Blog

Chile – January 22nd, 2017 – Kirsten

We started off our last full day in San Pedro de Atacama, as well as our last full day in Chile, presenting an accumulation of many of the important things we learned during our time in Chile. We couldn’t share everything we learned, of course, because that would have taken the whole day. Each of us were in a group for either the Government, Education, Non-Government Organizations, or Business, and its role in the sustainability movement. We shared what we learned about the organizations that we visited here in Chile, as well as some new examples from both Chile and the U.S. It was great seeing the ways in which these places fit into the Triple Bottom Line and how efforts are being made to consider the People, Profit, and Planet.

After the presentations and a nice lunch at the hotel, we had the afternoon to ourselves. Unfortunately, due to all the rain yesterday, many of the excursions were canceled. However, a small group managed to find a tour to the Lagunas Escondidas, which were essentially salt ponds. They got to go swimming, and floated pretty easily because of the salt. Some of us enjoyed walking through the streets of San Pedro, buying souvenirs and eating ice cream, and enjoying the pool before it started raining, for the third day in a row.

For our last night in Chile, the professors treated all of us to a nice group dinner at Café Adobe. Thank you, Mary and Julie (and Sarah)!

While talking with my fellow classmates and reflecting on our trip, there were many different parts of the trip that stuck out to people. There were a lot of overlaps, like enjoying the nature at Parque Pumalin and seeing the art in Valparaiso, but there was also a lot of variety in which speakers everyone enjoyed the most. I think this shows that we were all able to bring in our different backgrounds and all get out something different, but we were also able to bring those differences together and collaborate during our trip. I am thankful for the variety of backgrounds and perspectives of my fellow classmates on this trip, because I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much without them. And as we have learned during our time here, collaboration and making sure every voice is represented is an important element in the sustainability movement. ~Kirsten

Advertisements

Chile – January 21st, 2017 – Emily

We began our first full morning in San Pedro with a slower pace than the previous days in Santiago. Everyone enjoyed their morning in this quaint, desert town with activities like biking, running, journaling, and exploring the small shops in the town center. Nicole, our Swiss guide, along with Felipe, our southern Chilean guide, met us at our hotel in the early afternoon and we headed off to the Tulor Ruins to begin our immersion into the ancient culture of northern Chile.

The Tulor Ruins are from 800-500 BCE and were home to some of the first indigenous peoples in Chile. According to Nicole, the first people came to Chile from Siberia across what we now know as the Bering Strait. These people moved further south into what today is known as the Atacama Desert, settling into the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Two native animals to this area, the Vicuña and the Guanaco, were the first animals to be domesticated in Chile, and you may even know them now as the modern day Alpaca and Llama. After the domestication of animals, the indigenous people began to create temporary settlements known as Aldeas, and these settlements developed into communities like the ruins we visited. Their buildings were made out of adobe and other organic materials like leafs, Preia (a straw like plant found in Atacama) and made an incredibly efficient insulator. We walked into the small huts and although the hot sun made the desert feel stuffy, the coolness of the adobe hut felt wonderful.

What I loved learning most about these people was their view on community. Nicole explained to our group how these people didn’t have the concept of “mine” because they were solely focused on the betterment of the group. Reciprocity was a key idea, and they always gave back to ensure that everyone in the group had enough. They knew that if they wanted to go far, they had to go together. This lesson from these ancient people stuck with me as I sat amongst my peers who, although we have only been together for a couple of weeks, have grown with me and experienced this life changing adventure with me also.

After we finished our tour of the ruins, Nicole and Felipe brought us to a beautiful Chilean farm in San Pedro so we could experience a traditional Atacaman meal. We started with some toasted corn and fresh baked rolls that were lightly sweetened with the Algarroba plant, and for the main dish we were all surprised when they set a steaming hot plate of Llama in front of us. After a little bit of mental preparation, I took a bite and I am so thankful I did! This meat is very important to the people here since it is an indigenous animal, and it was also so delicious. The meal ended with a panna cotta type desert sweetened also with the Chañar Plant, another native tree in northern Chile. I could definitely eat like a Chilean for the rest of my life.

