From green fashion to building bottle schools - El Salvador has big plans for 2013

The smallest country of Central America and one of the few world’s countries that has achieved reforestation - El Salvador, has one of the youngest and liveliest teams in the Let’s Do It! global family. A team that was created just one year ago, has now grown into 4 regional teams with  approximately 100 members. In last 12 months this Clean World army of 100  has organised 4 area cleanups and raised awareness about garbage issues amongst the people of El Salvador.

In addition to these efforts they organized and hosted a successful Let’s Do It! Americas conference in November 2012 bringing together the Let’s Do It! teams from North, Central and South America for sharing the experiences and to discuss future actions and cooperation. As the year is ending and celebrations are held all over the world, we decided to put a spotlight to this young and very active team to see where they are going next.

It’s obvious that the team is just in the beginning of their efforts and are looking to establish themselves as an active agent in the country: “Right now we are focusing on being an established NGO in El Salvador, we will work in our annual planning all December,” said Afshin Eighani, one of the team-leaders.

He emphasizes that the team is well aware that a general shift in attitudes and awareness is needed to make more permanent changes in El Salvador and is planning to shift the focus on that: “On 2013 our approach will be in teaching the Salvadorians the importance of changing their habits and the way we are managing our waste. Yes, we need to clean, but the most important part about it is that we can understand that the problem exists and the best way for solving it is learning to generate less waste and to manage it better."

Afshin finds that the consumption patterns need to change on the individual level to have big impact and the team intends to play an active role in this – “We find it important to show people the practical ideas on how to find another use for the products that we are throwing away – to teach and inspire people to give new lives to things, instead of just generating more waste.”

Workshops to introduce recycling for communities

For this the team is planning special workshops: “Before National cleanup campaign, we are planning to have one or two “reciclones”, the events designed for showing the people, schools, universities and companies how easy it is to separate the waste. Each company, family or school will bring the separated waste (plastic, cans and paper) and they will receive an incentive for recycling it correctly. We will also organize a massive ad-campaign where we use famous Salvadorians and people with influence to encourage and teach people to recycle their trash.”

Transforming plastic bottles into schools

The team is setting an example of practical and creative recycling by building schools out of plastic bottles. “On April we’ll have our first camp of building a school with plastic bottles. This is an important help for poor communities who don’t have the resources to build in the ‘normal’ way. During the reciclones campaign we’ll show the people the practical use of plastic in building these ‘bottle schools’, and how if they recycle and help us in “reciclones” they will help those communities who need these schools.”

Involving the youngsters in this process is an important part of the effort: “For young people we are organizing a Helping camp to engage them in building one bottle School - the very first one! We invite them on board to help us finish the first school.” Afshin believes that this very practical action will not just help communities and children who need education, but will also help them to communicate the aim and spirit of their actions to new potential partners and supporters: “I’m sure this project will attract other organizations and companies to help us with our activities and the cleanup. Through this we are hoping to also get more media coverage to be able to spread our messages to the wider public. These reciclones and camp will show to the Salvadorians the importance of recycling, so in May, when we will have our World Cleanup 2013 action, the people will be more motivated to participate. We are hoping to engage the whole society in the massive national cleanup next year.”

The team will continue with building the schools after the cleanup is completed: ”In September we are continuing our second bottle school camp, in cooperation with Peace Corps and FabLabs. This time we plan to also include a playground made with recycled materials.”

Recycled fashion to make recycling fashionable

In getting the message through the Salvadorians are using modern means – fashion. “In July we have a fundraising event - our first Green Fashion Show where our famous designers together with young designers of El Salvador will showcase fashion clothes made with recycled materials. We are very excited about this collaboration and happy how it emphasizes the importance of creativity and innovation for finding new uses to waste.”

Guarding the attractions

The lush and colorful nature of El Salvador and many other attractions invite large numbers of tourists from surrounding areas, across borders and oceans each year. This popularity also brings another challenge – tourists who trash, often the most beautiful places. The team is planning activities that will target this problem in 2013. Afshin explains: “On August we are planning small cleanups on touristic places of El Salvador, and a massive campaign about being a clean tourist, because this is a huge problem in El Salvador.” The timing of the actions is strategic: “We have an important holiday on first week of August, and after this vacation our touristic places usually end up being very dirty, so by this action we hope to keep our most beautiful places clean even after the busy times,” shares Afshin.

It’s looking like El Salvador will be transformed into even more beautiful country very soon. The power of big dreams is fueling this inspiring team and it looks like they are just warming up. As Afshin says: “We are very excited about 2013, and can’t wait for starting with all of these actions!”

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