In January 2007, Sao Paolo, Brazil, did something that would send chills down the spine of most ad agencies. In an effort to rid the city of what the mayor called “visual pollution,” Sao Paolo enacted a Clean City law that banned all billboards and most other large outdoor advertising.
Known as one of the world’s worst billboard jungles, Sao Paolo was rife with illegal billboards and signs. Advertisers had bought up virtually all available street and wall space in the city to hang their gigantic marketing messages. To earn money, some poor residents even sold the front of their homes or space in their gardens to post ad signs. Unable to determine which were legal and which not, the city banned them all.
Since the law went into effect more than 15,000 billboards, 1,600 oversized signs and 1,300 metal ad panels have come down. Strict regulations mandated smaller storefront signage and limited them to hang only above the store entrance and not extend into the street. Even pamphleteering in public spaces was made illegal. Those who didn’t comply faced hefty fines.
In the mountainous village of Granados in central Guatemala, Peace Corps volunteer Laura Kutner came up with a way to solve several problems at once – the need for more classrooms, the shortage of building materials, and the abundance of plastic trash littering the ground.
Kutner rallied the community of roughly 860 people living in the village and surrounding area and together they collected more than 4,000 discarded plastic soda bottles. From there, students and volunteers used sticks and hands to cram the plastic bottles with more plastic — used bags, packaging and grocery sacks – to give the containers heft and form, then stacked them like bricks held in place by chicken wire, and “stuccoed” them with a cement-sand mixture.
A grand palace it isn’t, but for down-on-their-luck laborers who gather informally on street corners and in parking lots hoping that an employer will drive up and offer them a job for the day doing clean-up chores, construction or agricultural work, the self-contained Day Labor Station is a joy to behold. Basically a semi-permanent open box with a canopy, the compact shelter houses a restroom, bleacher seating, a kitchen cubicle to make food or sell it, an education/training space, and a meeting area where employers can interview candidates privately. The entire structure is built to be environmentally sustainable, using solar power, a fresh and greywater system, and green and recycled materials.