Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Opportunities of Collapse

Gone are the months of walking up ten flights of stairs, every day, in the dark, carrying three gallons of water so I could have something to drink, hydrate the dogs, and be able to clean up a bit. Gone the oppressive heat that enveloped us as Hurricane Maria traveled north and sucked every gasp of air away from Puerto Rico for weeks on end. Gone are the endless mounds of debris on lightless roads, and intersections with slow, cautious traffic that no one dared drive in after sunset. Gone the block-long lines to get inside the few cash-only supermarkets with empty shelves, the self-winding line at the ATM machine, or the mile-long lines to buy rationed gasoline. Gone, the constant drone of generators spewing sulphurous fumes in an incessant and costly battle to keep refrigerators and air conditioners operational. Gone, the constant fear of losing or needing medicines that were unavailable. Gone, the sleepless, sweaty nights. Gone is the milling around in front of buildings with free WiFi or driving around to find high ground where a weak cellular signal might get through. At least I made it, even if I lost my job because of the storm. So many of us didn’t make it.

Twenty four months after Hurricane Maria, most people have electricity, internet, and cellular signal. Most roads are clear, and most street lights are on, but one still does not feel safe. Supermarkets have restocked and are accepting credit cards. Restaurants are open, although too many of them quietly closed their doors forever. Gasoline prices have risen from pre-Maria .52 cents a liter to up to .74 cents a liter (roughly from $2.08 to $3.00 a gallon), but it is readily available. About 10% of the population flew off the island with one-way tickets costing from $500 to $1,200; and about one third of those have come back because they could not make it wherever they went. In middle-class neighborhoods, every other house is either abandoned  or for sale. In tourist areas and high-end communities, hipster restaurants and expensive home remodels are rampant. In poor areas, foundations of homes destroyed by the storm lay denuded, upwind of their debris fields. Blue tarps still cover 30,000 homes. Commercial flights have resumed, and Isla Grande Airport, San Juan’s small regional airport, is doing a brisk business in private jet services for the ‘Vulture Capitalists’ that have descended on the island in droves.

As with any disaster, there are many newly minted disaster-relief corporations that are cleaning and rebuilding our cities. Most are foreign, because after a decade of economic depression, the locals have no up-front money, and no credit. Airlone pilots, once a bulwark of middle-class income, are making poverty wages, and thankful to have a job; so are many lawyers and doctors. Billionaires are taking advantage of generous tax breaks and buying up as much prime real estate as they can. Half of the hotels are open, the rest are still closed, taking this opportunity to rethink, remodel, or upgrade their facilities after the storm. $15-dollar drinks are common. Last month for the first time ever, there was a posse of exotic cars on the expressway: an orange Lamborghini, a neon green McLaren, and a red Ferrari, followed by a coterie of Porsches and BMW’s, although why they would submit such thoroughbred vehicles to our potholed streets is beyond comprehension. The shopping malls, as always, are full; but people visit them to sit in the air conditioned common areas, while most stores are hemorrhaging money for lack of sales.

We have gone through the July Summer Revolution, when citizens of all ages and walks of life said 'Enough' and in an unprecedented show of solidarity, protested for 12 days until they peacefully ousted governor Ricardo Rossello from office. Pedro Pierluisi briefly became governor until the Supreme Court decided that transition was unconstitutional, and finally settled on Wanda Vazques, the Secretary of Justice, as the next governor. While the governorship has been decided, it is clear that both parties and all acting politicians need to rethink their goals and strategies.

There is just enough recovery to make it seem as if everything is back to normal. But scratch the surface, and you find a mass of people that have lost their jobs and their homes and are frantically trying to regain their economic footing, in an economy where there is no secure foothold. Nature has rebounded, somewhat; Wall Street has rebounded, somewhat. But to the majority of Puerto Ricans, there is no recovery – just one long, protracted, never-ending catastrophe. And to add insult to injury, we are surrounded by jet-set outsiders buying up what is left of our natural resources, our culture and our history - for cents on the dollar.

Naomi Klein’s “Disaster Capitalism” is thriving in Puerto Rico.

The people who lost their jobs have found there are no other jobs to replace the ones they lost, and those that do exist pay $7.50/hr to $10/hr, and are scrambling to offer entrepreneurial home-based services in a market where no one has discretionary income. Flea markets and consignment stores have sprung up physically and virtually, as everyone rushes to sell their belongings. These stores have become the archives of a time when consumers filled their homes with goods that demand a level of care and maintenance that only full time servants are able to provide. 

Fifty-something women who used to be bankers are starting dog-sitting businesses or catering businesses, and one woman I know is doing both. Millennials are working for minimum in  cavernous call centers inside repurposed warehouses. Everyone is ‘making do,’ and, counterintuitively, finding that while the situation is bad, it’s not as bad as they thought it would be. The 'New Normal' is not easy, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. It has forced me to simplify and refocus, and that is a good thing, and something I would have never done voluntarily.

Maria has come and gone. But the economic depression compounded by the austerity measures will continue to reverberate throughout our crippled economy for a generation, according to economist Heidi Calero. And that carries negative consequences we will all have to suffer through, compounded by  the many other challenges we must also solve during that time.

For Baby Boomers, that means that whatever they have left is all they are going to have for the rest of their lives, and that they are de facto dependent on a bankrupt government for their quality of life. For Gen X-ers and Y-ers that means they will have to lower their expectations and adapt to a world that will never be as easy or as cheap (not that it was ever easy or cheap) as the one they grew up in. For Millennials it means embracing the concepts of ‘Less is More’ and living in a hotter, angrier world. This “new normal” is will not be easy to live with.

The solution is reaching out and building alliances, and working together for a better future. The island government won't be able to help. the federal government is uneilling to help. We must help ourselves.

Not a single proposed fiscal plan or legislation in the past two years is anywhere near sustainable, either financially, socially or ecologically. And that is because they all start from the wrong place: “how do we get money out of this moribund economy without spending any money to help the local economy get back on its feet?” At a time when Fiscal Austerity Measures have been proven not to work, politicians in Congress and Puerto Rico have decided to pay down a crippling debt before allowing or helping the local economy to recover from the many forces outside of their control, without changing those forces so they work for the people of Puerto Rico, instead of against them. And what of the much-needed FEMA money? Of $95 billion needed to restore the island’s infrastructure, only $30 billion is earmarked for disaster relief, of which only $1.8 billion has so far reached the island.

Hidden Opportunity

Catastrophes lead people to seek sustainability. Sustainability demands individuals make decisions from a broader perspective, one which not only includes economic solutions, but also social and ecological solutions. It demands we build resilience into our recovery. The times demand we look at the world with a gimlet eye and ask ourselves: with all that we now know, what is the best way to solve all these problems holistically?

