When Katie Fulton learned she’d be making a pop-bottle greenhouse during a camp for teens at F.A. Seiberling Nature Realm, she pictured a terrarium with a plant in it.
She never imagined she’d be using hundreds of discarded plastic bottles to build an 8-by-10-foot structure that will allow the Summit Metro Parks to grow plants in cold weather.
Fulton, a 17-year-old from Sagamore Hills Township, was one of nine teenagers constructing the greenhouse Tuesday as part of the Metro Parks’ Camp Connect. “It’s amazing,” she said as she snipped lengths of plastic-coated wire that would be used to anchor the bottles in place.
The idea for the greenhouse came from Blue Rock Station, a nature center southeast of Zanesville that showcases ecologically minded construction methods, said Danette Rushboldt, the Metro Parks naturalist who led Tuesday’s session.
“I’m big on recycling and repurposing,” Rushboldt said. Besides, “it was doable.”
Empty 2-liter bottles were used to form the greenhouse walls. The stacked bottles create air space to insulate the structure, and the clear plastic allows sunlight to penetrate.
It’s an inexpensive way to build a greenhouse while diverting materials from the landfill or the recycling plant, Rushboldt said.
She researched the project online and gave some general parameters to the Metro Parks carpenters, who devised their own plan and built the basic structure from pressure-treated lumber with a corrugated plastic roof. The park system put out a call for clear plastic soda bottles, and the public responded by donating about 1,000 used bottles to the cause.
Metro Parks volunteers performed the laborious tasks of removing labels and cutting off the bases of the bottles to prepare them for construction day, said Christine Hockman, the park system’s interpretive services manager.
The campers stacked the bottomless bottles neck-end up to fill the spaces between the structure’s studs. Lengths of wire stapled to the studs created fences on both sides of the bottles to hold them in place, and the teens used shorter pieces of wire to tie everything together.
Akron resident Sam Grom figured he was working on some callouses as he repeatedly tugged on the wires to pull them tight. “It’s like we’re going to have hands of armor,” the 13-year-old said.
Dorothy Davis called the greenhouse “a pretty cool idea.” The 14-year-old from Houston was attending the camp while visiting her grandmother in Akron.
The greenhouse will be part of an urban backyard display the Metro Parks plans to create next year at the Nature Realm, Hockman said. The display will give visitors ideas of features suitable for small yards, such as rain barrels, small-space gardens and container gardening.
Rushboldt said the unheated greenhouse will be used to extend the growing season. The plan is to give landscaping plants an early start and grow food for some of the wildlife at the Nature Realm as well as for some cooking programs there, she said.
But more than that, Rushboldt wants the structure to be food for thought.
She hopes the teens will take away a lesson about thinking creatively, reducing waste and reusing resources for the good of the planet.
“You know,” she said, “they’re the future caregivers of all this land that we have.”
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook www.facebook.com/MBBreckABJ, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckABJ and read her blog atwww.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.