Rio has come a long way since the 1992 Earth Summit, with burgeoning green initiatives like rentable bicycles, reforestation programmes, restaurant oil collection and a general adjustment in the population’s mindset towards one of the world’s most beautiful cities all going to show the progress that has been made. There is, of course, still a very long way to go, with Rio+20 designed to spearhead something of a revolution. Read on for twenty of the most dynamic, ecologically minded companies and organisations currently working to reduce their – and our – impact on nature.
The Asta fair trade shop in Laranjeiras represents the creativity, ingenuity and fortitude of working-class cariocas. This NGO promotes the work of women artisans from a network of 33 low-income communities spread across the city, feeding the producers ideas, distribution channels and, ultimately, profits. Considerably more than just a craft store, Asta seeks to use consumers as a way of indirectly supporting these communities, ensuring that money is evenly distributed and helping to combat social inequality. Their unusual recycling programme takes waste from large companies like Coca Cola and makes branded giveaways like carnival masks. Rua Mario Portela 253, Laranjeiras (21 3217 9967/asta.org.br). Metrô Largo do Machado. Open 10am-7pm Mon-Fri.
Sustainability in the world of design may still be somewhat of a rarity in Rio, but, thankfully, gone are the days of slicing and dicing forests of Brazilian hardwood in order to floor entire apartment buildings. The more contemporary and sustainable world of wood salvaging has taken its place, and at the heart of the process is Trapiche Carioca, run by Rio native Jorge Garcia. Travelling to the likes of Pará in the north to source the now rare but eminently sought-after peroba rosa wood, Garcia crafts tables, chairs and bookshelves for eco-conscious customers. Rua Orestes 28, Santo Cristo (21 2263 1759/trapichecarioca.com.br). Metrô Cidade Nova. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Sat.
The drums in Sociedade Percussiva, François Archanjo’s percussion workshops, are built entirely from recycled materials, mixing the energy of Afro-Brazilian rhythms with socially and environmentally sound ideas. Experimenting with a range of materials otherwise left to rot, Archanjo uses emptied, well-cleaned chemical canisters of various sizes to produce different tones, along with oil-can snares and abandoned canvasses stretched over water tanks and fashioned into eco-friendly Japanese-style drums. Rua Joaquim Silva 98, Lapa (21 9997 8411). Metrô Cinelândia. Classes 7-9pm Wed. Price R$50 single class; R$100/month.
In the calm neighbourhood of Bairro Peixoto, close to the more manic bustle of Copacabana, sits the workshop of Monica Carvalho, an artist dedicated to the reusing of nature’s fallen fruits to create jewellery, furniture and art. Rescuing both nature and a touch of Brazilian history, Carvalho uses raw materials such as the indigo flower as both the colouring base as well as the building blocks of the objects themselves. All the materials are organic and come from sustainable, 100 percent Brazilian sources. Rua Maestro Francisco Braga 442/101, Copacabana (21 2547 9989/monicacarvalho.com.br). Open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, call ahead to book a visit.
Since first moving to Rio in 1978, Bahian-born artist Pedro Grapiúna has gradually become a reference point in the art of recycling. At his Ateliê Pedro Grapiúna, he uses old pieces of iron and steel found in the streets – from discarded bike parts to old spoons – to sculpt artwork of up to 2.5 metres high. ‘I would see a lot of iron in the street and started to integrate it into my work,’ says Grapiúna. Larger pieces can fetch upwards of R$3,000, and visitors are welcome to see just how the process unfurls at the workshop, but should call ahead. Rua Almirante Alexandrino 54b, house 5, Santa Teresa (21 9276 7097). Open noon-5pm Mon-Sat, call in advance. Admission Free.
Pedro Ruffier, partner in the Ipanema clothes label Movin, asserts that if fashion becomes more eco-responsible, then that attitude will filter through to the people wearing the designs. Part of a young breed of more environmentally aware entrepreneurs setting up in Rio, Ruffier’s brand deploys organic cotton, recycled plastics, and even the reappropriation of fabrics like neoprene to help minimise the impact of their creations on nature. Seeds and fruits are used as the basis for dyes, and they even sell backpacks made out of recycled car cushions. Rua Visconde de Pirajá 351, second floor, Ipanema (21 2135 3396/startmovin.com.br). Metrô bus Nossa Senhora da Paz. Open 9am-8pm Mon-Fri; 9am-6pm Sat.
