Our Ecobrick Plastic Transition Vision is Powered by Regenerative Principles
The Ecobrick movement and its methods are guided by regenerative principles to ensure that we are moving towards deep plastic transition and a world of joyful harmony with the cycles of life…
Without any government, corporate or NGO support, the ecobrick movement has spread virally over the last decade around the world to inspire and engage millions. The Asian movement arose in the land of the Igorot people in the Northern Philippines, was directly inspired by their Ayyew wisdom tradition, giving it a character that has set it apart from other waste-collection, upcycling, and re-purposing movements. The remote and independent context of the Igorots compelled methods and principles that worked without having to rely on machines, capital, and petrochemical energy. As the movement spread throughout Asia, ecobricker leaders were able to distill seven fundamental regenerative principles that makes it a ‘deep’ plastic solution.
What do we mean by “regenerative”? The act of ecobricking acknowledges the harm that our plastic consumption has had on the biosphere, and will have if we don’t do something. The way that ecobrickers pack and track their plastic leads to a mindfulness of ones plastic consumption and disposal . When a ecobricker compares their consumption vs their ecobricking, they can determine the difference– and mindfully close the gap. Sure and steady, one can ecobrick more plastic than one is consuming and step into regenerative living, where one’s impact is more greening than it is graying.
We strive to be regenerative— to be conscious of the net impact of everything that we do and ensure that it is more greening than greying.
Regenerative design acknowledges the harm that humans have had on the biosphere and aspires to shift processes and methods to heal, restore and strengthen the biosystems around us. In this way, we are careful to evaluate the net impact of everything we do to ensure that more plastic and CO2 are sequestered than released into the biosphere.
Evaluating the net impact of our actions requires an honest and clear accounting of what we term our -impact (negative impact) and our +impact (positive impact). Our -impact includes the CO2 released from transportation and industrial manufacture of the elements used in our processes. If we’re using electricity that comes from coal then we calculate the CO2 -impact. Should the electricity come from nuclear energy as in Canada or Europe, we can also determine the nuclear waste footprint and electricity used. If a plastic product or plastic packaging is consumed we must also include this in our calculation.
On the other hand, if our methods and process require the planting of tree, the cultivation of bamboo and the restoration of forest, then it is possible to calculate the amount of CO2 sequestered by these activities as a +impact. Similarily, if our methods result in the removal of plastic from the biosphere (i.e. the sequestration of plastic) then we can also include this as part of a +impact.
With our ecobricking we aspire to methods that are regenerative. Our Ecobricking Best Practices encourage the manual packing of used, local plastic. In this way there are no machines, industrial processing, CO2/new plastic involved and our -impact is zero. In fact, the net result is the removal of plastic from the environment and its safe and secure storage (a plastic sequestration +impact) . This keeps the plastic from degrading into CO2 and other greenhouse gases (a CO2 +impact). This is a regenerative process!
Another example is our GEA team’s development of the EarthWand— a simple tool for packing plastic into a bottle. To ensure that our EarthWand was in fact regenerative, we evaluated the net impact of the production, consumption and disposal of the stick. First, we calculated the negative impacts from its production, consumption and disposal (‘-impacts‘). This meant looking at how much CO2 was released in shipping and how many glue bottles, tab and bags were used in production. We then calculated the positive impacts of the EarthWand (‘+impacts‘). We calculated how much CO2 was sequestered through the bamboo being planted to make the Earthwands. We then allocated a portion of EarthWand sales for Brikcoins (which represent the sequestration of plastic). Before selling an EarthWand, we ensured that the net effect of an EarthWand would lead to less plastic in the biosphere, less CO2 in the atmosphere — a larger bamboo forest — a greener world — regeneration.
In this way, the overall GEA vision is the application of ecobricks for greening purposes. We thus advocate the use of earth and ecobricks for the building of green spaces, also known as food forest play parks. These green spaces are the full embodiment of Ayyew and regenerative principles.
We strive towards accessible methods that anyone, anywhere can copy for themselves.
In other words, we strive to maximize the accessibility of our ecobrick methods while minimizing the barriers to adoption. In this way, we empower others to make and build with ecobricks so that they can lead by their own example. The more accessible a design, the greater its replicability and the faster its dissemination.
Every day thousands of tons of plastic flow loose into the biosphere. Meanwhile, the consumption of plastic and its production is increasing unabated. In order to be a deep solution to plastic, a regenerative solution must spread at a rate faster than industrial expansion and economic growth rates. By designing with local, organic or upcycled materials we remove cost barriers to replication. By designing methods that are non-capital, low-skill, require no machines and minimal energy, we remove age, gender and geographical barriers to replication and empowerment. By making our designs open source and easily accessible on the web, we energize and accelerate replication. The full concept of social replicability is based on the philosophy of Collaborative Mandalic Manifestation by Russell Maier.
