Each year Earth Day grows more pertinent and urgent. This year, having witnessed the pause and risin...
SANTO ANTONIO, BRAZIL
Sinal do Vale is a retreat and education centre nestled in Brazil’s lush Atlantic Rainforest (Mata Atlantica), just 50km from Rio de Janeiro. Founded in 2012 by Thais Corral, a renowned social innovator, Sinal’s purpose has always been to be a catalyst for tangible social and environmental change. Surrounded by one of the world’s most diverse and threatened biomes, six stucco houses and event spaces facilitate creativity, sustainable development and getting in touch with nature.
Projects at Sinal reflect its mission to bring diverse communities together for the sake of environmental progress. The Living Laboratory provides a platform for sustainable experimentation, providing solutions for waste management, water quality and infrastructure. The organic gardens and bio-construction projects help Sinal to explore and develop ecological food systems and eco-building techniques — both of which are passed on to the local and international community. Beyond onsite projects like these, Sinal is a guardian of over 400 acres of rainforest, is part of the Rio Green Belt conservation group, and carries out environmental education programs in the San Antonio community.
With accommodation for up to 40 people in simple but comfortable ecolodges, Sinal is well-tuned at hosting events and workshops and there’s plenty for day-visitors too. Rio Green Belt eco-tours help to engage tourists in environmental issues, demonstrating the conservation and community efforts underway on rainforest hikes and local farm trips. Natural swimming pools, nearby waterfalls and peaceful gardens also attract visitors that need a break from the bustle of Rio.
SINAL do Vale joined The Long Run in 2013 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
The Mata Atlântica is known not only for its rich biodiversity but for its incredible beauty as well. Sinal do Vale is committed to preserving this biodiversity but faces numerous challenges related to the encroachment of human settlements and the massive clearing of forests to support farming and other income generating activities. Sadly, across the entire 3000 acre valley where SINAL do Vale is located only 7.3% of the original forest cover remains, which used to span over 1,300,000 square kilometres. While the effect of these human activities does not have an immediate visual impact on the SINAL property, SINAL is well aware of the looming danger if action is not taken to preserve the remaining forest and restore what has been degraded .
Sinal do Vale is spearheading various efforts to conserve the unique ecosystem in the valley and beyond. An ongoing pilot project of assisted natural regeneration in collaboration with the state environmental education institute (INEA) is serving as the platform to scale up the reforestation efforts across multiple neighbouring land properties. Ultimately SINAL do Vale has a vision of restoring a green corridor around the whole Rio, connecting the existing forest fragments and serving as the buffer zone between Rio de Janeiro and the surrounding Mata Atlântica.
SINAL do Vale is also working together with the local community to address the pollution of the San Antonio River which has resulted from the informal human settlements that have sprouted around the valley over the years. SINAL runs various awareness projects in relation to garbage and waste management amongst these lower income communities in order to cultivate a culture of conservation and respect for the environment.
SINAL do Vale is as committed to community development activities as it is to biodiversity conservation in the valley. SINAL do Vale offers excellent development opportunities to its employees, many of which are from the local community, connecting them with the international community and new ideas on sustainability. SINAL is also committed to purchasing locally. SINAL do Vale places great emphasis on collaboration and continuously interacts with its neighbours as a key driver to achieving its long term vision for the valley.
SINAL do Vale however does not stop there and has additionally initiated several projects directly targeted for support and collaboration with the local community. Through an ongoing collaboration with a local school, SINAL is working hard to improve the environmental awareness of the community children as well as offering practical support to improve the conditions and learning atmosphere at the local school. Working hand-in-hand with children and teachers, SINAL has revitalized the schoolyard with rainforest tree murals, recycled furniture and art, and a school-led garden initiative. SINAL also works hand in hand with the Homeowners Association to support the groups’ community actions.
One of SINAL do Vale’s main goals is to provide a platform for intercultural exchange and understanding. While it places a strong emphasis on infusing Brazilian culture into every aspect of SINAL do Vale ranging from its cuisine to its architecture and décor, it also brings together neighbouring communities, staff and visitors to learn from one another and to increase guests’ knowledge of local culture.
As it is a centre for Global Leadership in Sustainability, SINAL do Vale brings people together from all over the world for training programmes, discussions and raising awareness on sustainability. It draws on the experiences and knowledge of its neighbouring communities as an integral component of these programmes. Through this microcosm of the global community, SINAL do Vale presents its foreign guests with a window to the rich Brazilian culture by providing opportunities for interaction with its staff and neighbours as well as linking guests with other opportunities for culture exchange in the area.
SINAL do Vale provides conferencing and retreat services as its core business. It also hosts a range of seminars, gastronomic events, and educational courses. It is committed to improving and upgrading its existing facilities in an environmentally friendly manner to provide their guests with high quality amenities and services. It operates under the Earth Charter Code of Conduct and as a social business, it continuously reinvests in the community as part of its dedication to uplifting the standard of life of the people living in the lower income settlement of the Valley.
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