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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Cool Fix for a Hot Planet

Air Date: Week of

A teacher in Taiwan has a project for his students: construct a schoolhouse with papercrete - a mixture of recycled paper, water and a little bit of concrete. Living on Earth's Emily Guerin reports on this inexpensive, relatively green material.


YOUNG: Just ahead – some farmed salmon catch a better rating for health and sustainability – but first, this Cool Fix for a Hot Planet from Emily Guerin.


GUERIN: In Taiwan, English teacher John Lamorie made a deal with his students – if they helped him build a new schoolhouse, he would reward them with extra credit. But instead of sawing and hammering, the students brought in old newspapers that Lamorie used to make “papercrete,” a mixture of cement, paper and water.

Papercrete appeals to eco-minded, do-it-yourselfers looking for an inexpensive alternative to concrete. It can be made from almost any kind of paper, can be shaped into blocks or poured into form, and is an excellent insulator.

But papercrete has its drawbacks. The material absorbs water even after being sealed, and is prone to develop mold when wet. Its sponge-like characteristics make it unsuitable in wet climates or for use as a roof.

Papercrete is 20 to 50 percent cement. And with cement plants accounting for five percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, papercrete starts to look a lot less “green.”
Defenders say it keeps waste paper out of landfills, creates energy efficient buildings, and uses a lot less cement than concrete. Still, papercrete remains a marginal construction material.

But teacher John Lamorie is a convert. When he finishes the school he’ll move onto his next papercrete project – a pizza place. That’s this week’s Cool Fix for a Hot Planet. I’m Emily Guerin.


YOUNG: And if you have a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, we'd like to know it. If we use your idea on the air, we'll send you a sleek electric blue Living on Earth tire gauge. Keeping your tires properly inflated can save you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel. Call our listener line at 800-218-9988, that's 800-218-99-88. Or email coolfix – that's one word – coolfix at l-o-e dot org.



Click here for more on papercrete.


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