Ecobricking is about much more than plastic...
Ecobricking is guided by principles that point us towards deep plastic transition and move us to ever increasing harmony with the cycles of life.
The Global Ecobrick Alliance emerged out of the land of the Igorots in the Northern Philippines. For centuries, the ancestral wisdom of the Igorots, one of the few unconquered indigenous peoples of the South East Asia, enabled them to live in ecological harmony. Today, their ethos inspires the global ecobrick movement’s vision of plastic transition.
The way of life of the Igorot people was guided by ‘Ayyew‘– their virtue of cultivating ever increasing harmony with ecological cycles. Having integrated this ethos, the ecobrick movement, has come to be discern ten principles to guide us forward. The Global Ecobrick Alliance strives towards these principles in our methods and collaboration, builds and best practices.
1. Following the Earth's Example
We strive to emulate the Earth’s example of ever greening the biosphere.
For the last billion years, the Earth has been slow and steady greening the surface of our common home. The way that the Earth has cycled and stored carbon has led to a biosphere unique in our galaxy– while provided us a fantastic example to follow to make it even greener! With our carbon-dense plastic we can emulate the Earth’s example and participate in the continued enrichment of our common home.
Ecobricking is guided by the six Earthen Ethics as we strive to emulate the Earth’s example with our plastic:
- Towards Indefinite Cycling: In the same way that the earth has used its carbon to create building blocks for life (virtually all lifeforms on Earth are carbon based) we can do the same. In particular, with plastic (which is 95% carbon based) we can create building blocks that can be indefinitely cycled (see our cradle to cradle principle).
- Towards Sequestration: In the same way that the Earth steadily compacted and stored carbon for the indefinite long-term, we can do the same by compacting and concentrating our plastic through plastic sequestration.
- For Biosphere Benefit: In the same way that the Earth’s processes spun their surpluses up to the benefit of the biosphere as whole, so too can we. Rather than for-profit or not-for-profit, we are a for-Earth enterprise who’s top priority is ecological contribution.
- Towards Subtraction: The net effect of all of Earth’s processes subtracted more carbon than they added, leading to more and more life. We can do the same. By keeping track and accounting for our impacts we be sure that our net impact is subtractive and greening too– what we call ‘regenerative living’.
- Towards Diversity: In the same way that the Earth’s processes tended towards ever greater biodiversity, so too do we make the support and acceleration of biodiversity our focus.
- Towards Awareness: In the same way that the Earth cultivated higher levels of consciousness through its carbon cycling, we can do the same by connecting plastic cycling with experiential learning.
Learn more about the Long Story of Plastic
Learn more about Earthen Ethics
We strive to account for all of our additive and subtractive impacts and ensure our greening is more than twice our grey.
An essential part of ecobricking is acknowledging the harm that we have had on the biosphere– of which our personal plastic is an example. Then, and only then, can we shift to ways of living that heal, restore and strengthen the ecological cycles around us. This is what call regenerative living and regenerative enterprise. It means being mindful of everything we do to minimize our grey impacts and maximize our green. Evaluating the net impact of our actions requires a clear accounting of our additive and subtractive impacts.
Additive impacts add more plastic or Co2 to the biosphere. For example, when you go shopping and buy products made from plastic, the net weight of this plastic (no matter what you do with it) is part of your additive plastic impact. Likewise, as we use petroleum based transportation to get around or ship products CO2 is released and “added” to the atmosphere. There are extensive resources for calculation the additive CO2 impact of just about everything.
Subtractive impacts are those that secure CO2 or plastic from loosely entering the biosphere. For example, when we plant a tree, cultivate bamboo, or restore a forest we’re supporting processes that will “subtract” CO2 from the biosphere. The carbon from the CO2 is then stored in the plants biomass. This is known as carbon sequestration. When we sequester plastic, through ecobricking, we are providing a similar service of securing the plastic out of the biosphere. In the case of ecobricking were using plastic to trap plastic (and its carbon) from getting loose in the biosphere, degrading and releasing gases, toxins and microplastics. When this is achieved according to set standards, we call it plastic sequestration.
By tracking our subtractive and additive impacts we are able to determine our net impact. Many ecobrickers track their plastic impacts monthly. They keep track of how much plastic they consume as well as the plastic they ecobrick and offset. The comparison between subtractive and additive plastic impacts is called the plastic transition ratio (PTR). The GoBrik app assists this accounting process, allowing monthly PTR tracking and the generation of cumulative Ayyew Plastic Score.
The Global Ecobrick Alliance defines the regenerative threshold when one’s subtractive impacts are twice those of one’s additive impacts (a PTR above 200%).
Learn more about Plastic Transition
3. Plastic Transtion
We strive to transition from plastic in our homes, communities and enterprises.
As ecobrickers we strive to not only pack our plastic, but to move on from plastic to less polluting and greener systems and living. Our transition begins with taking responsibility for the plastic we do touch, then reducing our reducing our plastic consumption. We do this through monthly plastic impact accounting, reusing materials and by seeking organic alternatives to plastic. Because of plastic’s connection to industry, we are also mindful that our plastic transition involves reducing our CO2 footprint. Because of plastic’s connection to the petro-capital economy, we are also mindful that our transition from plastic is connected to our transition from the petro-capital economy.
- Impact Accounting: We strive to monitor each month how much plastic we produce and consume and maintain our rate of reduction
- Reusing: We strive to use over and over again our plastic and apply circular design principles.
- Going organic: We strive to use materials and products that minimize their plastic and CO2 impacts
As we strive to transition from plastic, we are conscious of the correlation between money, capital and the petroleum that powers our modern economies. Because our economy is run on fossil fuels, when we spend money, the flow of capital results in the burning of fuels. Because plastic is directly connected to the refinement of fossil fuels, as fuels are purchased and burned, so plastic is produced. For this reason, we design our ecobrick methods to minimize the spending of money.
