Social Impact

Dispatches from the Field: Recycling and Community Center Chira Island

This innovative recycling and community center for the Women’s Association (ADATA) on Chira Island, Costa Rica, includes a work and social area. Apart from recycling it is used for environmental trainings for schoolchildren, other inhabitants and tourists, making of handicrafts from recyclables, a daycare-center for children and meeting space. The center systemically tackles multiple immediate community needs simultaneously, presenting a comprehensive strategy to improve wellbeing and fill resource needs.

Below is a selection from their 2014 Fuller Challenge application:

“Our centre has a positive effect on public health and the environment: presently there is no garbage collection whatsoever on the island; the 4000 inhabitants burn, bury or trash their (and the visiting tourists’) solid waste on land or in the sea. Diminishing the amount of garbage on the island (source for potential diseases and pollution) was the main reason for the women from ADATA to start recollecting recyclables. Moreover, they teach the local population about garbage separation and environmental protection. A third need is economic: operational costs are covered with the income from recyclables; the sales of handicrafts and receiving tourists generate additional income. This income diversification is key as 90% of the island population depends solely on artisanal fishing and strict environmental laws forbid fishing during 3 months of the year. Also, a maximum of local construction materials is used to stimulate the local economy. Finally, the center offers a space for ADATA and other islanders to gather for meetings, events, trainings, exhibitions of handicrafts and a daycare-center. These necessities were identified via a participatory design process with gender focus; the interests of women, men, children and handicapped people are accounted for.

The project consists of the design and construction of a recycling and community center for an environmental women association on Chira Island in the Nicoya Gulf (Pacific Coast, Costa Rica). It includes recycling machinery and furniture to make the center operational at delivery, training of all 4000 inhabitants on recycling & environment, training of the women on making handicrafts from recyclables, and a daycare for their children while they are working. The design is of high aesthetic and functional quality; it combines traditional ways of living with modern building techniques, integrating the use of renewable energies like daylight, rainwater and recyclables. It responds to practical and strategic needs of ADATA, achieved via a flexible feedback loop. Social spaces for the entire population are accounted for, allowing for local cultural expressions. A multistakeholder approach made the project affordable: ADATA will be the owner and main user; financial and material donations were made by UNDP, NGOs, governmental institutions, private companies and crowd-funding via awareness-raising activities; technical assistance and logistic support is given by universities and companies; a manual will be elaborated by A01 and the Health Ministry to replicate the experience allover the country.”

To read more, visit their website here. And check out their current IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign!