Saturday, November 8, 2008

Calacirya Foundation - sustainable building

Sustainable Building with Trash

Calacirya Foundation is employing new building techniques using plastic trash in construction. This serves to hide unsightly, disease-causing garbage while creating community areas for all to enjoy. In addition, focus is placed on the importance of dealing with plastic trash in a more responsible manner and the long term effects of creating non-biodegradable garbage. Our two-fold goal is to affect a significant reduction in the use of plastics and to promote trash construction.

Community Garden Project .

In 2003, Calacirya Foundation, in cooperation with Kansas State University (Community Service Program), Rotary International and the High School in San Marcos, began a community garden. This project serves as our prototype for sustainable building projects of the future. The garden has not only beautified an area that was once neglected and unsightly, but is also serving as a classroom for the youth of San Marcos to learn about trash construction and other enviromental issues.

Ecological Sanitation Project

"Water and Sanitation is one of the primary drivers of public health. I often refer to it as “Health 101”, which means that once we can secure access to clean water and to adequate sanitation facilities for all people, irrespective of the difference in their living conditions, a huge battle against all kinds of diseases will be won."

Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization.

About 2.4 billion people globally live under highly unsanitary conditions and have such poor hygiene behaviors that their exposure to and the spread of infectious diseases are enormous. Diarrheal disease alone amounts to an estimated 4.1 % of the total DALY global burden of disease and is responsible for the deaths of 1.8 million people every year (WHO, 2004). It was estimated that 88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and is mostly concentrated on children in developing countries.

In the town of San Marcos la Laguna approximately 50% of the 450 families do not currently have bathrooms and there is no dump or solid waste disposal. Trash and human excrement are polluting the water ways and mountainsides. Calacirya Foundation has combined several ideas to make ecological sanitation facilities which not only contain human waste, but also make compost and use trash in the construction process.

This project is a grand opportunity to share with families how solid and human waste affects the health of the environment and in turn the health of the community. Families help in the construction of the bathrooms and are responsible for stuffing plastic bottles with trash to be used as fill for the bathroom walls. This allows ample time to instruct the family on better sanitation practices and proper care of their ecological composting toilet. They are also shown how to maintain a composting system for the excrement that is safe to fertilize crops. In addition, every family is given soap to emphasize the need to wash hands after handling trash or using the bathroom.

However, as stated above, black water is not the only environmental contaminate present. Grey water is also endangering local water ways. Calacirya Foundation is installing grey water filtration systems in individual houses so washing water does not flow away from the property. Using a permaculture system grey water is contained and broken down by a ring of bananas and flowers. In the meantime the “banana circle” also provides shade, food and a place to compost organic material; and the flowers create more of a “garden” atmosphere.

Ecological sanitation, trash education, composting and grey water filtration combined with the Calacirya Foundation stove project make a well-rounded household health system.

Calacirya Foundation goals are to:

Better community health through change in household sanitation practices

Promote ecological awareness in the house as well as the surrounding environment

Demonstrate the direct connection between the health of the environment and the health of families



World Health Organization Website, 2007.

“Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion: Programming Guidance,” Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and the World Health Organization, 2005.

Contact Us

Co-Founders: Christian Nix and Emily Webb

US: 1-866-841-9139 ext.1011

Guatemala: (011) (502) 4060-9412


See the main organization:

The majority of villages in Guatemala have no trash dumps or system to collect and contain their trash. Trash is dumped on the ground, in lakes and in rivers. Vital drinking water is being contaminated. Children are playing in garbage; and disease is being spread.

Pura Vida teaches villagers to compact clean, dry plastic trash into used plastic bottles, thereby converting waste into easily-storable and transportable “plastic bricks” for construction.


To promote environmental consciousness among the indigenous villages of Guatemala, in order to curb the contamination of air, soil and water, promote healthier living conditions, and preserve the beauty of the land. (more)

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