This $6,800 house was built from recycled bricks in just 5 days

May 1, 2017 by  
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While it may look unassuming at first glance, this house is truly revolutionary. The 430 square foot home is made from LEGO-like recycled plastic bricks, it cost 20,000 pesos ($6,800) to construct, and it was built by team of four people in just five days. While tackling the challenges of transporting materials to build his house in Cundinamarca, Columbia, Fernando Llanos decided to use recycled plastic to get the job done. So he teamed up with architect Óscar Méndez to create Conceptos Plásticos – an innovative system that uses plastic bricks to build homes in remote areas at an affordable cost. To minimize the impact on the environment, the team decided to utilize recycled plastic, despite the fact that new plastic would have been easier to use. “[U]sed (plastic) requires more experimentation,” said Méndez. Related: America’s largest modern timber building pieces together like LEGO To create the plastic bricks , the duo obtains plastic from local recyclers and factories, which is then melted and molded into the necessary shape. The molded plastic bricks have insulation properties, resist combustion, and meet local earthquake-resistance requirements. Since its inception in 2011, the company has increased to 15 employees and recently completed the construction of a temporary shelter for 42 families displaced people in Columbia. The company was recently awarded $300,000 by The Chivas Venture to help it expand to a global scale. + Conceptos Plasticos Via Arch Daily

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This $6,800 house was built from recycled bricks in just 5 days

Cameron Sinclair joins Airbnb to provide housing for 100,000 displaced people

April 25, 2017 by  
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Airbnb wants to provide temporary housing for 100,000 displaced people, and to help reach that goal, the home-sharing service has put together a team lead by designer and Architecture for Humanity co-founder  Cameron Sinclair . Sinclair heads architecture firm Small Works , which focuses on building for communities in need, making him the perfect fit for Airbnb’s temporary housing project. Sinclair has been working with Airbnb over the past year on various pilot projects, with the official project launching this summer. The ultimate goal is for one million Airbnb users to register as “hosts for good,” signaling that they will provide housing for people impacted by natural disasters or otherwise displaced. Related: INTERVIEW: We Talk with Architecture for Humanity Founder Cameron Sinclair Airbnb announced its ambition to host displaced people during this year’s Super Bowl with a commercial tagged #weaccept. In addition to working on the commercial, Sinclair also worked on Airbnb’s Yoshino Cedar House . via Dezeen images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Cameron Sinclair joins Airbnb to provide housing for 100,000 displaced people

This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

April 21, 2017 by  
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In 1959, the small village of Caowangba in China ’s Guizhou Province had a problem – a drought had dried up all the nearby water sources, and residents were forced to rely on a single well for drinking water. Even that single well was faltering, sometimes leaving the people of the town without enough water to go around. Worse yet, the town’s single rice paddy had dried up, making it hard for residents to access enough food. Something had to be done. But rather than give up and move to a new home, one man named Huang Dafa decided to lead an ambitious project to dig a 10-kilometer canal along the face of several sheer cliffs to bring water to his home. It took 36 years and at least one failed attempt, but now enough water flows to the city to provide food and drinking water to everyone. Many have compared Dafa to the legendary figure Yu Gong , an old man whose determination caused the gods to literally move mountains from his path. At only 23 years old, Dafa made the project his life’s work. To build the canal, villagers had to carve along the sheer cliffs of three karst mountains , dangerous work that involved climbing up the side of the mountains, tying themselves to trees, and rappelling hundreds of meters down the cliff to dig. Related: Indian Man Single-Handedly Plants 1,360 Acre Forest Naturally, it took a bit of persuading before anyone else in town was willing to take on this dangerous work. But in the end, the only other option was to do nothing and watch the town continue to struggle. Unfortunately, after a decade of work, the first attempt at a canal was unsuccessful in bringing water to the city. It wasn’t a total waste: the effort did create a tunnel through the mountains that allowed for easy travel through the stone, rather than around, which is still in use today. Dafa realized they needed a better understanding of irrigation to make the project work. So he left to study engineering for several years, and planned his next attempt even more meticulously. In the early 1990s, he persuaded the villagers to try again. The workers often slept in caves along the cliff side, and the remote location made it difficult to reach them in case of emergency – in fact, Dafa was working in the mountains when his daughter and grandson passed away, unable to reach them before they died. Related: Hundreds of beehives hang off a steep cliff in China to save wild honeybees Finally, in 1995, the new channel was finished, and water began to flow to Caowangba. As if the channel weren’t enough, Dafa’s efforts were also responsible for bringing electricity and a new road to the town that same year, allowing the residents to step into the modern era. Now, the community is thriving, and Huang Dafa is celebrated as a local hero at 82 years old. The channel provides running water to three other villages that happen to cross its path as well, providing water to 1,200 people and allowing them to grow 400,000 kilograms of rice every year. Via Oddity Central Images via VGC , China Daily

