Friday, April 4, 2014

An upcycling opportunity for CCISD (or others)

We're in a tremendous building phase right now in the League City area, with major new projects including, but not limited to, the following:
Perfect, perfect name - couldn't be better.  But before this artist's rendition becomes reality, an extraordinary amount of infrastructure will need to be put in place.

Screengrabbed from CCISD.  
I'd like to take this opportunity to remind folks (directing this post @clearcreekisd in particular) that there are going to be plenty of opportunities for upcycling some of the construction wastes from those projects, CCISD's in particular, supposing you can get the permission to do it and supposing you can find someone (such as a motivated teacher or volunteer(s)) with the enthusiasm to lead an upcycling project (they aren't that difficult to manage, as I will show below).  

Construction sites generate vast quantities of useful materials that cannot be incorporated into the sites themselves, but which do have the potential to serve purposes that are arguably superior (on a dollar-per-dollar comparison basis) to their original function.  But despite their potential value in other applications, they are usually just thrown away unless someone steps in to capitalize on them.    

My favorite of these materials is storm water drainage culvert.  
I am the proud back-yard owner of seven gardens that were built from pieces of drainage culvert picked from construction trash piles (picked with the owners' permission).  These trimmings (scraps) were too short to be used on the original construction site or in any other location, so they had been tossed into dumpsters or onto waste heaps shortly before I got to them and saved them.

This is my beloved herb garden, which is further described in this post (with construction details).  
Here are three more as they looked about a year ago.  At the time, they held two very small blueberry bushes with Swiss chard in the middle.  Description here
Here's how that same grouping looks today, after the blueberry plants in the right and left segments had a year to explode into growth.

You can also see a few of my stock tank gardens in the background.  Large stock tanks cost about $100 - $300 apiece, whereas culvert scraps are free if you can get them.  
The CCISD stadium project will probably generate a good volume of scrap culvert.  There should be at least three different diameters of it.  That resource could be developed into a gardening and/or landscaping project that could give Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center's analogous efforts a run for their money.
And that would be a tall order given that the Wildflower Center has elevated container gardening to heretofore-unheard-of levels of creativity and artistic expression.  But much the same could be done with culvert.  Personally I prefer the black polyethylene culvert from an artistic standpoint because it creates a more striking contrast with the surroundings.  Stock tanks are less visually distinct.

Screengrabbed from Rock Rose blog, which has a great entry on these famous stock tanks here.  
Well-known reporter Deborah Wrigley waters the student garden at CCISD's Clear Creek High School, but you'll notice right away that she's on her knees.  When large containers such as culvert scraps are used for gardening, there's no more kneeling required as the gardens are raised up to a more convenient working height.  This is especially useful for handicapped individuals.

Screengrabs courtesy of KTRK-TV.  
It's a wonderful garden but you can tell that a lot of taxpayer money has not been spent on the aesthetics of it.  This could be developed further if someone wanted to do that.    
Here's what CCISD's upcycling of some of its own pending culvert waste could potentially teach kids:
  1. That we don't have to send perfectly good stuff to a landfill.  
  2. That we don't have to default to a retail solution every time we want to accomplish or build something.  If we want to improve our situation, we may not need to rush out to a store and spend money.  The answer might be free and right under our noses.  
  3. That upcycling is the ultimate example of thinking outside the box.  It goes beyond recycling in terms of the value that it adds to our environment.  
  4. That thinking outside the box is at the heart of entrepreneurship.  Every time you conceive of a way to combine, use, or build upon existing materials in a new way, you're being an entrepreneur.  
  5. That we shouldn't allow our pretentiousness to interfere with our creativity.  Value is value no matter where it comes from.  Do you think you're too wealthy or too proud to go dumpster-diving?  Try it (with permission) - it's a liberating experience.  Some of the most amazing art being produced today is being made with items that were thrown away (Google 'found object art' for examples).  
  6. That gardens are very cool and raised gardens can be used to grow special plants that everyone loves.
We are eagerly awaiting the ripening of our current culvert crop of blueberries!!!  Blueberry plants require lower soil pH than we have in greater Houston.  It's difficult to create those conditions in a garden which is installed in the ground, but it is easy to do it in culvert scraps.  
Conversely, if there are no teachers or volunteers interested in developing culvert gardens at any school(s) in CCISD, the stadium-derived scraps could instead be cut to garden sizes and then sold to the public in a fundraiser (the other construction sites around League City could also be asked to contribute their scraps).  People would pay good money for this stuff; look at these gardens - they're beautiful as well as uniquely useful!  With a child in CCISD, I've had a decade of dealing with school fundraisers, and what goods are usually sold in them?!  Sugary snacks that are good for nobody's waistline, as well as consumer items and home decor that nobody needs because our houses are already chock full of all that stuff.  I know so many people who would love to get into vegetable and flower gardening but they need a way of jump-starting and simplifying their efforts because they only have limited free time.  A culvert garden would be just the ticket for those folks.  These things would sell like hotcakes.  

Think about it, and if anyone has any questions about this idea, feel free to contact me via -at- gmail.
Culvert scraps thrown on the ground at a location in Vermont (screengrab courtesy of this site).  They don't need to be landfilled or shredded like soda bottles - they can be cut to height and used for gardens as-is.  

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