Sustainability requires we drop the old arguments based on religion or myth, politics or economics, self-interest or greed, for why we do the things we do. It forces us to start from a science-based analysis that clarifies the situation and the limits we face (environmental, economic and social), within a framework of ethics and collective health and wellbeing. There is a global consensus by 97% of all scientists, and by most nations outside of the United States, that to survive, we must stop any and all activities that extract, burn, or use fossil fuels within the next 20 years, leaving trillions of dollars in the ground.

We must transition to a circular economy that eliminates or minimizes waste and creates no toxic wastes. We must embrace business inefficiencies and incentivize small entrepreneurial markets that redistribute wealth and keep it local. We must transition to a decentralized clean energy grid and must focus all agriculture back into organic and permaculture programs as quickly as possible and do away with all industrial farming and industrial animal farms. We must set aside 50% of our land and oceans as protected wilderness, so all other species have enough space to live well, and stop the mass extinction now underway. We must concentrate population density in well-planned, walkable cities with ample mass transit. 

We must dismantle wealth-concentrating business models and spread money around as if it were manure on a barren cornfield. We must clean up the land, air, and waters, and treat them with the respect they deserve as a living part of our habitat. And we must take care of the section of the population that has lost their revenue streams due to global or historical ‘Forces of Exclusion’ and offer them access to the necessities of life (secure housing, food and water, health and mobility), as well as finding ways of re-inserting them into a productive economy, instead of leaving them to their own devices in an economy that has passed them by. Most important of all, we must work towards lowering population growth and supplant limitless economic growth with static economic growth, while cultivating a society that grows health and well-being for all instead of concetrating wealth for a few.

Puerto Rico has enough sunlight and wind to power its households via photovoltaic systems, wind generators, batteries, and decentralized microgrids. By transitioning PREPA’s (the local energy company) existing electrical generating plants to locally produced organic algae oil, which is 98% equivalent to the ‘Bunker C’ oil currently used, it can supply all the power needed by the commercial and industrial sectors, and the algae oil can be grown on non-agricultural land here in Puerto Rico, with ‘waste products’ of organic shrimp and fish, organic fertilizer, and organic animal feed. This could be the first step to creating a circular economy, and stop depending on outside sources for our food and our energy supply. That is the crux of sustainability: using what we ourselves can produce, and whose profits stay in our local economy because they are locally owned.

Industrialization and globalization have given us many benefits and made a few people very wealthy. But it’s time to realize that the costs of that development model far outweigh the benefits they bring to the majority of society, and both are based on an exclusionary mindset that systematically leaves large portions of the population out of the better opportunities enjoyed by a lucky few. As long as there are only ‘a lucky few,’ and as long as society continues to want to emulate them, we will perpetuate an untenable, and unsustainable, pyramid-scheme development that serves only the rich.

Skeptics will say this means the economy will collapse. Open your eyes, skeptics! The economy has already collapsed, and is on life support, no matter how high the Dow Jones has risen. All the variables that underpin that growth rest on quicksand. They will say we are incentivizing laziness. Wake up. It’s not laziness if the private sector hasn’t enough jobs to cover 100% employment participation. Money alone will not get humanity out of the problems of Climate Change. Technology alone will not get humanity out of Climate Change. ‘We the People’ need to change our minds about how we can live on this earth without killing it (or ourselves). Climate Change’s greatest challenge? Teaching people we must learn to downsize. Teaching people we need to live in towns and cities with less people, less consumption, less mobility, and less wealth. More family, more happiness, more wisdom, more health.

Developing countries, and I count Puerto Rico as one, by virtue of its status as one of the last remaining colonies in the world, have an immense opportunity now. So does every nation, city and county that has been decimated by economic forces outside their direct control. We have been forced to downsize; we must now choose to rebuild in a sustainable way, as opposed to mimicking the excess and obscene opulence of 19th century kings. 

This is the 21st century. There is no need to aspire to own everything or control everything around you, like kings of old. That lifestyle model has run its course and proven insufficient, both emotionally and economically, for most people.

Now we must do something much harder: get everyone on the same sustainability page and moving in the right direction, together. It means learning self-discipline, not only individually, but as communities, regions and nations. It means talking to each other and including everyone in decision-making. It means having small families, in small homes, in small and self-sufficient communities or small to midsize cities. There are limits to growth, and we have reached them. Now let’s live within them in a way that benefits everyone, not just a few lucky ones.

For over ten thousand years, the population growth bell-curve of the planet lay almost flat at around one billion people. In the last 300 years, it has risen exponentially to almost 8 billion, and is expected to reach 10 billion within the next two decades. The carrying capacity of the planet before Climate Change was one billion people. The fact we are now consuming almost twice as much as the earth can replenish in a year, tells us that the bell curve is hitting its apex, and all we have left is a downward slide. It can be a controlled slide, or it can be a chaotic slide. But the slide down cannot be stopped.

Add to that the catastrophic effects of Climate Change, which will make every piece of land that is within 2,500 miles north or south of the equator too hot to grow food in by 2040, and the mass migration north that fact will cause in the next couple of decades. Add rising sea levels and how that will impact all the major cities of the world by 2050, because they were all built on or near water. Add to that the more frequent and larger storms, and the more frequent and longer droughts, in places where they did not exist a decade ago. Add to that the fact we have fished out the oceans of 33% commercial fish and 90% of apex predators (tuna, cod, swordfish, sharks), many of them species that have been living for hundreds of millions of years, and once extinct, will be gone forever. Add to that the fact we are demolishing all that is left of pristine forests in the Amazon, the Congo, and Malaysia, which constitute the lungs of the planet. Add to that the fact there will be more plastic in the oceans by 2030 than there are fish. If the planet were a family home, it would be bursting at the seams with too much waste and too many people.

This is our chance to start living a simpler, more natural life. With right-size aspirations that have more to do with loving than hoarding, with a healthy respect for our world and all the living things in it. If all of us decided to start on the path of living sustainably, respectfully, and consciously today, right now, we will have a chance to survive the next 1,000 years of climate change. If not, our species won’t make it. Period. We could be condemning our grandchildren to unspeakable heardships; let's not do that.

We have been handed an opportunity in the guise of a catastrophe. Life is giving us a lesson, and a push towards becoming radically better human beings, something the human race has avoided dealing with for centuries. Here’s hoping we choose to create a better world rather than being smothered by petroleum and greed. That is the challenge we face, the greatest challenge the human species has ever faced.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Speech given to the Congressional Natural Resources Committee hearings 15 March 2019 San Juan PR

Chairman Grijalva, distinguished members of the Congressional Natural Resources Committee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak before you today regarding Puerto Rico’s waste situation.

My name is Mónica Pérez Nevarez, and I am the Executive Director of Basura Cero Puerto Rico, or Zero Waste Puerto Rico, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to educating, consulting, and advising – people, communities, businesses and governments – on reducing waste, recycling and composting, and envisioning and crafting a future where waste is designed as a reusable resource, and curtailing the need for landfills.

