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Diepsloot eco-brick project provides building blocks for empowerment while cleaning up environment

Diepsloot eco-brick project provides building blocks for empowerment while cleaning up environment
Diana Musara uses eco-bricks as a cost-effective building material with environmental benefits. (Photo: Thom Pierce / The Actionists)

One eco-brick and one classroom at a time, the inspiring story of environmental entrepreneur Diana Musara.

There are three things that Diana Musara is passionate about; entrepreneurship, education and the environment. All of these passions now intersect through her NPO, Earthly Touch Foundation, but they started with a school made out of bottles. 

Whilst volunteering as a director for Khensani’s Collection, an after-school programme in Diepsloot that supports struggling students with extra lessons, Diana took it upon herself to build a new classroom for the growing number of learners, with over 70 in one room. 

At a women’s network event hosted by Hirshes, Diana was introduced to the concept of eco-bricks. She realised that this simple idea would provide her with a cost-effective building material which also had environmental benefits.

Eco-bricks are two-litre soft drink bottles packed tightly with plastic, a well-insulated alternative to regular bricks. They also provide an upcycling solution for single-use plastics. 

The school receives large donations of clothes, so Diana put her business background to work and created an exchange programme whereby people from the surrounding community could make eco-bricks from plastic they had collected and exchange the bottles for clothes. 

Diepsloot has a plastic problem. Discarded litter is strewn everywhere, clogging the water systems and piled on the side of the roads. By offering clothes in exchange for plastic trash, Diana was helping to clean up the neighbourhood whilst also providing an opportunity to anyone who wanted to get involved. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Video — Constructing classrooms from plastic waste in Diepsloot

So far they have received around 5,000 eco-bricks through the exchange programme.

“I want to do something that can add value and change people’s lives.”

The school made out of bottles provides an environmentally friendly structure that is well-insulated and an innovative solution for plastic waste that is not being collected by the municipality. The labour brings much-needed work to an area that is struggling for jobs, and the building provides a valuable after-school facility for kids in the area.

With the threat of global warming and carbon emission,  the new eco-brick school will contribute to the avoidance of +- 50 tons of carbon into our environment as a result of repurposed plastic bottles, the use of solar, and limiting the use of cement for construction.

Read more on Daily Maverick: Repurposing Waste: West Rand nursery school gets an ecobrick classroom made from three tonnes of non-recyclable plastic

That’s quite a lot of value through one relatively simple idea. 

Through the Earthly Touch Foundation, Diana wants to take the idea even further by mentoring construction students in eco-brick building and training them in how to run a business. Find out more here. DM

The Actionists was launched in early 2023 by photographer Thom Pierce. It consists of on-the-ground problem solvers, community activists, climate campaigners and human rights defenders who don’t just talk but who take direct action. They’re the people you can go to when you don’t know where to turn, who won’t stop working for the change they want to see in the world. The Actionists is also a growing community of people who care about the future of South Africa.

Through a series of photographic stories, Pierce profiles a wide range of people around the country who are providing vital services, intuitive solutions and unrelenting activism.

Through the website, discussion forum and social media, the aim is to provide tangible ways for people to get involved. The intention is to inspire and inform, to challenge the idea that nothing is being done, to create a network of Actionists and to bring people who need help together with the people who can provide a solution.

Nominate Actionists in your circle at www.theactionists.co.za or email [email protected]

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