Latin America Green Awards Founder Shares Simple Tips for Sustainable Living
MAKING A POSITIVE IMPACT
The Earth is undergoing a serious climate change crisis, but the Latin American community — including those living abroad in countries like the United States — is having a positive impact toward a more sustainable world, says Gustavo Manrique, the founder and president of the Latin America Green Awards. "This took off in 2013 with the intention of putting a spotlight on people with great socio-environmental projects," he tells People CHICA. "Eighty-five percent of these kinds of projects fail due to lack of financing, exposure, and networking, and we felt a responsibility to do something to change that."
THE OSCARS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Latinos whose initiatives are improving Earth will be recognized during the seventh edition of the Latin America Green Awards, held in August in Ecuador. "These are the Oscars of the enviroment," says Manrique about the awards, which review over 10,000 projects from 39 countries to recognize the best 500 social and environmental projects developed by Hispanics. "We want Guayaquil to be the epicenter of green projects," he adds about the city where the awards are held.
HELP TO STOP CLIMATE CHANGE
"Climate change is about the harmful gases that go up to the atmosphere due to our daily activities — it's not just about factories or cars contaminating," he says. "It's also about me keeping my light on too long. We need to be conscious that our daily habits are leading to global warming."
A CLEANER WORLD
The awards recognize projects from individuals, nonprofit entities, and companies. For example, in Mexico, PetStar is collecting 80,000 tons of PET bottles per year and recycling 3.1 million bottles, which are transformed into 50,000 tons of recycled resin used to make new bottles. It is the largest food-grade PET recycling plant in the world. Apart from collecting this large number of containers, PetStar is helping to create a cleaner environment by reducing 87 percent of carbon dioxide emissions through its co-generation project, and by using wind energy to reconvert the bottles into food-grade PT resin.
SHOW EARTH SOME LOVE
In Ecuador, given the lack of water in the Galápagos Islands, three organizations joined forces to create Galápagos Verde 2050, harnessing Groasis technology to perform ecological restoration and improve sustainable agricultural development. This technology helps plants grow in dryer regions.
SAVE OUR OCEANS
In Chile, Comberplast drew up a plan entitled "Atando Cabos" (Tying Loose Ends) to retrieve almost 4,000 tons of plastic fishing nets from the island of Chiloé, thus reducing the pollution of local seas and beaches from salmon and mussel farming. By utilizing an innovative process, plastic waste that was formerly impossible to recycle is now being transformed into new resources with added value.
"We are used to a linear economy, where we take resources from nature, we use them to fabricate things at a factory, and when we no longer need those things we throw them away. We are trying to promote a circular economy where we reuse those things, donate them, or turn them into something new so they are not wasted," Manrique emphasizes. This Christmas, he says he gave his wife and daughter brazelets made out of metals from the microprocessor of his old computer. "I didn't take these precious minerals from the Earth again to make new jewelry," he explains.
STOP BUYING STUFF YOU DON'T NEED
He also says society needs to stop over-consumption. We should avoid the temptation to change our laptops, cell phones, and cars every year, so that manufacturers don't need to make so many new ones and the old ones aren't tossed into the garbage.
UNPLUG UNUSED ELECTRONICS
An easy way to help is by unplugging "electrical vampires," which are appliances and electronics plugged in — microwave ovens, toasters, blender, TVs, etc. — while not being actively used.
WEAR RECYCLED AND ETHICAL FASHION
"Instead of a red carpet, we have our green carpet, and guests arrive with carbon-neutral outfits, organic cotton clothes, or jewels made from recycled plastic or electric waste," Manrique says. "Sometimes you may not notice at first sight that a dress was made with vegetable ink or that the inside of a suit has recyclable cloth."
CONSUME LESS PLASTIC
"It's not about radical or extreme changes. It's all about keeping the balance," Manrique says. A small step like avoiding the use of plastic straws, cups, stirrers, or cup covers can go a long way in reducing waste.
EAT MORE VEGGIES
How we eat also impacts the Earth greatly. "If you eat meat four times a week, reduce that to once or twice a week," Manrique suggests. "Hispanics have a strong connection and umbillical cord that ties us to nature," he concludes. "We care about the planet and are open to learning about ways to help." It's urgent to pay attention to the Earth's message. "We are the first generation that is really feeling the impact of climate change and the last one that can do something about it."