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International Education Week: Chile Ecochallenge

November 15-19, 2021

162 participants across 22 teams joined us in celebrating Chile during International Education Week! Inspired by cultural practices and traditions unique to Chile, particpants selected individual actions to promote water conservation, waste reduction, energy management, sustainable dining, and climate change advocacy. Participants also learned about sustainable development in Chile through daily emails for each category. 

Together, we had a big impact!

- 1,182 gallons of water saved
- 11,113 minutes spent learning
- 312 meatless or vegan meals consumed
- 15 public officials contacted

The annual Ecochallenge is a great opportunity for learning, engagement, and partnership. The Office for Sustainability is very grateful for the participation of so many people across campus and for the chance to collaborate with the Office of International Education.

Challenge Winners

1st Place: Kevin Creamer
Information Services
Prize: Luci Solar Lantern and Mobile Charger

2nd Place: Liza Carpenter
Arts & Sciences, Dean's Office
Prize: Moai Planter and Paperweight Statues

3rd Place: Susan Wolski 
Arts & Sciences, Dean's Office
Prize: "The Chilean Kitchen" Cookbook

Overall Winning Team: Information Services
Prize: Assortment of Chilean Candies

Almost First Place: Office of International Education
Prize: Assortment of Chilean Candies

Per Capita Winning Team: Living-Learning & Roadmap Programs
Prize: Chilean Merkén Seasoning Spice Jar 

Monday: Reuse, Reduce, & Repurpose

"It's time to change our mindset toward implementing solutions. A vibrant, fair, and regenerative future is possible–not when thousands of people do climate justice activism perfectly, but when millions of people do the best they can." –Xiye Bastida

Waste Policy in Chile 

Although Chile is among one of the biggest trash producing countries in Latin America, the country has implemented ambitious initiatives to address the issue. In May 2018, Chile became the first South American country to publish a law that would eventually prohibit single-use plastic bags given out by businesses throughout the country. The law, enacted by President Sebastián Piñera, was created to combat the “throwaway culture” that characterizes many industrial societies. "There are 7.6 billion inhabitants in the world. We can't continue polluting as if each one of us owned the Earth,” the President said. In May 2021, Chile built on their progress by unanimously passing a plastic regulation law that will reduce the country’s waste by 23,000 tons a year! This law targets items ranging from plastic cutlery to plastic lids and stirrers.

TriCiclos is Creating Behavior Change in Chile

Although we dispose of cans and bottles into recycling bins every day, many people don’t consider changing their habits to reduce waste in the first place. One company in Chile is focusing on just that. TriCiclos aims to reinvent Chile’s waste management industry by implementing a hands-on approach for adopting the circular economy model. They work with local retail businesses and schools across Chile to install brightly colored “clean-up units” made from repurposed shipping containers. These stations separate waste streams so that items can be easily recycled. Alongside of this initiative, TriCiclos travels to schools to host community clean-ups and offer educational sessions about recycling. Through these programs, they hope to change consumer behavior to promote reduce and reuse practices. 

Closing the Loop in Richmond

The University of Richmond is committed to diverting 75% of our waste from the landfills by 2025. How will the University of Richmond reach such an ambitious goal? It starts with you! 

Check out the University’s Rethink Waste page to learn about the University’s strategy for reducing waste, and to learn more about how you can properly compost and recycle. If you are interested in getting involved in the greater Richmond area, check out the organizations below.

Keep Virginia Cozy - Keep Virginia Cozy is committed to helping preserve the beauty in Virginia’s beautiful outdoor spaces. They host organized litter clean ups and have removed thousands of pounds of trash from local landscapes. 

Terra Firma Compost Company - This organization collects compost from local residents, and rewards them for composting by allowing customers to redeem “credits” in exchange for fresh produce grown at their farm.

HandsOn Greater Richmond - Similar to Keep Virginia Cozy, HandsOn Greater Richmond hosts trash pick ups all throughout Richmond to preserve the health and beauty of outdoor spaces. 

