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Hug It Forward: Schools built from bottles

Meet Hug It Forward: a not-for-profit that has dedicated itself to building schools in communities in need of them all around Guatemala through the innovative use of materials that exist in abundance, and even better, are inexpensive and accessible: plastic bottles and inorganic trash. Their model is similar to that of the Bottle School Project Illac Diaz pioneered in the Philippines, but is approached in a slightly different way.

Image credit: Hug it Forward

Rather than being filled with adobe, as was the case in Illac Diaz’s schools, the bottles are filled with inorganic trash found in around the communities, which serve as insulation when the walls to up. The bottles then lined up and held together between layers of chicken wire attached to a metal frame. Other materials, like wood beams are used as the support frames for the classrooms, and concrete walls layered on over top.

Since the projects started in 2009, Hug It Forward has worked with communities around Guatemala to complete fifteen schools, with two more underway and ten more needing funding. In each project, whole communities have gotten involved – from collecting and stuffing the bottles, to building and putting up the infrastructure. Their first bottle school project used up over 5,000 plastic bottles and over 2,050 pounds of trash to build two classooms that now houses 297 children and youth attending the school.

Hug It Forward also organizes week-long volunteer trips for those wanting to help build schools, and accepts donations through their website and Paypal.

The next trip leaves in a few days on February 7th, which may be too soon, but there are also two trips leaving in March on the 2nd and 24th. Their booking site also stays current with upcoming trips.


S’well bottles: a hit or miss on quality?


Back in August 2011, I wrote a post on brain sugar about a new water bottle that I had recently come across and was very excited about: S’well. The design, function, and charitable contribution of the bottle and company were all things that really impressed me. I became a big fan and loudspeaker for S’well – but that didn’t last long.

At the time, I purchased two bottles for myself and my fiancé, and seeing how much I loved my bottle, a few friends of mine as well as my fiancé’s mother also purchased bottles. We live in Canada, and sourced them from a local distributor – particularly as at the time of my first order, S’well wasn’t shipping to Canada yet.

Initially, the bottle was everything I read it to be. It kept my iced water cold, and hot water hot for 24 and 12 hours. But after a few months of use, I noticed my bottle would get very hot to the touch when I put hot water in it, and the water itself become cool in a matter of one to two hours. A long cry from the 12 it once supported. Cold water resulted in condensation on the outside – which is the opposite of what should be happening – and didn’t stay cold. Somewhere along the line, my bottle no longer insulated. (Note that true to the recommended product care, I did not put the bottle through the dishwasher, or leave it immersed in water. Only the gentlest hand-washing, rinse, and air dry for my bottle!) Read more

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