This is such a cool initiative. These guys turn trash into healthy, affordable homes–while using the housing projects themselves to create jobs. And they have teaching materials in place to help you get involved yourself.
I know. You’re sure there’s a catch. We’ve all grown up believing environmentally friendly living has to be expensive. But…
I think that myth exists largely because we see a lot of environmental initiatives come from wealthy liberal millionaires with carbon footprints bigger than my entire neighborhood (looking at you, Al Gore), while conservative media focuses exclusively on expensive environmental initiatives from the EPA that involve heavy government intervention. It doesn’t help that things we associate with the environment, like organic produce, cost more money to buy in the store, conditioning us to equate the environment with cost. On top of that, the predominant, oversimplified narratives in our TV shows always make it sound like it’s Big Money Versus Doing Good. This “bad guys/good guys” perspective promotes extremism and legal battles instead of scientific solutions and personal innovation, and it can also leave us with a sense of hopelessness.
Basically, with all those factors combined, we tend to carry a lot of subconscious unproven narratives about the environment. We think we can’t have sustainable living without first “taking down the bad guys”. We think we have to choose sides, and we do choose, between conservative and liberal, present and future, the economy and the environment, and we fight and hate each other and nothing gets done. Some of us may see serious hypocrisy or negatives from a few environmental initiatives, and give up on all of them in disgust. Or we begin to believe that only the government can make environmental improvements. And finally, the biggest myth of all–we think we don’t have the money to live sustainably, and that we personally cannot make change.
So when I see cooperatives like Phoenix Commotion, I’m excited because they’re offering more than just a housing model: they’re fighting against powerlessness. And they do that by getting rid of the “bad guys/good guys” narrative: the entire system they’ve developed works because instead of fighting developers and businesses and construction crews, they engage everyone in the community in the process. They have proven over and over again that sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive, and in fact it can create jobs. They bring everyone into the fold, and they make serious change.
Some of their homes are really cute, too! My favorite’s the tree house, above, but you should go to their website to see pictures of the famous Boot House, the Hat House, Smither Park, the Storybook House, and many others. As always, unlike “social media activists” and the professional media, I’m not here to just yell problems at you and stir you into an angry stressed out frenzy: I’m here to show you solutions, and call you to real action. So today’s action?
First, for free, you can educate yourself to see how you can make your next home environmentally friendly. They have information to get you started on their website, and the founder has a great TedXTalk I’ve linked below.
Second, you can get your community involved in creating your own sustainable housing operations for the needy. There’s a whole instructions template on the Phoenix Commotion website. It’s incredibly in-depth, with topics ranging from how to source materials, to how to avoid conflict and get local interests and developers. Once you’ve gone through it and started your plans, you can contact them for guidance and aid, too! There’s even a place on the site where they discuss a funding model that avoids the paternalism and poisonous dependency that arises when we treat people like “charity cases.” In one model, the recipient of the donated home pays back the donation over time so the same money can be used to build new homes for other people. This infinitely increases the efficacy of donated funds, and gives the donation recipient true ownership, power, and equality over the process.
So yeah, information is power! I hope to use some of these sustainability models myself when I make my own place in Paraguay. I tried to find a way to donate to the Phoenix Commotion, but the housing scholarship group they used to work with, Living Paradigm, no longer owns a website, and according to Guidestar stopped filing with the IRS. (So, doesn’t exist anymore) And anyway, it seems like they don’t really need my money, since their model is self-sustaining (how cool!). Action over words and money–what a perfect superheroalert for us today!
See you next week. = )
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