Anyone who waits a whole year for his homemade solar oven to bake a cake has to be a little batty, but Richart Sowa seems to be so in a good way. The former carpenter assembled a mass of recycled junk over almost seven years to make his own personal island near Cancun.

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Sowa gathered bags of more than 150,000 plastic bottles and fastened them to old wooden pallets before flipping them over in the water. He then put sand and dirt on top, which somehow manages to sustain trees and other plant life on the 82-foot island. (“It’s kinda solid! A little bit squishy in places!” he exclaims in his thick brogue.) Mangrove roots grow around the loose mesh weave of the bags containing plastic bottles.


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Sowa uses bags of trash too heavy to float as the basis for raised beds, on which he grows ginger, agave, and hibiscus flowers (or as he calls it, “tropical lettuce”). He collects rainwater for his sink, and solar panels power his kitchenette. Poop from his compost toilet becomes fertilizer for his plants.

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If you weren’t already convinced Sowa is a hippie: His shower water spouts out of a seashell. And he remarks about rainwater, sounding a bit baked, “Why would I BUY it if it’s right THERE?” Groovy, man.