The Asian ecobrick movement emerged from the land of the Igorot people in the Northern Philippines and is deeply inspired by their ancient ancestral wisdom.
The Igorots, one of the few unconquered indigenous people of the South East Asia, have thrived in ecological harmony for centuries in the remote mountains of the Northern Philippines. Like many other indigenous peoples around the world, the concept of waste does not exist in their language— and consequently in the world around them. Instead their culture was guided by a virtue and concept known as ‘Ayyew’.
Phenomena such as ‘pollution’, ‘poverty’ and ‘exploitation’ also did not exist in their world. Never dominated by Spanish, Japanese or American colonialists, their fierce and wise ‘Ayyew’ culture directly inspires and guides the ecobrick movement sweeping the globe. We consciously adapt the term to summarize and qualify the principles of the ecobrick movement. We feel it fills a pressing linguistic gap and helps us articulate our way forward.
As one of the chief virtues of the Igorot people, the concept of Ayyew guided the Igorot way of life to recognize and sync with local ecological cycles. The Ayyew word has no direct equivalent in Latin languages. Essentially it the virtue of abundant ecological harmony from ever richer syncing with the cycles of life. It is a virtue for Igorots, something that is good for individuals, households and community to strive for. In the same way as individual voices in a choir merge to attain otherwise impossible harmonies, their lives are integrated with the cycles of other species to achieve otherwise impossible health and abundance.
For example, composting food leftovers to grow a garden would be more Ayyew than just throwing it away. However, even more Ayyew would be to feed the food leftovers to the pigs, who would both grow fat and provide even richer fertilizer for the garden.
Ecobricking is a modern example of the Ayyew concept.
Ecobricking one’s plastic is more Ayyew than recycling it– ecobricking puts the plastic to immediate local use whereas industrial recycling, involving transportation and far factories, is a longer more energy consuming process. The GEA’s development of ecobrick applications further reflects our aspiration to the virtue of Ayyew. Our first innovation for building modules with ecobricks was to use silicone. However silicone requires some (minimal) capital, and relies on non-local materials (the silicone and gun) and requires a specialized skill (using the caulking gun). Our latest innovation for using ecobricks uses old motorcycle innertubes– which syncs with the local cycle of consumed and disposed tires, using them to everyone’s advantage. This is what the Igorots would call ‘nagagut‘ (Ayyew in action).
Inspired by this deep and powerful concept, the Global Ecobrick Alliance has developed our principles, techniques and applications around the concept of Ayyew. Ayyew fits in closely with global regenerative movement and has helped us develop our fundamental guiding principles. The concept of Ayyew assisted the Igorots to transcend the notion of ‘waste’ along with other concepts, such as ‘poverty’, ‘pollution’ and ‘contamination’.
Read more about the Ayyew concept in an essay by GEA principal Russell Maier:
The Asian ecobrick movement ignited in the villages of Mt. Province in 2011 when the government and people were faced with the crisis of the Chico Rivers pollution. Without any illusions of industrial solution, no one town or government could solve the problem of where to dump plastic waste. Ecobricking emerged as a simple solution that anyone could participate in to help prevent the contamination of the river. As ecobricks were made, ancetral principles of circular archetectural traditions inspired the development of ecobrick milstein modules and earth and ecobrick building.
Ecobricking is a what we call a regenerative technology. Rather than "sustaining" the status quo, we're careful that everything we do re-greens rather than greys.