketing campaign were conducted by permaculturists around the world, these sort of systems could become the new norm for home retrofitting and new home building.
subject: Earthship's Exterior Botanical Cell