Sowa began constructing his first island in 1998 not far from Cancun. Collecting empty plastic bottles, plywood and bamboo he’d found on the beach, he built up the island to include a two story house and three beaches, with sand from near the shore that was otherwise dredged to let boats through. To keep the island cool, Sowa planted mangroves and other vegetation, which provided shade from heights up to 15 feet. His kitchen was equipped with a solar oven, and his bathroom included a self-composting toilet.
Sadly, Hurricane Emily swept his island away in 2005, turning his eco-home into rubble. Undeterred, he began building the next island, the current Joysxee. The new island is 25 meters in diameter, and floats atop bags of over 125,000 plastic bottles – all which Sowa found in the trash. The new island has improved eco-qualities with solar panels, which partly power a waterfall and river! A wave powered washing machine keeps his clothes clean and fresh, and mangroves and three in-island ponds help keep the island cool.
We can’t help but recall Gilligan’s Island (did we mention that Sowa has a conch shell intercom system?!) An on-island mini farm provides palm trees, sea grapes, mangroves, cacti, spinach, tomatoes, melons, lemons, herbs and flowering shrubs.
Through an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, Sowa hopes to expand the island, and launch it out into the lagoon. Further, Sowa hopes to sail Joysxee around the world, and teach visitors that trash can be treasure and even become paradise.
All images © Rishi Sowa