Thanks You : Luiz Rodrigues

Newspaper: Nectar Magazine
Title: Thanks You : Luiz Rodrigues
Author/Reporter: Carol Tedesco
Date: May, 2008

Developers were looking to build in the sand dunes of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so at age fourteen, Luiz Rodrigues joined a picket protest with his mother, Marlene. It was his first significant foray into social and environmental activism.

Since, Rodrigues’ passion for our small blue world has set his course. An instrument of change, it is because of his efforts on behalf of planet earth that he is being thanked.

His is a story of intention sprinkled with serendipity. In 1990, with his Master’s degree newly under his belt, Rodrigues arrived in Key West, Florida, to teach scuba diving. Working in the sea, among its corals and creatures, it is not surprising that he was drawn to volunteer for Reef Relief, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting living coral reef ecosystems. Rodrigues says that the organization’s early 1990’s campaign against the use of soaps and detergents with phosphates, “challenged me to examine how my actions on land were affecting the seas and the corals.”

This awareness translated to his being instrumental in producing the Coral Reef Ecology Course, a tool for educators, used says the organization’s Executive Director DeeVon Quirolo, continuously since its creation.

One day in 1992, a fellow volunteer presented Rodrigues with The Household Eco-team Workbook, by David Gershon and Robert Gilman. Rodrigues, who had begun to conceive a plan for an ecological consulting business, thought, “This is the guideline for my business!”

He proceeded to business school in Santa Barbara, California, and then to Santa Cruz, hooking up with the non-profit group Ecology Action. He describes meeting environmental kindred spirit, Jeanne Nordland, and laughingly relates a story of her enthusiastically pulling out an action-plan book to show him, “It was the Eco-team Workbook!”

With Nordland, Rodrigues began to organize eco-teams and undertake projects. He they began to work with International Health Programs (IHP), a non-profit that provides training for health professionals from developing countries.

For six years, Rodrigues worked for IHP as a programs coordinator. Almost immediately he began to teach and implement components of the Eco-team Workbook plan among the staff, and then, with boss Ruth Mota’s encouragement, among the participants, whose response was striking. Time and again they expressed the need for an environmental program to help guide developing countries. In response, Rodrigues wrote and developed a training program, still in use, that addresses the environmental problems affecting developing nations and specific issues of health, poverty and population.

Following funding cuts in 1999, Rodrigues made his way to Miami Beach, where he was introduced to ECOMB, the Environmental Coalition of Miami Beach, founded in 1994 by Lisa Liota, Victor Varella and Clifton Cloud. Through ECOMB, Rodrigues began to pour his expertise, experience, and what DeeVon Quirolo describes as “infectious, contagious, enthusiasm,” to the benefit of Miami’s environment.

Today he is Executive Director of ECOMB, as well as proprietor of Eco-Logical Solutions, a green-living and operations consulting business. In his office, he works surrounded by the accoutrements of campaigns he, his associates and volunteers have successfully brought into being.

When asked to remark on his life to date and dreams for the future, he speaks with gratitude of those who mentored him and briefly shares a personal dream of an eco-resort in Brazil. Then Rodrigues smiles with a spark that just might start a dead battery, “Our dream, he says, “is not to make Miami Beach a green city. Our dream is to make Miami Beach an emerald city by the sea.”