We have 29 operating landfills, and of those, the EPA has stated their intention of closing 19, for not complying with regulations. This means that it is likely that some of those non-complying landfills are leaching toxic chemicals into the soil, making their way into our rivers and oceans, and most distressingly, leaching into our aquifers. Aquifers which tens of thousands of rural households and farmers use daily to get their water supply.

Waste is a byproduct of globalization, not a choice we islanders make. We import 93% of what we consume, and we create over 3.8 million tons of garbage a year, or 6.5 pounds per capita per day. Hurricane Maria exacerbated the situation by creating 6.2 million cubic yards of waste and debris, filling landfills almost to the brim, making a dire situation even worse. In her wake, she left 300,000 homes with significant damage and 70,000 homes destroyed, which will have to be torn down or be rebuilt, creating heaps of construction waste for years to come. And to add to the problem, China no longer accepts many types of materials we used to outsource, so shipping the waste off-island is no longer a viable option.

But in every crisis, there is opportunity. Governments everywhere are scrambling to rethink the problem of waste, and designing a new process that does not create or accumulate waste, but instead makes waste a resource. Because, let’s face it, we’re running out of places to put it, and we can’t burn it, due to all the toxic residues it creates.

In order to adapt this kind of process to Puerto Rico, we need a comprehensive Waste Management Master Plan that includes reduction, recycling, composting, water conservation, clean decentralized energy, and home water catchment components. This plan must fully fund scientific research and analysis, strategic design, comprehensive legislation, a stakeholder buy-in communications campaign, and promote professional management of waste reduction and follow-up maintenance, at scale.

For public health and wellbeing, for a value-added tourism experience, and for the many entrepreneurial opportunities this transition offers, Puerto Rico needs to create a circular economy designed to minimize un-recyclable waste and make landfills obsolete. Please, as members of Congress, a congress that oversees how much cash flow Puerto Rico’s economy works with, and therefore can spend on this much needed Master Plan, please do everything in your power to allow us to embrace this chance to become a cleaner, healthier, safer, more resilient, more self-sufficient, and ultimately, a more sustainable, island.
Thank you for your time.

You can reach me monica.perez@basuraceropr.org for further discussion of this topic. Or visit our website, www.basuraceropr.org.

Honorable Representante Grijalva, distinguidos miembros del Comité de Recursos Naturales del Congreso de los Estados Unidos, gracias por brindarme la oportunidad de hablar hoy ante ustedes sobre la situación de los desperdicios sólidos en Puerto Rico.

Mi nombre es Mónica Pérez Nevarez y soy la Directora Ejecutiva de Basura Cero Puerto Rico, una organización sin fines de lucro 501c3 dedicada a educar y asesorar – a personas, comunidades, empresas y gobiernos – a cómo reducir sus desperdicios, reciclar, compostar, y visualizar y diseñar un futuro en el que los desechos se conviertan en un recurso reutilizable, y no se necesiten los vertederos.

Tenemos 29 vertederos en operación, y de ellos, la EPA federal ha declarado su intención de cerrar 19, por no cumplir con sus regulaciones. Esto significa que es probable que algunos de esos vertederos que no cumplan con los requisitos estén lixiviando químicos tóxicos en el suelo, que luego puedan llegar a nuestros ríos y terminar en el océano, pero más peligroso aún, llegar a contaminar nuestros acuíferos. Acuíferos que utilizan decenas de miles de hogares rurales y agricultores para obtener su suministro de agua.

El desperdicio es un subproducto de la globalización, no es un algo que se elige. Importamos el 93% de lo que consumimos y creamos más de 3.8 millones de toneladas de basura al año, o 6.5 libras per cápita por día. El huracán María exacerbó la situación al crear 6.2 millones de yardas cúbicas de desperdicios, y ahora muchos vertederos están casi llenos, empeorando una situación ya crítica. Además le causó daños mayores a 300,000 viviendas, y destruyó 70,000 de ellas, las cuales tendrán que ser demolidas o reconstruidas, lo que generará residuos de construcción durante años. Y, por supuesto, la China ya no acepta muchos de los tipos de materiales que botamos, por lo que la "solución" de mandarlo fuera ya no está disponible.

Pero en cada crisis, hay oportunidad. Los gobiernos en todo el mundo están repensando el problema de los desperdicios sólidos y diseñando un nuevo proceso que no genere ni acumule residuos, sino que haga que los residuos se conviertan en un recurso. Porque, hay que decirlo, nos estamos quedando sin lugares para poner nuestra basura, y no podemos quemarla debido a todos los residuos tóxicos que genera la quema.

Para adaptar este tipo de proceso a Puerto Rico, necesitamos un Plan Maestro de Manejo de Desechos integral que incluya componentes de reducción, reciclaje, compostaje, conservación de agua, energía limpia descentralizada y captación de agua en el hogar. Este plan debe financiar completamente la investigación y el análisis científicos, el diseño estratégico, la legislación integral, una campaña de comunicación de participación de los interesados, y debe integrar nuevos bachilleratos y maestrías académicas, así como incentivar la consultoría profesional sobre proyectos de reducción de desechos y el mantenimiento y seguimiento de esos proyectos, a escala nacional.

Para la salud pública y el bienestar comunitario, para una experiencia de turismo de valor añadido, y para las muchas oportunidades empresariales que ofrece esta transición, Puerto Rico necesita crear una economía circular diseñada para minimizar los desperdicios no-reciclables y hacer obsoletos los vertederos. Por favor, como miembros del Congreso de los Estados Unidos, un congreso que define la cantidad de flujo de efectivo con el que trabaja la economía de Puerto Rico, y por ende, cuánto puede gastar en un Plan Maestro tan necesario, por favor, hagan todo lo posible para permitirnos aprovechar esta oportunidad para convertirnos en una isla más limpia, más sana, más resiliente, más autosuficiente y más sostenible.

Gracias por tu tiempo.
Pueden comunicarse conmigo por email a monica.perez@basuraceropr.org para obtener más información sobre este tema. O visite nuestro pagina web, www.basuraceropr.org.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Basura Cero Puerto Rico Blog 1/2019 (Versión en Español)

¡Bienvenido al primer boletín de Basura Cero Puerto Rico de 2019! Soy la nueva Directora Ejecutiva, y les estaré escribiendo cada mes para informarle sobre el manejo de desperdicios en nuestra isla. 

2019 se está vislumbrando como un año excepcional para el reciclaje en todo el mundo. Esto sigue los acontecimientos del año pasado, cuando por primera vez en la historia, el mundo vio miles de millones de dólares en inversiones en energía limpia. Este año, estamos viendo que las corporaciones multinacionales y los gobiernos están prohibiendo el uso de plásticos, haciendo la transición a envases biodegradables, y fortaleciendo sus planes de reciclaje a gran escala.

