Extreme Environmental Awareness or Revamped Recycling? A House of Trash is Filled With Opportunities

When Dan Phillips decided to switch career paths he decided to take his mentality for environmental awareness with him. Creativity is a term that can only minimally describe what has evolved since 1997 and today at 64 Phillips has blended dumpster diving and construction with imagination and a social consciousness; the end result is literally reconstructing and building houses out of garbage for low income families. His explanations for using everything from picture frames and tile shards to mirrors, DVDs, corks, and even cattle bones? “You can’t defy the laws of physics or building codes, but beyond that, the possibilities are endless,” he states. Further, on his mission to improve the lives of the less financially fortunate, “Attractive, affordable housing is possible and I’m out to prove it.” How’s that a testament to not only environmental awareness but also the human spirit?

Since beginning this new mission Phillips has constructed a total of 14 homes but what he has done to the community on a whole is incalculable. “Dan has changed the way we do things around here,” acclaims the superintendent of solid waste in Huntsville, Texas Esther Herklotz, “I’ve been recycling all my life, and it never occurred to me to recycle a door.” He has opened the eyes to not only the residents of his homes built upon environmental awareness but the rest of the neighborhoods as well. He now has a warehouse where manufacturers and demolition crews can donate their own discards for later usage instead of carting them off to traditional dumps; in turn they make out in they don’t have to supply any fees for this unload.

Those who are then given a chance at a solid home, albeit built rather ingeniously out of trash, are also offered a renewed outlook on life and a second chance. What’s more is that Phillips is a stickler for the codings as well; you can be sure that nothing he erects won’t pass a professional inspection, “He does everything in a very neat and well thought-out manner,” credits master electrician Robert McCaffety. So with his environmental awareness, and penchant for recycling, Phillips still cuts no corners…unless of course it is all for the sake of design. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a complete set of anything because repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern, repetition creates pattern,” a thoughtful prose by Phillips himself.

Dan Phillips’ unique zest for environmental awareness also has an artistic appeal that has attracted not only lookers but potential buyers. “My wife likes that house because it doesn’t look like everyone else’s, but, being a guy, what I like is that it has a galvanized metal roof that I’ll never have to replace,” remarks Alfredo Cerda who interestingly enough works for the United States Department of Homeland Security and now resides in this one of a kind Phoenix Commotion home. Just what draws that appeal of his wife Susan; it may be the shattered tile and wine cork mosaics lining the walls or perhaps even the porthole themed décor made out of Pyrex bowl lids. Whichever is the case a house built on a steady foundation of environmental awareness and a creative recycling spirit has bolstered the sustainable living attitudes of both homeowners and the community.

Yes Dan Phillips may be a pioneer in the houses of trash department but he is not alone in either his quest for recycling and environmental awareness nor with his knack for using his hands, “Look at kids playing with blocks…I think it’s in everyone’s DNA to want to be a builder.” For the kids of the future perhaps they can follow suit and in turn reuse wastes and recreate it into something both artistic and a basic necessity.

Photo credit: Michael Stravato/NY Times