For centuries, the Cree Nation have used tobacco for rituals and offerings. The Cree are based in the area around Lake Winnipeg and what is now Manitoba, Canada– the land where my mother grew up. I was recently back to visit my grandmother and inadvertently had a glimpse of the ancient roots of their traditions. While visiting a museum that had just been built in the Forks (where the Great Red and Assiniboine rivers meet) my aunt and I met an archaeologist who had recently unearthed a three centuries old Cree ‘peace pipe’ in the nearby area. Her eyes lit up as she described the discovery. The extraordinarily ornate clay pipe, along with diverse artifacts discovered nearby, supported the stories of ancient multi-nation gatherings in that very spot. For me, it was a glimpse of the ancient ceremonial use of tabacco to make offerings to others, to the spirits, to the land, to the water– and for all to unite peacefully and harmoniously.

My friends and I have come together over a year’s work to craft an innovation that connects directly to the smoking of tobacco and its transformative, harmonizing and uniting power. We share our work as our offering to the Earth, Air and Water.

Today, our team is excited to launch a whole new class of ecobrick.

We’re calling it, The Cigbrick.

It’s a simple solution that we hope inspires mindfulness, ritual, ecological harmony and the securing of tons of plastic out of the biosphere.

Did you know that cigarette filters contain toxin laden acetate (i.e. plastic)? Unlike the inert clay pipes of the Cree, modern cigarettes can poison ecosystems. Acetate filters, by mass, are one of the largest sources of human plastic pollution. When the filters get into the earth, air and water they cause of all sorts of contamination (see our Cigbrick page for full research references).

But perhaps even more consequential is the routine involved in their disposal. Routine is by definition unconscious — indeed, in the past, when I have smoked, I never gave a thought to where the cigarette butt would end up! This routine of throwing a small toxic piece of plastic into the biosphere sets a precedent, enabling others to join us, and enabling us to throw so much more “away”. It is a small act, yet one that enables the bigger habit of daily discarding. And it this habit, that has seeded the destiny of great plastic pollution we are all now starting to experience around the planet.

The Cree, as well as countless other indigenous peoples around the world, continue to use tobacco with respect and consciousness and ritual.  Learning from this wisdom, we can reclaim the use of tobacco as a means to catalyze and raise ecological consciousness.

Mas Tarto and Shiloh Vermaak are two friends of mine who smoke cigarettes. Ardent ecobrickers, they have been part of prototyping the Cigbrick concept over the last year. Mas Tarto is a tobacco lover, while Shiloh smokes reluctantly. Regardless, both make cigbricking a personal daily ritual. Right after putting out their cigarette, they remove the paper and pack the acetate into the bottle they carry with them. If the bottle is not with her, Shiloh puts the filter into her pocket for later packing. Sometimes, Mas Tarto even grabs other people’s acetate filters from the ashtray! For both of them, this new ritual of Shiloh and Tarto is filled with care and consciousness. The ritual is so radical that it raises eyebrows in both Indonesia and South Africa alike. Whether he is at home or at a restaurant Tarto gets asked about it: “What are you doing?!” Likewise, when Shiloh is queried, she explains herself, her ecological reasons and her concern. Like a pebble hitting the still pond of status quo, their simple, courageous actions are making ripples, getting people talking and thinking, near and far.

The Cigbrick Solution

To help explain the context, technique and science behind the Cigbrick, our team has been hard at work forging an arsenal of resources to accompany today’s launch. From our 30 second video, cartoon visuals, to our landing page on Ecobricks.org/cigbricks.

I would like to honour the hard work, skill and passion that have gone into the concept we launch today. No one has gotten paid to do any of this great work — it is our offering from the heart.

Thank you to the Igorot people whose ancestral principle of Ayyew (tighter and tighter cycling of resources) underlies the concept. Merci to George Beurnier who inspired the renewed refining of the cigbrick concept. Terima Kasih to Fabianus Bayu for his help crafting our cartoon Ecobrick bottle, the animated happy-albatross-family, and our vision landscape. Thanks to Elena Molchanova whose animated ecobrick intro and credits set the tone in our Cigbrick 30 second movie. Selamat po to El Tiburon Grande for his help with the original vision landscape in the movie. Matur nuwun to mas Tarto, Reksi and Anita for prototyping the first Cigbricks. Danku Vel to Shiloh for helping us prototype the paper removal technique. Thank you to Mas Hindra for going full-steam-ahead once we got the technique set up (he’s approaching 100,000 filters packed now!) and for logging the first proper Cigbrick on GoBrik. Terima Kasih to Mas Suryadi for his photo and video work documenting Hindra’s Cigbricks. Matur sembah nuwun to Irfan Korchak for his editing and discussion of tobacco and pipe culture. Thank you to Nurkinanti Laraskusuma for her translation of our Cigbrick page to Indonesian. Thanks to Mel for her review and insights.

I am most grateful to Ani Himawati for her creative partnership through the crafting of the Cigbrick concept (that’s her arm/tattoo in the video!). Thank you Ani for your help reviewing and critiquing this post so I could find the hidden story that was there all a long.

For too long, we have let plastic slip thoughtless thoughtlessly out of our hands.

Today, let us use tabacco to energize our transition back to joyful harmony with the circles and cycles of the Land, Air and Water.

https://www.ecobricks.org/cigbricks/

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