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The Recycled Bottle Greenhouse Project

About the Project

Project Summary

As part of the Connections for Sustainability grant, the Livability Educator is engaging students and community members in activities and projects that highlight connections between the natural, built, and social environment. In fall of 2012, A J Whittenberg Elementary School received a Champions of the Environment Grant to fund the recycled bottle greenhouse project spearheaded by the Livability Educator. The recycled bottle greenhouse is being constructed at A J Whittenberg Elementary school and will serve as part of the outdoor classroom in AJ’s garden to address resource conservation and water quality through green building, recycling, rainwater collection, and outreach.

About the Issues

Resource Conservation

Photo montage of 2nd grade green team recycling efforts

The 2nd Grade Green team leads AJW’s recycling efforts.

The recycled bottle greenhouse will be made with 2 Liter bottles collected by faculty, staff, and students at A J Whittenberg as well as community members. Instead of throwing used bottles in the trash, they will be reused, conserving resources and encouraging students and community members to think outside of the box in order to build something new with something old.

Resource conservation is an important aspect of developing a more sustainable society.

  • Conserving resources is important for the environment. Using less and reusing instead of harvesting new materials and producing more items uses less energy and reduces pollution and loss of natural habitats.
  • Conservation of resources also leads to a more sustainable economic system, as reusing instead of purchasing something new saves money.
  • Most manufacturing systems use less energy when making items from recycled materials than they do manufacturing new items from scratch. Some industries, such as the steel industry, require a certain percentage of used material in order to make new steel. Since it uses less energy, manufacturing items from recycled materials costs less and reduces pollution.
  • Reuse, recycling, and waste reduction all lead to less material in the landfill, which protects the environment and allows us to continue to use one landfill longer instead of building a new one.

Water Quality

The plastic bottle greenhouse will collect water from its roof in rain barrels. Water collection and storage reduces the amount of above ground runoff that occurs during rain events. Less runoff means less pollution entering rivers and streams. Water that is collected and stored can then be used when needed to water garden plants, conserving water resources during dry times and providing a free source of water for irrigation.

Water is essential for sustaining human society and a healthy natural environment.

  • Storm water runoff occurs when water flows above ground during and following a rain event. As it flows over urban surfaces such as buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and roads, runoff picks up trash, oil, chemicals, soil, and other pollutants and deposits it in rivers. The greatest threat to water quality in the U.S. is nonpoint source pollution in the form of runoff.
  • Rain water collection is an effective way of reducing storm water runoff in urban environments and protecting water quality in urban streams and rivers.
  • Collecting rain water in barrels also provides a free source of irrigation water, making the care of plants more economically sustainable during dry times.

Green Building

The walls and roof of the greenhouse will be constructed mainly out of recycled bottles. Using reclaimed materials as building components is an important part of green building. The greenhouse will rely completely on passive solar technology to stay warm during the winter months. The integration of waste reduction, water conservation, and education makes this structure a unique example of green building that will benefit students at the school for years to come.

Green buildings benefit the environment and are less expensive to operate and maintain than traditional buildings.

  • Buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption and 70% of the electricity used in the US every year. Green buildings are energy efficient. Building a green structure instead of a traditional structure saves energy.
  • Passive solar building means constructing a structure so that the energy from the sun is used to heat the structure in winter instead of using electricity or gas. Passive solar construction saves energy and money.
  • The waste generated from construction and demolition related to buildings in the US is approximately 160 million tons. Through careful planning and the use of repurposed or recycled materials, green buildings reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.
  • Green buildings employ a range of techniques and technologies in order to conserve resources, save money, and protect the environment. Collecting rainwater in rain barrels or cisterns is one way that green buildings conserve water and save money.