Y estos acontecimientos llegan justo a tiempo, porque 8 millones de toneladas métricas de plástico acaban en el océano cada año, y el Fondo Mundial para la Naturaleza (WWF por sus siglas en inglés) ha estimado que más de 100,000 ballenas, focas y tortugas marinas mueren cada año como resultado de comer o quedar atrapadas por bolsas de plástico que se encuentran flotando en los océanos, por no mencionar las innumerables aves marinas que mueren de hambre con barrigas llenas de plásticos. Si no detenemos esta tendencia, en el 2050 habrá más plástico en los océanos que peces.

254 corporaciones multinacionales se unieron para usar empaques biodegradables, y algunos íconos corporativos están usando una plataforma de cero basura llamada ‘Loop’, para mejor habituar al público en lo que es la Economía Circular.

En la región del Caribe, Jamaica, Barbados, Belice, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Dominica, Granada y Trinidad y Tobago han prohibido los plásticos de un solo uso y las copas de poliestireno. Barbados está prohibiendo todo uso de plástico, y Dominica está alimentando sus necesidades energéticas totalmente de energía geotérmica volcánica.

El Mercado Europeo ya ha prohibido los plásticos de un solo uso. Barcelona ha abierto la primera tienda libre de envases en su historia. Barrios enteros en Manila, Filipinas, se han convertido en “Barrios Basura Cero”. Chile ha prohibido el uso de bolsas de plástico en todos los sus negocios. A partir del 1 de enero de 2019, se han introducido prohibiciones al uso de bolsas plásticas en 54 países (con diferentes grados de cumplimiento), y otros 32 países están cobrando por usar bolsas reusables.
Hawái y California tienen prohibiciones de bolsas de plástico en todo el estado. 349 ciudades y municipios de los EE. UU. han prohibido las bolsas plásticas, incluyendo a Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle y BostonVancouver y Halifax, en Canadá, han declarado emergencias por el cambio climático y han promulgado prohibiciones de plásticos. Naciones como Kenia, el Reino Unido, Australia y la China han prohibido el uso de las bolsas plásticas en sus países. Aquí hay un mapa mundial de ciudades, regiones, naciones y estados que han prohibido los materiales plásticos.

En Puerto Rico, ya no se pueden usar bolsas plásticas de un solo uso en los supermercados y se cobra por usar bolsas reusables, pero seguimos tirando más de 3.8 millones de libras de basura al año, y la isla tiene un largo camino por recorrer antes de poder implementar un plan de reciclaje integral. De los 119 vertederos históricos en Puerto Rico, sólo 29 están operando hoy día, y de esos, 19 ya han sido identificados por la Agencia de Protección del Ambiente federal (EPA por sus siglas en inglés) para clausurarlos porque no cumplen con sus reglamentos. Como consecuencia de ese incumplimiento, esos vertederos sueltan químicos líquidos tóxicos al suelo, que acaban llegando a los acuíferos subterráneos de la isla y contaminando el agua potable de cientos de miles de personas. 81 de los 98 municipios cuentan con Coordinadores de Reciclaje. Empresarios precoces han creado operaciones de reciclaje de cartónpapelplásticoárboles caídoscompostaje de materiales orgánicosdesperdicios de alimentosproductos electrónicosvidrio y centros de reparación, y hay espacio para que crezcan muchos más negocios alrededor del tema de reciclaje, ya que actualmente solo reciclamos 10 % de nuestros residuos.

No hay duda de que nosotros los boricuas hacemos lo mejor que podemos bajo condiciones difíciles, y hay muchas personas comprometidas que ya están reciclando o quieren empezar a reciclar en la isla. Por lo tanto, este año mi misión personal es lanzar una campaña de firmas para pedir a nuestros líderes políticos que escriban y aprueben un proyecto de ley de reciclaje integral para la isla. 

Continuaré el trabajo de Basura Cero con nuestros patrocinadores del sector privado para ayudarles a minimizar, segregar y reciclar sus desechos. Continuaré con nuestras relaciones con entidades académicas y gubernamentales y trabajaré con ellos para educar a los estudiantes y empleados gubernamentales en maneras creativas de "consumir menos y disfrutar más". Y crearé un programa de Consultoría Basura Cero que estará disponible para las comunidades y las pequeñas empresas que necesiten nuestros servicios. Nuestro programa de reciclaje más importante será el de "Los Rayos X de la Basura de Puerto Rico”, de modo que podamos clasificar todos nuestros desechos y, con ese conocimiento, crear un plan de acción estratégico para alcanzar nuestra meta de 70% de reciclaje para 2025.

Para hacer todo esto necesitaré el apoyo y el compromiso de los muchos voluntarios desinteresados ​​que han trabajado tanto tiempo con nosotros para hacer de Puerto Rico un lugar más limpio, más saludable y más sostenible. Espero trabajar estrechamente con todos ustedes, y si aún no se ha inscrito para ayudar en algunos de nuestros muchos eventos este año, asegúrense de hacerlo aqui.

Los dejo con una buena noticia. Basura Cero Puerto Rico y los trabajadores municipales de San Juan ayudaron a "limpiar" las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián 2019 al segregar y reciclar 172,490 libras de basura, de un total de 372,530 libras de basura recogida. Reciclamos el 46% de los desperdicios de las fiestas. ¡Se puede lograr altísimos porcentajes de reciclaje! Es cuestión de una buena planificación, un compromiso firme, y voluntarios acometidos y alegres.

¡Les deseo lo mejor para el 2019, y espero verlos cada vez que quieran cambiar el mundo en que vivimos para el bien!

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Basura Cero Puerto Rico Newsletter 2019-1

Basura Cero Puerto Rico Blog 1/2019 (english version)

Welcome to my first Basura Cero Puerto Rico Newsletter! I’m the new Executive Director, and I’ll be writing you every month to let you know what’s going on in our island on everything (zero) waste. 

2019 is lining up to be a banner year for recycling world-wide. Last year, for the first time in history, the world saw billions of dollars in investments go to clean energy. This year, we are seeing multinational corporations and governments ban plastics, transition to biodegradable packaging, and strengthen their recycling plans, worldwide.

And not a minute too soon, because 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, and the World Wide Fund for Nature has estimated that over 100,000 whales, seals, and turtles die every year as a result of eating or being trapped by plastic bags found in the oceans, not to mention countless seabirds that die of starvation with bellies full of plastics. If we do not stop this trend, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish by weight.

Multinational corporations are joining forces to use biodegradable packaging, and some corporate icons are jumping onto a zero-waste platform called Loop to accustom customers to reusing containers and creating a circular economy.

In the Caribbean, Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Dominica, Granada, and Trinidad and Tobago have prohibited single-use plastics and polystyrene cups. Barbados is banning plastic altogether, and Dominica is fueling its energy needs entirely from volcanic geothermal energy.

