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Building Green Communities from the Ground Up

By Miranda and Chloe Trujillo

December 5, 2021

How can you change your community? A few of our classmates changed our school community at Fossil Ridge High School for the better. It all started when our STEM Academy teacher, Mr. Jesse Oswald gave our group the task of coming up with a year-long project-one that used engineering principles and would exist to teach us valuable skills.

At first, all we noticed was the intricate rubric we would need to achieve the highest grade. But along the way, we learned more than we expected. Our objective was to make a plastic bottle greenhouse out of recycled plastic water bottles. The project seemed doable on paper, however we had no idea how time consuming and labor-intensive it would become.

We pushed on through harsh weather and tough conditions. Every one of us experienced working hours in the snow, being drenched in the freezing rain, and being scorched by the intense Colorado sun, but with each piece we put together, there came confirmation that the goal matched a greater purpose than merely a grade.

We were anxious thinking that we wouldn’t finish this project in a year. The timeline seemed unrealistic at first, but we worked multiple hours and long days to see the project come to fruition.

The first order of business was securing structural integrity so we could get the roof up. We used corrugated plastic as the material for the roof and hammered all the edges in with screws . Quickly, we started working on the sides. We drilled holes for the metal conduits to go in and started filling them with bottles.

To get all these bottles was difficult, but it was absolutely amazing to see our whole community come together to help us. By posting on Nextdoor Neighbor I was able to see all the support from our town and their willingness to donate any and all plastic bottles they had. We gathered bottles from houses in the city of Fort Collins and received words of thanks and encouragement for what we were doing. Everyone was very positive and uplifting and all the donations allowed us to complete the project.

What we thought started as an engineering project quickly turned into a means of connection. This was especially critical during the pandemic. Isolation was a real issue for so many and we were told that on our visits we managed to bring cheer and encouragement!

Once collected, we took the recycled bottles and cut all the bottoms and tops off after rinsing and sanitizing them. We strung these bottles on conduits, one by one, pole by pole, and placed them in the drilled holes. We decided to match the sections of bottles, colors and style, to make it more visually appealing.

The first section took the longest to get up, but after that, we were all able to fall into a rhythm and start putting the sides up faster. Some members of our group worked on the door while others kept forming the sides. After the door was completed, we connected it with hinges and attached it to the greenhouse.

After all that was completed, we attached the triangular corrugated plastic to the front of the roof. The mesh screen was attached to the sides, and to the front of the greenhouse, to keep wasps and bugs from getting into the house. We also put up metal beams to keep the structure in place and allow it to withstand the harsh ever-challenging Colorado weather.

Finally, we finished the greenhouse! And it was amazing! It was incredible to see how this project could be put to good use as our Special Education cooking class is now able to grow different vegetables and spices all year round. So along the way, I learned about more than just building a greenhouse, but instead, I learned how a community can come together to achieve something great that could one day change the world.


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