The Mariposa DR Foundation have recently joined the Starboard team as our latest Ocean Ambassador‘s. Based in the Cabarete on the north coast of the Dominican Republic they are a not-for-profit organisation who focus on creating sustainable solutions to end generational poverty. Each day they work to educate, inspire and empower girls to be a force for change.
On an island where climate change impacts everyday life, environmental education is crucial to creating strong future leaders. Their program encourages children to experience nature firsthand, teaching them to love and care for the environment. This helps to ensure that they will grow into environmentally conscious adults.
Over the years the Mariposa DR Foundation has developed a host of environmental projects. We would like to highlight just one of them, their Ecobricks building project.
More Plastic in the Ocean than Fish – Why Is Recycling Not The Answer?
The amount of plastic in the ocean is a lot worse than we thought. Have you felt sad about the stories of marine life washing ashore with pounds of plastic in their bellies? Or, have you felt guilty when you’ve forgotten your reusable grocery bags? Well, there that feeling is there for a reason. Plastic is a convenient and cheap way to make many of the products that we use in everyday life. But this convenience comes at an extremely high price to our environment. Research now demonstrates that plastic is found in almost every bird’s stomach, in turtles and whales that have starved to death. This problem is not going away. In fact, it’s getting much worse. It’s estimated that we throw 8 million tons of plastic into the ocean annually. By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans by weight than there are fish!
Plastic is a big part of all of our lives, from the packaging on our food to the cars we drive to the computers we work on. Unfortunately, the majority of the plastics we use in our daily lives are thrown away after one use. So much single use plastic is ending up in the ocean, that in just a few years, we will find ourselves in a dire situation. We must take notice and change the way we use and handle plastics on land.
The Ecobrick Solution
In addition to concerted efforts to reduce single use plastic waste, we implemented a creative way to clean up our community, provide income to locals and build beautiful, functional structures – Ecobricks!
What is an Ecobrick?
A plastic bottle packed tightly with non-recyclable plastic stuffing – mostly food wrappers. A well-made Ecobrick is super solid, perfect for a variety of simple construction or furniture projects. Around the world people are using Ecobricks to build in a whole new way. From indoor and outdoor furniture, to gardens and parks, to structures like homes and schools – imagination is the only limit!
Ecobricks are one of the few ways to effectively manage much of the single use plastics that are being dumped into the oceans. They remove plastic from both the biosphere and from the industrial recycling system, which in reality, isn’t nearly efficient enough to deal with the amount we consume. In fact, for years, China was the home base of the world’s recycling, importing two-thirds of global plastic waste in 2016. Over the last 30 years, America and other countries have shipped more than 10 million tons of plastic to China! This is not sustainable or good for the environment!
Ten years ago, when the concept of Ecobricks was relatively new, we tested this building technique with a group of students from Lawrence Academy. We built a small structure on the side of the road in La Mina, a town just outside of Cabarete. The structure withstood two hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, heat and all of the elements. After this success we felt comfortable investing more resources into building more permanent structures. In 2019 we launched a campaign to raise awareness of the project. Encouraging members of the community to turn in Ecobricks in exchange for 20 RD (about 40 cents USD).
In the end we paid over $150,000 RD ($3,000) to the local communities and constructed a beautiful pavillion at The Mariposa Center for Girls. Intercepting over 4,000 pounds of single use plastic trash that may have ended up in our ocean!
Using Ecobricks raises ecological awareness. Furthermore, it helps people visualize the sheer volume of trash affecting their community as they collect it. It also empowers and enables individuals and organizations to think creatively about how to upcycle free building material. It encourages them to think about new ways to transition away from virgin plastic.
Ecobricks is not just a new way to think about trash, it’s a global movement. Many thousands of people around the world have turned to eco-bricks as a way to take responsibility for their plastic. At the Mariposa DR Foundation, we couldn’t be more proud to be champions of this movement. United by plastic, eco-bricks are solving waste issues around the world. Join us!