Community involvement in any project is imperative. Whether we’re talking about law making, environmentalism, social services, or more, community support must be there in order for success to be possible.
The same is true for the removal of plastic waste from the environment. Businesses can reduce their plastic waste, governments can pass legislation, and the public can be aware of the issue, but none of these things will result in lasting impact unless a key component is involved: local community support.
That’s why TONTOTON’s projects focus on the communities and the people within the communities in which we work. We understand that the locals aren’t just a valuable resource when it comes to plastic waste removal, but that their involvement and empowerment to be involved is essential to our success.
But, how exactly do our plastic credits help to empower local communities? Let’s explore a bit more.
Empowering local communities to take action surrounding environmental issues isn’t a new idea. Multiple studies have shown that local communities are a key piece when it comes to the success of environmental change. Communities who have direct involvement in their own change (including environmental change) see an increase of environmental democracy, scientific literacy, social capital, benefits to the ecosystem, and more.
It’s not an idea that’s difficult to understand; if the local community has a vested interest in their environment, then they’re more likely to take necessary steps to improve the environment. Often, the communities that see the most empowerment are those that are most vulnerable to the side effects of climate change. They’re the ones who experience a direct impact and who witness immediate benefits. Because of this, they are also the communities that will enact the most change.
But, the implementation of programs surrounding community involvement and empowerment aren’t as straightforward. In order for these programs to be successful, they must motivate individuals to participate, ensure long term participation, and they must be constantly adapting to the local community’s views and needs. So, while it has become clear that local communities are essential to positive environmental change, what’s also clear is that encouraging local involvement is an ever-changing challenge that requires hands-on work.
Examples of community empowerment enacting positive change
The idea of empowered communities enacting great change isn’t without examples. Many organizations around the world already understand the power of local communities and how effective it can be to harness the strength of the local community in order to achieve certain goals.
The below examples share a common theme: because the local communities saw immediate benefits from the community-centered programs, they were motivated to continue the programs and/or behaviors on their own. These examples serve to prove the power that a motivated local community can have.
The People’s Plan
The People’s Plan works with local communities in the Philippines to provide socialized housing. In one case study, they were able to negotiate better housing plans in a good location through empowering the local community to place pressure on the government. As a result, the socialized housing was relocated to an area where its inhabitants were free from flooding risks and closer to essential services.
In this case, the community was empowered through education and access to the local government. The program helped to unify the community, set up cohesive goals, and guide them through the process of negotiating with officials in order to come to a positive solution for all.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog
SSP is a program in India that empowers women to create their own means of income. Beginning as a disaster relief program, it found that the key to regrowth was access to food, clean water, and other resources. From there, they realized that they could encourage the women in vulnerable communities to offer non-traditional products, ensuring an additional income stream for the women and their families while simultaneously offering important products.
Since then, they’ve provided education, encouraged women to become leaders, and have supported countless grassroots efforts to enact change and build small businesses. Because of their actions, women in many rural communities now have opportunities to become key players toward positive change.
How TONTOTON empowers communities
TONTOTON similarly uses a community-based model in order to remove orphan plastic waste from the environment.
You already know that plastic credits purchased through TONTOTON will remove an equivalent amount of plastic waste from the environment. But, an equally important aspect of our program is the community support.
We partner with local communities and waste pickers in order to educate them on the dangers of plastic pollution, provide personal protective equipment, and ensure access to health care. We’ve also monetized plastic waste that has never had a market—orphan plastic—providing an additional source of income for waste pickers.
We focus on communities who are most impacted by orphan plastic waste: communities along the coast without any organized waste management system. These communities are the first ones to enjoy a cleaner environment; as the waste pickers clear out more and more orphan plastic, their beaches and communities become cleaner. Besides this, the monetary incentivization ensures that the locals will continue to feel motivated to clean their communities.
Through our system, we will have removed 600 tons of plastic waste from the environment by the end of 2021, and we’re expanding our reach into northern Vietnam and fishing communities in Cambodia. This is a system that not only works, but it also empowers communities through additional income sources and enjoyment of a cleaner environment.
Community empowerment isn’t just a selling point; it’s a key piece to enact any sort of change. You can attempt to do the right thing, but if you don’t have the support of the community, then you have nothing. In order for your plastic credit system to work, it must employ the strength of the local community. Through TONTOTON, you’ll know that your plastic credits are working toward positive, lasting change for the global environment as well as local communities.