To end our time at the farm, we had the pleasure of meeting Guillermo Vega, a 70 year old man who is just as sharp and quick as someone half his age. His family is indigenous to this area, and he shared his stories of growing up in San Pedro before there were doctors and scientific studies that revealed the healing properties of the local plants and fauna. Guillermo just beamed as he pulled out small plants from the knit bag slung around his body. He had plants that cured indigestion colds, helped build strong bones and healthier skin, and even prevented Cancer. We walked with Guillermo through his farm, occasionally stopping so he could point out a vegetable that produced seeds they sold in the local markets, weeds they used in their shampoo, and the fruits from the trees we had eaten in our meal. At one point, I even met a handsome Alpaca and had Mary snap a quick photo of us together! To end this tour, Guillermo sprinkled each of us with colorful confetti and a sign of best wishes into the future, and I know that as this trip ends, that blessing will mean even more as we take what we have learned in Chile and return to the states differently than how we arrived. ~Emily

Chile – January 20th, 2017 – Erin

This morning we left Santiago and flew to Calama where we met our local guides Nicole and Felipe. On the way to the Moon Valley, we enjoyed a box lunch provided by our guides. While we were driving, we saw windmills generating power for the copper mines. Salt mountains and the Andes Mountains were also visible along the drive. The salt in these mountains was deposited many years ago by the sea. We took a pit stop along the way to take pictures, and Nicole explained that there are many medicinal plants in the area. She showed us one plant in particular, called Pingo Pingo, which when steeped like a tea helps with urinary tract infections amongst its other medicinal uses. When we arrived at the Moon Valley we took a short hike through one of the caves that at points was too short to stand.

The Moon Valley received its many colors and textures from the winds and the floods. In much of the rock you could see ribbons of Gypsum, a soft sulfate mineral, which causes the rock walls to crumble. After this hike, we road the bus to another hiking area in Moon Valley where we climbed up the sand path to look out over the mountains. Because of it’s location in the Atacama desert, it usually only rains here in February. Last year, they only received three days of rain. Next, we headed to the Coyote Overlook to watch the sunset and have a little snack. There was a crazy lightning storm which lit up the entire sky and made our hair stand up straight. The amount of static electricity in the air also created an effect where when you raised your hand it created a zapping noise and when you touched someone you received an electric shock.

After the sun set, we made a quick stop at the hotel in San Pedro de Atacama before walking to dinner. We ate a group meal together which consisted of ingredients and foods common to the area such as quail and flour made from the algarroba tree. The short walk back to the hotel on the town’s dirt roads acted as a perfect ending to our busy day. ~Erin

Chile – January 19th, 2017 – Davis

Today we began early with an 8:30 am departure for Watts production facility here in the outskirts of Santiago. we arrived and we’re required to go through some tighter than expected security clearance. Once in, we were greeted by Ricardo and he gave us a short presentation about Watts at a corporate level, their operations at this location and some of their sustainable practices. For size perception, Watts is a $700 million USD company striving for $1 billion USD in 2020 and they have 1800 workers. They have 5 industrial manufacturing plants throughout Chile and export to 30 different countries. They are looking to expand their market into China in the future. They are also in the process of improving working conditions for workers and water quality at the facilities.

The plant in Santiago produces oil and margarine to be used in the other production steps of their final goods. The biggest sustainable implementation at the plant we visited was a new and improved filtration system to safely emit the toxic gases out of the plant. They accomplished this through a process that ends with the evaporation of clean water but at a cost of $1 million USD. Another sustainable fun fact that Ricardo shared with us was that Watts donates the excess energy they create at their Concon plant to the City of Santiago, so clearly they are doing something right. After Ricardo presented all of this information we were able to tour the property, popping into all the  different buildings with the different stages of oil/margarine production. During this tour we were required to wear these very fashion forward plastic coats and ear plugs for protection. Oil/margarine production was quite the surprise when visiting a company where their main product is juice. Most of us were a bit caught off guard but it was so interesting nevertheless!

Other key takeaways that may not have necessarily been sustainable dealt with the coats and the packaging. The plastic safety coats that we were required to wear, we ended up throwing away in a regular trash. This could be avoided in two ways with a different material coat and simply recycling the coats after we finished. The packaging is mostly coated paper which is not necessarily the easiest material to recycle and could be much more sustainable with a different material such as glass. The only barrier with glass is the price which is very restricting for companies to go through with it. These are small unsustainable practices that could be easily altered to make a big difference. At the end of the meeting, we thanked Ricardo, presented him with a gift and quickly stopped by the store to pick up some reasonably priced Watts products!

For lunch we made a quick stop at the local cafe in the neighborhood and hurried into the study room to get working on our projects. We had a 3 hour block to make sufficient progress on our group presentations on different channels of sustainability implementations within the country of Chile! We all worked hard, refueled with water, juice and muffins and from there we were on our way to the market.

Los Dominicos was a short metro ride away and the end destination was beautiful and a much different environment than we have been before. The market had an incredible amount of variety from parrots to marble sculptures priced up to $24,000 USD and was a village of quaint little ‘huts’. Actually, this property was an old church and monastery from cerca de 1840 and all of the shops are located in a now open concept of the old monastery. A lot of this trip consisted of browsing through the shops but a lot of us bought a little ceramic three-legged pig that is a symbol of good luck here in Chile. After having our fun here, we departed back to the hotel via metro to meet up with Ignacio for a farewell dinner.

