There are so many wonderful things going on at Entre Amigos that we honestly weren’t quite sure where to classify it. Is it a community organization? Could it go under “Transition” maybe? But they do such amazing recycling, so should we put them under “Waste”? And then, they work in a building that is almost entirely built from recycled or reused materials, so maybe they go under “Housing“?
Entre Amigos is just one of those organizations that gets what sustainability is all about. They are not an environmental organization so much as a community organization where, as founder Nicole Swedlow put it, “Everything we do is in some way focused on the environment.”
Their work is infused by the values and ideas like those of the Earth Charter. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – sure, that’s environmental kindergarten at this point and Entre Amigos has it down pat. Not only do they supplement their funding with sale of recycled artwork, but wandering through their main building (itself built almost entirely from recycled materials) is like seeing inside the mind of some crazy recycle-genius. There’s a chair made from a surfboard – then another made from wooden shipping pallets – and then another made from used soda-can tabs. Not to mention the egg-carton lampshade, the road-sign table, the fruit-crate bookshelf, the propane-tank lamps, the dozens of beautiful glass products made from old bottles – or the community-built recycle park built for a local school that had won a recycling competition.
How about the Earth Charter idea of ensuring, “that communities at all levels… provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential,” or of promoting “social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.” This is the key to Entre Amigos – not only have they organized recycling for their entire community, but they have leveraged it to create jobs for the most disadvantaged members of that community. On the day we visited, the site was full of activity, with kids playing games in the library, others working out in the sports center while a steady stream of customers was passing through the recycle-shop, all of it to the sound of glass being cut and re-worked in the glass studio. The site was a cacophony of activity and we were grateful Nicole and Indira could even find the time to sit down with us to talk.
Even more remarkable perhaps though is where this all happens – in a tiny little town on the Pacific coast of Mexico called San Pancho. It’s the kind of place where Americans come to retire or to surf, and where too often the tourist trade develops leaving the locals behind. Anyone who has traveled has seen these types of towns: where the boundary between foreigner and local is a 10 foot high wall with a beautifully manicured lawn on one side and a trash-strewn street on the other.
Thanks to Entre Amigos, this isn’t the case in San Pancho. In San Pancho there is just one community, in San Pancho, you are among friends.