I feel that a lot of times social media bombards us with so many things: Save the environment! Ditch your desk and go travel! Plan for retirement! Love with all your heart! It can get frustrating and sometimes confusing. How do we live a meaningful, purposeful life without having to leave our jobs or relocate? Surely there is something we can do without having to make drastic changes.

The Eco Brick Challenge came at the perfect time: it was practical, it was easy, it was something I can do with my friends. There was an element of fun and a feeling of accomplishment after each task. And did I mention: it was so darn easy!

The Eco Brick Challenge

Spearheaded by The Circle Hostel, the task was to fill used plastic bottles with non-biodegradable wastes like candy wrappers, cellophane, styrofoam, cigarette butts, coffee or shampoo sachets, basically packing whatever waste we could find at home, at the office, or while on the road.

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Thank you Alex and Gera for helping out!

Initially I was skeptical I could fill even one bottle so I asked help from family members and neighbors. Little by little I started filling up one, two, three bottles per week mostly from press gifts, daily trips to the wet market, or from my own consumption of foil sachets from my wheatgrass drinks. And those oil clear sheets we take for granted? Yup those are plastic, too! I stuffed them right in!

We don’t realize it but the small plastics we use up every day adds up — I sure never imagined we had this much plastic at home! Even when we are staunch advocates of reusing cellophane whenever possible, we still had a lot to go around. Our reliance on non-biodegradable waste is astonishing!

Why support this advocacy?

This is the easiest way to help the environment! Not everyone has the luxury to go on recycle and treehugger mode because most of us have jobs and responsibilities we can’t leave behind. But all of us consume and encounter plastic mineral water bottles every day. All of us have plastic wastes at home, and we can do something about it.

Aside from lessening the plastics rotting in landfills and oceans, you’ll get to monitor how much plastic you consume at home and then make adjustments as necessary. The effect on my family is impressive — we’ve started to forego plastic straws in restaurants and even collect used straws after dining. We may look weird to the waitstaff (sometimes I get upset when they insist on giving us straws) but we’re happy we get to fill our bottles at home.

How to create your own Eco Brick at home

You only need 4 things:

  1. plastic mineral water bottles (any brand or size)
  2. non-biodegradable wastes (ciggie butts, cellophane, shampoo sachets or 3-in-1 coffee sachets, etc.)
  3. scissors
  4. BBQ stick to stuff the trash into the bottles

Okay, let’s get down to business. There are a gazillion things we consume that don’t biodegrade and make it to our oceans. Take a look around you, what do you have at home?

  • beauty products – shrink wrap plastics from lipsticks, mascaras, foundation, etc.
  • feminine products – the backings are plastic, and so is the packaging, rinse tampon applicators first
  • baby products – baby wipes are non-biodegradable but don’t include them if they’re filthy, use the plastic case/packaging instead
  • foil packs & sachets – instant coffee, shampoo & conditioner sachets, juice drink packs
  • clothing –  hang tags are plastic!
  • toiletries – oil clear sheets, dental floss (rinse them first and dry), plastic toothbrushes
  • fastfood – laminated coffee cups, plastic utensils, plastic-lined takeout sheets (when taking out pizza), styro cups, aluminum foil, junk food packs
  • cigarette butts
  • others – little buttons, beads, iPhone cables that don’t work, etc.

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While this isn’t a definitive list, participating in the Ecobrick Project trains you to be hyper-vigilant of plastic use. We now thoroughly check things before dumping them in the trash bins. This is also an excellent activity to do with kids to teach them the value of saving the environment

What happens to the Eco Bricks? 

These ecobricks will be collected and then made into houses for the Aeta Tribe in Zambales. Learn more about the trek that I participated in last November, and check out how to join the next trips here.

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My girls and I were able to collect and fill 83 bottles in three weeks, including those we consumed in Baler when we made the drop. That was pretty impressive, if I say so myself. Not only did we contribute to the waste management solution (while rallying our friends and office mates in the process), we were also able to surf and spend time together at the beach. We didn’t mind traveling 5 hours to deliver the goods to The Circle Hostel, Baler.

Volunteers needed!

1. How to help? Collect bottles, stuff them with plastics, and drop them off at the following establishments:

  • The Circle Hostel branches (Baler, Zambales, La Union)
  • Beatnik Inc. Room208 Llaner Buillding, 77 Xavierville, Quezon City
  • Z Hostel
  • Lokal Hostel
  • MNL Hostel

2. We need more people to help out and also become drop off points for the eco bricks. A lot are interested but not everyone can personally deliver to the addresses above. If you’d like to help (and we hope you do!), please email zambales@thecirclehostel.com.

3. Spread the word! Share your photos and videos, use the #stuffitchallenge #packyouplastic and make sure to tag The Circle Hostel and The Plastic Solution.

Additional readings on how plastic is affecting our eco-system:

Climate change, meet your apocalyptic twin: oceans poisoned by plastic

Modern life rubbish: we don’t need all this packaging

Beached whale had plastic trash, fish nets in stomach