Things That Matter

Latino Communities Are Some Of The Most Impacted By Climate Change. Here’s One Organization Fighting Back

For many U.S. Latinos, environmental outreach and engagement aren’t as accessible compared to others. Yet a recent study shows that Latinos, particularly those who prefer to speak Spanish, really care about our planet. According to a study out of Yale University, a huge percentage of U.S. Latinos have never been contacted by an environmental organization working to reduce global warming or tackle climate change. These findings are startling considering a 2017 poll that showed that Latinos care more and are more aware of environmental issues than African Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, and Caucasians. Various advocacy groups are now targeting Latinos, where often environmental outreach programs have never been accessible.

Philadelphia leading the charge when it comes to engaging the Latino community around environmental issues.

The Philadelphia Office of Sustainability revamped its outreach effort this year by hiring a community strategist to find ways to engage with the Latino community. Christine Knapp, director at the Office of Sustainability, says they needed more community input especially after feedback for its sustainability plan for 2016 showed people wanted to be included in the process.

“We haven’t engaged Latinos, and we haven’t engaged with any community sufficiently well on these issues.” Knapp told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The city is working with several sustainability programs including one to reduce temperatures in Latino neighborhoods.

The program, called The Heat Vulnerability Index, is a new program recently launched to reduce temperatures in neighborhoods of color, which face environmental injustices frequently. Program volunteers ask residents whether they need more trees, know how white roofs can cool structures, or even understand how heat affects health.

The need to engage Latinos around environmental issues prompted Washington-based GreenLatinos to team up with Moms Clean Air Force to create Ecomadres.

GreenLatinos was formed to address local and national environmental issues that affect Latinos, like the heat issues in Philadelphia. Mark Magaña, the CEO and founding president of the GreenLatinos says caring about the environment is instilled in Latinos more than people think.

“Latinos learn their stewardship of the land through their grandmothers and parents,” Magaña told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “They eat all the food on the plate, turn off the light when they leave the room, eat all the parts of the animal, use water wisely because it might not come the next day; things that we do organically, because it’s in the back of the chanclas.”

Ecomadres is a collaborative program that focuses on bringing Latina moms together to advocate for the environment.

Ecomadres wants to address issues of clean air, climate, and toxins affecting the health of Latino children and families. The hope is that by addressing these issues, communities will stand up and advocate environmental issues within their own homes. The organization did a study that showed 68 percent of Latinos live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards compared to 58 percent of Caucasians. By educating and advocating in communities, they are showing that Latinos can get behind and support environmental organizations.

Ecomadres has chapters established in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas.


READ: Here Are 20 Latinxs Fighting For Environmental Justice

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Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

Things That Matter

Mexico Becomes The World’s First Country With A Highway Paved From Recycled Plastics

One of the biggest assets of the great and complex country known as Mexico is the creative and even ludic way in which people reuse materials. This is done on an everyday basis. You just have to go to a traditional mercado to see, for example, Barbie doll dresses made with scraps from old clothes. Need a swing for the backyard? No worries, that used tire will do! 

But sometimes this sort of creativity extends to public works that set a good example that other governments can follow. 

Introducing the world’s very first eco-highway! Recycled plastic on the road! 

The state of Guanajuato in central Mexico is home to the first-ever highway paved with recycled materials. The effort is modest at the moment and involved a 4 kilometer stretch that required 1.7 tons of plastic. The stretch communicates the municipalities of Irapuato and Cuerámaro. If we don’t continue to implement solutions like these, the only highway that we will be paving as humanity is a highway to climate hell!

The number of plastic packages required to accumulate 1.7 tons will surprise you!

According to Dow Plastics Technology Mexico, the 1.7 tons of eco-pavement equal up to 425,000 plastic packaging units. The development of the highway plastic was a private affair that involved the companies Dow, Vise, Surfax, Lasfalto and Omnigreen, and its use in the highway was championed by the federal body Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT). Regardless of the politics that are surely involved in the project (governments loooove to take credit for this sort of initiatives and present themselves as super eco-friendly), this project sets a great precedent. 

And the new recycled material is much more durable too!

Through a press release, Dow praised the durability of the new eco-material, which could become the standard in the years to come: “This new technology not only offers a possible solution to the management of plastic waste, it also theoretically prolongs the life span of highways by 50% compared to conventional asphalt. The advantage of using recycled plastic products is that they can be used on all types of highways, not only in high-performance products, which can extend the life span of any paved road”.

