Why Build Bottle Schools?

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights says “everyone has the right to an education”. Yet millions of children across the world are being denied that right.

Our modern consumer culture is generating billions of tons of inorganic trash every year – much of it plastic. Many communities don’t have a way to deal with non-biodegradable trash, and trash is often burned or ends up in rivers, oceans, streets and countrysides.

Bottle schools provide an efficient solution to tackle these two huge problems at once – and, at the same time, they provide environmental education, they empower people to learn transferable skills, they foster community leadership and they build confidence and resilience.


Educational opportunity

Bottle schools provide a safe, clean and comfortable environment for generations of children to study and learn. This improved education provides benefits for the development of the community at large, especially when young girls have opportunities to stay in school longer.

Meeting the infrastructural needs for a school building is the first step in the chain of pulling communities out of poverty, by encouraging homegrown solutions to take root and flourish in an educated populace.


Cleaning up trash

Building bottle schools offers the community an incentive to clean their streets and countryside to provide a cleaner and healthier environment, leading to less contamination, healthier people, more attractive surroundings.

In many countries, trash collected in homes is burned outside and at times inside the home in open wood-burning stoves, creating toxic fumes, as well as producing greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming.

Much of the trash finds its way into river systems, washing massive amounts of waste out to sea and onto beaches. This affects the livelihoods of thousands dependent on fishing and tourism, and also adds to the large garbage problem in our oceans.

Unfortunately plastic bags, cups, and other trash also get eaten by animals who are attracted to the smell and taste of what was in the plastic before.


Environmental education

To make eco-bricks, kids of all ages collect inorganic trash and stuff it into bottles. The environmental education that accompanies this process teaches children about the long-lasting impacts of trash on the environment. In this way, the effects of bottle schools are felt for generations.


Community ownership and participation

Bottle schools are built with 100% community effort. The community donates all unskilled labor; all skilled labor is hired from within the community. Funding only begins when all bottles are collected and stuffed inorganic trash.

Everybody participates in building a bottle school. The entire community has ownership because they build the bottle school with their own hands. Kids of all ages will be able to say something that no child in a developed country can say: “I built my school.”


Empowering youth

Bottle schools provide children with a sense that they have the ability to shape their future and their world and helps them to think outside of the usual constraints of an impoverished lifestyle. Building a bottle school gives a community the confidence to choose and shape its own future.

The end result of a school construction project is predictable: a building with four walls. However, the impact of lessons learned by kids collecting trash, stuffing bottles, and constructing the building with their own hands are unpredictable in scale and quality. We believe that unharnessing the capacity for youth to solve their own problems can bring about global change.


Boost to local economy

All materials are purchased from local vendors and all skilled labor is contracted to local workers. That money circulates within the community, creating ripples of impact for local business owners and vendors.

It impacts the local venders with direct tangible support in the form of an economic boost. Additionally the intangible impact is felt by being a part of a community coming together as one to complete the construction of a bottle school.


Value for money

By building with “waste” materials and by utilizing the volunteer labor of the entire community, bottle schools provide excellent value for money. We are committed to continuously refining our techniques to become more efficient and to maximize the value of every dollar.

Sustained change

Many communities have gone on to create new projects based on the inspiration of the bottle school. In Granados, the mayor started a community-wide trash management program because his constituents enjoyed the clean streets. Other community leaders, like Marcos Xe in Sepalau, serve as spokespeople to teach surrounding communities about eco-brick construction and the benefits of improved waste management.

Furthermore, children utilizing these new classrooms will grow up understanding the implications that waste can have on their environment and a keen eye for creative, local solutions.


The chance to participate side by side with communities building bottle schools

We believe that making a donation does not need to be simply about writing a check or swiping a credit card; it can be a more participatory and genuine human experience. We encourage donors to visit the community where the bottle school is being built and participate side by side in the building process.

Volunteers experience first-hand the power of community, the focused energy of a close-knit group to co-exist and co-create their destiny. In today’s individualistic and materialistic “developed world” societies, many of us have lost the understanding of what true community is.

Each team of volunteers bonds with each other as they spend time living and working together in a new and wondrous environment. By spending time in a rural community, volunteers are able to experience a side of humanity that many would never encounter if they visited Guatemala as a tourist. They learn that despite our apparent differences, we are all one people.

Want to know more? See How to Build a Bottle School, or check out our Frequently Asked Questions page.