International House in Auroville, India

By Johanna Lindgren, Linneaus University

Now that we have had time to get used to the way we live I think it is about time to write about the place where some of us are staying, the International House (formerly known as American Pavilion). The Americans and one of us Swedes left yesterday, which is a bit sad when you think about how much fun we have had at this place. I come to think about the first impression I had and then especially my reactions to the toilets and the room I was supposed to stay in. Now I have gotten used to the way we live, and we all quite like the more bohemian living than we are otherwise used to back home in Sweden.

The day after we had arrived here in Auroville we got a tour around International House by Manu, the manager. He showed us the toilets and told us that we had to separate our pee and pooh in different “holes” and I thought that I would never be able to do that. The thought behind separating the “human waste” is that the pooh should become manure and if people then mix their pee and pooh it will take a longer time for the pooh to dry and become manure. The pee is also used to water the plants in the garden. Although the same kind of toilets exists in Sweden, not many of us had experienced this before. But now, after a month we see no problems in this anymore.

Manu also showed us how they contribute to the sustainability policies that many people here in Auroville try to follow by separating their waste. So now we separate plastics, paper, metal, glass and compost. Many of us had already separated our waste back home, so this was not new to us, but we do realize how important it is here in India since most of the rubbish ends up in the streets otherwise.

We also found out that the roof on one of the houses is made out of compressed tetrapaks which have been moulded into corrugated roofing sheets. This way of using old products to create new different products is called up-cycling. Manu and the building team wanted to use a zero-waste policy and therefore used as many up-cycled and local products as they could when building this house. They mixed wasted styrofoam together with the cement to improve the isolation and to keep the termites away from the local wood that the rest of the house was made of. Following the same line of up-cycled products are the showers partly made out of bamboo and the windows in the shower made out of old tires.

The mobile office that stands on the premises of International House is also made out of recycled products and is itself an up-cycled product. It is built on top of an old sugar cane trailer and is made out of ladders and tetrapak sheets that are tied together with coconut ropes.

As one more touch of sustainability, the International House is “off the grid”, which means that they supply their own electricity by solar power and is not a part of the electricity network that supplies many other houses in Auroville with power. Thanks to this there are almost never any powercuts at International House.

Hopefully now you understand that this is a really cool place, just as I have realized while living here. If everyone would be this conscious about sustainability the world would be a cleaner and healthier place. You can start to think about using recycled or up-cycled products!

Unfortunately, since the internet connection is not working well I can not attach a photo of the house which I have been writing about. Sorry about that. If there is a better conncection another day I can try to put on up.

Over and out!

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