The philosophy behind Andréia Junqueira’s sustainable art is based on three ‘R’s: Respect, Reduction and Responsibility. Junqueira took her son’s idea to make toys out of rubbish and turned their home into a studio of endless production, using all manner of materials to create PET tables and works of art out of toothpicks. Exhibiting them locally at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – and as far afield as Italy, Peru and Japan – Junqueira hopes her works inspire children into caring for their environment.
The carioca clothing brand Osklen might be best known for its glitzy fashion shows and exclusive pricing policy, but thankfully there is an environmentally conscious side to the company, too. Their new line, A21, has been designed in conjunction with the label’s ecologically focussed Instituto-e offshoot – named in a homage to Agenda 21, the UN’s environmental blueprint established at the ’92 Earth Summit in Rio. Using organic silks and cottons, as well as materials as diverse as salmon and pirarucu (an Amazonian fish) skin to make sandals and bags, the institute takes its sustainability as seriously as its creativity. osklen.com.
The people behind Centro-based Fibra Design took it upon themselves to look at a range of ways to produce sustainable resources to use as the raw materials in their contemporary design products – including bicycles and skateboards – and one of the results was the Celebrated Wood furniture line. Utilising the likes of coconut fibres as chair backs, Fibra created a range of desirable designer furniture that became a reference point for the rest of the industry, and the design firm now hosts talks on the importance of adopting sustainable practices. In their heritage-listed headquarters, the upstairs office sits over a workshop full of pupunha-bamboo composite chunks in various states of completion, all a part of the team’s vision. Rua Senador Pompeu 82, Centro (21 2233-3126/fibradesign.net).
In a city in which traffic can be a nightmare and bike lanes are still not as prevalent as they could be, the prospect of legions of cariocas picking up a bike from one side of town and dropping it off in the other might be hard to fathom. Indeed, the first bike rental effort backfired, for which poor distribution and vandalism were blamed, but four years on, Bike Rio has been a success as bright orange bikes can be found zipping along the streets. People from surfers to businessmen have embraced the bikes, helping to initiate the city council to slowly begin improvements to its estimated 250 kilometres of cycle paths. The wireless technology, which allows users to release their bike with a mobile phone is solar powered at all 60 bike stations.mobilicidade.com.br. Prices from R$5 per day.
Clubbers, bike enthusiasts, parents and kids have collectively taken back the streets of Rio from the cars, buses and traffic under the guise of the Nuvem (cloud) party. A seven-strong team of DJs and artists have been organising elaborate events across town, from Leme to Campo Santana, designating meeting points for people to converge by foot or bike. DJing from laptops, anyone with a portable radio can tune in and become part of the soundsystem, creating an atmosphere of outdoor love and dancing while simultaneously advocating for better bicycle access. Partiers bring rubbish bags to clean up before moving on to the next venue. nuvem.fm / facebook.com/nuvemmovel.
Back in 2000, the hillsides of Morro da Babilônia were bare and scorched, the vegetation left to ruin since a failed attempt at reforestation in the late ’80s. Twelve years on and the indigenous flora and fauna has been returned to something approaching its glorious past thanks to a project run by the local community that has planted some 250,000 young trees and shrubs. ‘Without this, the erosion would be far greater and the air quality far worse for the surrounding neighbourhoods, but people forget that,’ says Co-op Babilônia’s environmental engineer Rodrigo Gaburro Trevisal. Ladeira Ari Barroso 164, Leme (21 2542 0063/coopbabilonia.com).
Formed from run-off rainwater collected from the surrounding hills and blocked from reaching the sea by Ipanema’s sand bank, stunning Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas became polluted as the surrounding neighbourhoods around it expanded. Aiming to undo the damage caused by irregular dredging and long-term mismanagement of the water, the Lagoa Limpa project has uncovered over 50 illegal sewage connections from surrounding condominiums that enter the waters. The mangroves are already flourishing once more and the litter build up has been dramatically reduced. Will we soon see swimmers in the Lagoa once more? Encontro das Águas information centre, Avenida Borges de Medeiros 1444, Lagoa (21 2334 9442/lagoalimpa.com.br). Open 10am-7pm daily. Admission Free.
+14 Green Eats
As Casarão 1881’s surroundings in downtown Rio undergo a major facelift, it is worth remembering that the façade of the former textiles factory was perfectly preserved as the interior was modernised with the environment in mind. The menus are printed on recycled paper, the kitchen reuses fruit and vegetable skins wherever possible to create unusual concoctions like potato skin balls, farofa from watercress stems, sweets from banana skin and soft drinks using the peel from oranges previously thrown out after making juices. Rua do Mercado 37, Centro (21 2509 3970/casarao1881.com.br). Metrô Carioca. Open noon-last custom- er Tue-Fri; noon-6pm second Sat of the month. Main courses R$13-$45.
