House of Cardboard is a multilevel program, based on reclaiming cardboard from the stream of waste, using it for local production and organising a network of community-driven entities for this purpose. It is part of bigger initiative “Waste Not!”, addressing major challenges in waste management.
It introduces and supports open source appropriate technology, solidarity economy and community-centric social organisation.
On many levels It also improves social and natural ecosystem.
It creates opportunities for FairCoin “circular economy”, adding badly needed tangible production component to the mix and building financial sustainability for everyone involved.
For New Europeans (aka refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers) it opens a way to create their own self-employment and to fulfill their needs through sponsored manufacturing programs.
House of Cardboards is run on Samos, by CNI Cooperative, a small, affinity based, technical group. But at the same time its impact – on various levels – is potentially of regional and continental range.
It is also positioned in broader context of grassroots economy network of The Aegean, alternative communities in Europe and global efforts to make humanity survive the age of climate change in the most sustainable way possible.
The House of Cardboard is a low-threshold program to promote reuse of cardboard waste, local production of useful items and beginner level composting. It is intended as a “gateway activity” to introduce people into more complex and larger scale ventures. Metaphorically speaking, one can think about it as a “stone soup1” or “nail soup” approach
a) Scope of the activity
- Setting up a self-managed system of reclaiming cardboard from trash containers or directly from the sources, before the material is trashed.
- Setting up procedures to process cardboard: ways to prepare boxes and other forms to be used, technologies to make the material water-resistant, to join pieces and to finish the surface.
- Elaborate various constructions to be made from cardboard (mixed with other materials), based on local conditions. In Aegean context the list of examples may contain: solar and flameless cookers, solar food dehydrators, lightweight storage furniture, beehives, pet shelters, portable human shelters, lightweight bicycle cargo boxes and trailers.
- Develop simple procedures and equipment to compost scraps of cardboard with addition of typical food and other organic waste.
- Invite local artisans to create craft items, opening new line of aesthetic production, both for visitors and for residents of the island.
- Initiate a network of groups, places and events, promoting the activity across the area.
- Find ways to make the whole activity financially sustainable – probably by converting it into a social cooperative.
b) Broader context
House of Cardboard is positioned withing broader program Waste Not! which intends to develop a network of communities-driven recycling/upcycling centers, initially focused on three major materials: cardboard, compostable matter and plastics.
Waste Not! in turn exists in a broader context of grassroots economy network development, to support communities across the Aegean region in their struggle for sustainability and resilience.
The biggest context of it all is the climate change in progress and all its consequences.
c) Sibling projects
Within the WasteNot! area there are two other related activities2: Precious Plastic aims to open pilot small scale installation for recycling and reprocessing of plastic waste. Magic Compost is focused on building a network of composting sites, serving neighborhoods and producing high quality soil nutrients.
On the other hand, House of Cardboard will hopefully be a manufacturing activity, providing people with life-supporting products. In ths sense it is als a sibling area to Doomsday Devices and all future local manufacturing projects.
Apart from visible and obvious effects that we discussed above, there is another kind of influence, related more to HOW the activity is organised rather than WHAT is being done.
In our work we stay in the area of OSAT (Open Source Appropriate Technology3), with some allowances, if practical. Our intention is to show advantages of open source system, especially in context of low-budget projects and poorer communities. The appropriate technology part will show its advantage when we start setting up local units.
We advocate and promote solidarity economy4, focused on cooperation and fulfilling human needs in an equal way. Thanks to our supporters, we can build installations, get tools and make the activity stable. But the eventual goal is to convert it into a social cooperative and transfer it to the people involved, so they will operate it.
The principle is “no one will become rich, but everyone will get something”. In a big scale, we are trying to put cornerstones for new economy in the area, teaching people how to manage it.
The basic assumption is that a activity can only be successful if the community supports it. We (CNI Coop) act as coordinators and knowledge brokers, but if a community is not interested, we do not run the project alone. On the other hand, House of Cardboard is a low threshold, not very intense and simple project. If a group of people gets involved in it, they will very soon gain enough experience to approach more complex problems and organize themselves in more efficient community way.
Both in theory and in practice we show how multidimensional is every activity. Environment-wise, the impact of House of Cardboard includes:
- Reducing volume of waste (thus landfill footprint, waste transport footprint, waste collection load).
- By way of local production, reducing volume of goods imported (thus logistic footprint and collateral waste).
- As the products intended are sustainable themselves (solar cookers etc.) it will also reduce carbon footprint of the users.
- Thanks to its cooperative and community-oriented approach, House of Cardboard will also improve social environment, teching people new social behaviours and relationships.
4. Special aspects
There are two more aspects of the activity we discuss, connected with the context CNI operates for years already.
We are involved in FairCoin5 economy. Built upon a cryptocurrency idea, with global goal in mind and coordinated mostly over internet, FairCoin economy seriously lacks tangible manufacturing component. Direct reason is that any manufacturer pays most of their costs in “mainstream money”. Selling products for FairCoin means that the producer has to convert them almost immediately to Euro, which is currently almost impossible.
Because bulk materials (cardboard, aluminum, wood etc) used by House of Cardboard will be reclaimed form trash and majority of added value comes from human work and technical knowledge, it will be easier to put significant part of production to FairCoin market. We also issued a community supported manufacturing6 proposal to FairCoop, which is a loosely defined organisation behind FairCoin, but received no answer yet.
Whatever happens, it seems that this kind of manufacturing programs is very well suited for economy “faircoiners” try to build.
b) New Europeans
Another group that can be seriously interested in Waste Not and House of Cardboard, are New Europeans – we are using this term for all people coming to Europe, whatever way, in order to live here. Putting aside formal differences, they came here to stay and to build Europe together with us, old dwellers.
On Samos and on other Greek islands, they are mostly detained in so-called “hot-spots”. Stripped off their right to travel, not allowed to work and kept in very deeply substandard conditions, they need some alternative way to go ahead, to regain their dignity and agency.
House of Cardboard can influence their situation in two ways7:
- Through organisation of self-managed production cooperatives, providing the way to learn skills and earn some money in an independent way.
- Through manufacturing of sponsored products, based on CSM contract with solidarity entities.
Both aspects can be combined: a solidarity group may order (and sponsor) 500 solar cookers to be made and delivered to certain area. For this purpose a special cooperative can be formed among New Europeans community. In this scenarioo, CNI Coop will perform role of coordinator, R&D unit and skill-sharer.
5. Range of influence
- On local level (Island of Samos, plus possibly nearby islands of Fourni and Ikaria) major impact will be direct: less waste, more interesting local products, people better prepared to work together and organise complex systems to solve complex problems.
- Regional level (the Aegean) will benefit from networking and knowledge transfer. Solutions, tested in some places will be easier to implement in others, suffering the same problems and having similar external context.
- On continental level we hope contribute to build an archipelago of community-driven, open-sourced technology and economy, creating standards of resilience and sustainability. Through various networking initiatives, we will be giving and taking as we can, eventually seeing a confederacy of sustainable communities, taking care of each other.
All activities undertaken by CNI Cooperative are ultimately intended as contributions towards making the world more beautiful for everyone and to enable sustainable survival of humanity through the era of climate change.