Community Upcycling Center
Waste management is a serious concern in Nicaragua. Public spaces are often littered with trash and many families have the habit of burning their garbage, polluting the environment with toxic fumes. Our upcycling program addresses this issue by incentivizing community members to collect and classify what would normally be considered “trash” and transform that same material into valuable resources and products that can be used throughout the community or sold for a profit.
The main incentive for people to participate in our upcycling program is our Eco-Market. In exchange for bringing us a variety of upcyclable or recyclable material like plastic, glass, aluminum, cardboard, and more, community members earn what we call “eco-points”. The more material they bring, the more eco-points they earn. Then, they get to exchange their points for valuable goods in our Eco-Market, like books, food, games, toys, clothes, and even coupons to local restaurants and other businesses. All items in our Eco-Market are either produced in-house in Casa Verde or received by donation, providing us with yet another opportunity to get more people involved in our project.
With a focus on creativity, innovation, and craftsmanship, we partner with a number of local entrepreneurs and small businesses to offer a wide range of high-quality products at accessible prices. All of the products that we promote and sell are created using upcycled and/or natural materials. Our aim is not only to sell products that we ourselves produce in Casa Verde, but also to help our friends, neighbors, and local artisans develop their talents and showcase their abilities.
Education and Empowerment
Our educational model is simple and focuses on values and abilities. First, we teach the value of protecting our natural environment and reducing the amount of inorganic waste that we produce and consume. And second, we teach the ability to recognize the potential value in any given resource and transform that same resource into something of greater value. We offer regular classes and activities in Las Penitas and also travel to other communities and schools to provide workshops.
Plants and Food
There is a common misconception in Las Penitas that many plants are difficult or impossible to grow due to poor soil quality and the town’s close proximity to the beach. Through our plants and food program we demonstrate how easy it is to transform organic waste, such as food scraps and leaves into rich, healthy soil, which serves as the foundation for growing a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. We also have a seed bank and nursery, all of which is accessible to the community through our Eco-Market, providing everyone with the opportunity to grow their own plants and food.
Community Improvement Projects
One of our goals at Casa Verde is to find a potential use for any given material that would otherwise be considered waste. As we receive new material in our upcycling center, we are in constant search of innovative ways to put that material to good use. This often results in creative projects throughout the community, such as colorful murals made from plastic bottlecaps or construction projects using eco-bricks (plastic bottles stuffed with trash). We also have a community trash bin program, in which we transform plastic bottles into public trash cans that get distributed throughout the community, leaving Las Peñitas a little cleaner, a little brighter, and with a lot more hope for the future.