Conservation Corps explores circular uses for invasive vine

Mixing it Up: Members of the Guam Green Growth Conservation Corps were challenged to come up with circular economy ideas for the harvested vines.

With its pink and white blossom, the cadena de amor or “chain of love” has been a ubiquitous part of the island’s landscape, but not in a good way. The invasive vine’s canopy of flowers and tendrils choke native forests, preventing the growth of native understory plant species. 

But the University of Guam G3 Conservation Corps found a way to fight back by repurposing parts of the invasive plant into viable products for the circular economy. As part of their training, the G3 Conservation Corps members cleared portions of Yona land overrun by the invasive vine in September. After that, they turned the harvested plant materials into a variety of products, from edible food items such as pesto, furikake, tea, to nonedible products such as clothing dye and bath bombs.  

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Bath Bombs: The Conservation Corps participated in a workshop to create bath bombs with the harvested Chain of Love vines and flowers.

The corps members presented the products at a circular economy workshop. “The reason we did this workshop was to encourage the members to think of how to prolong the life of resourcesThe discussion that we had was how to get the community to come back to the idea of the circular economy,” G3 circular economy coordinator Myracle Mugol said. 

Guam currently follows a linear economic model where resources are extracted, turned into products, and then disposed of after use. The circular economy, in comparison, closes the loop by prolonging the product life cycle and finding another purpose for waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Doing so keeps materials in use and, in the long run, lessens the burden on natural resources and regenerates natural systems.   

At the workshop in Santa Rita, participants showcased the products made from parts of the plant. 

Amanda Dedicatoria, science communicator for NSF EPSCoR prepared a pesto recipe using the chain of love leaves. “The leaves are a little bitter, so it was a little tough to think of what to make out of it. But pesto came to mind. I thought that the basil and the garlic — which are two very strong flavors used in pesto — would mask the bitterness or even complement it. It took two nights of recipe testing to see if it would work,” Dedicatoria said. 

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Sustainable Snack: Amongst the new ideas to use the vine was Pesto, prepared by G3 team member Amanda Dedicatoria.

Meanwhile, Joseph Certeza, a conservation corps member, prepared a textile dye using plant tubers. “As conservation corps members, we are tasked and challenged by each other as well as the project to create products out of the chain of love. I am a textile designer, someone who likes to use natural dyes,” he said. 

Jasmine Flores-Cantrell of Numa’lo Refillery also lead a workshop that incorporated the leaves and flower of the invasive plant in a bath bomb recipe that aimed to reduce waste in an ecological way. 

“We know that invasive species do harm to native species, and to remove them is one thing, but what do you do with that waste,” said Flores-Cantrell. “To use them and reuse them in a product that is beneficial to the body, is also beneficial to the core.”   

The G3 Conservation Corps program prepares the community for the emerging green economy. The program is aligned with the current island-wide efforts to achieve sustainability and other UN SDGs. 

The implementation of a circular economy on the island contribute to achieving multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 8 (economic growth), SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production), SDG 13 (climate change), among others. 

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