Driving across South America in search of “green” communities

For the past six years, Ryan and Leticia have been traveling around South America visiting communities focused on living sustainably.
For the past six years, Ryan and Leticia have been traveling around South America visiting communities focused on living sustainably.


For the past six years, Leticia and Ryan have been travelling across Latin America, visiting communities that are devoted to living sustainably. The bi-national couple (Leticia is Brazilian, Ryan is America) have already mapped more than 150 eco-friendly initiatives in 12 different countries. With camera in hand, they’ve been documenting their travels with short videos to inspire more people to help the environment.

Ryan and Leticia's videos show how to make a wide range of environmentally-friendly inventions, from a solar oven to an eco-friendly pressure cooker to a washing machine powered by a bike. They are co-founders of a project called "Común Tierra”, which roughly translates to “Shared Earth”.

Since 2010, this pair has been traveling around Latin America meeting entrepreneurs who are piloting green initiatives. Their trusty steed in this quest is their RV, named “Minhoca” (earthworm in Portuguese).

On their blog, they also publish information they’ve gathered about different permaculture techniques, which involves copying how things work in natural ecosystems and applying that to human activity, especially agriculture.

“Our goal is to build bridges between communities so that they can exchange their knowledge”

Leticia is one of the co-founders of Común Tierra.

We came up with this idea in 2009, when we met in California. Our dream was to launch a project that would promote eco-friendly initiatives taking place at a community level. We also wanted to adopt a nomadic lifestyle.

The couple has been living on the road for the past six years. Photo: Común Tierra.

We chose to travel across Latin America, which has an incredible natural environment and immense natural heritage. However, this treasure is under threat from human activities, especially from the overexploitation of soil caused by over-farming [Editor’s note: Commercial agriculture was responsible for 70% of deforestation in Latin America between 2000 and 2010, according to a recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization].

When we started "Común Tierra", there was no online resource documenting the different sustainable development projects in Latin America. So we decided to create an interactive map showing the different projects in the region.

Común Tierra’s interactive map. 

“In Latin America, very few media outlets are interested in these small communities and the solutions they have discovered”

Our goal is to build bridges between these communities so that they can share knowledge, especially about the different practices of permaculture. The map also serves as a database for travelers who want to help out one of these projects. But we also want it to show everyday people how easy it is to do something about pollution and the overexploitation of resources.

This photo was taken by Leticia and Ryan at an ecotourism site in Bolivia. You can find more out about this village on their blog. Photo: Común Tierra.

In Latin America, there are very few media outlets that are interested in these small communities and the solutions that they have discovered.

We’ve seen so many of these amazing initiatives in action, from villages set up as ecotourism sites to programs where people can trade recyclable items for food to ecological farms.

This photo shows the folks from Común Tierra meeting up with a family that set up an agro-ecological system in Argentina. You can find out more on their blog. Photo: Común Tierra.

We decided to make little videos about the projects that we saw in action and upload them to YouTube. In our videos, we explain how to copy certain techniques, like building a solar oven, for example. We hope these videos will inspire other people to try it out for themselves!

How to create a solar oven. 


It’s important to us to live in a way that respects nature. We travel in an RV that is equipped with solar panels that provide the energy we use every day. The vehicle runs on biofuel, which reduces our carbon footprint.

This bike is fitted with a washing machine. You can watch the video about this device on YouTube. Photo: Común Tierra.

Our project, "Común Tierra", is financed through donations, grants from businesses involved in environmental protection as well as money we raised during a crowdfunding initiative that we launched in 2011. This allows us to keep our videos and online documentation free.

This is part of our series “The Observers Take Action”. If you are working on a project that is helping your community or if you know of one, don’t hesitate to tell us about it!