Reflecting on 2018, a Year-End Review with Upcycle Santa Fe

WRITTEN BY HALLIE BRENNAN, UPCYCLE SANTA FE | DEC. 31, 2018

The year has wound down to the very final day of 2018.  It’s New Years Eve!  As I sit and contemplate my evening party plans I’m more-so distracted by thoughts reflecting on Upcycle Santa Fe’s progress in 2018.  This year we placed more Ubuntu Blox Presses in the hands of motivated individuals than ever before, which led us to do a bit of travel, and share our knowledge with many different groups of people.  Heck, this year we were even on TV and the radio!  Sit with me… let us reminisce.

Jumping back to February, 2018, Upcycle Santa Fe was en route to Costa Rica!  Happenstance led us to a group of individuals who are collectively living in a permaculture paradise deep into the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.  The place is called Finca Morpho, and the Morphians welcomed Upcycle Santa Fe with a place to sleep and daily organic, fresh cooked meals for the price of an Ubuntu-Blox Press.

We scoured their farm and were able to source all of the needed materials for the Press.  This was the first time we built a Press from 100% reclaimed materials!  This was a challenge for us, and we’re proud to have prevailed.  This paradise-based intentional community is now on a zero plastic waste agenda, and being located in the second most bio-diverse place on the planet, we think that’s pretty darn important.  You can visit this Ubuntu-Blox Press and the Morphians if you’re seeking a sustainable and meaningful tropical getaway.  They’ve got their annual Metamorphosis Gathering coming up soon, and it just may be the perfect thing you’re searching for.

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Ubuntu-Blox buildout demonstration with the Finca Morpho community

Aw, gee whiz… thinking back on the day we left Finca Morpho, project complete, I was so overjoyed I cried.  Working in the field of plastic waste, tears of joy aren’t as common as tears of sadness.  I’ll forever be grateful to the love of trash regeneration the Morphians have, and am so happy to have met such a unique team of friends.

Okay, drying my eyes, now lets move on to the second project Upcycle took on in 2018, marathon races!  Did we run a marathon for plastic waste awareness?  Haha!  No way!  But we did help a marathon race company, Vacation Races, take on a zero plastic waste agenda; a different kind of marathon in its own right.

In April of 2018, Upcycle packed up and hit the road for Zion National Park, the hosting grounds for a weekend Ragnar Relay Race, and home of the first ever zero plastic waste marathon event in the United States.  Upcycle Santa Fe traveled deep into the glorious Utah desert to deliver the custom ordered Ubuntu-Blox Press to Vacation Races, and trained their waste management team on how to use the Press for plastic waste generated at regular marathon events.

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A single waste management team tackled the waste of nearly 5,000 marathon goers!  Needless to say, by the end of the weekend we were exhausted.  There was quite a bit of bottled water and sports drinks consumed by the marathon goers, and we were able to compress 25.5 Ubuntu-Blox, or 102 cubic feet of plastic waste.  That’s quite a bit of plastics saved from failed recycling centers and landfills.

The waste management team of Vacation Races has carried on for the remainder of 2018 compressing plastics into Ubuntu-Blox.  Recent talks with their team have us on the radar for 2019, assisting with an Ubuntu-Blox building project to resource all the collected and compressed plastics into a structure.  Stay tuned to hear more about that one!

Moving on down to November, 2018, Upcycle Santa Fe got Santa Fe-mous and were in the news!  A reporter with Albuquerque based KRQE News 13 got wind of the work we do here at Upcycle, and by that evening we were on the local news.  Our social media accounts have soared as many New Mexicans have reached out to us since the news broadcast aired.  Many had questions about what to do with their non-recyclable plastics, the recycling crisis in New Mexico, and how to make Ecobricks.  To witness fellow New Mexicans have such an interest and passion for plastic waste and how to sustainably handle it has been humbling and motivating.  We feel we have a strong team of locals supporting our work, and not too much is better than that!  We love you, New Mexico.  If you haven’t seen us on the news yet, or already have and want to watch it again, here ya go!

 

One of the ongoing projects of Upcycle Santa Fe is research.  Being innovators in upcycling plastic waste into building materials, we are constantly faced with unanswered questions.  Research is an ongoing solution to ensure the development of sustainable products going into the future.  And well, formal research just ain’t cheap!  In 2017 we fundraised to afford necessary research on upcycled plastic waste insulation emissions.  We passed that test by answering the question as to whether or not plastics off-gas when used as insulation.  (The answer was no, they don’t off-gas, in case you didn’t read about that totally awesome research project.) In 2018 we’re fundraising again, and we would love your help.

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www.gofundme.com/ecobrick

2018 brought on more research, and this time in one of the most important factors we’ve yet tackled, building codes! At this time, Ecobricks and Ubuntu-Blox are not up to building code for full-size structures in the U.S. because they lack some important research: R-Value and Flame Spread tests.  Both tests are required by law in getting new materials approved by building advisory boards, and eventually into official building codes.  So, whatdoyaknow, Upcycle is taking on this challenge!  Why?  Because we believe the people of the U.S. have a big role to play when it comes to decreasing their carbon footprint based in plastic waste.  Americans are consuming single-use plastics at an alarming rate, and our solution to ship plastic waste overseas for recycling has proven to be a failure over and over again.  Especially this year, with China’s foreign plastic waste ban, and the ripple effect its had on the entire global recycling industry.  So, again, would you like to make a donation and help us out on this enormously big project we’re taking on?

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Our last project of 2018 brought us back to sunny Utah.  Just a couple weeks ago, in mid-December, we spent eight days in Moab building an Ubuntu-Blox Press for a handful of interested non-profits who seek to clean up Moab’s piling plastic waste, as the community is seeing big failings from their local recycling facility.

Upcycle Santa Fe was the grant recipient, alongside Moab-based Resiliency Hub, of the 2018 Make A Difference Grant from WabiSabi Moab, a thrift store with a strong interest in making a positive difference in their community.  Upcycle built an Ubuntu-Blox Press for the Moab non-profit Resiliency Hub, taught members of their community how to use it, and ultimately how to build with it.  (It was a whirlwind of a week!)  The final result was a pile of plastic waste transformed into an outdoor bench at Moab’s community radio station, KZMU.  Which reminds me, KZMU generously hosted us on a number of their news reports that week.  There were a couple of short podcasts made.  Have a listen…

 

Wow!  Okay, that wraps up the highlights of 2018 for Upcycle Santa Fe.  Every single one of these projects has opened doors for future projects, which means we’re in for a very exciting 2019.  Thank you so much for believing in our grassroots work, and supporting Upcycle as we take this important work to the next level.  None of this would be possible without the generous support of friends, family, and complete strangers we meet along the way.  You know who you are, and I thank you.  For the rest of you we’re soon to meet in the coming New Year, I look forward to our shared time together, and am already grateful for you.  Together we’ll clean up this plastic polluted planet one little bit at a time.  Happy New Year, world!

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