Greenpeace Begins Building a Toxic-Free House with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity
July 6, 2010
Under the banner, "Healthy Homes, Healthy Communities: Building a Toxic-Free Future," Greenpeace began building a house today with the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and other groups.
Under the banner, "Healthy Homes, Healthy Communities: Building a
Toxic-Free Future," Greenpeace began building a house today with the New Orleans Area Habitat
for Humanity and other groups. The house will be built without polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) material or other toxic household products, and may serve as a model for Habitat homes and
affordable housing around the country.
"Like homelessness, pollution is a global problem -- one that disproportionately affects the poor
and communities of color," said John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace. "This
house will be a testament to two basic human rights: the right to decent housing and the right to a
The PVC-free Habitat house is the first project of its kind for Greenpeace, known for its high-profile
peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience to draw attention to environmental crimes.
Already, the house is causing controversy. In late February, the Vinyl Institute, the trade association of vinyl manufacturers, wrote to Habitat for Humanity International, criticizing the New
Orleans affiliate for working with Greenpeace on this project.
Louisiana has the greatest concentration of PVC facilities. Toxic pollution from PVC plants has
displaced entire communities and disproportionately affects low-income and predominantly
African-American towns. Environmental justice advocates and representatives from communities affected by the vinyl industry came out to show their support for the project on the first day of the
The Greenpeace house will use affordable alternatives for vinyl that are widely available. Also, the
floor system of the house will be built with wood that is not treated with arsenic (which, until
recently, was commonly used as a preservative) and that is certified as sustainably harvested. All
of the power needs for the build are being provided by Greenpeace's "Rolling Sunlight," a mobile
solar-powered generator. Construction lasts for four three-day weekends (except Easter
weekend), ending April 20 -- two days before Earth Day -- when the keys to the house will be
turned over to its new owners, Shylia Lewis and her four children.
Other groups supporting the build include the Healthy Building Network, Advocates for
Environmental Human Rights, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, the National
Black Environmental Justice Network, the New Orleans Chapter of the Sierra Club, Mossville
Environmental Action Now, and several local university organizations.