Monday, March 22, 2010

Why is it so hard to make a difference?

Guest blogger Jaime laments the lack of support for eco-friendly initiatives simply because they aren't common.

I’ve come across the term “upcycling” a few times in the past. And I’ve found it interesting. Some upcycled projects are beautiful and fun: jewelry from Coca-Cola bottles, purses from juice boxes, and door mats made of left-over flip-flop material

These products sometimes seem a little contrived. Isn’t it more eco-friendly to stop using juice boxes rather than look for a new use for the trash? But I do love the idea of upcycling.

And I want to share an article that showed me a whole new level to upcycling. Contrived or not, this could make a huge difference to landfill volumes, if it were to catch on.

Homes made from trash. People’s homes. In the developed world. $250,000+ homes.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article describing homes made from trash:

  • One home is made from blocks of compressed tires — approximately 17,000 tires
  • Another used 50 tons of paper beer packaging for insulation

But the article wasn’t about environmental pioneers in the construction industry. No, the article discussed the financial difficulties faced by the property owners, who can’t get permanent financing because there are no comparable home sales that can be used in appraisals for these “odd” homes.

I understand that the mortgage industry is under a great deal of stress and banks cannot risk being saddled with a risky loan or a home they can't sell. But how can we encourage the resourceful upcycling of trash if we punish the pioneers?


Sandy said...

You should look up the work of "renegade architect" Michael Reynolds. I recently met him at the PASA conference at Penn State University; he makes houses from garbage that are completely off the grid. Check out his film "Garbage Warrior"; it's awesome. said...

This was a wonderful post about an issue that isn't often raised!

My husband and I are planning on building a small, off-grid home using recycled shipping containers.

The crux? We have to pay cash for everything because no bank will give us a loan for a home made out of shipping containers. We've had to become master savers! :)

I think a lot of people who are looking for out-of-the-box ideas for housing are falling into this hole. Bankers just don't have the education about the newest building trends.

Thanks for writing this great article! Hopefully it will raise some awareness. :)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

My inlaws had all sorts of problems getting financing when they built their earth bermed house. It's definitely a problem.

Thanks for the guest post!

Jaime said...

@Sandy - Thanks for the reference. I've bookmarked several pages about Michael Reynolds now. Very interesting!

@Heather - What a wonderful idea. I've read about shipping containers being used for dorms but not for homes. Good luck to you! Here is the link to the article I saw, in case you're interested:

@Erin - I remember visiting a home that was underground on three sides when I was a child. It was so magical an novel to me. Anyway, that had to be at least 20 years go. It seems so discouraging that trends & financing haven't caught up!


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