We met Ignacio in the hotel lobby and we’re off to Bar Liguria via a short 15 minute walk. This very nostalgic old-feeling Italian restaurant was very accommodating to our large group as usual and we enjoyed great food with great people. Ignacio has been our good friend on this trip and it was great to be able to celebrate a great time in Chile with him as he will not be with us for the rest of the trip. His knowledge of Chile and his hospitality was invaluable and a great thanks goes out to him. Thanks Ignacio!! And it was another great day in Santiago! ~Davis

Chile – January 18th, 2017 – Maddy

These last two days have been very busy for us, but very exciting. On the morning of January 17th, we visited the 3M Innovation Center here in Santiago. Wendy Benson, the managing director of 3M Chile (the local CEO), gave us a presentation and tour around the center. Wendy is originally from Michigan but received her undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Minnesota. It was so exciting to see all of the laboratories they use to test their products.

After 3M, we visited Casa de la Paz, which is a non-profit organization that helps businesses, communities, and government with the focus of the environment. They came up with standards of public participation for their clients to follow.

Later in the afternoon some of us visited Piscina Antilen. It is a gorgeous pool overlooking the city of Santiago. We swam, played cards, and enjoyed Chilé’s amazing summer weather!

Then, the morning of January 18th, we visited Loma Los Colorado, Santiago’s largest landfill. They make natural gas off of the garbage they bring into the landfill. They create energy to power up to 65,000 houses in Santiago. The people buy back raw recycled materials from the landfill itself. How sustainable!

We ended the day with visiting the Museum of Human Rights. We learned about Chilé’s military coup and their dictatorship that started in 1973. We learned Chilé had detention centers all over the country that imprisoned and tortured people. It was powerful to see the memorial of the people who died or had gone missing; it was intriguing to learn about another country’s history and civil rights movements. ~Maddy

Chile – January 16th, 2017 – Alaina

Our second day back in Santiago was filled with interesting business meetings and a fun college visit. We started at the Catholic University, where Dr. Francisco Meza spoke to us about sustainability and how different aspects of the country’s economic and social groups play a role in sustainable practices. He discussed how population trends affect Chilean agriculture, for example, over population is causing the use of pesticides and fertilizers to be used at an increasing rate while crop productivity is increasing much slower.

The imbalance between the two is one of the many issues driving sustainable efforts. He also talked about the food security and explained that on a global level the gap between food supply and demand will be higher, and it will be seen most obviously in countries that produce major crops. Adaptation was an importance piece we learned about and how more intense climate changes cause the need for more complex solutions. He concluded by emphasizing the need to reshape agriculture to more sustainable method and using less inputs. I liked especially when he expanded on the important of non-government organizations and how they have a great role in filling gaps for helping movements that are too complex for governments to address within particular communities.

We listened to two more guides from the University who work in the sustainability department (consisting of only about 7 people), talk about the various sustainable projects that are set up around the college campus. We got to tour them all and it was really cool to see ! They have solar panels set up over the fitness building in order to heat the pool and use sustainable energy, there is a huge recycling/waste station on campus allowing students to throw away garbage in the most beneficial way for recycling purposes, and there is an organic garden used for agriculture practice and public enjoyment. We got to eat the fresh tomatoes and basil leaves off of the vines and they were so delicious ! It was also interesting to hear that they have more success connecting with certain academic departments at the university on the importance of moving towards sustainable energy opposed to other ones.

Our last meeting was held at Casa de la Plaz where Ximena, one of the founders of the organization spoke to us about the 6 principles of public participation. This was one of the most informative and diverse speeches because she connected us to so many social and business aspects that work alongside the science and statistics of sustainable movements. She explained her organizations 5 principles that are used as laws for the employees to follow before taking any action in order to create the most ethical, beneficial, and effective movements towards sustainability and overall well-being in a society.

I though the most interesting portion of the principles was the commitment to addressing the needs of all populations equally and committed to represent each ones desires before making any moves. (indigenous populations, fishermen, women, business people for example). I also loved that they strive to have so much integrity that they continue to check in with each affected population as a project is being implemented and going through the development process. This is done in order to cause the least amount of negative affects on the economic and social parts of each group when making major changes. I enjoyed learning all of this amazing information today! ~Alaina

Chile – January 15th, 2017 Cora

Waking up in a cabin at the edge of a lake, at the base of a mountain just yesterday morning seems nearly surreal compared to the highrise hotel we find ourselves in tonight.

Leaving Puerto Varas this morning was a bittersweet affair because, I think, we children of the Midwest found comfort in the green scenery, plentiful lakefront, and slower pace of life (Not to mention the much milder temperatures!) It’s not surprising that German settlers saw the same “home-like” appeal of that area, some 200 years ago.

