We all know plastic bottles are a problem. We’ve heard the message for years, and it’s become one of those things where everyone goes, “yeah, but what can I do about it? I’d love to save the rainforests, but Fiji water is just sooo gooooood.” And this is why we have a floating garbage island in the ocean. Anyway, a professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh has invented a hand-powered machine that cuts our friend the plastic bottle into strips that can then be used to make thatched roofs in developing countries.
The result is that even though plastic bottles are still entering the environment at the same rate as always, now they have a considerably longer useful life. The benefits are obvious. Plastic is more water-resistant than natural thatch, it doesn’t decompose and therefore needs to be replaced much less often, and there’s more of it than we know what to do with. Thatch grasses, on the other hand, are being turned under to make room for farmland, and therefore much less readily available. Another benefit of the plastic roof is that it comes in a wide variety of pretty colors.
Writing about this made me think about an article I read in last month’s TIME magazine about the flipside to carbon footprints, which Gregory Norris, the creator of Handprinter.org, decided to call handprints. Handprints are things you do that offset your carbon footprint or otherwise contribute positively to the state of the earth. It’s easy to get bogged down by thoughts of how giant your carbon footprint is when you drive half an hour to work every day and not everything you eat is locally sourced, but if you take into account your handprint as well as your footprint, the future stops seeming quite so dim.
also via Time: Handprints, Not Footprints