Maria Rodriguez, the dynamic founder of Byoearth, met up with our Fair Trade Judaica trip for dinner in Antigua, Guatemala.

Maria Rodriguez, the dynamic founder of Byoearth, met up with our Fair Trade Judaica trip for dinner in Antigua, Guatemala.

My recent trip to Guatemala with Fair Trade Judaica and Maya Works allowed me not only to travel and meet inspiring artisan groups creating beautiful work, but to meet some of social entrepreneurs whose initiatives I included in 100 Under $100.

I learned about Maria Rodriguez and her innovative Byoearth vermiculture solution to Guatemala’s serious trash problem when it was a Sustainia award winner and I was able to talk with her about her work. Her worm composting social business now has many dimensions, including recycling. I was appalled at all the waste, everywhere we traveled – along the side of the road, clogging gutters and drains, spread across every open field. Such a beautiful country, so overwhelmed by garbage. Maria’s solution is for organic waste.

Worm composting "cribs" at Los Terrales coffee farm and nature preserve.

Worm composting “cribs” at Los Terrales coffee farm and nature preserve.

We weren’t able to visit her indigenous women’s coop of worm composting, but by luck, our guide at Los Terrales, a coffee farm and nature preserve in the Lake Atitlan area, mentioned they too utilize worm composting and sell their wares.

pop top bag Byoearth close up pop-top bag full Eco-creativasMaria joined our group for dinner and shared some of the spin-off businesses. Extremely low-income slum dwellers in Guatemala City work as recyclers in the infamous garbage dump. Once they were recycling aluminum, they combined their needlework skills with the pop-tops, designing really cool bags which they sell. One bag takes about a month to make, incorporating a pound of aluminum tops. It is a significant income generation for these women, and they take great pride in their beautiful upcycled wares. I now own a beautiful tote! You can see images at Eco-Creativos; message for purchasing. Maria can ship them within the US.