After a breakfast overlooking the mountain rimmed lake, we departed by bus and plane- once again finding ourselves in the arid and bustling Santiago. After our “weekend away” at the lake, it’s time to get back to the more academic side of things, but, we may just be on Chilean Time now. ~Cora

 

Chile – January 14th, 2017 – Hnouci

Onto our next adventure and destination of Parque Pumalìn. We met Carolina, from Tompkins Conservation a couple days ago where she told us their foundation protected the area and acquired acres of land to be donated as a National Park. Chileans and tourists are able to enjoy the preserved wildlife with all the unique plants and animals by experiencing the landscapes, campgrounds, and trails.

After 9 hours of traveling on land and across water we made it! The scenery is beautiful! We checked into our cabins and began to explore. Some of the girls and I found the Cascada trail, a 3 hour trail cut short to an hour and a half because dinner is much more important, but it was enough to be mesmerized by the beauty. Prom themes of enchanted forest probably derived from here.

We, luckily, made it back with ten minutes to spare and headed to dinner. Vegetable soup as an appetizer, pork chops and mashed potatoes for main course (vegetarian meal; soy meatballs and mashed potatoes), and dessert was ice cream topped with strawberry jam, sweet shortbread, and blueberries! The day ended with some attempting a night trail hike and others sharing conversations with one another in a cabin. ~Hnouci

Chile – January 13, 2017 – Mimi

The days in Chile have been amazing! We have experienced so much in such little time!  As the title of this class suggests, the theme of the trip is sustainability.  Wherever we are, we see sustainability in action.
Today, we had a meeting with David Duran, the groups and events coordinator of our hotel, Cabaña del Lago.  He told us about the hotel’s efforts towards sustainability and how they were one of the first sustainable hotels in this region.  The hotel rents bicycles to its guests because they encourage using bicycles as transportation to the city over using taxis.  The owner of the hotel is actually apart of a local advocacy group in Puerto Varas that works with improving the town.  It makes sense that the hotel is trying to pave the way for more sustainable hotels.
After this meeting we met with Berta Contreras and Carlos Odebret of Conecta, a consulting firm for Chile’s aquaculture industry.  We got to hear the insight of these two individuals, who worked with Marine Harvest for 20+ years, and what they learned about the industry to start their own company.  They saw an opportunity to improve the industry and bring their passion to fruition for the sake of Chile’s salmon industry.  This was a really inspiring story since they only have been running this consulting firm for 4 months, but they already have such a strong reputation in the aquaculture industry due to their past work.  We are really excited to see where they take this industry in the next few years.
Later in the day we had the privilege of visiting the Parque Pumalín headquarters and talking with Carolina of the Tompkins Conservation Organization.   Carolina was incredibly passionate about her work and what the organization does for the sake of conserving, restoring, and pushing for the appreciation of nature in both Chile and Argentina.  The efforts of the founders, Kristine and Douglas Tompkins, are seen through the people of the organization.  The way Carolina talked, you could tell she worked very closely with the late Douglas Tompkins and that she wanted to continue his legacy.  The story of how the organization was established coupled with what they do, inspired us all to want to work for the organization.
Everyday, we are fortunate enough to be given these opportunities to learn and expand our minds.  This really ties into the focus of St. Kate’s push for shaping future leaders to do great things in their community.  We can’t wait to bring what we’ve learned here into what we will be doing in the future.  This truly has been an experience of a lifetime and we are only halfway through the trip. ~Mimi

Chile – January 11, 2017 – Sara

This morning we left Valparaiso and visited the Emiliana Vineyard on our way to the airport. There, we learned about the organic vineyard and the sustainable practices they use to run the business. At the vineyard, they only use native plants and animals to help with the process. The chickens and roosters are able to roam everywhere on the property and are there to help reduce insects and other pests. Additionally, they use animals like alpacas and sheep to also help go through the rows of grapes and eat any pests that are present because they are lighter and their feet don’t have hooves that wreck the soil and the roots of the vines. Another sustainable aspect of the vineyard is that to remove the frost, they use windmills instead of the traditional method of burning extra collected branches to keep the vines warm. They are known for being biodynamic, which means to help heal the earth. The Emiliana Vineyard seems very sustainable and sensitive to the needs of their environment, though the greatest risk it faces is drought. There were many aspects to the vineyard that was sustainable and the tour was great to experience! Following the tour, the group flew to Puerto Montt to get to Puerto Varas. Along the way from the airport, we explored Puerto Montt and saw the volcanoes from across Lake Llanquihue upon arriving to Puerto Varas. It was a delightful day full of learning sustainable practices and moving to a new location! ~Sara