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What if we could turn an environmental problem into a sustainable solution? That’s precisely what Omar de Jesús Vazquez Sánchez, a Mexican gardener, has achieved by transforming beached sargassum seaweed into eco-friendly construction materials.
Source: UNDP Accelerator Labs/Youtube
Tourists visiting Mexico’s pristine beaches often complain about piles of smelly seaweed. However, Omar saw potential in this seemingly undesirable substance. Governments in places like Cancun have had to clear away as much as 40,000 tons of sargassum, which has a rotten egg-like odor. Instead of letting it go to waste, Omar decided to turn it into adobe-like blocks for sustainable construction.
Through his company, SargaBlock, Omar markets these innovative bricks, which have been recognized by the UN Development Program as an ingenious and sustainable solution to an ongoing environmental challenge. His journey began in 2015, when he saw an opportunity to clean up the sargassum on the beaches of the Riviera Maya.
Growing up in poverty, Omar immigrated to the US as a child and eventually became a day laborer. However, after facing substance abuse issues and feeling disconnected from the American dream, he returned to Mexico with aspirations of being a gardener. Omar’s past struggles allowed him to see potential in the unwanted seaweed.
From 2021 to the present, Omar has used nearly 6,000 tons of sargassum to create blocks for building structures all around the state of Jalisco. The ecology and environment offices of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, approved the SargaBlocks for use. Furthermore, similar organic-based blocks are estimated to have a lifespan of around 120 years.
The UN Development Program chose to feature Omar’s work in their Accelerator Lab global broadcast, showcasing its value and originality. They hope that by sharing his vision, others will be inspired to repurpose naturally-occurring pollutants or burdens for sustainable construction purposes.
In line with his “Mexican dream,” Omar has even donated 14 “Casas Angelitas” (homes made of SargaBlock) to families in need.
So, let’s get inspired by Omar’s innovative approach and embrace sustainable solutions for environmental challenges. Imagine the possibilities if we all think creatively and transform unwanted materials into valuable, eco-friendly resources. Together, we can build a greener and more sustainable future for everyone.
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