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A Plastic Bottle Greenhouse


by Vanya Orr and Mohan Kumar


of several hundred meters, the site offers a commanding view of vast stretches of highland forest and the Coimbatore plains beyond. Unfortunately, over time, the picnic grounds and the forested paths to the site have accumulated thousands of used plastic water bottles and other plastic refuse discarded by visiting tourists. On Earth Day in April 2010, we mobilized the Eco-Club


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students in the nearest middle school to walk over to Lamb’s Rock and collect the waste plastic bottles in order to raise environmental awareness amongst the public.With the help of government Forestry officials, the students collected 150 bottles that day.When the students carried the bottles back to the school, most parents reacted negatively to their efforts. Some parents were scavengers and were disturbed that their children were doing this. They hoped that education would help their children to avoid the same work. At this point, we realized that we needed to start educating


the local community about the importance of natural forests and the hazards of plastic for wildlife.With the cooperation of the school’s headmaster and teachers, we were able to take the Eco Club students back to the forest area once a month, and on holidays, to collect the waste bottles. Eventually, we


OCATED WITHIN A FOREST preserve in south- west India, Lamb’s Rock is a popular picnic site frequented by tourists. Sitting atop a sheer precipice


collected approximately 2500 waste bottles, and as a measure of our success, we were only able to collect 15 bottles in our last trip to the forest. During our forest visits, students also conducted an


inventory of species in our native shola forest. These included 20 trees, five medicinal plants, three endangered plants, and a few birds and mammals. Since most of the shopkeepers near Lambs Rock are


relatives of the Eco Club students, it was easy to establish a rapport with them. Eventually, they asked us to place a recy- cling bin near their shops so that they could collect all the bottles and give them to us. Apart from used bottles, lots of plastic food wrappers were also scattered in the forest areas. In order to control this, we provided collection bins to all the shops, along with signs encouraging their use. Our next challenge was finding a use for all the plastic


bottles we had collected.We brainstormed with the students and conducted an internet search. Eventually, we learned about a “poly-house” built in Moray, Scotland that used large numbers of waste bottles in the walls and roof.We decided to construct our own poly-house to be used as a greenhouse, and make use of other bottles as containers in which to grow seedlings of native trees found in the local forest. In this way, we would be using plastic waste found in the forest to help regenerate the same forest. In preparation for building our plastic bottle greenhouse, we washed and removed the labels from the 2,500 one litre


GREEN TEACHER 91 Page 25


Photographs: The Earth Trust, India


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