Tracie Willis, Canadian born and English-raised, moved to Sayulita 26 years ago on April 2nd, 1990. Always passionate about environmental issues, ironically, it was this concern that helped her end up in Sayulita. While working for a cruise line, she became aware that ships were dumping garbage into the ocean. After turning the company into the coast guard, she was fired, and dropped off in San Diego. Chasing a job at a horse ranch in Puerto Vallarta, she headed to Mexico. When someone suggested she check out Sayulita, she did, and has been here ever since. She was one of the founding members of Sayulita Recycling, and continues to be passionate about the environment and making a positive change in Sayulita by making an effort to increase recycling, eliminate garbage, and protect wildlife.
Tell me more about Sayulita Recycling?
Sayulita Recycling was an organization founded seven years ago and funded by Pro Sayulita. They gave money to purchase the recycling containers, bought the truck to haul the recycling, paid for gasoline for the truck, and also paid the rent for the recycling bodega. At the height of the project, there were 60 recycling containers throughout town and daily pick up of recycling each afternoon by the Sayulimpia truck. A ton of cardboard, plastic, and other recyclable items were being collected and sent out. There was also one worker, who was paid by the Municipal, but unfortunately, when he was let go by the government, the project lost momentum.
What motivates you to continue to try to make a positive impact in Sayulita?
My concern for the planet and how our lifestyles affect the planet and the animals. I strongly believe in thinking globally and acting locally. I’ve always been concerned about the garbage situation and littering in Sayulita. In high season, Sayulita is generating about nine tons of garbage per day. I’m convinced at least seven of that could be recycled. I’m also convinced that recycling here could become self-sufficient.
What do you do to make a difference in Sayulita when it comes to garbage and recycling?
I pick up garbage everyday when I’m out walking- on the beach, in town, everywhere. I often walk to Patzcuaro beach and pick up garbage in the jungle and on the trail all the way there and back. My restaurant, ChocoBanana, is 100% Styrofoam-free, we recycle our grease, and our food waste is picked up and is used to feed pigs in Guamuchil. I’ve done away with the plastic packets of butter and we do not use any packaged food. Even our french fries are homemade. ChocoBanana is also a recycling drop off point for all who need it, and I take both our own and any other recycling we get to the depot once a day.
What Sayulita organizations are you involved with?
I’m a Pro Sayulita member, I donate money to the Sayulimpia volunteers, and I’ve donated food for the vets and volunteers for the SayulitAnimals quarterly spay and neuter clinics. I’ve donated coffee for beach clean-ups and have sponsored a child to attend Costa Verde International School. I support Campamento Tortuguero Sayulita by adopting nests in the name of our employee of the month at ChocoBanana, and I’ve donated chocobananas to each child that attended turtle awareness camp. We’ve also recently teamed up with EcoSayuilta, in order to have ChocoBanana used as an outlet where street and other food vendors can pick-up eco-friendly food containers at cost.
You’re very passionate about the plight of wildlife both here in Sayulita and around the globe. Will you tell me more about that?
I’m interested in maintaining as many of the animal species in our area as possible, but the ones I focus on here, in Sayulita -- and that are very important to our ecosystem -- include turtles, parrots, and land crabs. Turtles eat jellyfish in our ocean and that makes swimming enjoyable. Parrots, like all birds, enrich the soil with their excretions, but ours also break down the hard covering of Higuera tree seeds, making it possible for them to grow and provide canopy. Land crabs break down plants and help create the soil that allows the jungle to grow.
What eco-friendly changes do you want to see in the future in Sayulita?
I’d like to see an organized approach to recycling, water treatment, etc. with the locals and expats working together. I’d also like to see the government help to make this happen. I would love to see people rewarded for taking in plastic and other recycling to the garbage drop off. I’d also love to see more garbage cans on the streets of Sayulita and more organized clean-ups. It’d be great to see the schools go Styrofoam-free as well.
What positive changes have you seen brought about by your efforts? What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the recycling depot, setting up the pick up area for glass, plastic, cans, and cardboard, and giving the family of five that is living there the opportunity to support themselves. Also, giving the town the opportunity to be responsible and giving them the support to make it possible.
How can others help?
Do something. Anything! For example, during bird nesting season, don’t cut down the palm leaves because green parrots live in them, and don’t buy caged parrots of any type. It’s also important to keep ATV’s off the beach and the jungle roads where they run over turtle nests and land crabs. Drop your recycling off at ChocoBanana. Pick up garbage. Examine your lifestyle and make changes to help. Eat fresh and avoid food in packages and items that contain palm oil. Take all the shells you have at home back to the beach and throw them in the ocean because hermit crabs need them. Stop poisoning wildlife. Don’t use fireworks during wedding celebrations. Be responsible in both your home and business life.
I’d like to see us learn to live more harmoniously with nature. By focusing on protecting the natural beauty of Sayulita, we get to live in a beautiful place. We not only keep tourism alive for all concerned, but we will also get a better quality of tourist as a result.