Taking recycling to new heights

Now this is cool. Buddhist monks used a million beer bottles to construct a temple in Thailand.

Mindfulness is at the center of the Buddhist discipline and the dedication and thoughtfulness required to build everything from the toilets to their crematorium from recycled bottles shows what creativity and elbow grease can accomplish.

The Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple is about 400 miles northeast of Bangkok in the city of Khun Han close to the Cambodian border. Using Heineken bottles (green) and Chang Beer bottles (brown) the monks were able to clean up the local pollution and create a useful structure that will be a visual reminder to the scope of pollution and the potential we can make with limber minds.

The water tower and tourist bathrooms are even made from beer bottle litter. The monks were able to have the local people bring them the building materials which beautifully reflect the Thai sun.

Photos of this amazing achievement are here. It looks beautiful and it’s awe-inspiring to think of the amount of work that must have went into building it, and they did a good thing for the environment at the same time.

On the topic of bottles and environmental issues, some places are looking to ban the sale of bottled water at leisure centres and other city-run facilities. Some cities in the States have already done so, and London, Ont. voted to try it. This past August, it was reported that our mayor, Don Atchison, didn’t see the need to enforce something like that:

“I’d need to see some pretty compelling evidence that we should be telling people what they should be drinking,” Atchison said. Banning bottled water in arenas and golf courses wouldn’t be practical, he suggests.

“You’re out playing (golf) and I’m sure not everyone carries a container with them all the time.”

But Ellen Quigley, general co-ordinator of the We are Many (WAM) festival, which runs today through Sunday at Diefenbaker Park, says the fact water fountains are in most public places makes bottled water unnecessary.

“I don’t see the argument that it’s impractical.”

Plastic bottles are needless waste given the availability of tap water, she said. Energy is also wasted in the manufacturing and eventual recycling of the bottles, she said.

SARCAN has a high rate of recycling plastic bottles, but some still end up in the landfill, said Joanne Fedyk, executive director of Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council. The waste created by producing plastic and transporting bottles long distances is a bigger concern, she said.

“If you don’t produce the plastic bottle in the first place, you’re doing a better thing for the world than if you recycle it later,” Fedyk said.

I’ve never gotten the point of buying bottled water. What’s wrong with the tap? If you have to pay for the water you use in a city anyway, why buy more at an inflated price? The markup on some brands is up to 12,000%. It’s a waste of money. I can see buying water if you live in the country and your well water isn’t good enough for drinking, or you can’t sink a well at all. But city people?

Admittedly the e-coli disaster in Walkerton was a disgrace and it looks like other cities in Canada have issues with their treatment facilities – lacking money to improve them, for example. Every year there seems to be a “boil water advisory” coming out of one place or another.

But I don’t think the solution is buying water from Coke and Pepsi-Cola. Take it from the same place they get it from and eliminate the middlemen. It’ll cost less in the long run.

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