The European Market has banned single-use plastics. Barcelona has opened the first packaging-free store in its history. Entire neighborhoods in Manila, the Philippines, have made themselves “Zero Waste”. Chile has banned the use of plastic bags in all businesses. As of  January 1, 2019, bans have been introduced in 54 countries with varying degrees of enforcement, and 32 other countries are imposing a charge per bag.

In the US, Hawaii and California have statewide plastic bag bans. 349 cities and counties in the US have banned plastic bags, including Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. Vancouver and Halifax, Canada, have declared climate change emergencies and enacted plastic bans. Nations like Kenya, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China have banned plastic bags in their countries. Here’s a worldwide   map of cities, regions, nations, and states that have banned plastic materials.

In Puerto Rico, single-use plastic bags have been banned from supermarkets, yet we throw away over 3.8 million pounds of trash a year, and the island has a long way to go before it can implement a comprehensive recycling plan. Of 119 historical landfills on the island, only 29 are currently operating, and of those, 19 will be closed by the EPA soon because they are not in compliance with regulations. As a consequence, those landfills are leaching toxic chemicals into our underground aquifers and contaminating the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people. 81 out of 98 municipios have Recycling Coordinators. Precocious entrepreneurs have created recycling operations for cardboard, paper, plastic, fallen trees, composting organic materials, food waste, electronics, glass, and repair centers, and there is room for many more recycling-related businesses, because we currently only recycle 10% of our wastes.

There’s no doubt Boricuas do the best we can under trying conditions, and there are many committed people that are already recycling or want to recycle on the island. So, I am making it my personal mission this year to launch a signature campaign to ask our political leaders to write and approve a comprehensive recycling plan for the island. 

I will continue Basura Cero’s work with our private sector sponsors in helping them minimize, segregate, and recycle their waste. I will continue our outreach to academic and government entities and work with them to educate students and government workers in creative ways of “consuming less and enjoying more.” And I will create a Basura Cero Consultancy program that will be available to communities and small businesses needing our services. Our flagship recycling program will be a “Waste X-Ray” for Puerto Rico, so we can classify our waste and create a strategic action plan to reach our goal of 70% recycling by 2025.

To do all this I will need the continued support and commitment from the many selfless volunteers that have worked so hard throughout the years to make Puerto Rico a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable place to live. I look forward to working closely with all of you, and if you haven’t yet signed up to help in one of our many events, make sure you do so now.

Let me leave you with one high note. Basura Cero Puerto Rico and the municipal workers of San Juan, helped ‘clean’ Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian 2019 by segregating and recycling 172,490 pounds of trash, out of a total 372,530 pounds of waste. We segregated 46% of all waste materials. High percentages of recycling can be achieved. It’s all a matter of a little planning, a steadfast commitment, and joyful people working on it.

I wish all of you the best for 2019 and hope to see you the next time you decide you want to change the world for the better.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Mr. Trump if you want a better deal on Cuba, just apply your own 11 negotiating tactics

 01/02/2017 06:27 pm ET
Mr. Trump, if as President you want to get a better deal on Cuba, I suggest you just apply your time proven 11 negotiating tactics to the analysis:
1.Get to know your market. With all due respect Sir, many of your Cuba advisors have never set foot on the island or left it a very (very!) long time ago. And for most of them, opposing relations with Cuba is a career. They are experts in scuttling other people’s business deals. And many of them have never sat across the table from a Cuban official and successfully negotiated a tough deal. What in the world do these people really know about making good deals down there?
2.Maximize your options. Why would you engage in a policy that limits your options to simply saying NO and locking up the relationship in a permanent limbo? If you say YES, you have years to work on all sorts of deals with them, not just in business, but also in all kinds of areas-immigration, human rights, drug enforcement, oil exploration. That is a lot of balls in the air you can play with. And on political deals, trust me, with the Cubans, honey works better than vinegar.
3.Use your leverage. There are a lot of business opportunities and really tough bilateral issues on the table for the very first time in decades. Use what you’ve got. And if you don’t like the outcomes, you’ve made it clear that you would walk away from the negotiating table. And the Cubans are terrific deal makers. But you’ve got to know how to play them. And let me tell you, intimidation doesn’t work. And this goes for business deals as well as for any policy negotiation. I think you would actually like them a lot.
4.Deliver the goods. You want to create jobs, increase exports and create business opportunities for Americans. You know terrific people all over the country who work in industries like tourism, travel, entertainment, agriculture and construction. If you apply your own negotiating tactics they can make great deals that will create jobs in America. If you roll back the existing policies they will lose credibility-and a heck of a lot of money. Millions! Many Cubans already don’t trust American business and the American government. This is going to get in the way of Americans getting the best deals in the future. What would we get out of this except grief in our own backyard?
5.Fight back -The real fight is with our competitors - the Europeans, the Canadians and the Chinese. Let’s fight to present the best proposals and get the pick of the litter. Don’t give up any gained territory. Go for more. So, play hard - but play.
6.Location, location, location. The U.S. is Cuba’s natural market. Only ninety miles away! In this game of Monopoly, America owns Boardwalk! You’ve got the other countries beat. And even if Cubans import and export stuff from them, why not route container traffic through southern ports? But we have to make it legal to do so.
7.Get the word out. OK, when Cuban-Americans were dancing in the streets of Miami celebrating Fidel’s death, it made sense for you to get the word out by sending a hardline pro-embargo message. Their grievances are real. But life goes on. Fidel’s brother Raul and his successors are going to be around for a long time no matter what we do and how many people dance on Fidel’s grave. If you stick to the normalization process, you will be able to get the word out hundreds of times. Who knows, maybe your kids could really expand the Trump brand down there.
8.Protect from the downside. Cubans are the only immigrants who can just set foot in the U.S and, presto, they get to stay. That’s not fair to all of the people who are patiently waiting their turn to get approval to immigrate. Your immigration reform will have to get rid of the Cuban Adjustment Act. But - if you cut off the escape valve at the same time that you put the screws on Cuba’s economy, the whole place could just blow up. The result would be thousands of (by then illegal) Cuban boat people on U.S waters just like the Syrian refugees in Europe. Some regime-change advocates may think this is a dream come true, but it would be messy and hugely expensive in money, lives and votes.
A rafters mess would also make the human rights and repression situation in Cuba worse. Why? Because for the Cuban government this would be a ‘law and order’ problem.
When you build the wall, the border with Mexico will get harder to cross. Smugglers will then have to bring drugs into the U.S. via Gulf waters. The Cuban Coast Guard already works really well with the American Coast Guard to prevent this sort of thing. We can’t risk not getting their cooperation on drugs and, and for that matter, on oil spills.
9.Contain the costs. Once you take office, you will have hundreds of major issues to worry about. Why complicate matters by getting into a side fight with a tiny little country that is neither a military nor an economic threat?
10.Think Big. Granted, Obama opened the door. But you can be the President who really makes ‘The Big Time Deals with the Cubans!‘ Not just in business. If the Cubans can take more control over their own economic future, they can also start taking more control over their political lives. If you talk to the average Cuban on the street and even to most of the dissidents, they will tell you, loud and clear, that normalization has given them hope and a possibility for a better life. And there are hundreds of small business flourishing all over the place. Give them a chance to succeed.
11.And, you could have fun too.
OK - Why am I telling you all this?... Who am I?
I am a Cuban-American exile who can claim as much family hardship from the Castro brother’s regime as any other exile can. I came to this country, went to school on scholarships, worked hard and even became part of “the elite”. And yes, I am a Democrat. And yes, I was with ‘her’. By the way - I already moved to Canada (30 years ago and for personal reasons). But because I have been able to travel to Cuba as a business professor for over two decades, I have seen with my own eyes what works and what doesn’t work.
Mr. Trump, you didn’t win Florida or the blue-collar vote or the American heartland or the business vote by promising that you would be tough on Castro. That is not their fight. They want jobs, opportunities...a better future.
Only you, through your executive power, can decide which way this will all go. Stick to the opening and Americans will reap huge rewards. Go back to a useless fight and it will cost both sides a lot, for nothing.
Thank you for your time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This is what I've been waiting for. Business to embrace environmental and social limits on a big scale BECAUSE IT'S THE SMART THING TO DO.
We must change our business practices and mindset. Business is not just the blood of "Economic Man," it is also a reflection of ourselves and our values. It is in our power to change things. Fortunately, the world is conspiring to bring humanity into sinc with some obvious realities: economic realities, social realities, ethical realities, political realities. We have to stop doing things "on automatic" because it was "the way things had always been done." We have all the information we need to stop making ecocidal mistakes.
We need to step up and become a mature society, one that collectively recognizes challenges before we are hit over the head with them. And THIS, this is what I do: I help businesses transition into a sustainable mindset and process, one that subsumes economic growth to environmental limits and yet succeeds; and finds a way to make a client's work socially needed, respected, and honored.
That's right. I help the most entrenched, most unconvinced, most adamantly opposed see a path forward, a path away from irrelevance - or worse - toxicity.
And to all those who use the word sustainability to prioritize economic sustainability over everything else, shame on you. That is NOT what sustainability is about. GET WITH THE PROGRAM.
Monica Perez Nevarez

