Eco Insights: Snapshots of Sustainability in Brazil

Little observations, experiences and sustainability connections made during a recent holiday in Brasil in March 2018. From containers made from nature to plastic on the beach and circular economy discussions.

Disclaimer: I’m afraid the Amazon, Football, Carnival and Rio do not feature, so perhaps a different taste of Brasil from not your usual viewpoint.

One of the side effects of having a background in design I find (or if you’re fairly obsessed with sustainability), is that it’s difficult to ever really completely switch off. You know the feeling?

You’re constantly observing around you, questioning the patterns, wondering at the different types of products and their usage, looking at behaviours, similarities, differences, localised solutions.

I find it fascinating, eye-opening and also a good reminder that innovation is often not from completely new products or ideas, but the result of mixing, cross fertilising, adapting from one place and situation to another, people connecting, sharing and collaborating.

So when you go on holiday, this happens. You take pictures of bins and other things …..

I’m not going to go into detail on some of the deep sustainability topics and considerations in Brasil, or the hot topics and concerns of political leadership in the area (if you have perhaps watched the recent series of The Mechanism on Netflix, you may be aware of some of the scandal found around Brasil’s powerful and infrastructure).

Instead it’s about focusing on the visuals, my surroundings, sharing some thoughts, links to some amazing organisations I met, a live discussion I had the privelege to take part in, alongside some inspiration from the nature found in southern Brazil (or should we say Brasil).

Aluminium can collection (unofficial) – one of the highest rates in the world

Nature’s Containers

In the UK and well, I think around the world now, you probably can’t miss the growing focus on plastics and their effect on the environment, namely the sea and oceans, the so called “Attenborough effect“. The big culprits here are disposable plastic items, bottles, straws etc and many of the tools of the trade of the fishing industry such as the nets.

In Brasil there are a whole host of natural containers made and resourced from locally grown produce, pineapples, coconuts and cuia’s (for their local Mate drink). Almost ironically, these are often mismatched with a plastic straw….

However one of the great comparisons to our coffee cup culture is the Mate where the cup is from a fruit of the Cuieira, the straw or bomba is silver of another metal and drinker carry around a thermos flask with them. Alongside this is the culture of sharing it. As an aside, it was also the first time I checked out a reusable replacement to a coffee capsule (one of the inspirations for wasteful products for the People’s Design Lab).

Talking Circular Design with Exchange 4 Change for Brazil

One wonderful opportunity that I had on holiday was to catch up in real life with a fabulous lady, Beatriz Luz, who founded Exchange 4 Change Brasil, and is doing amazing work cross fertilising and building knowledge on the Circular Economy in Brasil.

We met over 3 years ago in London when she was on a tour of Europe, connecting with different organisations and people in the circular economy and happened to join an event I was working on, the Open Source Circular Economy days. You can read more about it here.

Anyway, despite Brasil being a rather massive country, we managed to get holidays and diaries to work (the amazing skills Beatriz has to bring people together), to meet up in Florianopolis and have an inspiring session hosted at the university with Núcleo de Economia Circular, discussing Circular product design (spoiler alert, designing circular for a product is impossible to without looking beyond to people, behaviours, stakeholders in the cycle, root causes, policies…….).

Circular Design talk and discussions overlooking Florianopolis with Exchange 4 Change, Zero Waste Brasil, Route Brasil and students from the University (photo credit Ricardo Dytz)

You can watch the video here ( some of which is in Portuguese). It was also fantastic to meet some amazing Brazilian based projects and learn about activities, business and campaigns for a circular economy, including Rodrigo Sabatini from Zero Waste Brasil.

With such a large coastline its little wonder that Ocean plastic is a big concern here. We heard from Marco from Route Brasil who’s made a documentary (see the preview below) showing their investigation into ocean plastics and pollution around Brasil’s coastline.

It also includes a visit to Projeto Tamar, the turtle rehabilitation and education centre I visited and saw first hand some of the plastic extracted from the intestines of turtles ( my favourite animal). Route Brasil have also experimented in making a number of products from the ocean plastic and bits and bobs they find (right up my street), such as surf board fins and drift wood sunglasses.

Beautiful Brasil

Remember, I was on holiday and yes there really is so much natural beauty in Brasil (and in the south plenty of vineyards), so here are some pictures taking a break from plastic. Highlight, includes a magic moment picture that got shared by Havaianas to their 1.1million followers! A small taste of fame.


I’m looking forward to learning and discovering more about this part of the world in visits to come and would love to hear any of your experiences and insights.

Share thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.