You Won’t Believe How One Community Attempted To Clean Up Its Act

Apr 20

Casco Viejo has problems like any other community.

We’re low on volunteers at our homegrown recycling center.

We’ve got a beach that needs constant cleaning.

We have graffiti that pops up seemingly overnight and must be taken down (whoever you are, can you stop doing that please?).

But unlike most communities with challenges like these, Casco Viejo is rich with innovation.

So we tried a unique approach to solving something we desperately needed using something we had in excess…


Step 1. Create A Currency

Really anything can be used as currency these days.

And for us, it was a box of customized poker chips branded with the name “Buenas Obras” or “Good Deeds.”

These chips would become the currency for our neighborhood tasks and here’s what they look like:


Step 2. Ask For Donations

We reached out to all of our Esperanza friends and neighbors asking for donations.

You know that video game controller your kids never opened?

Or the bags of rice that were sitting in your pantry for a few months?

Maybe even the extra box of pampers you bought at the supermarket!

We asked for it all!

Creative Note: We paid for those donations with Buenas Obras as well (yes, that’s right, the donors of the wonderful items would now possess Buenas Obras too.)

Step 3. Build Store

We built a little store of nine shelves and a beautiful turquoise wall.

This store-building process was hidden behind an iron metal door (so nobody knew what was taking place).

In the true nature of good deeds, we even paid for the handiwork of painting and electricity using Buenas Obras chips themselves!


Step 4. Offer Work

Thanks to the help of our neighborhood association (AVACA) we had a laundry list of jobs that desperately needed attention in our community.

So AVACA purchased a bunch of Buenas Obras chips and began compensating young men and women for work contributed…

2015-04-18 14.16.49

This work included cleaning the streets, sorting a massive load of recycling, cleaning the beach…etc.


Buenas Obras tasks were pegged to an hourly fee (to keep it as uncomplicated as possible: 5 Buenas Obras for 1 hour of unskilled labor and 10 Buenas Obras for 1 hour of skilled labor.)


Step 4. Inaugurate Store

We realized our crazy “supplemental currency” idea was really working when we opened the store and the neighborhood kids and young men started pouring in and spending their Buenas Obras.






And it wasn’t just the young men, either! We even had a few young women buying pampers…


And older men like Pio (below: the one who fixed up the Buenas Obras store in the first place) buying toilet paper and toothpaste for his household!


Step 5. Report

The Buenas Obras project would be nothing without the right reporting.

So we calculate that we “paid for” just over 85 hours of community service on Saturday morning alone.

Of those 85 hours, roughly 300 pounds of trash was collected…


And another several hundred pounds of recycling was sorted (the center was a mess before and look at it after):



And about 5 FULL blocks of streets were removed of all weeds.

This reporting of Buenas Obras will allow us to peg a rough amount of community work directly to the quality of a donation.

> We can now confidently say – for instance – that ONE box of pampers can clean up a FULL neighborhood block!

> We can say that ONE young girls bicycle can pay for an ENTIRE BEACH CLEAN!

> You know that old iPhone of yours? It is worth nearly 30 hours of recycling!!!

Do You Like What You See?

The Buenas Obras movement is underway!

And we’d like to think that with this simple but effective pilot weekend, we can begin expanding and accepting gift certificates from local restaurants and hotels!

Please use the comments section below to let us know if you’d like to get involved…

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