Zero Waste Alliance

By Elisa Allen Arias

“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, American anthropologist

Todos Santos is one of Baja California Sur’s treasured Pueblos Mágicos and is known for its art studios, surfing beaches, and boutique hotels. During the tourist season, the town (and its smaller southern neighbor Pescadero) receives many visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately, this seasonal increase in population also increases the amount of waste generated by the community. This strains the waste management system and community members have been working hard to remedy the problem for years, including the opening of the Punto Verde recycling center in 2013, volunteer-run education programs in schools, and “The Tractor Project,” among others. “The Tractor Project” was started by a group of concerned Pescadero citizens in 2019, when trash fires at the Todos Santos dump were consistently sending toxic smoke southward into their town. The project was designed to fund a tractor for the dump so that trash could be regularly moved and buried, which helps prevent fires from starting.

This project is just one of the many initiatives being worked on by the local organization Todos Santos & Pescadero Zero Waste Alliance/Cero Basura. Currently co-led by Caitlin Allen, a Pescadero resident, the group is made up of citizens, local officials, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions that share the common goal of creating sustainable, long term solutions to local waste management issues. The group has joined the state-wide #Desplastifícate campaign which focuses on reducing consumption of single-use plastics like drinking straws, plastic bags, and styrofoam containers. Some achievements of this campaign include eliminating these materials in all of the Pescadero schools, and creating a rating system and advising program for local businesses to reduce their plastic use and work towards other solutions.

In a recent interview with Caitlin Allen about her work with Todos Santos & Pescadero Zero Waste Alliance/Cero Basura, we discussed the group’s progress and goals. She shared that the current focus is analyzing and managing the area’s solid waste stream. Through ongoing surveys at the local dump, they found that over half of the delivered material is organic waste. This considerable amount of organic matter can lead to spontaneous combustion which largely contributes to the number of dump fires. This information prompted the group to start a community composting program which includes education and outreach, as well as working with a local ranch to compost the organic matter. The dump’s employees will also be undergoing training for emergency fire protocols and better landfill management. Servicios Públicos of Todos Santos has provided a tractor for consistent use, and a state congresswoman has agreed to help with the problem. Moving forward, they hope to secure the perimeter of the dump with fencing and continue to work with citizens to both reduce the amount of waste they generate and to further develop the composting program. This interdisciplinary work can be used as a model for other Baja Sur communities on the quest to manage their waste and demonstrates the efficacy of concerned citizens taking action. Keep up the good work Todos Santos and Pescadero!

Follow progress and learn more:

* BasuraCero/ZeroWaste – Todos Santos y El Pescadero on Facebook
Donate: 1. GoFundMe campaign:
2. If you prefer to make a contribution in Mexico, you can make a check out to Sistemas Naturales y Desarrollo AC (SINANDES).


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