This Earth Day the community of Juluchuca, where Playa Viva is located, were so engaged, involved and excited about the trash clean up, turtle release, tree planting and recycling endeavors that it could have also been called Community Day.
This Community Earth Day started in the morning with the Playa Viva team working jointly with the 80 students of the the Juluchuca elementary school. We started the day explaining the concept of Earth Day to the students and asked what they loved about the earth. A chorus echoed through the school yard as the children called out the names of favorite plants, animals and activities. I explained to the students that this part of Mexico, their home, is very special and important because it is a dry tropical forest. Tropical forests cover only 7 percent of the earth’s land surface, yet contain over half of all know species of plants and land animals in the world.
We talked about the river that runs through Juluchuca and how it serves an important ecological purpose in connecting the land to the lagoons and ocean. I told them that one billion marine animals and birds die every year from eating discarded plastics. We discussed that much of this lethal plastic comes from trash in rivers spewing into the oceans. So the students set out as self proclaimed “Guerreros Verdes” (Green Warriors), with a mission to help save the plants and animals they love by cleaning up the river.
After filling bags with trash from the river, children ended their day planting two fruit trees in the school yard and celebrating by having a pizza party (pizza’s courtesy of Playa Viva’s Chef Alejandro). As we enjoyed the pizza, we discussed ways to reduce waste and increase the amount we recycle. All the children were fascinated with my metal water bottle, and I encourage them all to reuse bottles to reduce waste. The teachers were also very enthusiastic about the children’s response to Earth Day that they are now communicating with a recycling center in Zihuatanejo, about 40-minutes drive from Juluchuca. The recycling center provides support services to schools that become community recycling pick up locations.
Coincidentally, the first turtles that hatched at the new turtle sanctuary at Playa Viva were ready for release on Earth Day. So later that afternoon, family members of both the Playa Viva staff and of the members of the turtle sanctuary also converged on Playa Viva to celebrate Earth Day. This group of close to 100 started their Earth Day with a project to clean the beach. Afterwards, all were invited to celebrate the release of the first baby turtles from the new turtle sanctuary, 57 baby turtles in all. The group ate tacos and enjoyed the fruits of their labor as volunteers celebrated the work they do for the Earth as volunteers rescuing endangered sea turtles; as the permaculture team planting organics, restoring mangrove and regenerating coastal forest; as team members in a boutique sustainable hotel promoting…well exactly what we were all doing…protecting the Earth.
Earth Day at Playa Viva was enchanting, beautiful and successful, with all age groups in the community contributing to and appreciating the richness of the ecology around them as well as the importance of protecting it for generations to come.