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Retired US Army officer builds homes from recycled materials

A US Army intelligence officer has found a new calling in retirement: building homes out of free and recycled materials.

Dan Phillips says his goal is to provide homes to people who need them while spreading the word about the need for sustainable development in a crowded world.

“I’d always suspected that you could build an entire house out of what went in the landfill,” he said.

Dan Phillips aims to provide recycled homes to people who need them worldwide. /CGTN Photo

Phillips has built nearly two dozen homes all from recycled materials. His goal is to be eco-friendly while helping to house low-income families.

"It’s amazing the house you can build with just junk," he said.

About 60 to 80 percent of the material Dan uses is free or recycled. His imagination is endless when it comes to what can be reused, and how.

“It doesn’t make a difference .... It can be bottle caps, wine corks, broken tile, branches, chicken eggs," he said. "It doesn’t make any difference. Nobody builds out of bottle caps – except me.”

The trend is catching on globally. A schoolhouse in the Philippines and small houses in Taipei have been built out of adobe-filled plastic bottles. Low-income homes in Bogota are made from melted tires.

“Americans may have invented excess but the problem is worldwide," Phillips said. "We’re running out of place for people to live. The problem is we have too many people. But nobody is going to volunteer to reduce the population. The next best thing is to be sustainable in use of planetary resources and that’s happening worldwide. 

“When you build out of stuff, you go hum, do I like that? No. Do we want a window here?"

Last year’s home was one of his most creative but an obvious choice for a cowboy living in the Lone Star State.

“'Dan, this is Texas, why don’t you build a house that looks like a cowboy boot' and I thought, well, I can do that. I hyperventilate once a week over these because if it doesn’t look like a cowboy boot, I’ll just have to leave town. 

“I don’t want to say that it’ll take social collapse before we learn. But maybe that’s where we’re headed. I don’t think so.“

Phillips is an eco-cowboy on a mission – spreading the word about saving the earth one house at a time.