Ecobrickers from the beginning have sought to share resources and techniques freely with each other. The GEA has made free and open source principles of its dissemination of materials. On Ecobricks.org all the PDFs guidebooks and more pertaining to the movement can be accessed and downloaded freely per a BY-SA Creative Commons License. On GoBrik, likewise as much statistical information is freely available as well as open access to all Brikcoin and currency transactions on the platform. The GEA takes this further by striving to use only open source software, tools, and services.
We strive to make and build in such a way that when our creations come to their end, they can be disassembled, and their parts used over and over again.
Known as circular design, or cradle-to-cradle design, ecobricks leverage the enduring properties of plastic to make an indefinitely reusable building block. When we put ecobricks to use, we do so planning for the end of the construction, and for the ecobrick’s next life-cycle (i.e. cradle).
For example, when building with ecobricks we are careful to avoid permanent means of bonding ecobricks (cement, glue) and use instead means that enable ecobricks to come apart and be reused again and again (i.e. tire bands, earth, silicone).
Cradle-to-cradle design is diametrically opposed to the design ethic (or lack thereof) found in most plastic products and packaging. Many plastic products are designed solely for being consumed. A standard pair of headphones for example, combines metal and plastic in a way that makes a fantastic listening device. However, when this device finally breaks and comes to its end (as everything does) all too often the plastic and metal is combined in such a way that neither can be efficiently extracted and repurposed. This is known as “cradle-to-crave” design, or “single-use” and is a symptom of the petro-capital economies exclusive focus on financial return.
In the making and application of ecobricks we strive to avoid materials and processes that involve the expenditure of capital currency.
In other words, we design our ecobrick methods to minimize the spending of money to as close to zero as possible. We are conscious that the purchase of goods and services inevitably involves plastic products, packaging and production waste. We are conscious of the correlation between money, capital and the petroleum that powers the capital-economy.
Economic activity (i.e. the production and transportation of goods and services) requires energy. At this moment, the majority of economic energy is produced by the burning of fossil fuels through the refinement of petroleum. For the extraction and refinement of every barrel of oil, 4-10% cannot be processed for energy use and is instead used for plastic feed-stock. In this way, the majority of activity in the petro-capital economy results in the feed-stock for plastic, and the inevitable production of plastic at artificially low costs (i.e. costs that do not include the ecological impacts of plastic consumption).
We are also conscious of the barrier that capital cost erects in terms of the replicability of our methods. In other words, the greater the financial cost involved in our making and use of ecobricks, the less others (locally and globally) will be able to replicate (i.e. copy) what we’ve done. This connects to the next ecobrick principle of replicability.
For example, we avoid the use of machines and new hardware in making ecobricks and in their application. Machines and their maintenance cost money. Hardware, such as special tools or glues, must be purchased. Instead, we use manual labour for making ecobricks and use locally available resources that are organic or upcycled (free!) to apply ecobricks. By doing so, ecobricks have remained a fundamentally accessible ‘low-technology’ that is accessible to African villagers and Wallstreet executives alike.
Our non-petrocapital principle has guided the development of our own manual blockchain and the Brikcoin currency. In this way, the GEA and the ecobrick movement have the option of a complimentary currency detached from the petro-capital system. Read more in the GEA Ecobrick & Brikcoin Whitepaper.
We strive to use locally available resources in our community in the making of and building with ecobricks.
In other words we do our best to use materials, goods, services and products that come from within our community and ecological region. Ideally the resources and services that we use are also non-capital (not requiring purchasing outside products or services) and non-petroleum (not requiring the burning of fossil fuels for transportation or creative processes).
For example, ecobricking is based around the packing of the plastic closest (i.e. most local) to us. This begins with the very plastic we have personally consumed, that people in our household consume and then extends to the plastic produced in our community through consumption. Ideally we use PET bottles that come from our community and a stick that comes from our area. Ideally the stick and the bottle aren’t purchased, but involve the re-purposing of materials.
When it comes to building with ecobricks, the same principal of localized sourcing applies. We strive to use local materials, processes, skills and culture for our creations. For example, we have developed the ecobrick tube banding method of bonding ecobricks to make use of the abundance of free and ‘waste’ motorcycle inner-tubes in South East Asia. In the UK we learn from ancient earth building traditions of wattle and daub to combine ecobricks using local clay, straw and sand. In a recent Indonesian earth building workshop, we studied an 800 year old temple in the area to inspire the design of ecobrick park that we built.
