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Making Homes from Trash?!

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

A couple weeks ago I suddenly woke up at 3am thinking "Oh my god, is this some sort of midlife crisis?! How am I going to tell people that I want to make houses out of trash?!"

Well, it is time to make that announcement and give you a little explanation. In an effort to provide a better quality of life to those living in severe poverty, we have been searching for ways to help the community with their living conditions.

The land here is not expensive, labor is cheap, and if you have an imagination and are ready to sweat your butt off then anything is possible in El Salvador!

While doing some research on green building methods, we came across a way to make eco-friendly, affordable homes out of plastic trash. Even better, there is a school in our neighboring country of Guatemala that is going to teach us how!

Building homes out of trash isn't as gross as you may imagine and can actually provide much safer homes with a better quality of life than using traditional building materials. Earth homes are:

All of these things are wonderful features for life here in El Salvador. To be able to provide a comfortable home with even safer features than a traditional home is an amazing blessing. We are planning on using a combination of green building techniques based on the materials we can gather at the time of building. These techniques include earth bags, ecoblocks, and cob. We may also be able to use old tires for building too.

Earthbags are simply polyurethane bags filled with dirt and stacked in a way to make walls like shown in the photo. A layer of barbed wire goes in between each layer to help prevent slipping and to secure each layer. The most popular structure to make is a dome as the curved walls increase the strength of the structure and you can achieve a bigger floor space with fewer materials than straight walls. Cob is applied over the bags to protect them from sun damage and to help provide another layer of insulation that will keep the home cool during the day and warm at night. You really have the potential to make these homes as simple or as fancy as you want.

Ecobricks are plastic bottles that have

been filled with more loose plastics. The trash is compacted inside until it reaches a certain weight and density. These work just like bricks or cement blocks would for building walls. The plastic bottles are stacked and a layer of cob is applied to the outside to protect the bottles from deteriorating in any way. Glass bottles can also be added to construction for windows and lighting.

Combining these two methods is the number one choice for structural building!

This method is strong, earthquake resilient, allows curved walls and designs, allows ecobricks to be recycled at the end of the construction if necessary, and relies only on 100% organic, locally-sourced materials that cost next to nothing.

Earth building was used by our ancestors to build homes and structures that have endured for centuries. This general method is known by different names in different languages and continents– cob, adobe, wattle-and-daub, etc. By using local clay, straw, and sand to make the mortar for the eco-bricks we can build in ways that are resilient, strong, beautiful, and thermal-retentive.

Earth building is in full resonance with our principles — it is simple and replicable, non-capital, non-petroleum, collaboration-powered, cradle-to-cradle, and potently regenerative.

Earth-building techniques are gender and age transcendent: involving men and women, young and old, and everyone in between in the building process. We can get the whole community involved in our projects and we are looking forward to bringing the community together in a new way.

The Earth Building technique can completely cover eco-bricks with cob, effectively securing

them indefinitely in the construction. This keeps them safe from UV light and other forms of degradation. After 10, 20, or 100 years, if for some reason we no longer need the structure, we can wet down the cob until it becomes soft and then the eco-bricks can be extricated undamaged and fully repurposed. This is a whole different level of plastic recycling.

We will finish our training at Long Way Home Guatemala at the end of July and hope to start construction on our first homes here by September. If you would like to donate so we can buy land for the project, please do! We are trying to get a nice-sized lot for $5000 that would be able to provide a home for multiple families.

Please help us make a difference in the world and donate to our cause!


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