- Petro-Capital Transition: We strive to reduce our participation in the petro-capital economy
- Petro-Power Transition: We strive to reduce our reliance on petro-power
- Avoiding Industry: We strive to keep our plastic our of industrial recycling, dumping and incineration.
We are also conscious of the barrier that capital can present in participating in any activity. The greater the financial cost involved, the less others (locally and globally) will be able to participate and run with it on their own. This reduces the empowerment potential of ecobricking as well as their social spread.
Likewise we strive for an alternative, non-petro-capital valuation of currency. Learn more about our work developing an alternative currency based on the value of ecological service.
4. Leading by Example
We strive to lead by example with our plastic transition and regenerative living.
Ghandi once said “be the change you want to see in the world“. Simple and powerful, this is a fundamental principle of the ecobricking movement. As plastic consumption is something that connects us across continents and cultures, what we do with our plastic, our own stories of transition, provide a shinning beacon for others to follow.
Our leading by example, is amplified by our impact accounting and the scoring of our regenerative living. After all, how can we be sure our examples are actually worthy of being followed? For this reason, we strive to track the plastic we consume, produce, ecobrick and offset to make sure our their net impact is in fact green.
Leading by example leverages the full power of mandalic collaboration. Sharing our example allows others to be inspired by our story, insights, practices and net impact. In so doing we consciously place ourselves in the center of a replicating, social unfolding.
Learn more about Mandalic Collaboration
We strive towards accessible methods and means that are accessible to anyone, anywhere.
Every day thousands of tons of plastic flow loose into the biosphere. Meanwhile, the consumption of plastic and its production are on the increase. 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. In order to maximize spread, adoption and collective plastic transition we strive to maximize the accessibility of our 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.
Our principle of replicability encompasses several of our other principles.
- Localized: By designing with local, organic or upcycled materials (that are ideally freely available) we remove resource barriers to replication.
- Petro Transition: By designing methods that do not require machines, we remove the barrier of technology, specific skills and dependence on petroleum based energy.
- Transcaste: By designing our methods so that they do not require specialized abilities we remove age, gender and geographical barriers to replication and empowerment..
- Open Source: By making our designs open source according to creative commons specifications and easily accessible on the web, we energize and accelerate replication.
- Non-Capital: By designing methods and using materials that do not require capital, we remove the financial barrier to participation and replication.
Read more about Earth & Ecobrick Buidling Principles
We strive to use locally available resources in our community in the making of ecobricks and when we build with them.
Ecobricking is all about packing our local plastic. This begins with the very plastic we have personally consumed, then extends to that consumed in our household and community. Ideally we use PET bottles that come from our community and a stick that comes from our area. This way we transform plastic that would otherwise cause problems in our area with the minimum amount of energy and the maximum amount of social empowerment.
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.
By using materials, goods, services and products that come from within our community and ecological region we likewise minimize our dependence on capital and petroleum.
Learn more about Ecobrick Building Principles
When we build with ecobricks we plan for the end of the application and for next life of every ecobrick.
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). In this way, we are following the Earth’s ancient of example of using carbon as a building block– as a means, rather than an end.
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).
Learn more about Circular Design
8. Mandalic Comunity Collaboration
Our intentions are powered by mandalic 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 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 building a bridge or a well. In our case, it is our common intention 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 a 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.
Learn more about Mandalic Collaboration
We strive to include men and women, young and old, rich and poor… and everyone in between.
In our methods, projects and intentions we strive to rise above old notions of roles and ability and accessibility. We encourage the collaboration of groups that are often perceived to have different social rankings (i.e. ‘castes’) to work together on a equal platform of participation. 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 the work of making an ecobrick, making a module or building with earth are designed to be equally accessible to just about everybody– and in such a way that no one has advantage by virtue of skill, strength or experience. In this way, men and women, boys and girls can be equally involved in the cocreative process without traditional castes causing alienation.
This enables us to rise above old gender and generational divides to supercharge our collaborations with many variations of human creativity while further lowering the barriers of replication.
Not a “Sustainability” Technology
It can be helpful to better understand the ecobrick ethos, by clarifying what it is not. Ecobricking is often mistakenly referred to as a ‘sustainable’ technology or as promoting ‘sustainability’. In so far as the popular use of the term ‘sustainable’ refers to enabling the status quo and allowing our current petro-capital economy to continue, ecobricking is not this. From the principles above, the ecobricking ethos distinguishes itself from sustaining the continuation of plastic consumption, sustaining the role of petro-powered industrial systems, and sustaining economy powered by fossil fuels.
To be clear, the ecobricking movement and ethos are not against industry or the petro-capital economy. We would not have come to our principles without our experience of them. We acknowledge that yesterday’s use of Earth gifted carbon has been an important formative and learning phase for us all– individually and collectively.
With this we move on from sustaining. In so far as a system sustains a direction that conflicts with the Earth’s example of carbon management (see our first principle) we strive to transition from it. We also strive to heal and ‘regenerate’ any past damage that we are responsible for. Finally, in contrast to the sustainability’s focus on minimizing grey impacts, instead we strive in the ayyew spirit of syncing with Earth’s cycles to ever increase our greening impact.
Learning from the Earth
Ecobricking is guided by the Earth’s example of compacting, storing and securing carbon to enrich the biosphere.
Learn about the genesis of our principles from the Ayyew context of the Igorot people where the regenerative ecobrick movement began. The white paper ‘The Rise of the Regenerative Ecobrick Movement’ is available on the GoBrik Regen Store.
Ecobricking puts plastic on a safe and secure millennial road out of industry and out of the biosphere.
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