Sources for Today's Email & Further Reading

Chile's trashpickers say recycling latest casualty of coronavirus
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Chile bans plastic bags for businesses
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In Historic Move, Chile Unanimously Approves Ambitious Single-Use Plastics Law
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Catch Chile’s waste reduction bus – how behaviour change, new infrastructure and different business models are cutting waste
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Gonzalo Muñoz: Disrupting trash
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Chile’s Waste Bus Changes Throw-Away Societies
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Chile: Chile Restricts Single-Use Plastic
Read the full article

Vegetable Waste to Zero Waste in La Pintana, Chile
Read the full article

Tuesday: Water is Life

“It’s a constant question for me every time I’m entranced by the beauty of this world: What does it mean to love this place? What does it mean to love anyone or anything in a world whose vanishing is accelerating, perhaps beyond our capacity to save the things that we love most?”  –Emily N. Johnston

Water Rights & Private Property 

Who gets a claim to water resources? Does water “belong” to anyone? These questions are hotly debated in Chile, where water is legally treated as a commodity. This means that water rights can be freely bought and sold like other commodities. When natural resources are treated as private property, this can cause issues of inequality because those with the most money are the ones who are able to afford clean water. In addition, private ownership of water can take away the incentive for owners to keep water clean and safe for the public and the environment. Many Chileans are hoping for this issue to be addressed with the rewriting of their constitution, which is currently being written by an assembly of 155 citizens.

Ocean Conservation

Chile has taken sweeping actions to protect its surrounding oceans over the last several years. In 2018, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet signed into law protections for nearly 450,000 square miles of water–that’s the same size as Texas, California, and West Virginia combined! This new protected area is one of the few marine protected areas in the world where indigenous people had a vote in establishing boundaries of the conservation zone. The Rapa Nui people of Easter Island, a group with deep connection to the ocean, were initially worried that these conservation measures would take the waters out of their hands. However in September 2017, the Rapa Nui voted in support of the park which will prevent industrial fishing, but allow for the traditional fishing methods of the Rapa Nui people. 

Water Management in Richmond

If you aren't already familiar with the Eco-Corridor, we highly suggest you give it a visit. The Eco-Corridor is a stream restoration project that the University of Richmond took on around 2 years ago. Our own Little Westham Creek has the power to affect an entire watershed! Check out the Be a Green Spider water page for tips on how you can conserve water while on campus!

If you want to get involved around the city, take a look at the resources below.

James River Association - The James River Association (JRA) helps to keep the James River thriving and healthy. The James River is the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, therefore, how we care for our local River can have an effect on an entire watershed.

Friends of the James River Park - FOTJRP works to preserve the health of the River and the surrounding land environments and habitats, by educating others, raising money, and advocating for the preservation of the park.

Chesapeake Climate Action Network - This organization organizes campaigns in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and advocates for the preservation of the entire Chesapeake watershed.

The Virginia Conservation Network - The Virginia Conservation Network is a partner of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. This organization partners with a large number of other environmental organizations to form a large and unified voice to advocate for Chesapeake watershed conservation.

Sources for Today's Email & Further Reading

Chile's water crisis
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Chile Announces Protections for Massive Swath of Ocean With Three New Marine Parks
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Chile Creates Largest Marine Reserve in the Americas
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Chilean Patagonia: an open-air lab to study climate change
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Chile's Ongoing Water Crisis: Threats and Needed Actions
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Parched and privatised: Chile faces serious water shortages due to the climate crisis
Read the full article

Wednesday: Feeding Us & the Future

“When it comes to climate solutions, diversity of perspectives and approaches should be foundational; we need it to foster ingenuity and resilience. Without diversity, innovation is stale, and we end up with “change” that looks like the status quo.” –Jane Zelikova

Salmon Farming in Chile 

Chile is among the top 10 agricultural exporters in the world. Chile exports products ranging from wine to fruit, but one of the largest sectors of the agricultural economy is the fishing industry. Chile is the world’s second-largest producer of farmed salmon behind Norway, and largest exporter of salmon to the United States. However, 50% of Chile’s farmed salmon is rated “Avoid” by Seafood Watch, a program that helps to identify sustainably sourced seafood. According to Seafood Watch, the Chilean salmon farming industry is struggling to control bacterial disease and sea lice parasites, resulting in frequent antibiotic treatments. To mitigate this issue, the Chilean Salmon Antibiotic Reduction Program was created to reduce antibiotic use by 50% by 2025. The CSARP program sets guidelines for reducing antibiotic use at the site, neighborhood, and industry level to “reduce consumption and ecological impact of antibiotic use in the Chile salmon industry” and involves 95% of salmon farming companies in Chile. According to the 2020 CSARP report, antibiotic usage declined about 30% between 2017 and 2019. 