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This man spent 36 years carving through mountains to bring water to his village

This gorgeous greenhouse-like home in the Netherlands soaks up daylight

April 21, 2017 by  
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From beneath this traditional thatched roof in the Netherlands emerges a stunning glass greenhouse. Lochem-based Maas Architecten conceived the Modern Countryside Villa as two contrasting volumes: an opaque, timber-clad space, and a transparent glass structure that lets the outside in. The Modern Countryside Villa, located on the edge of the town of Berlicum in North Brabant, has an H-shaped plan with contrasting wings that house different amenities. The timber-clad volume accommodates a garage and storage space , while a greenhouse-like structure protruding out from underneath the thatched roof functions as a studio space. The second wing houses the main living areas. The wooden volume in front of the living area houses a kitchen, pantry and toilet, while the master bedroom has direct access to the sheltered courtyard with a swimming pool and terrace. Related: DAPstockholm’s Energy-Efficient Villa Midgard is Nestled Into the Swedish Countryside The transparent parts of the house are sheltered by a grove of trees that lines the plot towards the nearby road. Large glazed surfaces provide an abundance of natural light and expansive views of the picturesque surroundings. + Maas Architecten Via Dezeen Photos by Edith Verhoeven Save

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This gorgeous greenhouse-like home in the Netherlands soaks up daylight

IKEA unveils plan to lift 200,000 people out of poverty

April 19, 2017 by  
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When most people think of IKEA , they most likely think of affordable furniture and trendy home accessories. But many people are unaware of the company’s lofty social goals. In addition to their efforts to promote sustainability , it turns out IKEA is also working on a plan to alleviate poverty for Syrian refugees and other disadvantaged people around the globe. IKEA recently announced it’s building new production centers in Jordan this summer, as part of a plan to create employment for 200,000 disadvantaged people around the world. The facilities will be open and running by August, and will provide jobs to refugees producing rugs, cushions, bedspreads, and other handmade woven items. These particular facilities are the result of a partnership with the Jordan River Foundation , a non-governmental organization founded by Jordan’s Queen Rania. To start out, these particular plants will only employ 100 people, rising to 400 within two years. About half will be local workers and the other half will be Syrian refugees . Related: IKEA’s Lena Pripp-Kovac talks to Inhabitat about their sustainability program The new production centers are just one of many projects the furniture giant is working to establish around the world. Already, they’ve launched programs to help Indian women and Sweden’s immigrant population, which employ about 2,000 people collectively. The ultimate goal is to eventually employ about 200,000 people around the world through these initiatives. Rather than lead the projects themselves, IKEA is teaming up with local social entrepreneurs – organizations that help use business solutions to alleviate poverty, rather than simply distributing aid. Not only does this help provide jobs for people who desperately need them, it also helps organizations that would normally be too small to meet IKEA’s supplier guidelines to get their work into stores around the globe. Related: IKEA is launching a whole range of “no waste” products made from recycled materials This isn’t the first time IKEA has used its clout for social good. The company also recently established the IKEA Foundation to help children in poor communities, and unveiled an award-winning flat-pack refugee shelter design . So the next time you buy a new bookshelf or visit just to sample the Swedish fare at the restaurant, you can feel good knowing your purchase is helping others around the world. Via Dezeen Images via YouTube/Screenshot

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IKEA unveils plan to lift 200,000 people out of poverty

Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

March 22, 2017 by  
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At least 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water , a dire problem exacerbated by the increasing number of people living in poorly-equipped refugee camps . Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden may have come up with a low-cost, low-tech solution: a portable wood filter that doesn’t require a power source to produce clean water. KTH scientists developed a material from wood cellulose that can trap bacteria , and are testing the material for use as a water filter. PhD student Anna Ottenhall said, “Our aim is that we can provide the filter for a portable system that doesn’t need electricity – just gravity – to run raw water through it…The bacteria-trapping material does not leach any toxic chemicals into the water, as many other on-site purification methods do.” Related: Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NaJ2zRPleQ The wood cellulose fibers utilized are antibacterial, and are dipped in a positively-charged polymer solution to create the material, which works since bacteria and viruses are negatively charged, according to Phys.org. The harmful viruses and bacteria stick to the material, unable to get free or reproduce, and eventually die. Another benefit of this method of purification is that bacteria won’t be able to build up a resistance to it. The Swedish research team envisions their material used as a water filter in places that lack wells or infrastructure, like refugee camps or in emergencies. After use, the material can simply be burned. Bandages, packaging, and plasters could potentially draw on the material as well to dispose of bacteria in ways that don’t put toxins into the environment . KTH researchers are developing several other wood-based materials along with this wood water filter, such as see-through wood, a wood polystyrene alternative, and squishy wood batteries. Via Phys.org Images via KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Wikimedia Commons

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Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

January 5, 2017 by  
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Modern slavery is all around us—even if we don’t always see it. Human trafficking for the sex industry is one of the most insidious crimes, but one group in Tel Aviv is fighting against it to save lives and the environment. A.I.R.—which stands for “Act, Inspire, Restore”—is an international social enterprise that combines social purpose with an eco-friendly upcycling business to spread awareness about the black market activity and to give former prostitutes the skills and supportive community they need for a second chance at life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyT7BS9V5Vs Founded by Swiss couple Tabea and Matthias Oppliger, A.I.R. turns reclaimed materials like pallets into custom wood furniture and other upcycled products. The social impact business is a branch of glowbalact , a Switzerland-based NGO aimed at ending modern-day slavery, particularly sex trafficking, in Switzerland and abroad. Tabea, a trained massage therapist, first got involved by offering free massages in Zurich brothels for three years to learn about the women working there, earn their trust, and give them a therapeutic experience. Her and her husband’s knowledge of the industry and desire to spread awareness eventually brought them to Tel Aviv, where an unexpected encounter with a woman who Tabea previously massaged in Zurich cemented their decision to start a social enterprise in Israel. Despite Israel’s mostly young and well-educated populace, the country is home to 12,000 women, men, and children who identify as sex workers. Over three-quarters of women surveyed by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice shared their desire to leave the sex industry but say they can’t due to lack of employable skills, financial debt, or coercion by pimps or former employees. The Oppligers founded A.I.R. two years ago and successfully launched their first workspace seven months ago in the city’s gritty but up-and-coming Florentine neighborhood. There, the couple is joined with a staff of social workers and business managers, and they currently work together with eight former sex workers who have signed on for a one-year training program to help them reintegrate into society. Related: Thailand’s $7.8 billion seafood industry is built on human trafficking and slave labor Created with the mission to restore people and materials, A.I.R. works primarily with turning discarded shipping pallets into stylish furniture, a process that Tabea says is very therapeutic. The Swiss-Israeli social enterprise creates custom furniture designs to generate a stable economic base and pays the women an hourly rate. Thus far, A.I.R. has installed their upcycled works in a variety of locations across the city including the rooftop patio of Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, and recently won a contract to outfit the interior of a new coffee shop. The foam cushions are covered with recycled billboard canvas, which is sturdy, waterproof, and often colorful. Since the upcycled pallet furniture is heavy and is only sold in Israel, A.I.R. was asked by supporters to produce a second upcycled product that could be easily shipped abroad. Thus, the team has recently started collecting discarded kites donated by kite surfers. The reclaimed materials are repurposed into waterproof bags and bibs under the label Kite Pride. “We’re trying to make art not waste,” said Tabea to Inhabitat. “We love the idea of upcycling and recycling. It has to be unique and this very colorful stuff is very therapeutic for the girls. One of the girls said ‘I’m just happy looking at the colors.’ Our constant battle is between being socially minded and the pressure of trying to get a business up and running. It’s very challenging. We offer social impact holidays to Germans and Americans and other young business people so that they can come for two and three weeks here and help out at A.I.R. Our goal is to be a jumping board for the career these girls have always wanted. We just give them stability and a protected environment and teach them a few things.” A.I.R.’s Kite Pride products will soon be available for purchase on their website and their upcycled pallet furniture is available for purchase and commission in Israel. The sale of these products helps spread awareness and will produce more jobs around the country. To learn more about human trafficking, you can watch a new sex trafficking movie “She Has A Name,” proceeds of which help support glowbalact. + glowbalact + Vibe Israel Tour courtesy of Vibe Israel Images © Lucy Wang , image of Oppligers © Amit Shemesh

