Last month the documentary CenaRIO Sustentabilidade em Ação which translate to ScenaRIO Sustainability in Action, premiered in Rio.  The film was made by 30 students, shooting the footage on smartphones.  It was made and released as part of the Rio+20 World Centre for Sustainable Development of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the National Insurance School (ENS) initiatives.

The film showcases 16 Brazilians sustainable micro-businesses.  The students spent a semester promoting the UN’s Agenda 2030 sustainability goals showcasing the businesses and initiatives which embody them.

Travelling between Rio and the Baixada Fluminense region, the students discovered sustainability aware initiatives from architecture to gardening to fashion.  Here are a few examples:

Arte Fibonacci in Vidigal, is a father son micro-business making belts, bags, and toys from recyclable material.   Julio Cesar, 56, and Ricardo Alves, 31, work in a small workshop at Julio’s house.  The pair has managed to create an income for themselves, and their recycling process stops waste from just being discarded and polluting the land.

Parque Sitiê, is a reclamation project of considerable success.  Prior to becoming a community driven beautiful garden, the site was a rubbish dump.  Rubbish dumps are common in the country due to the lack of state infrastructure.  Driven by the local community, and guided by a diverse range or experts, the project has transformed the former rubbish dump into a sustainable garden.  It should be noted here that the project relies on the local community for longevity.  They tend the garden and look after it.

The projects have several common themes which have brought hope to all participants.  Given that Brazil has extreme poverty visible in both rural and urban areas, hope is not an easy thing to have if you have little coin in your pocket.  Yet, amazing things emerge in a country where there is little or nothing for the impoverished.

The Iporinchê Salão de Belezas Negras inTijuca helps to build confidence and self-esteem among black Brazilians.  While recycling wood, drink cans, plastic bags and bottles is giving people an income as they turn the discarded into jewellery and clothing.  Spaces, like the Parque Sitiê are being created up and down the country.  All of this is built on a sustainable ethos, generating new friendships and new opportunities.

So what does the Film CenaRIO Sustentabilidade em Ação Show us?

Above all it shows us that sustainability and recycling, the zero waste economy, is largely about will than anything else.  If you have the mindset, and perhaps can instil the right mindset in others you can make a difference in the climate change battle. 

Large corporate companies point to targets and reports, yet few seem to make a real difference to their emissions and the damage they cause the planet.  They speak of generating opportunities yet when you look at a country like Brazil; you have to wonder who these opportunities are for.

Yet, take a handful of people in one of the world’s poorest countries and you suddenly see what can be achieved.  Creating opportunities, building friendships, developing spaces, generating income, and forging a business, with little to work with than what others have thrown away.  The beauty is that this seems to be happening throughout Brazil.  Just think what we could accomplish if initiatives like this were adopted in a large corporate company’s supply chain.

As with all things, the whole is a sum of its parts.  There can be no doubt that sustainability and climate change relies increasingly on everyone ensuring they recycle properly, that that goods and services are ethically sourced.

 When you look at what is happening in Brazil, at the poverty, you can’t help but feel despair.  Then you discover what the people are doing, and you can’t help but to feel hope.


National Insurance School (ENS)
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Rio+20 World Center for Sustainable Development