Agricultural Practices of the Mapuche 

Industrial farming practices promoted during the Green Revolution in Chile were aimed at increasing output through agrochemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. While these practices are aimed at protecting crops, they often have adverse effects on the environment. Global warming has increased awareness about the need for the adoption of more adaptive and sustainable agriculture practices to ensure that crops can thrive even among a changing climate. The Mapuche indigenous people of Chile have long practiced sustainable agriculture, and in 2019, the Miguel Yevilao community became the first Mapuche group to have its farmland certified organic. “What we do is based on our history, what past generations have always done. We are only rescuing ancient practices,” said Segundo Yevilao, leader of the community. Some of the practices used by this group include crop rotations, using large plantations as wind protection for smaller plantations, and using marine algae for fertilization. Héctor Manosalva, an anthropologist who came to the community through a state program to support the incorporation of agroecology, believes that we have much to learn from their practices. “It is not about idealizing or saying that indigenous peoples in Chile have better knowledge. But many of them have developed ways of relating to the environment that can be very sustainable and can provide effective responses to tackling climate change,” says Manosalva.

Sustainable Dining in Richmond

How can you eat sustainably at campus dining locations? UR Dining is passionate about sustainability and a huge proponent of changes being made to improve the University's sustainability. For more information check out our food fact sheet and UR Dining’s sustainability page.

Food access greatly affects the Richmond area. According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, based on information from the USDA, 60,545 Richmond residents lived in a food desert in 2015. If you are interested in getting involved in improving food access in Richmond, check out the resources below.

Shalom Farms - Shalom Farms is working to help improve healthy food access in Richmond by growing their own produce and distributing it to people in the Richmond area who would not have access to fresh produce otherwise.

GrowRVA - GrowRVA hosts farmers markets that allow local farmers an opportunity to sell their produce without going through a third party, and allows citizens to purchase sustainable and locally grown produce from small businesses.

Feed More - Feed More is working to lessen the impact of hunger by collecting, preparing, and distributing food to those struggling with hunger through its programs and agency network.

Sources for Today's Email & Further Reading

Agricultural Sector in Chile
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Farmed salmon in Chile
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The Chilean Salmon Antibiotic Reduction Program
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Gotta halve it: Inside the Chilean salmon industry’s efforts to slash antibiotic usage
Read the full article

How Mapuche communities in Chile work toward sustainable agriculture
Read the full article

An Indigenous Community Reclaims Land in Chile for Organic Agriculture
Read the full article

Thursday: Powering the Future

“Put simply: We cannot make enough headway on the climate problem by working at the individual level. We need to organize our efforts. And that is one essential function of a modern, healthy democracy: cooperation and coordination.” –Leah Cardamore Stokes

A World Leader in Renewable Energy


According to the International Energy Agency, Chile is a world-class destination for renewable energy developers as it aims to generate up to 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Chile has low fossil fuel resources, which has helped to encourage innovation and investment in renewable energy sources. Chile is particularly strong in sourcing solar energy. The Atacama desert, located in Northern Chile, has the highest solar incidence in the world and has the potential to generate all of the country’s electricity! Chile adopted its National Energy Policy in 2015 which sets the goal of decarbonizing the country by mid century.  One of the most notable goals of this policy is its goal of phasing out coal-fired power generation by 2040. Coal fired power currently accounts for 35% of Chile’s electricity mix which many people want to replace with wind and solar. Not only is this better for the environment, but Chile’s shift to renewables has economic benefits. Chile is low in fossil fuels, so shifting to renewable energy would mean less oil imports. 

