I came to Mexico in 1998 after graduating college with an environmental science degree. I had hopes of volunteering around Central America to discover how I could be involved in the environmental movement. My friend, Katie, and I traveled first to Akumal and fell in love with this little paradise. We were volunteering by monitoring turtles and soaking in the beauty of the Riviera Maya. But we were soon asked to launch a recycling program. But, I wanted to be working with the wildlife and nature! But if we didn’t clean up our sewage and trash problem there would be no clean water and consequently sick animals. I had already seen the papyloma virus with the turtles. We needed to manage our waste and at that moment was born a lifelong struggle to find a way.
Others came to pick up where we left off and in the meantime, I moved to Tulum and started a new project with Marco Cristofanelli, Extreme Control Kiteboarding School. Over the years, spending all day every day on the beach and in the water, we saw the amount of plastic rising. I had taken a break from my environmental work, but now was the time, to follow my heart and do something about it...
The idea of doing something about plastic pollution started after years of working daily on the beach and in the water at our kiteboarding school and every year seeing more and more trash. Marco and I watched some documentaries that hit hard like Bag It, Plastic Paradise and Addicted to Plastic. We wanted to share the message and do something about it.
In May of 2011, with the help of other dedicated community members, we hosted an event to educate the community about the dangers of plastic pollution. Every piece of plastic made still exists today! We put on a very successful event and raised funds to start an awareness program. This led to the launch of No Mas Plastik and several other community projects. We started by working on a community committee to build a recycling center that is still being run by the municipio today. Check out our current campaigns.
The next project was to reduce single use plastic. We then launched the sale of compostable to-go items to restaurants. These products made from plants and not petroleum were only made in China and a lot of groundwork had to be laid to see how to sell these products here. The price was much higher than conventional plastic and was hard to convince businesses to spend 3 times the amount on ‘to-go’ garbage. But, thanks to some very daring businesses that believed in the project we were able to start. It was slow and an uphill ride, but little by little, we advanced getting more products to sell. Check out avaiable products replacing plastic today!
At this time, the project was still a part time hobby that was growing and I started spending more and more on the project. The market started growing and realized we needed to make a campaign to get people on board. They needed to understand the problem. We started hosting educational events and talks to show the community the reality of our trash use and its management. Well, There was no management. People needed to take more responsibility for their trash production. We launched the Sin Popotes campaign with other local groups asking businesses to stop serving straws voluntarily and customers asking to refuse them. After several years we have received the amazing news this year that the state of Quintana Roo is looking to pass a law to prohibit plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam. This is a huge victory and a step in the right direction. We can improve this situation we have created.
We can all make a difference even in the smallest form. Let us know how you would like to get involved today.