Why Microsoft gave sustainability a promotion

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Sustainability has been kicked upstairs at Microsoft Corp., a promotion in terms of where it sits, to whom it reports, what it does and how it is viewed across the organization. And therein lies a hopeful tale for the entire sustainability profession.
The basics are this: Late last year, Rob Bernard, the company’s chief sustainability strategist, began reporting, via corporate VP Dan'l Lewin, to the company’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, who in turn reports to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Previously, Bernard reported to the company’s public-sector division, a couple rungs lower on the organizational ladder.
But where Bernard reports isn’t as important as the growing visibility of sustainability at Microsoft, and its growing integration into the company. It’s a prime example of a trend we’re seeing at other leadership companies.

Microsoft Chief Sustainability Strategist Rob Bernard.
When Nadella named Smith as Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer in September, he noted in a company memo that he’d tasked Smith with leading the company’s efforts “to accelerate initiatives that are important to our mission and reputation such as privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion.”
For Bernard, who’d been leading the company’s environmental sustainability efforts since 2007, it was a pivotal moment. Suddenly, sustainability was part of the central organization, seen on a par with issues such as privacy and security — topics core to any technology company’s future. It was a time for Bernard and his team to take stock and step up their game.
"It’s an acceleration, amplification and prioritization of sustainability within the company," said Bernard. "It’s now a cross-company initiative that has a center of gravity in the president’s office."

"We're taking a look at where we've been over the last six years on sustainability," Bernard told me recently. "And, more importantly, where we want to go." He quickly realized that with his newfound support his team needed to staff up in a few key areas. That’s led to a small hiring binge to build out the sustainability team, including last month luring Jim Hanna, director of environmental affairs at Starbucks since 2005, to become Microsoft’s director of data center sustainability. Several other hires are in the offing.

Three core areas

Bernard said that as a result of the changes and hires, "we’re accelerating our focus and commitment across three core areas of sustainability.”
1. Operations. This has been Bernard’s bread and butter for the past several years — a wide range of initiatives familiar to most sustainability executives, focusing on facilities, employee engagement, external relationships and other issues.
It also includes things that only recently have been on the agenda of some of his peers, such as the internal carbon tax Microsoft launched in 2012, when the company decided to adopt a carbon neutral strategy for its global data centers, offices, software development lab and company air travel. Microsoft was ahead of most of its peers on that, although others are following its lead.
CDP reported late last year that more than 1,000 companies disclosed in their 2015 reports to CDP that they either have implemented a price on carbon for internal decision making or they plan to do so in the next two years.
There's still more to do in addressing climate change, said Bernard. For example, "How do we source energy? We've done two big wind deals to date. I think you'll see the company continue to focus on these areas." That’s where Hanna likely will play a key role.
And others: "We're bringing in more energy people on our data center team who have direct impact and experience with either sourcing and managing energy deals or new energy creation," said Bernard.

"We're now thinking about carbon in a more proactive way," he added. "We've done carbon offsets and projects in over 30 countries around the world. But have we really, really provided value to our customers and society in those 30-plus markets? How do we think about embedding those things much more at the local level than maybe we've even done before?"
Beyond that, Bernard said, is new thinking within the company about how it sites facilities. "We're putting fairly large buildings on big pieces of property. Are we being as thoughtful as we possibly could be around the impact of where we're located?" He said part of the company’s next sustainability push — and its new hires — will be to broaden the company’s focus on such operational issues.
2. Customer solutions. Microsoft is eyeing opportunities to expand and accelerate the impact its technology can have on its customers. First and foremost are the technologies the company has used at its Redmond, Washington, campus to monitor and optimize buildings’ energy use and operations.
The short story, as we reported back in 2011: Microsoft, in partnership with Accenture and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, deployed smart building management systems on 2.6 million square feet of its corporate campus, which totals 125 buildings, 500 acres and 15 million square feet. Through energy management, alarm management and fault detection and diagnosis, the company saved more than $1 million a year in energy costs, with a payback time of less than 18 months. Microsoft later rolled it out to its entire Redmond campus.

