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Small Business Spotlight

Learn about the many ways our diverse, small business community demonstrates sustainability and join us in celebrating their achievements. Know a business that should be featured on our website? Let us know!

Cha Cha Cha

Food waste is an issue. It not only contributes to food insecurity, but it also contributes to climate change. However, many of our local Spanish-speaking businesses are taking action to help mitigate this issue. Listen to Carmen, owner of ChaChaCha Milwaukie, share how she and her staff are taking action and why they do this work. Watch the Cha Cha Cha video.

La Barca

Front of the La Barca store

The chinampas were a pre-Hispanic method of agriculture that was utilized by the Mexicas (Me-shee-ca) in the Valley of Mexico and Lake Xochimilco (So-chi-mee-l-co). These floating gardens acted as small islands which efficiently grew food while allowing for a biodiversity of plants without further need for irrigation.

Chinampa in the Nahuatl language means “area enclosed by canes”. Chinampas were made from trunks, woven canes and wooden sticks. They were topped with soil and biodegradable material that made the mix ideal for growing food. These features also made them sustainable and thus why they were designated as an important Agricultural Heritage System by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2017.

Today, we can see how Latino/a/x communities practice sustainability much like their ancestors. Entrepreneurs and business owners in Washington County have demonstrated their commitment in creating a positive impact to their environment and communities. 

La Barca Guerrero, a Mexican store in Tualatin, OR, is demonstrating those sustainable commitments. The owners, Mrs. Belén and Mr. Juvenal, and their daughters make fruit and veggie cups at their store and have been voluntarily separating food scraps for a number of years and well ahead of the recent food scraps separation policy that went into effect March of 2022.  Mayra, the owners’ daughter, noted that Green Business Leaders staff had visited the store and shared information about food composting, and they saw it as an opportunity to show their commitment to improving the environment. “It was just a good opportunity and we have been doing it ever since,” Mayra shared. However, this is not the only action that they have taken. 

"I remember my mom always using grocery bags as trash bags and washing zip lock bags after we used them for snacks, when she would make us lunch, she would wash them when we got home. I don’t think I really appreciated or understood why she did it. You know, I think there was also a side of it that was also economic because obviously, why buy more when you can wash it and reuse it.”

Compost bin at La Barca store
Mayra standing inside the La Barca store.

Mayra says sustainability is part of her family’s culture. Originally from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, her family eventually moved to Bacalar, Quintana Roo. In this small town they outlawed the use of plastic, even before the plastic bag ban in Oregon, to help protect ancient organisms, the environment, and the water. Mayra goes on to share her love of reusable shopping bags, “I really love bolsas de mercado…I thought that was something really cool to share with people, so I ordered a bunch of them and now we sell them at the store. Bolsas de mercado they are really beautiful and colorful and obviously are really great for the environment.”

Just as the Chinampas used biodegradable material that helped grow food, much of the separated food scraps from businesses like La Barca will be used to create compost. This compost can then be used by farmers to help grow nutritious foods while food businesses in our region will be contributing to a healthier environment by helping reduce methane emissions that contribute to climate change. We can all be a part of the change to help ensure we have a better today and a better tomorrow for ourselves and our families. We, Latinos, are also a part of this change.

If you would like more information on the regional food scraps policy, commercial recycling or if you would like to share how your business is committed to sustainable practices and to your community, please send us an email at [email protected] or call 503-846-3605.

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