The Say HI Brazil team have now spent a bit over two weeks in the city of Rio de Janeiro. We have heard so much about this city, from TV, books and people we have met on our travels. It was very special to finally be able to experience it firsthand and see everything the city has to offer. Which is a whole lot!
The first two weeks we have been staying at Mango Tree Hostel, a hostel with a prime location on Ipanema, only 2 minutes walking from the beach. The hostel is owned by three very eager men, Fred who is the responsible for the running of the hostel, Eduardo who holds the sustainability initiatives intact and Ian who keeps orders in the online presence of the hostel.
Eduardo, who has a background in sustainability, was very eager to show us the different sustainability measures Rio de Janeiro has to offer. On one of our first days we were taken to an art-center owned by the municipality of Rio called Galpão das Artes Urbanas Helio G. Pellegrino. Here, artists working with waste are displaying their art to the community. It was amazing to look at the exhibitions knowing that all the artifacts were made from “useless” materials. Such spaces are so important, as it gives people a concrete evidence that waste is not useless if it is treated right. The center also holds talks and workshops teaching schools and groups about separation of waste and how to handle it. The earlier we start educating people the more chance there is for them to continue this positive impact. We got a tour of the center and was explained everything in detail. Seeing such initiatives makes us very inspired! Eduardo later contacted some of the artists from the space about exhibiting their art at the hostel. This would be a great way to showcase the transformation from waste to art to a larger audience. In addition, it could spike the interest around this center making them receive even more visitors.
Rio is a vibrant city full of life. Brazilians must be some of the best on having a good time and both Copacabana and Ipanema beach is filled with small bar areas, footvolley areas and outdoor-gyms. So, whether you would like to have a caipirinha on the beach or do some pull-ups, you can do it here. However, having so many people on the beach every day sadly means much waste. For some reason people still do not understand that it is a necessity to bring their waste from the beach. Luckily, the municipality of Rio is concerned with keeping the beaches clean and have a tractor that goes over the beaches every evening to remove the waste that is left by the thousands of people. In addition, in the largest lake in the city. there are “waste boats” which collects what ends up in the water. We at Say HI are very happy to see that the city is taking responsibility for its waste. As Rio is a big tourist-hub the city needs to keep it clean to, amongst others, keep the tourists happy. This can be a positive aspect of tourism. Although, it can be questioned who is responsible for the waste ending up on the wrong places?
However, something we were told at the hostel is that Rio de Janeiro has forbidden the use of single used plastic like straws. Stores are not allowed to sell it and restaurants cannot serve drinks with straws. This is like music in the ears to us sustainability nerds. We saw the results of this when we went out to eat on the first day and received a straw made by cardboard. Just imagine how many turtles will be saved from a slow plastic-infused death, when such a big city as Rio forbid this.
To know a bit more about the city and its history we saw that the hostel recommended a free walking tour in the city center. We participated on a Free Walkers Tour, which lasted for around 3 hours. The tour took us through the history of the city and several historical places and ended at the famous Escadaria Selarón. This was a great way to get more insight of the city and to get a better understanding of why Rio is as it is. We learnt everything from what flags Brazil have had through the time, how the favelas started, and how the brigadeiro was made. It is important to have some knowledge of the history of a city before one can really grasp it. Especially a city such as Rio, which holds a rich history.
In addition to have a fascinating history, Rio is stunningly beautiful. The city is surrounded by mountains and white beaches. It is like the place was made to be a postcard. There are many options to enjoy it’s beauty and hiking is easy in Rio. You can get up to almost every mountain around, whether you would like to climb, hike or take the tram up to Cristo Redentor. The view you get is breathtaking. One hike we at Say HI can recommend is Pedra Bonita. This is a protected area, and you have to register before you enter. However, it is for free and after a 40 minutes hike you have a view of the whole city. It is definitely worth it! If you are of the more adventurous type you can also hang-glide or paraglide from this point – what a sustainable way to feed your adrenaline appetite.
We also experienced several little libraries all around the city where people could leave and collect books to read. One of these we saw right by Ipanema beach. Perfect if you forgot to bring a book to the beach. Having small things like these makes all the difference. It is a way to make books available to more people, and to share the love of reading. Have you finished you book on the beach? Well, just leave it in the little library and let another person enjoy the story.
To finish our two great weeks at Mango Tree Hostel we had a Norwegian Waffle night! This summer, Eirin brought a waffle-iron all the way from Norway. We had the idea to bring the iron to all the hostels we are travelling to, making Norwegian waffles. We first started this at Hostel 7 in Goiania with great success. Of course, we also brought it with us to Rio, and during our stay at Mango Tree Hostel we had our first real waffle-event for the hostel guests. The hostel bar was open and it was a good vibe with music and people. However, there were some bumps in the road. We did not know that Rio uses 110 volts. Since our iron is 220 volts it did not work that well, and the waffles became very pale. Even though it was not our best waffles, our guests luckily liked them and it became a great evening after all!
Written by: Hanna Jacobsen and Eirin Heddeland
Keep following our updates here on the blog, to hear more stories and ideas about sustainability in Brazil and in Norway!