On the Caribbean Ocean, off the coast of Venezuela, lays the beautiful Margarita Island. It is visited by national and international tourist all year around and host some beautiful world renown beaches. El Yaque is one such beach and it is best known as a Windsurfers Paradise. It is here that for the past couple of months a subversive, alternative, creative approach has engaged the community in Creative Environmentalism!
It was initiated by Adriana Ayala, the owner the convenient shop in the village and her Friend, Freddy Vargas, who owns the windsurfing school. They were appalled to see how the beach was left with trash and cigarettes butts from the crowd of tourist who had left after the Easter week break. They acted upon this feeling by inviting the villagers to a community gathering: a “happy hour” with music, drinks and food. When everyone was having fun they announced their “plan”. The community was offered discounts in the store in exchange of cigarettes Butts. All the participants responded and gathered more than 1600 butts during the festivity.
It was such a success that they decided to maintain the campaign:
Discounts for Cigarette Butts (15 % for every 200 Butts), while adding on many other activities to engage the community like the weekly “happy Hours” fun clean ups with activities like competitions to make them more exciting. The kids of the community have their own special attraction, they get a candy for every 50 butts that also gives them the chance to participate in weekly raffles for better prizes. They have done a couple of creative recycling workshops with the other plastic materials collected bottle caps and straws. The community have constructed their own butt bins for the beach made from recycled materials, made their on t-shirts with catchy slogans and have initiated talks with a mayor corporation to get a donation of personal ashtrays so that they can be exchanged for butts.
30,000 cigarette butts have been gathered so far and most importantly it has created in the minds of the villagers and hopefully some of the visitor’s awareness on this type of pollution, love for the Ocean and the Village, while teaching the younger generation the value of protecting our environment, a sure guarantee for a brighter future for all!
What I find most exiting about this story is how a couple of people can inspire their whole community by using their imagination. They came up with the perfect way to engage the Venezuelan’s. I am from Venezuela and I know how easy it is for us to find any excuse to have a party, it could be due to our Latin blood or even the ever lasting tropical weather. Throw in some cold beers, pump up the music and you have everybody happy and willing. this was the perfect way to get this community on board! It fills me with pride, happiness and joy to hear of this lovely initiative in my beautiful country Venezuela!
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead