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A house made from recycled bottles and other materials. Photo by Paolo Gosalvez/Al Jazeera.

Low-Income Houses Made From Recycled Plastic Bottles

As the world weens itself off of plastic bottles, one woman in Bolivia may have found the ultimate use for those that have been discarded.

A compulsive collector of empty bottles, Ingrid Vaca Diez of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, had stacked so many on her patio outside that her husband declared it a stack big enough to "build a house."

Which is exactly what she did.

The "Garbage Homes," as they've come to be known, are constructed using dirt-filled empty bottles as well as other recycled materials like expired powder mild and livestock manure.

Check out the Al Jazeera video segment on Vaca Diez's homes. So far she's built 10 and shows no signs of stopping.

Make sure your contractors are recycling those old shingles.

Pledge to Recycle Shingles

If you are planning to do some re-roofing this spring and summer, be sure to look into a shingle recycling program. According to the Northeast Recycling Center, as much as 10 million tons of recyclable shingles are removed from roofs of homes and businesses every year in the U.S.

To help in this endeavor, Owens Corning is encouraging homeowners to take the Shingle Recycling Pledge as a way to keep old roofing materials out of landfills and to work with contractors who believe in sustainable building.

Homeowners who want to take the pledge can go to www.roofing.owenscorning.com and click on "Recycle Now." You'll be connected with local contractors who recycle shingles and you'll also receive a reusable tote bag (while supplies last).

Sign up today!

Food scraps dropped off with GrowNYC gets turned into compost.

GrowNYC Makes the Most Compost

TreeHugger recently reported on the progress of GrowNYC's food scrap collection pilot program, which, since expanding to 11 greenmarkets, has collected 172,851 pounds of food scraps.

The program is pretty simple. NYC residents can bring their food scraps to any of the participating Greenmarkets. The food scraps then get used to make compost and help divert the waste from the landfills. According to GrowNYC, food comprises 17% of NYC's waste stream.

It's a great program to help those who aren't inclined to start their own compost pile or compost bin. Which, given the fact that a good number of participants are probably living in tiny apartments, is perfectly understandable. Unless you are able to compost outdoors or have one of those self-contained indoor compost bins, the endeavor can get a bit…odorous.

Sounds like the kind of program that every city could use. Nice job, GrowNYC.

Where has your water been?

Clean Water, Dirty Minds

I heard an interesting piece on NPR this morning about a professor of environmental studies out in UC Santa Cruz who created a nonprofit called The WaterReuse Foundation to determine why the public has a knee-jerk reaction to the thought of drinking water that was once waste water.

According to the professor, one Matt Haddad, it didn't matter that the water had been thoroughly cleaned and made perfectly suitable for drinking. The fact that it had once been sewage water was enough to turn the public off in a big way.

Haddad turned to psychologists to help explain the public's "irrational" behavior. According to one, the problem stemmed from what is called "psychological contagion." We humans tend to believe that when two objects have contact, their parts are joined. Like water and refuse. In other words, even if the refuse is physically (and completely) removed from the water, in our minds it is still waste water. Of the 2,000 people surveyed on the subject, 60 percent were unwilling to drink water that had ever had direct contact with sewage.

I have to admit, I'd be a little skeptical about drinking water that had once been flushed down a toilet. But the good people in California aren't exactly living in a water-rich environment. And as the NPR piece went on to explain, all the water we drink has at one time been waste water. "We're all downstream from someone else" was the quote of the story, in my opinion.

But will the public come to terms with the reuse of waste water as drinking water? How do you feel about it?

The Muncher eyes its next meal.

The Grand Daddy of Composters

Ecologico-Logic recently unveiled their prototype state-of-the-art waste reduction system which they've named "the Muncher." It is the fastest, greenest and most cost-effective waste management system in use today. It puts your backyard compost bin to shame.

How long does it typically take for an average compost pile to turn organic solid waste into nutrient-rich plant food? Over a month, easy. Sometimes up to a year.

The Muncher can do it in less than one hour.

It can take one ton of garbage and reduce it to 600 pounds of solid cake mulch and liquid effluent. Currently the Muncher is designed and used for large-scale waste reduction, but it would be cool to see a smaller-scale version that could be sold for residential use. Stop the waste at the source. It might also encourage greater use of home gardens, which would cut down the demand for long-distance shipping of foods to the local grocer. Could be a game changer.

Keep a beach clean in the eMission game from DoSomething.org.

DoSomething.org Promotes Positive Action In the Youth

While researching for April's Earth Month Tips I came across a great site that promotes earth-friendly actions, particularly amongst the younger folk.

Called DoSomething.org, the site has a few fun online games that teach important lessons about keeping the environment clean, recycling and running not-for-profit organizations like homeless shelters and animal shelters.

Although the poplar "eMission" game isn't exactly home-related, the Recycling Game does encourage collection of bottles and cans and the Karma Tycoon will have players appreciating some of the overlooked non-profits in their area.

Best of all, DoSomething was offering five $1,000 scholarships to eMission players (the deadline just passed). We'll check back in with the site in the near future to see if they have plans to repeat this offer.

We'd love to see a Home Improvement type game that encourages the use of reclaimed materials and a DIY mentality. Know of any out there?

If you have to have plastic bottles in the home, at least make it easy to recycle them!

Earth Month Tip #7: Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!

It's easy to get lazy. No one really wants to wash and rinse out the empty marinara jar following a huge pasta dinner. It's far less hassle to just toss it in the trash.

And if everyone thought and behaved that way our planet would look like it does in the opening sequence of Wall-E.

Thankfully most of us have better sense and far better habits. Still, recycling is one of those activities that will most likely be undertaken when systems are in place. I.e., it's been made to be as simple as possible.

Today's Earth Month Tip is a short Guide to Creating a Recycling Station. With a little planning and organization, recycling becomes a breeze and not a chore.

And if you're going to designate an outdoor space as the home recycling center, check out this instructional video on How To Build A Wooden Lattice Screen to tastefully conceal the recycling bins from passers-by.

Don't forget about those food scraps! You can save on daily waste by composting food scraps, coffee grinds and more. Find out How to Make a Compost Pile for your home.

Earth Month is rapidly coming to a close. What have you done to make a difference?

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