Eco-friendly Construction at Ometepe Bilingual School

The Ometepe Bilingual School, which is still under construction, has a very small footprint in terms of both the materials used to build it and the energy required to run it. Eventually the footprint will be virtually nothing because there are plans to install solar panels which will produce enough electricity to run the four light bulbs which are currently installed in the school and power the outlets that the children use to charge their computers. All the first graders have small children’s computers.

Backing up a bit to the actual construction of the school, it is made mostly of plastic bottles filled with non-organic waste, mostly plastic bags and plastic packaging. Alvaro, the owner of Hacienda Mérida explained that the packaging used to be natural. And I had already discovered that here all glass bottles go back to the company that produced the drinks to be sterilized and refilled. With bigger companies coming in to supply Nicaragua with food and drinks, there is an ever increasing amount of plastic entering the country. The problem is that there isn’t much of a way to deal with it. Garbage pickup is rare and recycling is practically unheard of.

So what do you do with all the bottles and plastic packaging that you cannot recycle? At Ometepe Bilingual School you turn them into building materials. Alvaro has had several ideas to motivate people to contribute bottles filled with non-organic waste to the project. For example, anyone who works at the hotel is required to bring two bottles (I think they are liter-sized or maybe 1.5 liters) filled with plastic packaging every two weeks on payday. They must go and collect the waste from their own neighborhoods and bring it to the school, which helps to clear the local community of garbage that cannot be recycled on the island. There have been other initiatives to motivate the community to contribute. Alvaro said that during peak tourist season they actually buy bottles from the tourists for 7-10 córdobas. That would be $0.28-$0.40 in US dollars. The exchange rate is hovering around 25 córdobas per dollar.

So the main building materials for the school are re-bar, cement and these filled bottles. This is how the walls are built and it is also how some tables have been constructed, as well as a sidewalk. There is a re-bar frame that is welded to the right shape. Then it is filled with bottles and cement. Each wall in the school has 1200 bottles. The tables each contain around 350 bottles and the stools contain about 18 bottles each as well. Check out these pictures from Ometepe Bilingual School.


Kindergarten Classroom


Doorway in Kindergarten


Inside Kindergarten


Wall in Progress








More bottles…

Here you can check out a description of the school:

Here you can read the newsletter which includes a plan for the tables:

Ometepe Bilingual School Newsletter

Here are some videos you can check out as well:


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