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Upcycling studio in Tel Aviv gives former prostitutes a second chance at life

Finland is giving 2,000 citizens a free basic income of 560 Euros a month

January 3, 2017 by  
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As of January 1, 2017 Finland is providing 2,000 unemployed citizens with a basic income of 560 Euros every month for two years. The nation hopes that the experiment will improve quality of life for its citizens while opening up new jobs. Helsinki University social policy professor Heikki Hiilamo told The New York Times : “Basic income is kind of a symbol that we believe in your capacity and we think that you are actually able to do things which are beneficial to you, and also for your community. It’s built on a kind of a positive view of human beings. People want to be autonomous. They want to improve their well-being.” If you currently collect unemployment in Finland, you risk losing your benefits if you start to bring in side income. The country has discovered that the regulations behind this safety net effectively deter people from seeking part-time jobs. Starting a new company or joining a startup is also risky, and many people need the reliability of an unemployment check. In contrast, those receiving basic income under the new experiment won’t risk losing a steady income if they start making money on the side. Related: Ontario is rolling out a basic income test for citizens living under the poverty line Over two years, the Finnish government will watch how people utilize basic income. Will they take a risk in business , or will they pursue higher education to secure better jobs? Will they sit on a couch at home playing video games? The government will randomly choose unemployed citizens to receive 560 Euros, or around $580, each month. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) will implement the experiment. Kela’s research department head Olli Kangas told The New York Times, “Some people think basic income will solve every problem under the sun, and some people think it’s from the hand of Satan and will destroy our work ethic. I’m hoping we can create some knowledge on this issue.” Via The New York Times Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Finland is giving 2,000 citizens a free basic income of 560 Euros a month

China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

January 2, 2017 by  
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China is planning some serious upgrades to its public transportation system in the next few years. By 2020, the country hopes to have increased its high-speed railway coverage by 18,650 miles. The project will cost an estimated 3.5 trillion yuan, or about $503 billion USD. Not only will the population be more mobile, but the rails will significantly cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution. Adding on 18,650 miles to a railway system is a humongous feat and difficult to comprehend. The expansion would be roughly the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles six and a half times. It will also connect 80 percent of the country’s biggest cities and leave room for further rural expansion. Related: Chinese firm aiming for world record with 373 mph maglev train Much of the existing and future high-speed rails are located in coastal and eastern regions of China. Yet, access to the west and poorer regions of the country are being considered for future investments, despite the fact that they will not be as profitable. “We believe these railway lines will break even over time as the flow of people and goods experience fast growth,” said Yang Yudong, administrator of the National Railway Administration. As a global observer, one of the most appealing aspects of the project is how much air pollution will be slashed by connecting a bustling population to efficient public transit. China has been battling smog for decades, and taking vehicles off the streets could be the piece of the puzzle needed to make lasting improvements. Via Clean Technica Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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China is spending over $500 billion to expand high-speed rail