Microsoft Corp.
Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus.
Up to that point, Microsoft had used disparate building management systems to manage 30,000 unconnected, sensor-enabled pieces of equipment. As Microsoft writer Jennifer Warnick described in 2013: "Imagine a symphony orchestra, but with every musician playing from different sheet music. Then, imagine trying to conduct that symphony — to make sure the music was on tempo, in key and starting and stopping as it should." It wasn't very harmonious, but today the instruments are in sync.This more than just an exercise in facility efficiency. It was also an effort to demonstrate the potential of Microsoft products in real-world applications. The team developed the smart buildings software with the help of vendors using off-the-shelf Microsoft software such as Windows Azure, SQL Server and Microsoft Office.
The company’s principal partner in this effort, Iconics, went on to develop a line of business, eventually becoming a core part of Microsoft CityNext, a suite of services the company offers to help cities operate more efficiently. Microsoft, through that partnership, is rolling that out building efficiency services to public- and private-sector companies, both large and small, worldwide.
Said Bernard: "If we're effective and thoughtful and we experiment on ourselves and get it right, there's an opportunity work with our customers to grow revenue."
And grow impact, too: "It's great we've integrated 125 buildings and 15 million square and 6 building management systems. It's really interesting when you're talking about a billion square feet or 2 billion square feet. That's the impact that we need to have."
3. Energy and carbon policy: Microsoft is poised to have a more public presence on policy issues related to sustainability, said Bernard. This is long overdue — not just for Microsoft, but for the world’s biggest companies in general, which have largely stayed behind the scenes when it comes to advocating for progressive carbon and energy policy, especially in the United States.
"Our intention is to be more vocal on energy and carbon issues," said Bernard. "We're looking for people with deep policy expertise on environmental issues on carbon and energy and certainly beyond that."
To that end, the company is searching for a government affairs director, based in Washington, D.C., "to develop sustainability-based policy positions and to help drive communication of these policy positions," according to the job description. It includes working to "assure our positions align with Microsoft’s and our customers’ business and sustainability goals."

C-suite attention

Clearly, not all  these initiatives are new (and some are quite old). But they are receiving increased attention from the C-suite, along with increased resources, as evidenced by sustainability's growing headcount and more strategic placement. Increasingly, they are being seen as core to the company’s strategy — and, presumably, to customers.
Of course, resources don’t always equate to impact. (If you want proof, take a look at the many sustainability execs who work small miracles with tiny teams and frayed-shoestring budgets.) Still, Microsoft's move is a clear acknowledgment of C-suite buy-in, and a signal both internally and externally about the company’s intentions.

And it’s part of a trend we’re seeing elsewhere: other tech companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon (the last of which has been ramping up its sustainability team to 40 or more people); consumer brands, such as McDonald’s (where Francesca DeBiase serves double-duty as chief supply chain and sustainability officer, and where CEO Steve Easterbrook seems attuned to sustainability issues); and Steelcase (where CEO Jim Keane seems to grasp the potential of sustainability overall, and the circular economy in particular, to create new revenue streams for the company). It's an encouraging sign that sustainability is firmly embedded within companies, and is seen as a platform for value creation.
Back at Microsoft, Bernard understands the potential before him, as well as the opportunity to engage a wider swath of the company — both to serve the company’s internal sustainability goals and to engage customers in both the public and private sectors.                              
"I’m super excited about the opportunities because I really think we're just starting to scratch the surface of the transformative capabilities of data and technology to reduce resource use at a massive scale," he said. "I think it's all part of changing consciousness and behaviors at a rapid pace at a large scale."


Monday, March 23, 2015

Mini-Guide for Doing Business in Cuba:

Helpful Hints for U.S. Investors, Social Entrepreneurs, and Organizations

Prepared by members of the
Socially Responsible Enterprise and Local Development in Cuba Project*

March 23, 2015

          Since the December 17, 2014 joint announcement by Cuba and the U.S.A. that the two nations were re-establishing diplomatic relations, there has been heightened interest from all business sectors over the prospects of developing business relations with the island nation. Business opportunities between Americans and Cubans will most certainly be plentiful, especially in the long-term. However, the media frenzy has overlooked the inconvenient truth that working in Cuba is still extremely difficult for foreigners, and will remain so for a long time to come, especially for Americans. In an attempt to shorten their learning curve and make their experience on the island more rewarding and fruitful, we have developed this Mini-Guide to Doing Business in Cuba. This guide provides newcomers wishing to establish business links in Cuba – whether for profit, not for profit, hybrids, or as social entrepreneurs - with realistic, practical and up-to-date information.

         This Mini-Guide has been prepared by the members of the Socially Responsible Enterprise and Local Development in Cuba project, an international collaboration of experts on Cuban enterprises and development. Though it is probable that the majority of U.S.-Cuba entrepreneurial activity will be for-profit, Cuba’s national commitment to the social and environmental well-being of its citizens will, nevertheless, require that all business activity be undertaken with sensitivity and accountability over its social and environmental impact. Above all, it is important to remember that engagement with Cuba should be done in a mutually respectful fashion that helps Cubans preserve and enhance the achievements of their Revolution, while minimizing risk and safeguarding the goodwill and limited capital of inspired American entrepreneurs.


          Cuba and the U.S. are currently discussing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. But the complete normalization of relations may take years to achieve and, in a number of fundamental business-related areas, may require congressional approval in the U.S. Moreover, the U.S. government has not yet approved general tourist travel to Cuba. This means that the financial and commercial embargos, as well as portions of the ban on travel by U.S. citizens, with all of their negative consequences, are still very much in place. Fortunately, there have been two Congressional Delegations to Cuba recently (January and February 2015), signaling a broad support for, and interest in, normalizing business relations and opening a path towards the entry of American business interests into the island.

          While the U.S. has made some progressive adjustments to a number of pre- December 17 regulations, including increasing approved travel categories and support for humanitarian efforts, a clear interpretation of what these changes actually mean in practice is not yet fully defined. The changes are being rolled out over time. Therefore, it is important to continually analyze the regulatory framework for approved commercial transactions and for travel before embarking on any potential business opportunity.


          While it is true that the Cuban government is in the process of implementing important economic reforms that will create new business opportunities, those seeking to profit from them must realize that Cuba is fully committed to remaining a socialist state and it is not broadening its business opportunities as a precursor to embracing capitalism. The overall aim of reform is achieving a 
“prosperous and sustainable socialism”, not adopting free-wheeling capitalism. Business people that want to do business in Cuba must respect the tenets of socialism, be able to conduct business within

the parameters of the state’s political ideology, and adapt to the quantity of state control over business transactions that exist in Cuba today. Those things are not likely change any time soon.

         Mutual mistrust must also be overcome. In the U.S.A. there are powerful pockets of support for sanction against Cuba, and in Cuba, some remain highly suspicious and mistrustful of American motives. For example, some Cubans on the island interpret President Obama’s recent changes to U.S.-Cuba regulations as an extension of the U.S.’s historical covert operations seeking ‘regime change’. Both sides have good reason given decades of spy vs. spy shenanigans and business people can expect a certain amount of wariness when they first explore potential business opportunities.

          All business deals between Cubans and foreigners, as well as any formal business deals between Cubans themselves, are made with the explicit knowledge and approval of the Cuban government. Moreover, normal business inputs such as local capital, updated plant and equipment and broad access to fast speed internet are not be readily available for foreign projects. However, Cuba’s highly qualified human resources, more often than not approved and facilitated by the state, are plentiful and eager to work. Be prepared to invest more than the normal time you usually schedule for permits because of the extended time necessary to receive appropriate bureaucratic approvals and access to necessary infrastructure and supplies.

