Both Chaa Creek And Mother Nature Cheer As Belize Moves To Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags On Earth Day 2019

We’re getting closer folks!

Back in March of last year we joined the world in applauding the Government of Belize’s courageous decision to ban single-use plastic bags, utensils, Styrofoam containers, and other environmental nasties beginning on Earth Day, April 22 2019. You can read about it here:

And let’s be clear – it was a courageous decision.

Politicians like to avoid ruffling the feathers of voters and local businesses. No one stays in office by making unpopular decisions, and let’s face it – consumers, restaurateurs, shopkeepers, and most folks love the convenience of plastic.

garbage collected chaa creek belize river cleanup 2018

C’mon, we all do.

It’s hard to change habits after years of leaving stores with our groceries nicely packed in handy bags. And we’ve become used to enjoying hot lunches, dinners and snacks kept warm in containers we just throw away when we’re finished.

For their part, restaurants pack their burgers, fried chicken and what have you in Styrofoam, and then don’t need to bother with – or pay for –dishwashing or replacing broken plates and glasses.

belize sustainable tourism cleanup campaign header

So yeah… it was a decision fraught with danger for a democratically elected government.

But guess what? As we move closer to the 22nd of April, it’s sounding like the majority of Belizean citizens and businesspeople are supporting the move, with many actively working towards transitioning away from plastic.

That’s the word we’ve been hearing from various sources, with many people expressing sentiments like those found in a video the Government of Belize recently released. Check it out here:

As Dr Percivol Cho points out, little Belize uses about 2 million plastic bags a year that either sit in landfill for hundreds of years, or wind up polluting otherwise pristine landscapes and waterways.

Like, when Sir Richard Branson and Fabien Cousteau took part in that recent expedition to the bottom of Belize’s Blue Hole (made popular years ago by Cousteau’s famous grandfather Jacques), what did they find?

You guessed it.

As Sir Richard tells us, “Sadly we saw plastic at the bottom of the Hole, which is a real scourge of the ocean. We’ve all got to get rid of single-use plastic.”

Belize ban plastics and styrofoam

And now Belize is in the process of doing just that, using new legislation that prohibits the importation, production, sale and use of single-use plastic and Styrofoam products.

Which leads us to the cool part of the video. After the officials make their case, we hear from various businesspeople describing what they’re doing as far as using green, biodegradable packaging, giving discounts for bringing your own cups, and generally encouraging their customers to join in the effort.

As The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s owners, managers and 160 staff members will tell you, once the will is there, Green business practices aren’t all that hard to put in place and maintain. They’ve been doing it for years, and with the enthusiastic support of their guests. For example, Chaa Creek:

  • Gives guests free souvenir aluminium water bottles they can fill with state-of-the-art purified drinking water at handy refill stations
  • Developed equipment for crushing cans and non-recyclable glass bottles as aggregate in cement and for other construction uses
  • Has a written purchasing policy requiring all suppliers to use bulk packaging and other environmentally friendly practices
  • Ensures cardboard is flattened, which, with other suitable paper material, is used as mulch and weed-control at the Maya Organic Garden
  • Uses kitchen waste and organic by-products as fertiliser
  • Donates restaurant leftovers to local farmers for pig feed
  • Only buys recycled paper that office staff are encouraged to use double-sided and only when electronic media isn’t appropriate
  • Hosts 24 young Belizean students each year for “Eco-Kids”, a free environmental education summer camp, and spreads environmental awareness through Belizean schools with a number of educational programs
  • And…

Eco Kids Summer Camp 2018 Day 3 arts crafts

This is just the tip of a Green iceberg that has made Chaa Creek an internationally recognised model for sustainable tourism and responsible travel – as National Geographic pointed out with first place honours at the 2017 World Legacy Awards.

You can read about more Green practices and conservation efforts here:

Eco Kids Summer Camp 2013

And Chaa Creek is not alone in working towards a sustainable, healthy environment. With over a quarter of Belize – roughly two and a half million acres, or 1.22 million hectares – under some form of designated protection, the Belize Great Barrier Reef a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with an educated populace whose grandparents depended on the land and sea for sustenance and survival, Belizeans have a deep, abiding love and respect for their country’s natural resources.

We like to think that if a small, developing nation of some 380,00 people are willing to make changes in their day-to-day lives for the sake of the environment and their children’s future, other larger, more developed countries can follow suit. And if enough countries do that… well, in the words of John Lennon:

“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”

And while dreams are great, they’re even better when they result in action.

We’ll keep you updated on the plastics ban and other Earth Day activities in Belize as we approach 22 April 2019.

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