Punto Verde: from trash to treasure

Alex Miró dreams that someday Todos Santos will be a zero waste city.

In all reality, it’s more than a dream, it’s a vision he’s working extremely hard to achieve. Miró runs the only recycling collection center in Todos Santos, a town of 5,500 people on the western coastline of Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Recycling is not customary in his town, but Miró is out to change that.

“People should know that the generation of waste, if not well managed, has an immediate and adverse effect on the environment,” says Miró, who started Punto Verde, a recycling project in his home of Todos Santos. “There are ways to reduce environmental liabilities through recycling … we have to act now, there is no time to waste – there are 7.5 billion people on this planet.”

The CSU Todos Santos Center opened in the community in 2015 with a mission of collaborating with the region on research, education and outreach efforts. Partnering with the Recycling Center was a natural fit for the CSU Center, as an international extension of Colorado State University.

Prior to Punto Verde, residents interested in recycling had to take their materials to La Paz, about an hour away from town. The Recycling Center is important to the community, according to Amy Rex, a Todos Santos resident and Program Assistant at the CSU Todos Santos Center.

“[Now] we don’t have excuses to not collaborate with this beautiful culture, knowing that it is very good for our children, our future, and preserves our magical town and seas,” Rex said. “That we have a center in town where we can make this happen is a huge thing with a very big value for our culture and our people. We want to keep Todos Santos as beautiful as it is right now.”

Recycling workshop in Todos Santos, 2016.

CSU works with Miró to conduct workshops in schools and with community members, to explain and participate in activities emphasizing the importance of recycling, how people can reduce waste, and to recognize the consequences of not recycling.

“I have had contact with several groups of students from CSU visiting Todos Santos and I think they serve as spokespersons to promote cultural and academic exchanges with young Mexicans, enriching and expanding their opportunities for development,” Miró said.

CSU’s recycling efforts at home run parallel to the work done through Punto Verde, as the university continues to provide ongoing education to students, staff and faculty about the importance of recycling in their community.

Joanie Ellis, a junior at CSU, has been exposed to CSU’s recycling efforts, but said the experience of spending the summer volunteering with Miró gave her an enhanced understanding of what it means to be earth-friendly.

“Alex cares more about recycling than anyone I have ever met, and his passion to spread the word about the importance is inspiring,” Ellis said. “It was important for me to help out Alex’s recycling business … I wanted to help him make a difference and spread the word to the locals why it is so crucial in our world today.”

Miró emphasizes the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle to the community and works largely with children in the region in order to create sustainable generations to come.

“The most difficult challenge is to break habits in a population that does not have the culture of environmental care,” Miró said. “People often do not realize the very serious environmental problem which is the generation of waste and mismanagement of it.”

The Recycling Center’s efforts are starting to work, but Miró knows he still has a lot to do.

“More people are recycling, there is less waste in landfills, and fewer environmental risks,” he said. “We must at all costs reduce the amount of waste reaching landfills.”

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About the CSU Todos Santos Center

The Colorado State University Todos Santos Center is the university’s first international location and is core to CSU’s mission of teaching, research, service, and outreach.

The Center provides opportunities for CSU students and Baja California Sur residents to collaborate with local partners and businesses to identify needs, conduct research, and produce impactful outcomes.

CSU’s vision in Todos Santos is to cultivate generations of global citizens and to be a part of creating thriving communities through collaboration, experience, and exchange of knowledge in areas such as agriculture, infectious disease, elementary education, environmental and social sustainability, wildlife ecology, veterinary medicine, and public health.