This classic Airstream trailer outfitted with off-the-grid features got people thinking back to the future at the 18th Bioneers conference this weekend. The sustainability convention in San Rafael, Cal., brings together "bio-pioneers" including scientists, artists, clean tech investors and nonprofit activists.
The 22-foot Safari model, circa 1958, incorporates a composting toilet, wind turbine and solar panels. It has bamboo floors, trimmings and cabinet skins as well as an Alaskan yellow cedar couch bed. Countertops are recycled stainless steel and the bathroom floors are marboleum, derived from flax oil.
Owner Tim Blair, who runs a green design consulting firm, offers a few restored "Eco-Earth Yachts" for sale or rent. He has shown them off at events including Burning Man and SolFest. He hopes to repurpose the streamlined trailers as mobile learning, communications and medical "command centers."
Towing an Airstream around the country may be less than green if hitched to a gasoline-powered car, but the trailers have come to symbolize efficient, vintage design. Visionary Buckminster Fuller owned one. Trendy Airstream trailers can fetch many tens of thousands of dollars from loyal devotees.
People are converting trailers into eco-friendly abodes and using them as components in modular homes.
Stewart Brand, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and The Well online community, said at Bioneers that trailer homes deserve to lose their stigma, because dense, urban communities like trailer parks can make ideal centers for sustainable development.
Brand lives in a houseboat in Sausalito, Cal. Many of his neighbors have stayed for decades in the waterfront community because they view their dwellings as homes rather than investments, he said. Prices for houseboats, like trailers, don't tend to rise at the same speed as real estate.