6 ways to give back this Thanksgiving and beyond

November 24, 2016 by  
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Thanksgiving is a time of plenty, and of appreciation. It’s a holiday in which we’ll get together with friends and family to celebrate the bounty of the autumn harvest, to share food and drink, and spend time with people we love. Those of us whose celebrations will consist of ample food and a warm place in which to eat it are among the very privileged; there are millions who won’t be so fortunate, unless we reach out and offer a helping hand. This year, please consider helping  others in need via one of the methods mentioned below. Organize a Food Drive Put the call out to friends, family, and neighbors that you’re collecting non-perishable goods for a local food bank, and ask a couple of them to help you deliver the bounty to a nearby drop-off point. Many fire stations, libraries, and other community hubs have collection bins around this time of year, but a quick Google search or scan through the Feeding America website should provide you with several different options. Remember that the food being donated will be eaten by those in need, ranging from small children to the elderly, and everyone in between. Although donating the items you like the least (i.e. the canned goods at the back of your cupboard that you only turn to when all else is gone) might be tempting, it’s important to think about what you would wish to eat if you were hungry during the holidays. Canned protein (beans, tuna), jars of peanut butter, powdered milk, and soup/stew are always in demand, but holiday-related items such as cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing mix, and cans of pudding will also be appreciated beyond measure. Related: Teenager Develops Program to Feed Thousands of Hungry People in California Invite a Neighbor to Dinner There aren’t too many people who are very close friends with their neighbors, these days. There was once a time when people knew everyone on their street, but in this era of smartphones, internet access, Netflix, and insular lifestyles, the closest we might get to interacting with those who live around us might be a friendly wave while walking down the street, or a quick chat while taking out the garbage. Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to get to know those around us, and to extend a friendly hand to a neighbor who might be lonely during the holidays. Elderly neighbors, single parents, college students far from home, and newcomers to the country are just a few examples of the folks who might really appreciate the invitation to dinner. They’ll undoubtedly have great stories to tell (and recipes to share), and you might end up with an incredible new friend. Choose a Charity to Donate To This could be a solitary choice, or one that’s decided upon by you and your partner. It could even be a group decision with the entire family, or the herd of friends you’ll be celebrating with this year. From farm sanctuaries to human rights organizations, there are literally thousands of charities that could benefit from your support, and even a small amount can make a difference. If you don’t already have an organization in mind that you’d like to donate to you can visit Just Give to choose a charity that’s best for you. Collect Warm Clothes from Dinner Guests It’s likely that all of us have some warm clothes that we don’t wear very often, but might be put to very good use by others in need. If you’re getting together with a group of people this Thanksgiving, consider asking each one to bring along a gently used item of warm clothing to donate to a local charity. Sweaters , hats, scarves, and mittens are all appreciated by those who might not be able to afford their own, and can make a world of difference in another person’s world. Keep in mind that it’s not just homeless adults that benefit from donations of warm clothing: it’s estimated that there are over 1.6 million homeless children in America today, and an even larger number have parents on a fixed income, and might not have warm clothes that fit. Many women’s shelters also house small children and babies, so if your own kids have outgrown their flannel PJs, coats, etc., there are certainly many children who’d appreciate receiving them. You can drop off your donations at many different collection points around the country , as well as local shelters and churches. Share Your Bounty with Animal Friends Lunch and dinner parties inevitably end up with leftovers and kitchen scraps, many of which would be really appreciated by animal friends. Call up local animal shelters and sanctuaries to find out what kind of donations they’d accept: many are very grateful to receive items such as carrot tops, lettuces and other fresh greens, as well as fruits and vegetables so they can share them with the many animals they care for. Sharing your scraps and leftovers can help local animal buddies too!  Leftover bread, buns, and apple cores will be seriously appreciated by hungry squirrels and birds at parks nearby, and you can use hollowed-out citrus rinds or squash halves as bird feeders : just pack them with nut butter, seeds, and crumbs, and hang them in trees for the locals to enjoy. Related: Yoda the Piglet Escapes Slaughterhouse, Finds Love and Safety Help Out at a Food Bank or Soup Kitchen If you’d rather be out and about and actively helpful this Thanksgiving, there are hundreds of food banks and community kitchens that could use an extra hand to help the hungry . More people use these food resources over the autumn and winter months than at any other time of year, and a nourishing, hot meal can make a huge difference in a person’s day, especially if it’s served with a sincere smile. A lot of people are surprised to discover that so many different people need to visit food banks and charitable kitchens on occasion; it’s not just the homeless folks you’d normally see panhandling on the street. Students, young families, pensioners, struggling single parents, and under-employed people who might be unable to make ends meet between paychecks need a bit of extra help now and then, and many feel very embarrassed and low when they find themselves at a soup kitchen  so they can eat something that day. If you can be there for them, with warmth, reassurance, empathy, and a kind word, you will make a difference in their world. That’s a promise. These are just a few ways that you can reach out and help others this season. There are countless opportunities for volunteering, donating, and sharing, in ways that appeal to a broad range of people. If you have a favorite way to give forward to your own community, please feel free to share it with us in the comments section below. All images via Shutterstock

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