Going Solar in Richmond

UR makes a huge effort to conserve energy here on campus. From air-conditioning and lighting to laundry services and appliances, UR is committed to improving energy conservation. Did you know that UR is now one of only two higher education institutions in the U.S., to match 100 percent of its electricity needs with a single solar power source? The University partnered with a renewable energy developer to construct Spider Solar, a 20-megawatt solar energy facility that replenishes all electricity that the campus uses to run day-to-day operations by way of a renewable source. Check out our fact sheet here for more information. If you would like a tour of the Weinstein Center solar array, email us at sustainability@richmond.edu

If you are interested in getting involved with energy conservation in RVA check out the following resources.

VA Sun - VA Sun is part of the organization Solar United Neighbors and is a network of local citizens who believes that solar energy should be accessible to all Virginia residents. VA Sun assists their members in developing their own neighborhood solar projects.

Solarize RVA - Solarize RVA is a campaign launched by the City of Richmond, through the Office of Sustainability. The campaign has partnered with Viridiant, Solar United Neighbors, and Henrico County to help Richmond transition to clean solar energy.

Virginia Energy Efficiency Council - The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council is a collection of organizations, companies, state agencies and nonprofits. The council helps support these partners in advancing their energy efficiency and works to push policy makers to make changes to improve energy conservation in Virginia.

Sources for Today's Email & Further Reading

Good news from Chile
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Renewable energies Atacama Desert
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Powering the farthest reaches of the globe
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Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes
Read the full article

Friday: Protecting our Planet

“Let’s move forward with love, not conquest; humility, not righteousness; generous curiosity, not hardened assumptions. It is a magnificent thing to be alive in a moment that matters so much. Let’s proceed with broken-open hearts, seeking truth, summoning courage, and focused on solutions.”
–Ayana Elizabeth Johnson & Katharine K. Wilkinson

Environmental Justice Opportunities in Chile

Chile has an exceptional opportunity to integrate environmental justice into basic understandings of human rights with the rewrite of their constitution. Chile’s current constitution was written under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In 2019, Chileans took to the streets to protest the rampant social inequality that is seen throughout the nation. These demonstrations ultimately led to the election of a constitutional convention, which many hope will address issues of social inequality. Currently, no national charter besides Ecuador recognizes the environment as highly fundamental to future development. According to an article by Charis McGowan for Al Jazeera, “Integrating environmental clauses into the constitution would help communities take private sectors to court for infringing upon rights such as clean air, access to water, or mental well-being provided by green space”. Indigenous rights will also be addressed in the constitutional rewrite. 17 of the 155 seats in the convention are reserved for indigenous communities, with the Mapuche people as the majority. Each elected Mapuche candidate has put rights to their ancestral lands as a necessity of the constitution, which would help combat unregulated forestry activities in Mapuche territories.

Climate Activism at Home

The University is committed to addressing climate change. Check out UR’s Climate Action Plan and find out what you can do to be a green Spider by looking at the Spider’s Guide to Sustainable Living.

Climate change is affecting people everywhere, including Richmond. Below are a few ways to get involved in the city. 

Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative - The Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative is made up of four organizations–The Southeast CARE Coalition, Appalachian Voices, the Federal Policy Office of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and New Virginia Majority–all of which are committed to addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental injustices in the region.

Virginia Interfaith Power and Light - Virginia Interfaith Power & Light is an organization that is committed to combating climate change by working towards improved environmental and social justice, while connecting with people across all faiths and backgrounds.

RVAgreen 2050 - RVAgreen 2050 acknowledges that Richmond's rising temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns are becoming more common, but that these environmental problems are negatively affecting underrepresented communities. RVAgreen is passionate about helping these communities combat the affects of climate change by improving climate resilience and social equity across Richmond.

Sources for Today's Email & Further Reading

Chile activists eye chance for unmatched environmental protection
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Polarized Chile marks anniversary of 2019 protests as election nears
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Social unrest in Chile and its effects on the climate agenda and COP25
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Climate Action Tracker for Chile
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Chile’s ‘Clean Air’ Ruling Offers Hope on World Environment Day
Read the full article

Chile’s Protests Offer Lessons on Social Inequality and Climate Action
Read the full article

From Chile and Taiwan via Glasgow, youth call for climate justice
Read the full article