Lynn City Council sounds support for environmentally friendly ‘eco bricks’

This article was published 3 year(s) and 3 month(s) ago.

Nathan Gray, founder of House Factory, and Danielle Petrucci, K-12 wellness curriculum coordinator in the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District, pitch the “eco brick” program to members of the Lynn City Council Education and Environmental Subcommittee Tuesday. (David McLellan)

LYNN — A show of support and a new recycling receptacle at the Public Works Department gave Nathan Gray reason to smile as he walked out of City Hall Tuesday night. 

Gray, founder of the nonprofit House Factory, has partnered with 14 schools in the region, including Thurgood Marshall Middle School, to advance his organization’s flagship “eco bricks” program. 

He pitched the program to the City Council Education and Environmental Subcommittee on Tuesday, which unanimously voted to endorse the program, which Gray says will reduce waste and build homes. 

While Gray will have to go before the superintendent next to have all Lynn schools participate in the eco brick program — that is his goal — he now has formal support from city councilors. Also, Lynn Public Works Department Director Andrew Hall said he will allow a new recycling receptacle to be put at the department’s headquarters at 250 Commercial St. for residents to drop off homemade eco bricks. 

An eco brick, Gray said, is a 16-ounce plastic bottle stuffed with nonrecyclable soft plastics, such as candy bar wrappers, that may be used as building blocks to build homes and other structures, as substitutes for real bricks. At the schools that have partnered with House Factory for the eco brick program, students have been building eco bricks in science classes and environmental clubs. Gray, who was born and raised in Lynn, is collecting the bricks to build a fully functional home at his property in Newbury. 

Gray wasn’t the only one trying to convince councilors to endorse eco bricks at Tuesday’s meeting. Danielle Petrucci, K-12 wellness curriculum coordinator for the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District, said making eco bricks has been popular among students who care about the environment. 

“Basically, it started when the student-led Environmental Club created a goal to reduce plastics in our district,” Petrucci said. “Students were asking, ‘What can we do to prevent an environmental catastrophe?’ They want to take action.”

Petrucci did not say how many eco bricks the Hamilton-Wenham students had made, but said even one eco brick created has a positive impact on the environment. 

“We had a whole trash bag fit into this bottle,” she said, brandishing an eco brick. 

Petrucci said the program has brought her school district to “a whole new level” when it comes to environmental awareness, and students have come up with the idea of using smaller, 8-ounce bottles to make eco brick furniture. 

“We see Hamilton-Wenham as the model district to reduce waste,” Petrucci said. “Lynn can be the model city.”

Another woman from the Hamilton-Wenham Regional School District, 6-12 Technology Integration Specialist Johanna Wilson, said students have been “very enthusiastic” about the eco bricks program, and have been responsible about making eco bricks the correct way, with clean, dry materials. She also said students have inspired family members to make eco bricks. 

“It speaks a lot that the eco bricks go back home to the parents and families,” Wilson said. 

Gray’s ultimate goal, besides having every Lynn school participate in the program, is having a new recycling receptacle at every Lynn home specifically for eco bricks or related materials. 

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, who voiced his support for the program Tuesday, said it is unlikely the city will adopt such a measure because of its waste management contract. However, he invited residents to start having eco brick collection receptacles on their own. 

Gray needs 12,000 eco bricks to create the home in Newbury. He currently has more than 300, and said he hopes the finished structure will demonstrate that soft plastics, normally thought of as nonrecyclable trash, do have value. Gray said he is eager to complete the building, which will be a visible reminder of what can be done when resources are conserved. 

“If we don’t have an end to a means with eco bricks, then it doesn’t hold much value,” he said. 

Gray says his background — an Iraq War veteran, longtime construction worker, and father — led him to found House Factory last year to build sustainable and affordable housing in the area. The eco brick program, started in September, is its first big project. 

On April 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thurgood Marshall Middle School will hold a “build-your-own-eco brick” day, and people will be taught and encouraged to make the items, Gray said. 


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