          The Cuban government is not interested in attracting foreign business for the sake of making money. On the island, there is neither a consumer sovereignty traditions, nor an affluent consumer society with buying power. Enterprises must have clear positive impacts on the population, the environment, and on the economy, as defined by state entities, not private enterprises. Corruption, though present, is seriously frowned upon and punished with severe jail terms for local and international partners alike.

          The Cuban government is looking for large investments, not small efforts. Projects valued at under several million dollars will have a very difficult time getting reviewed. Keep in mind that the government bureaucracy that approves projects is very small and highly centralized. You will need local assistance just to get to the doorstep of the right government official. Even then, entry into his/her office may never happen due to understaffing. Also, it is also extremely difficult for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) to establish a physical presence in Cuba, even after investing large sums of resources in building relationships with local Cubans.

          Entrepreneurs are generally self-confident “go get ‘em” types. However, when scouting out entrepreneurial opportunities in Cuba, entrepreneurs will come to understand the depths of a popular and ubiquitous Cuban expression – “No es facil / it’s not easy.” For their own health: financial, physical and mental, American entrepreneurs in Cuba should check their egos, and their preconceptions, at the airport gate, and be prepared to learn a whole new way of doing things “a la Cubana,” the Cuban way.


  • Do your homework before you plan your visit. Given the U.S.’s fifty-five year embargo, many myths and falsehoods exist about Cuba. There is a lot of reading you need to do, starting with a careful scrutiny of the current U.S. government regulations for U.S. citizens and residents travelling to Cuba as well as any pending legal claim by U.S. citizens (including Cuban-Americans) on the property or sector you wish to enter.
  • Americans have not been able to do business on the island for over five decades, but the Canadians, Europeans, Latin Americans, Israelis and Chinese, among others, have. Learn from their experiences and be aware that they will fight tooth and nail to protect their business interests. Moreover, Cuban officials already know them, and more often than not, trust them. American newcomers are not going into ‘virgin territory’; there will be tough competition when they come.
  • There are many informative publications about current economic conditions and policies being implemented in Cuba, on U.S. regulations, and on legal claims. There is also literature on the business interests of foreign partners on the island. And of course you will never go wrong by brushing up on Cuban history in your effort to understand this truly singular society. A suggested bibliography is listed at the end of this guide.
  • Make sure your business concept truly meets local social and economic needs as defined by the priorities of the Cuban government.
  • Don’t assume the Cubans will be interested in your project, no matter how obviously good and relevant it seems to you. They operate under many constraints that are difficult for Americans to understand. It is crucial to listen carefully to what the Cubans actually want, and not impose what you think they should want.
  • To start a project, it is imperative to first establish a relationship with a Cuban counterpart organization vetted by the government to work with foreigners. Don’t show up in Cuba without previous research and pre-established contacts with individuals and/or institutions.
  • How to find a counterpart? Go to Cuba to visit, learn, and explore. Seek out and participate in a Cuban conference in your area or sector of interest. Such travel should be much easier under the adjusted U.S. travel regulations. In this way you can make initial contacts and check out the local state of knowledge of your intended business in a manner that is cost effective. Often, there is more transparency in a conference setting, especially when sponsored by a university or an academic association.
  • After the initial exploratory visit on a tourist visa, and in order to establish a formal business relationship, you will need to travel to Cuba again under a business visa. Make sure you get the appropriate visa. In many cases government officials will not talk to you if you only have a tourist visa.

·       Don’t think you will somehow figure out how to get around the rules of the game set forth by the Cuban government. You may do so temporarily, but never for long.

  • Don’t, under any circumstance, accept funding from USAID or any of its contractors. In Cuba such support is tantamount to announcing you are working for regime change. Your venture will end right there.
  • By all means enjoy the beauty, history, and uniqueness of the place. Get to know the warm, humorous, proud and well-educated Cuban people. Take the time to smell the gardenias in what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime experience at an unprecedented time in history. Increase your tolerance for contradictions and don’t forget to have fun.

*  Socially Responsible Enterprise and Local Development in Cuba Project (SRELDC) - Launched in 2008 with support from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, SRELDC’s principal objective is to understand and assist Cuban efforts to preserve the social achievements of the Revolution while creating a prosperous and sustainable economy. Over time, with crucial support from the Avina Foundation, the initiative has expanded into an international Consortium of participants. This group is comprised primarily of organizations and individuals from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico and Spain. During the same period, the Consortium has developed strong relations with a variety of institutions in Cuba including universities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Without such partnerships, successful programs would not be feasible. In the U.S., SRELDC operates in affiliation with the Green Cities Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization focused on international development issues. No funding has been accepted, nor will be sought, from the U.S. government or its subcontractors.

For more information, contact Eric Leenson at  eleenson@soleconomics.com



U.S. Treasury Department: 


                     Cuba FAQ:  http://www.treasury.gov/resource-

                      Embargo FAQ:  http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Documents/tab4.pdf as of 3/11/2015

                       Travel Restrictions:  http://www.treasury.gov/resource-

U.S. Commerce Department:

SOL Economics:  http://soleconomics.com/cuba/  as of 3/11/2015

The Cuban Economy:  http://thecubaneconomy.com/ as of 3/11/2015

Cuba News:  http://www.cubanews.com/ as of 3/11/2015

Cuban News Agency:  http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/ as of 3/11/2015

Cubadebate:  http://www.cubadebate.cu/ as of 3/11/2015


Center for the Study of Democracy in the Americas  http://www.democracyinamericas.org/about- cda/subscribe-to-the-cuba-central-news-blast/ as of 3/11/2015


Betancourt, Rafael and Pérez Villanueva, Omar Everleny. “Analysis of the Portfolio of Opportunities for Foreign investment in Cuba”, Cuba Study Group, and fromtheisland.org:  http://www.cubastudygroup.org/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=dcd5881c-b5ed-4bd6-954b- 694f392e8bd4 as of 3/11/2015

Feinberg, Richard– Series on Cuban Economy  http://www.brookings.edu/search?start=1&q=Richard+Feinberg as of 3/11/2015

Sagebien, Julia & Spadoni, Paolo “Dealing with the New Cuba”, Ivey Business Journal, Jan.- Feb. 2015 http://iveybusinessjournal.com/dealing-with-the-new-cuba/ as of 3/11/2015
Sagebien, Julia & Leenson, Eric. “Cuban Remix”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2015  http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/cuban_remix as of 3/11/2015

Spadoni, Paolo. “Cuba’s Socialist Economy Today: Navigating Challenges and Change” (2014) Lynne Rienner Publishers

Ritter, Archibald R.M. and Henken, Ted A. “Entrepreneurial Cuba: The Changing Policy Landscape” (2014) First Forum Press, a division of Lynne Rienner Publishers