Ways to Incorporate the Youth Into The Environmental Cause

Guest Post by: Ling Xiong, president of Ecobrick IBSH

Climate anxiety is real, and it manifests itself particularly in people of younger generations, myself included. It forms due to the feeling of helplessness regarding climate change, whether it be our lack of political or financial freedom. Many of the advertised ways of environmentally conscious living, such as making sustainable swaps for everyday products, are not feasible for the youth and people of certain economic backgrounds. This creates an invisible barrier between people and their decision to lead eco-conscious lifestyles. However, this barrier can be taken down if more inclusive environmental activities are promoted.

Ecobrick Clubs

One such way is the creation of eco-bricks. Ecobricks are PET bottles densely packed with non-recyclable plastics that can be repurposed into building materials. They have similar properties to traditional stone bricks and act as great insulators. Currently, there are many programs throughout the world (particularly the USA, Indonesia, and the Philippines) that have extensive eco-brick trade networks and projects. Although the production of bricks may seem complicated, it is not. The process begins by cleaning and drying non-recyclable plastics which are the building materials. The clean plastic is then cut into small pieces that can help increase the density of plastic in the bottle. Additionally, the materials used to produce eco-bricks are essentially free. Plastic comes from yourself or the community, and no additional materials need to be purchased. Unlike traditional bricks, eco bricks are created from materials that everyone has access to. In fact, eco bricks act as a highly effective way to reduce the amount of trash that would otherwise be sent to the landfills or our ecosystems. This ultimately helps prevent the spread of microplastics and other trash in the environment. While the actual process of making eco-bricks is quite simple, it is quite time consuming and requires a certain amount of motivation. Because of this, it is important to create a community of eco-brickers to combine forces and make eco-bricking a highly enjoyable activity.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, a group of four high school students from Taiwan: Ling Xiong, Guan-Jhen Wu, Katelyn Chen, and Nina Tseng came together to create Ecobrick IBSH, a highschool environmental club. 

While the concept of eco-bricking is foreign to the general public, especially in Taiwan, where there is not a fully-fledged eco-brick community, we decided it was important to spread ideas of simple, sustainable practices. This would not only help the environment but also ease the climate anxiety that we and many of our other peers are faced with. Our main purpose is to repurpose the plastic in our local community by specially collecting non-recyclable plastics from around our school. Our school alone produces vast amounts of plastic and limiting its spread into ecosystems and landfills is a step in the right direction. This can be achieved by collaborating with recycling centers or just teachers and students around the school. Outside of the club, there is general enthusiasm coming from certain students and teachers who will specifically bring their cleaned plastic to our meetings. This engagement truly makes our eco friendly activities a joint community effort. As for the actual production of eco-bricks, this occurs during our weekly after-school meetings. In these meetings, our club members have a fun time engaging in conversation, singing to songs, and overall having a good time. This all happens in an environment that not only promotes the production of eco-bricks, but also other eco-friendly activities in general. By incorporating social interactions with environmental activities, we have created a tight knit and dedicated group of young environmentalists who work to help reduce the plastic in our community. As of now, the eco- brick club has created over twenty eco-bricks in one semester which are being collected to create a bench in our school. While our ultimate goal may take a while to achieve, having this goal in place gives us, and our members, the motivation and spirit to continue making eco-bricks.

The idea of creating a community based around the production of something is not a new concept. Concepts such as knitting and crochet clubs are well developed and if eco-bricking becomes more widespread, eco-brick clubs can have similar impacts on society. With an increase in popularity, eco-brick clubs could have the potential to largely influence the way society views plastic consumption and take a step towards combating climate change. As of right now, we are not aware of many other active eco brick clubs, but we highly recommend youth from other communities to participate in similar activities and even create their own eco-brick communities. Even though it may be hard to embark on a community eco-bricking journey, taking the initiative of one’s own carbon footprint and creating eco-bricks from personal trash is also a great way to start. After all, the convenience of eco-bricking is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home, at your own time, and can be a therapeutic pastime.

For people interested in creating an eco-brick club or just making their own eco-bricks here are the general guidelines on how to make them properly.

Ecobrick Standards/Guidelines:

  • Clean and dry all non-recyclable plastics and PET bottles
  • Put one large piece of soft plastic on the bottom of the PET bottle (usually a plastic bag will work)
    • This should fill in the dents that most plastic bottles have and give your eco-brick a strong foundation
  • Cut up other pieces of non-recyclable plastics
  • Fill the bottle until it fulfils the eco brick density equation (0.33 g/mL)
  • Densely pack the plastics into the bottle using a long stick (iron rod, wooden stick, etc.)
  • Important things to keep in mind:
    • Make sure only clean plastics are going inside the eco-bricks (no paper, food, etc.)
      • This will cause things like mold to grow and expand the eco brick
    • Prevent air bubbles from forming in the process
      • This will help give your eco-brick a better, denser structure
    • Don’t give up!!

Group Environmental Cleanups

In addition to creating eco-bricks, it is also feasible for the youth to attend and host their own environmental cleanups. These cleanups do not need to be very advanced and simply picking up litter at a local park can have a positive impact on the environment. In the case of Ecobrick IBSH, we not only host beach cleanups for our club members, but we also extend the opportunity to anyone in our school and community. Environmental cleanups can act as a major wake up call to many since much of our environment’s trash is hidden and only uncovered during a cleanup. One cleanup experience can ultimately act as a reality check for anyone, young and old. Additionally, environmental cleanups are very simple to host and are a great way for people to get together and enjoy nature. By hosting more outdoor activities, people can directly see the negative impact humans have on the natural environment and can promote environmental change.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is a great, practical environmental club for students to participate in. Have you heard if Miyawaki Tiny Forests? Another student club could plant tiny urban forests using a variety of local species trees and shrubs from the 4 canopy levels. They need to remediate the soil by heaping a lot of local leaves, some compost, and a few handfuls of healthy forest soil ( for the mycorrhizae), then a layer of wood chips or straw — and let that sit for a few months before planting trees in it, using his dense method of 3 per square metre.
    As well, I ran a great festival for youth to combat Climate Anxiety. Have a look. Happy to share resources with folx from other regions.
    Youthimaginethefuture.com

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