It is important to note that the world at large is facing a crisis when it comes to the management of recycling materials. Many developed countries such as Australia and New Zealand traditionally send their plastics to China to be recycled. However, China is no longer accepting them and a lot of plastic is either being stored (a costly and not very useful solution) or, worse, it ends up in landfill. This was a pilot study, but it will surely at least trigger the curiosity of other governments and companies. And remember: they both love good PR, and what could be better PR than being eco-friendly in these times of true environmental distress? 

Mexicans have done some other pretty cool eco-friendly things with roads!

If you have been to Mexico City chances are that you have been stuck in traffic. If the traffic lasts for more than, say, 45 minutes, chances are then that you are in the infamous Periferico. This artery, which connects the city’s Sur y Norte, was so busy that the government decided to build a second floor on top of it. This was a very controversial project then championed by now president AMLO.

A new project, Via Verde, is creating vertical gardens on the pillars that support “El Segundo Piso”. This is intended not only to provide a pretty view for tired drivers, but also to alleviate some of the air pollution caused by the thousands of cars that cross “El Peri” every day in what is perhaps one of the world’s busiest commutes. We only hope that CDMX becomes a truly green megalopolis… 

And don’t forget the nopal leather made by a duo of Mexican superstars!

A few days ago this wonderful invention made its rounds on the media: Adrian Lopez and Marte Cazarez, two Mexican inventors, have created an alternative to plastic faux leather by using nopal, a cactus variety that is as delicious to eat as it is durable when used as a material. If this vegan and eco-friendly is commercialized on a large scale it will not only provide more fashion alternatives to vegans, but it will also have an impact on the cattle industry, which is one of the main culprits of climate change. The material is also much more breathable than plastic faux leather… seriously, that things makes you sweat like there is no tomorrow!

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‘Planeta G’ Is A YouTube Series Dedicated To Highlighting Latino Environmental Activists

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‘Planeta G’ Is A YouTube Series Dedicated To Highlighting Latino Environmental Activists

Greenpeace has been fighting to save the planet and the environment since 1971. The Canadian organization has been there to fight for the planet every step of the way and it has fostered new leaders. Planeta G is the latest project out of Greenpeace and it is highlighting Latinos who are in the fight to save the planet and reverse climate change.

Planeta G is here to make sure that Latino environmental activists get the recognition that they deserve.

The bi-weekly web series is centered around exploring the intersectionality between environmental activism and the Latino identity. According to a recent study by Yale, 70 percent of Latinos are concerned about the environment. Latinos are also among the communities more disproportionately impacted by climate change.

According to an interview with Grist, Valentina Stackl and Crystal Mojica started “Planeta G” in order to highlight more Latino voices. Communities of color face several instances of environmental injustice in their communities. This includes lack of access to affordable healthcare, education, and housing.

It is brought to you by two co-hosts: Crystal Mojica.

Mojica is a senior communications specialist for Greenpeace USA and, according to the website, has spent a lot of her career in the environmental space. Mojica, who was raised in Colombia as a child, has volunteered for the Peace Corps and worked to advance reproductive rights for all women.

And Valentina Stackl.

Stackl was born in Europe after her mother, a Jewish-Chilean journalist, fled the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. After moving to the U.S. at 16, Stackl got involved in international environmental justice starting with working with farmworkers.

The co-hosts are also using their platform to remind people to vote and the importance of using their voice.

The next election is drawing near and there are so many reasons for Latinos to vote. They have to make their voices heard and there are several issues that deeply impact the community.

“Latinx people are especially becoming more empowered than ever before to speak out. But we’ve done it before,” Stackl told Grist. “Historically, we think back to Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez and the labor movement. Sometimes we forget that. We care. The experiences of the people that we’ve spoken to on the show reflect that.”

The co-hosts are delivering more than interviews to combat climate change.

It is known that the vegan diet is more sustainable and better for the environment. Being vegan means you are helping to cut down on greenhouse gases from farming. There is also the benefit of not contributing to deforestation for farmland due to the demand of meat in the world.

The vegan versions of Latino foods is still in line with the web series’ mission to challenge dispel myths about Latinos. Planeta G is showing how you can make some delicious versions of Latino food without using all of the animal products. They even promise to fool your mom.

READ: Environmental Advocates Are Offering Tips On How People In Mexico City Can Shop With The New Plastic Bag Ban

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