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My ecobricking journey (part 1)

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

“Is that when you stuff a load of plastic into a bottle” is most people’s response when you mention ecobricking. Then... “so what do you do with them all?” is often the next question. I’m only recently learning that there’s a lot more to it than that!

I stumbled across ecobricks about 3 years ago and was keen to incorporate it into my school’s eco club and build a raised bed to replace the broken plastic one which was rapidly becoming unsafe. This is the sort of thing I had in mind...

Which we’d then cover in cob to form a beautiful place to grow vegetables in. Unfortunately, I looked on the wrong website and made about 20 eco bricks which were all too light by about 60g each! I recently started taking apart the eco bricks to fit in more plastic only to discover that some had gone mouldy!

Top tip 1:- wash and dry your plastic really well before popping it in a bottle. Mouldy eco bricks are very smelly!

Top tip 2:- go to the official website of the Global Eco bricking Alliance (GEA) – GEA sounds like a big corporation but are actually a small group of dedicated environmentally minded people who are passionate about preventing plastic pollution. They work with people all over the world making and authenticating eco bricks to a high standard so that we aren’t just stuffing plastic into bottles but producing something that is a useful building brick for all sorts of projects globally.

Fast forward to Summer 2021 and as a fairly new member of Malvern Green Space, I was lucky enough to be asked to go on eco brick training. I was very excited about this opportunity but, after my earlier efforts, a little apprehensive as to whether I’d be up to it. However, the whole experience has been so much more than I’d ever imagined.

GEA trainer Lucie Mann is passionate about all things eco and really made me question things I’d never even thought about before. Also on the course was Candice Mostert from Capetown who is an experienced ecobricker with many building projects under her belt. It was fascinating hearing about the different systems and attitudes in South Africa and how plastic use is on the increase there. I really enjoyed our weekly Zoom sessions and I soon realised that the main point behind ecobricking is not the ecobricking itself but everything that comes before it.

The main point being to consume less. This is not easy in the world we live in! But thinking ‘do I need this’ and then giving yourself permission to say ‘no’ can be strangely liberating. We mostly have far too much stuff and I’m not sure it really makes us happy. If we can’t consume less, then we can make sure that what we do consume isn’t covered in lots of plastic. I have been trying to do this with food purchases in particular.

Battling to decrease the plastic I consume has left me writing emails about packaging on a cardboard box of cat food and remonstrating with a supermarket manager about why their cheese has 3 layers of plastic film whilst their fish counter allows you to bring your own Tupperware. Challenging retailers to think about their packaging practices is something we can all do and we do have the power to choose to shop elsewhere.

So, the start of the journey is to consume less so you have less plastic to make into eco bricks. Or as Lucie says....

"The best Ecobrick you can make is the one you can't make" - Lucie Mann, the Watercress Queen

In a world where we are used to things being done at the click of a button, encouraging people to engage in something that takes time, effort and patience can be a tall order. It can also be incredibly rewarding at so many levels, not least for our mental health.

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