Pick Up America, a nationwide group, has collected more than 2,000 miles of litter between Maryland and Moab, according to a news release from the organization. Eco-artist Brennan Blazer Bird, who has committed to building 1,000 Peace Benches by 2014, led the building efforts alongside Doni Kiffmeyer, a local natural building expert. The “bottle brick” bench was created from compressed, discarded plastic bottles covered with cob, an earthen building material made from clay, sand and straw.
“In an interconnected world, there is no ‘away’ in ‘throw away,’” said Pick Up America co-founder Davey Rogner. “That’s why it’s so important to engage communities in recycled art projects like this one. So much of what we send to the dump could be composted, reused, or recycled into a useful application. It represents a huge waste of resources for my generation.”
Bird, who traveled from the Bay Area in California to participate in the Moab project, said local volunteers provided “amazing” support for the project.
“As far as I know, this is the first bottle brick bench in the United States outside of California,” he said.
Kiffmeyer, who is well known in the natural building community for writing the first book about building with earth bags with his wife, Kaki Hunter, said using bottle bricks was a learning experience for him.
“This is my first time working with bottle bricks,” he said. “I like continually refining the process of natural building. We’re just doing what feels good.”
The Moab bench was “built in solidarity with benches in Bolivia, Ghana, the Philippines, Columbia, and California,” according to Pick Up officials. A bottle brick is donated from each bench to be part of the construction of the 1,000th bottle brick bench to symbolize humanity unifying for peace. Bird said he discovered bottle brick building techniques in 2009 and has been building “Peace on Earth” benches ever since.
“Throughout the week, students in Moab stuffed their landfill material into plastic bottles until they were compressed like bricks,” Bird said. “Most people say they never realized how much trash they produce until they started saving it. The whole idea is that we’re landfilling it into a useful space, like this bench, rather than a wasteful space, like the landfill.”
In early March, Pick Up America gave a presentation at local schools highlighting the concept of zero waste. After class, students were encouraged to pick up litter with the Pick Up artists along the Canyonlands Half Marathon route on state Route 128, and also at Courthouse Wash, which borders Arches National Park.
“I’m so excited to see students, non-profits, educators, and members of the Moab community coming together to build this bench,” said Delite Primus, executive director of the Youth Garden Project. “We are excited to host the event and bench to create a lasting, youth-led art piece on our property.”
For more information about Pick Up America and the group’s walk across America, go to pickupamerica.org. To find out more about the thousand Bottle Brick Benches for Peace, go to earthbench.org.