How is Uruguay becoming the most renewable country in Latin America?
Uruguay has reduced its carbon footprint dramatically over the last 10 years. Today, 90% of the country's energy comes from renewable sources. The small South American country, wedged between Argentina and Brazil, is increasingly known for its environmentally-friendly policies, beautiful countryside, and high quality of life.
In Uruguay, we will examine how sustainability becomes embedded in a country’s ethos. We’ll survey the environment, consider the pros and cons of public-private partnerships, and learn about how progressive government policies reach different people in different ways. From the capital city of Montevideo to ranches in Northern Uruguay, we’ll conduct field research to understand how daily life and regional initiatives have impacted Uruguay’s environment.
Arriving in the eco-friendly airport, we will immediately start taking notes on sustainability in Uruguay’s capital city. We’ll research energy usage in the city through field interviews and meetings with the Uruguayan government. We’ll also the Old City to gather ideas on sustainable urban living and heritage.
Colonia del Sacramento
Next we’ll travel to Colonia, the most famous stop in Uruguay, where we’ll wander the streets of its Barrio Historico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Colonia is just across the river from Buenos Aires, so along the riverbanks we may watch the sunset and over the skyline of Argentina’s capital. While Colonia is a bit touristic, the old city provides an interesting perspective on the lifestyles of Uruguay’s past. Colonia also offers an opportunity to interview tourists from around South America and abroad. By researching the connection between historical and modern Uruguay, we’ll build a better understanding of how history shapes relationships with the environment.
Since 90% of Uruguay’s land is used for farming and livestock, we will leave city life behind to experience rural Gaucho lifestyle in both Florida and Minas. During this time, we’ll meet skilled ranch hands and farmers, grill our food on a typical open-air parrilla, learn about energy production at an eco house, and practice our Spanish with local friends. We’ll also took a day to visit the turbines and operation station of one of the country's largest wind power plants. In the evenings, we’ll reflect on what we’ve seen and discuss the way people connect to energy and sustainability.
La Paloma and Cabo Polonio
We’ll finish our trip along the coast in La Paloma, where we’ll witness a natural interest in sustainable lifestyles as we visit old ports, fishing villages, and the lighthouse. We’ll also get to visit one of the most spectacular places in the country: Cabo Polonio -- a seaside village built on the sand dunes of a national park. The beach and narrow streets of this off-grid city are the perfect setting to round out our research.
Atlas Workshops has a passion for working with schools to build trips that meet their goals and align with their curriculum. We love working in Uruguay and can easily adapt a trip here to touch more deeply on the emerging start-up system in the country, the meat-heavy food system, or even connect into regional issues in neighboring countries. We think Uruguay would be an amazing place for a user-centered design trip exploring energy and sustainability (possibly in Spanish) or even a business or VC program to find opportunities and inspiration in one of Latin America’s emerging hubs.
Spanish Language Learning:
Uruguay is a Spanish speaking country, and many of the experts and residents we will meet speak only limited English. While we can work with translators and hold many of our meetings in English, we can also design the trip to strengthen Spanish language skills. We think undertaking a research project in a foreign language is an incredible way to improve your skills through a real-world approach with a clear, practical objective for language learning. While we don't include traditional home-stays on our programs, the farmstead living option in Central Uruguay can allow a deeper language immersion experience.