6. Leading by Example
We strive to lead by example with all our ecobricking and ecobrick applications.
In other words, when it comes to sharing ecobrick making and building with others, we lead by our own personal or household example.
As an embodiment of Ghandi’s “be the change you want to see in the world” principle it leverages the full power of authentic manifestation. Leading by example puts us in the center of social unfoldings and allows others to be inspired by our story, insights and practices. The full application of this is know as Collaborative Mandalic Manifestation.
7. Open Source
We strive to offer all of our materials and content in an open source format that uses creative commons public licenses.
All the content that the GEA develops, our guide books, presentations, and website information we put out free to the world to access, copy, distribute and re-use. Precisely, we do so using a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This means that you can download our guide books, adapt the content culturally and linguistically to your geographical context, print and distribute it as widely as possible.
8. Community Collaboration Powered
Our intentions are powered by community collaboration.
There are different words for it in cultures around the world– the Igorots call it Obo’obo, in Africa its know as ubuntu, in Indonesia gotongrayong, in the rest of the Philippines Kawasan. Whatever the term, the dynamic is the same: a community coming together to realize a shared vision and intention.
Most often, this is an intention that is for the whole community’s benefit– such as the GEA’s mission of keeping plastic out of the biosphere. By holding a mission that is to the benefit of individuals, people, communities and the planet, the GEA enables this formidable force to power the realization of its vision.
This principle is in contrast to the means by which capital economy motivates and inspires participation through financial remuneration. As a non-capital technology, ecobricking taps deeper, more potent values such as community cleanliness, the health of children, the richness of the local ecology, to inspire participation, action and long term vision commitment.
For example, these very words are translated into other languages– not because we have paid anyone– but because they are in full resonance with the ecological passion of others who, resonating with our mission and vision, have offered their linguistic and programming expertise to make this happen.
We strive to pursue methods and concepts that transcend notions of how men and women, young and old, eastern and western, and everyone in between, should work and be.
Every aspect of ecobricking can be done by men or women, young or old, experienced or new and everyone in between. We actively encourage the collaboration of polar groups, such as men and women, towards harmonious co-creativity. In other words, rather than a child doing one task and an adult doing another, we design the method so that both can do it together.
For example, in many countries, construction and building is predominantly done by males. Crafts and working with children in contrast is often done by women. With ecobricking the process of making modules or building with earth are designed to be accessible to both by combining elements of manual labour and craft, and collaborating with children. In this way, both men and women can be involved together in the process without traditional gender constraints separating them. Such platonic emancipation enables us to not only rise above old gender roles but to supercharge our collaborations with both different variations of human energy.
Not a “Sustainability” Technology
It can be helpful to better understand ecobricks, by clarifying what they are not. Ecobricking is often mistaken as another “sustainability” technology that will help “save the world”. In effect ecobricking has little to do with saving or sustaining the world as we know it. By design, the ecobricking of plastic is a fundamentally revolutionary act.
Ecobricks embody key principles that set them diametrically apart from “sustainability” technologies which strive to save or sustain the current conception of human society or ‘world’. Ecobricks are in a contrast, a fully ‘regenerative‘ technology. This means that ecobricks are designed from the ground up to be different from the systems of our current conception of the world. We observe that the conception of the world that has been handed down to us is at the root of the grief, greying and destruction being caused to local and global ecologies. Ecobricks embody defining Ayyew principles that ensure that the making and application of ecobricks is a process that is fundamentally greening (i.e. regenerating). As such, ecobricking is designed to derive its energy from the old world in order to thrive and in so doing undermine the root causes of our ecological disharmony.
It may seem harmless to many, but make no mistake… packing plastic is a revolutionary act.
The full concept of social replicability, inclusiveness and accessibility is inspired by GEA founder, Russell Maier’s philosophy of Collaborative Mandalic Manifestation (CMM). Russell first applied this methodology to his personal ecobricking and the seeding of the ecobrick viral social spread in the Northern Philippines. The GEA logo reflects the mandalic principles that underlie the earth Enterprise and the movement.
Learn how to make your product more ayyew and integrate cradle-to-cradle principles…
Ecobricking is often mistaken as another “sustainability” technology that will help “save the world”. In effect Ecobricking has little to do with saving or sustaining the world as we know it. By design, the ecobricking of plastic is a fundamentally revolutionary and regenerative act.
– Russell Maier, GEA Co-founder & Designer