In a move to harness the passion for the city’s beauty within the vast majority of its citizens, Rio eu Amo eu Cuido (essentially, ‘Rio, I love you so I’ll look after you’) mobilises the masses for group action to clean up the city. Their activities range from encouraging smokers to discard their butts in the right places, cleaning up rubbish from the streets and beaches, and even promoting the use of bikes and public transport to combat traffic pollution. In May, Rio Mais Limpo (Cleaner Rio) mobilised over 600 volunteers picked up by bus from all over the city to remove 55 tonnes of rubbish from two favelas in Tijuca. People power at its best. rioeuamoeucuido.com.br.
The eco-mindedness of Via Sete goes far beyond the forest-inspired graffiti on the responsibly sourced wooden walls and a healthy, largely organic menu. For five years, the restaurant has been intrinsically linked to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). As the city’s headquarters for the NGO, the Ipanema branch was fitted out with wood from sustainable forests, all the paper is recycled, and the beef, from organic farms in the Pantanal, is reared with a minimal effect on the environment. All the restaurants recycle their cooking oil and contain- ers, and customers are encouraged to make a R$1 donation to the WWF. Rua Ataulfo da paiva 1240, Leblon (21 2529 2253/viasete.com.br). Metrô bus Baixo Leblon. Open noon-midnight Mon-Wed; noon-1am Thu-Sat; noon-midnight Sun.
The city’s organic fair circuit is a fruit and veg-lover’s paradise, featuring local produce grown with a minimum impact on the environment.
Feira Orgânica de Ipanema, Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz, Ipanema. 9am-2pm Tue.
Feira Orgânica do Bairro Peixoto, Praça Edmundo Bittencourt, Copacabana, 9am-2pm Sat. Feira Orgânica do Leblon, Praça Antero de Quental, Leblon, 7am-1pm Thu.
Feira Orgânica do Jardim Botânico, Praça da Igreja São José da Lagoa, Jardim Botânico. 8am-2pm Sat.
Feira Orgânica e Cultural da Glória, Rua do Russel, Glória. 7am-1pm Sat.
Jan Carvalho, chef and partner in the Vegan Vegan and Vegana Chácara restaurants, is the godfather of vegetarian cuisine in Rio, selling the lifestyle for more than 20 years. Today, his reputation for quality, body-balanced food has made his restaurants reference points for vegans and anybody interested in the details of conscientious, organic eating. His philosophy is a harmony between the customer and the source – nature – engendered by supporting local organic producers by purchasing ingredients exclusively from farms close to the city. Rua Hans Staden 30, Botafogo (21 8599 7078). Metrô Botafogo. Open noon- 3pm Mon-Fri. Main courses R$17.50-$23
Conjuring up a little of the original tropical lake-side landscape that once thrived beside the Lagoa, Palaphita Kitch embraces mankind’s ingenuity to make amends. The restaurant uses wood from sustainable forests and recycled plant fibres to create a rustic tropical garden, solar power is used to heat the cooking water, and disparate elements such as the oil, glass and aluminium are also 100 percent recycled. The menu is also inspired by the owner’s native Amazonia, using ingredients like mangarataia root and manioc extract. Avenida Epitácio Pessoa, Kiosk 20, Parque do Cantagalo (21 2227 0837/palaphitakitch.com.br). Metrô Cantagalo. Open 6pm-1am Mon-Thu; 6pm-3am Fri-Sat; 6pm-1am Sun. Prices chopp R$5.50; caipirinha R$11.
As the largest urban forest in the world, the Parque Nacional da Tijuca’s 3,200 hectares are packed with diverse fauna and flora, waterfalls, caves and trails. Since 1861, the area has been officially preserved and reforested, but encroaching neighbourhoods are only kept at bay by the sheer rock face of Corcovado, and the efforts of the Association of Friends of Tijuca National Park, a group of local volunteers desperate to help preserve their cherished landscape. One of the city’s largest environmental movements, they hold monthly mass clean-ups, mobilise members to maintain trails, monitor the plants and make sure visitors respect the park boundaries. Estrada da Cascatinha 850, Alto da Boa Vista (21 2492 2253/parquedatijuca.com.br). Admission Free.