After much preparation some staff and volunteers organised an Earth Day celebration for the small fishing town of Punta Allen. The goal was to raise awareness on the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling, as well as keeping out beaches clean.Punta Allen is a small fishing village immersed in the mangroves and coral reefs of the Yucatan peninsula, inside he Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. In recent years it has become a hot spot for tourists to take an “off road excursion into the jungle” and then partake in tours through the mangroves and snorkelling on the reef. It has come to the attention of the locals and surrounding community that the tourism brings a large quantity of waste. GVI organized an Earth Day celebration for the people in Punta Allen to amalgamate and clean up their town. It was an important issue to not only teach the children and adults how to recycle their waste but also the importance of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The beach clean in the morning informed the locals on the amount of waste that was produced and what percentage of it was recyclable. Workshops were set up to demonstrate how to turn old chip bags into purses, tetra packs into wallets, recycle used paper to make new paper, and how to turn plastic bottles into usable items such as pencil cases and purses. There was a section of the day dedicated to the children to help make signs for the beaches and around town reminding people to recycle and to dispose their garbage appropriately. Two separate lectures were created; one for children and one for adults, describing the importance of not littering and keeping their beaches clean. The adults also received information on the importance of the mangroves and why we must not destroy them for our own benefit.The Earth Day celebration was a great start to an on-going series of workshops for people throughout the town. We collected 70 kilograms of non-recyclable waste and 15 kilograms of recyclable waste. Although there were a limited number of adults in attendance, over 35 children assisted in the beach clean, workshops, and lectures. There are signs posted all along the beach, in the stores and restaurants reminding people to recycle and to dispose their garbage on the appropriate containers. The Punta Allen community is more aware of the threats to the reef caused by tourism, and GVI will continue with the workshops and English classes so they are informed on the importance of recycling and ecotourism. The more people are made aware of waste management the easier it can be dealt with. ´´We must clean the beach and not litter because the turtles and other animals, eat the trash because they think it is food´´ said one of the kids on the beach clean.
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