The S in SPI

One of the goals of Sustainable Preservation Initiative is to preserve the world’s cultural heritage for future generations. We believe that in order to be effective, this preservation needs to be sustainable.

 What exactly do we mean by “sustainable”?

First and foremost, sustainable means economically sustainable.

We invest in local communities and their cultural heritage for the future and are interested in long-term results. By investing in local businesses that create local jobs, SPI’s new paradigm for preservation provides an ongoing revenue stream for the local community and preservation. These businesses are self-supporting and locally-owned. The artisan and tourist center mentioned below is a great example. Not only did the construction of the center employ members of the community, but also created more than 12 permanent jobs and a class of future entrepreneurs.

Sustainable also means scalable.

Previous preservation paradigms have often been one-time acts of largesse: the construction of huge visitor’s centers and museums at small, out-of-the-way sites that now lie empty and derelict. Why not start with a simple gate, as SPI founder Larry Coben did at the archaeological site of Incallajta, about 100 miles east of Cochabamba, Bolivia? By working with the local community to install a $50 gate and charge tourists $10 to see the ruins, the community earned $80 in two weeks. That’s more than a complete return on investment in less than 14 days. Economically sustainable and scalable.

Last, but not least, sustainable means re-use.

Using a community’s resources effectively is part of what being sustainable is all about. At SPI’s project in San Jose De Moro,Peru, local community members constructed an artisan and tourist center near its ancient Moche archaeological site. Not only did the construction project employ local people from the town, but the bricks used to construct the center were made by re-using the dirt from the archaeological excavations there. Take a closer look at sustainability in action in this SPI photo of the week.

We believe that the best way to preserve the world’s cultural heritage is to invest in the lives of those who have the greatest effect on them: local communities. That’s the beauty of sustainability–it means not having to sacrifice something at the expense of another. It’s working together for the improvement of everything involved: the well-being of the community, the cultural heritage, and the knowledge it gives the rest of us.

So, our definition of “sustainable”: saving sites by transforming lives.

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