No javascript detected! Our online shopping basket requires javascript. You can also complete your order by phone at 855.9HUNGER
You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security. You can also complete your order by phone at 855.9HUNGER

Tread Lightly

This Guatemalan Lake Town Is Leading the Way Toward a Plastic-Free Future

By Bethany Ivie March 5, 2019

The town of San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, is leading a revolt against an increasingly common enemy: plastic pollution. Situated on the southwest banks of beautiful Lake Atitlán, San Pedro La Laguna is the ancestral home of the Tz’utujil Maya people, an indigenous group that is fighting to preserve their traditions and heritage. In 2016, the small town adopted a stringent ban on single-use plastic that was the first of its kind in Guatemala and has inspired other municipalities to follow suit. 

The Situation

  • Prior to 2016, San Pedro La Laguna was drowning in plastics.
  • Atitlán, famed as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a key part of local Mayan culture, was choked with plastic bags and styrofoam.

  • Landfills and disposal facilities became saturated with plastics that began to spill out into the town and lake, polluting local ecosystems.

Lake Atitlán. Photo by Lola Mendez via Atlas Obscura
  • A new solid waste disposal facility, designed to hold trash accumulated over 10 years, filled halfway during the first six months of operation. The biggest culprit? Single-use plastics.

  • In the face of this crisis, the local government had a choice to make: construct more expensive waste disposal plants or tackle the problem head-on?

The Solution


  • Initially, citizens unable to afford plastic-alternatives protested the ban. 
  • To make the transition easier, members of the local government visited each home in the town and exchanged single-use plastics for free, reusable alternatives in addition to educating families on waste management.
  • To replace plastic bags, the town's biggest offenders, officials purchased 2,000 reusable rubber shopping baskets from local artisans in nearby Totonicapán.
Women in San Pedro La Laguna shop using reusable rubber bags. Photo by Lola Mendez via Atlas Obscura

  • Local fishermen joined forces to remove the garbage from Lake Atitlán and restore it to its former plastic-free glory and NGOs stepped in to provide long-term solutions for the town's garbage.
  • Instead of plastic, San Pedro La Laguna shopkeepers and vendors now use traditional packagings for their goods like banana leaves, paper, and cloth. 
  • Citizens caught violating the ban are charged with hefty fines.
  • Since banning plastic, San Pedro La Laguna has seen a 40 percent increase in tourism, the town's leading industry. Visitors are held to the same standards as citizens are not allowed to use banned plastics. 




To date, 10 other Guatemalan municipalities have introduced restrictions on single-use plastics similar to those pioneered by San Pedro La Laguna and others are discussing plans to adopt. According to the World Economic Forum, these initiatives aren't the work of government organizations but are rising from indigenous communities, like those in San Pedro La Laguna,  who are passionate about preserving their environment and heritage. 


Free Download

You only need to enter this information once to download digital resources.

Basket Summary

edit
Your gift will be matched!

{{ product.title }} {{ product.subTitle }}

Qty: {{ product.quantity }} @ {{ product.price | currency }} Qty: {{ product.quantity }} @ FREE Monthly
{{ (product.quantity * product.price) | currency }} Free

Eligible for Gift Card funds

No products in cart.

Additional Impact {{ processingFee | currency }}
Basket Total {{ cartProductsTotalAmount | currency }}
Gift Card Applied {{ -giftCardAmountApplied | currency }}
Subtotal {{ cartSubTotal | currency }}
Shipping Cost {{ orderShippingCost | currency }} NOT YET CALCULATED Tax Cost {{ orderTax | currency }} NOT YET CALCULATED Total {{ cartTotal | currency }} Monthly Total {{ cartSubscriptionTotal | currency }}

{{ cartCheckoutPath[1].title }}

edit

Billing Address

{{ billingAddress.first_name }} {{ billingAddress.last_name }} {{ billingAddress.address_1 }} {{ billingAddress.address_2 }} {{ billingAddress.city }}, {{ billingAddress.state }} {{ billingAddress.zip }} {{ billingAddress.country }}

Company

{{ billingAddress.company }}

Shipping Address

{{ shippingAddress.first_name }} {{ shippingAddress.last_name }} {{ shippingAddress.address_1 }} {{ shippingAddress.address_2 }} {{ shippingAddress.city }}, {{ shippingAddress.state }} {{ shippingAddress.zip }} {{ shippingAddress.country }}
edit

Shipping Method

{{ orderShippingOption ? orderShippingOption.description : ""}}

Gift Card Remaining: {{ giftCardTotal | currency }}

Your Gift Card is now active. You can purchase Gift Card-eligible items indicated with  icon.

