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Guardianes del ParaÍso

Basura Cero

Design research and communication strategy by:

Karla Sofia Despradel
Karina Davila
Pragya Mahendru
Marlyn Martinez, and
Kendall Murphy

Visual design by:

Karla Sofia Despradel
Karina Davila, and
Kendall Murphy


Guardians of Paradise (Guardianes del ParaÍso) is a call-to-action to the youth of Puerto Rico to protect their island from future waste. It is aimed at being the largest alliance to inform, connect and demand actions to create sustainable life on the island of Puerto Rico. This voice comes from the youth of the island.

This communication strategy was created for Basura Cero (Zero Waste), a small non-profit in Puerto Rico dedicated to reducing waste on the island to zero by informing its residents about best practices for recycling through it's 10-step program.

Basura Cero spreads the message of zero waste by attending festivals on the island to teach residents how to recycle, and visiting schools to hold workshops about waste. These workshops are aimed at educating students and giving them solutions on what to do with their waste through their 10-step program. However, Basura Cero wanted to have more of a systemic impact, despite the small size of the organization because they believe their message urgent and necessary. They needed a communication strategy that could have a far reach with their limited resources.

What we make on our island, stays on our island.
— Natalia Pagan, Basura Cero Director

Through interviews with Basura Cero and their audiences—volunteers and stakeholders that work with the organization—we narrowed down what kind of communication strategy they would need in order to affect the change they want to have. We focused on their student audience. Why students? We believed there was a opportunity for creating a program that could be designed to catalyze and reward behavioral change. Additionally, the environment schools provide helps promote a mental state that is open to learning, absorbing information, and adopting new habits.

Once we narrowed our audience, we held remote focus groups and facilitated conversations with their student volunteers to hear how they wanted to create change on their island. We realized a few things through these conversations: 1) the workshops being held were not catered to its audiences, and; 2) there was no incentive for learning and practicing what was being taught.

We knew where it needed to begin.

We would start by training teachers, who are already in schools, and build their capacity to educate about waste on the island. Once teachers were trained, they would incorporate the knowledge they learned into their curriculum. Badges would be incrementally awarded via e-mail to students who demonstrate an understanding of each of the 10 steps to zero waste.

Teachers would be continually updated through monthly newsletters, which provide additional tools and learnings that are relevant to environmental positive actions identified by Basura Cero. By creating a program that spans a whole year it gives students time to go from unable and unconscious to able and conscious.

The aim is for students to incorporate the new learnings in their everyday lives in ways that make sense for them. Students are also able to take their experience beyond the classroom through an online platform. Here they could connect to collaborate and share their learnings, discover and create sustainable DIY projects and they could search for events to participate in, and apply what they learned in the classroom in a collaborative setting. Also, students could share their experiences and stories through social media on what they learn, how they are applying it to their everyday lives, and why they are proud of and willing to protect their paradise by using #protegiendomiparaiso.

Through our movement, we hope Puerto Ricans aspire to be a guardian and redefine how society interacts with the planet.