Basket Summary

Step 1 of 2 Step 1 of 3 Step 1 of 4 Step 1 of 1
Get your free Honor Cards after checkout.
Get your free Honor Cards after checkout.
Your gift will be matched!
Your basket has been updated.
The following item(s) are now sold-out or unavailable and have been removed from your cart:
-{{ product.title }} {{ product.subTitle}} ({{ product.quantity}})
Gift Card balances can be used for this product

{{ product.title }} {{ product.subTitle }} To: {{ product.giftCardRecipientName }} From: {{ product.giftCardSenderPrint }} Email: {{ product.giftCardRecipientEmail }} Delivery: {{ product.giftCardDeliveryDate }} Message: {{ product.giftCardMessage | truncate '200' }} Activation Code: {{ product.giftCardCode }} Delivery: {{ product.additional_info['deliveryDate'] }} Message: {{ product.additional_info['personalMessage'] | truncate '200' }} 1 {{prods["title"]}}

{{ (product.quantity * product.price) | currency }}/month
You've reached the maximum number of products for this item.
You've reached the maximum number of products for this item.
${{ product.price }}
$ {{ product.price }} Free
Remove
After checkout, you can create and customize an honor card by clicking the link on the confirmation page.

Gift Message

Personalize your message up to 5 lines in length.

Preview

heifer.org
Basket Total {{ cartProductsTotalAmount | currency }}
Gift Card Applied {{ -giftCardAmountApplied | currency }}
Subtotal {{ cartSubTotal | currency }}
Monthly Subtotal {{ cartSubscriptionTotal | currency }}
It's not a hand out. It's a hand up.

For maximum impact, try adding a few items to your basket.

Browse The Gift Catalog
Secured Checkout

Increase Your Impact with a Donation Visit the Gift Catalog

Make an even bigger impact with a donation from our Gift Catalog

Responsibly-Sourced, Artisan-Friendly Gifts Shop the Marketplace

Shop the Marketplace for responsibly-sourced, artisan-friendly gifts
Secured Checkout
Continue Shopping
Edit Basket Summary

{{ cartCheckoutPath[1].title }}

Step 2 of 2 Step 2 of 3 Step 2 of 4
All major credit cards and Paypal accepted
All major credit cards accepted
Shipping Information

If you have received a gift catalog in the mail please enter the highlighted code that begins with a "D" or a "P" in the source code box below. If you have not received a Heifer Gift Catalog please leave the source code blank.

Shipping Address
Secured Checkout
Secured Checkout
Edit Basket Summary

{{ cartCheckoutPath[1].title }}

Step 2 of 3 Step 2 of 3 Step 2 of 4
All major credit cards and Paypal accepted
All major credit cards accepted
Billing Information
Enter your company name to see if your employer will match your gift.

If you have received a gift catalog in the mail please enter the highlighted code that begins with a "D" or a "P" in the source code box below. If you have not received a Heifer Gift Catalog please leave the source code blank.

Billing Address
Secured Checkout
Secured Checkout
Edit Basket Summary

{{ cartCheckoutPath[1].title }}

Step 2 of 3 Step 2 of 3 Step 2 of 4
All major credit cards and Paypal accepted
All major credit cards accepted
Billing Information
Enter your company name to see if your employer will match your gift.

If you have received a gift catalog in the mail please enter the highlighted code that begins with a "D" or a "P" in the source code box below. If you have not received a Heifer Gift Catalog please leave the source code blank.

Billing Address
Shipping Information

If you have received a gift catalog in the mail please enter the highlighted code that begins with a "D" or a "P" in the source code box below. If you have not received a Heifer Gift Catalog please leave the source code blank.

Shipping Address
Secured Checkout
Secured Checkout
Edit Basket Summary

{{ cartCheckoutPath[2].title }}

Step 3 of 3 Step 3 of 3 Step 3 of 4 Select shipping method. Orders after 12:00 PM CST will be shipped the next business day. Orders on Saturday or Sunday will be shipped the next business day.
{{shippingOption.description}} ${{shippingOption.shippingCost}}
Secured Checkout
Secured Checkout
Edit Basket Summary Edit {{ cartCheckoutPath[1].title }}

Payment Information

Step 3 of 3 Step 3 of 3 Step 4 of 4
All major credit cards and Paypal accepted
All major credit cards accepted

Payment Summary

Additional Impact {{ processingFee | currency }}
Basket Total {{ cartProductsTotalAmount | currency }}
Gift Card Applied {{ -giftCardAmountApplied | currency }}
Subtotal {{ cartSubTotal | currency }}
Shipping Cost {{ orderShippingCost | currency }} NOT YET CALCULATED Tax Cost {{ orderTax | currency }} NOT YET CALCULATED Total {{ cartTotal | currency }} Monthly Total {{ cartSubscriptionTotal | currency }}
Pay By Credit Card
Pay with
Pay with
We were not able to process your request. Please try again or contact Donor Services at 855.9HUNGER (855.948.6437).
Secured Checkout