Thursday, 8 May 2014

Living Green in the Nature Isle

From a distance, one might assume that an island with the tag "the Nature Isle" might be one with more sustainble-green-ecological goals at the forefront of its culture. In some ways, yes, the people of Dominica are quite proud of living at one with nature. The people adopt practices that are very green, so much so, that they may even be out of my comfort zone as practice. Things such as river baths and bush medicine, I am open to try, and have, but I just haven't been able to kick my old shower and hot water heater habit. And, while I have been reading up on how to concoct healing remedies Rastafarian style, I haven't yet taken to the bush with the machete looking for the wildest most healing of herbs, grasses, and barks. According to a book that I have been reading, the most healing finds are the ones that grow wild, and I totally accept that. Still, I prefer my pre-bottled bug repellent (while it is made in Dominica and from the herbs and ingredients sourced as locally as possible......they may have been farmed though, darn).

This afternoon, as I stopped my bike to drop off our trash in the bins outside of Kootney, I noticed that almost all of the bins were filled to the brim. The one with some room had brand new empty gallon water bottle jugs nicely propped atop the black trash bags, tops on, no dents, no damage. Contrast that to a recent phone conversation I had with my sister-in-law in Finland who was expressing her excitement that she had virtually no trash for her landfill bag. Although Dominica doesn't have advanced trash disposal and separation systems, we can still do our part to lessen our impact in Dominica and for the Earth in general. are some tips for us Ex-Pats, used to the recycling systems of the states but unaccustomed to the ways of lessoning our "carbon footprint" in a new culture.

1. Re-Use your water bottles!

No excuses people. Water is free on the Ross campus. Buy as many jugs as you would like to have on reserve from your local grocery, and then re-fill them until the bottles are deemed too banged up to continue use. It will save you $$ AND plastic is a big problem. There is one landfill on this small island, why must we fill it up with perfectly clean and sturdy water jugs?

Oh.. and did I just assume that all people carry a sturdy reusable water bottle for individual consumption? If you don't already, please do. Its a smart and easy way to save money and keep hydrated.

If you are not a member of the Ross community, there are many water sources in the rivers of Dominica that are drinkable... if you're curious, please ask, I'll be happy to elaborate more on these tips to finding/making water clean and drinkable without having to constantly buy new plastic water bottles

2. Buy compostable trash bags.

"Mr. Green" makes a biodegradable trash bag that can be purchased in a variety of sizes at IGA and Hong Kong market in Picard and at Astaphans in Roseau. Why fill up the landfill with plastic that may never decompose or risk that plastic to drift out to sea when there is a biodegradable alternative.

3. Bring re-usable grocery bags to the store and market.

In Paris I was laughed at by the grocery store clerk for not having my own bag to place my groceries, and that was in 2005... US stores are giving incentives to bring your own bags. Anyone seen the Portlandia short: "No bag on aisle (whatever it was)?" Well why not extend this same habit here. You will most often have to lug your own groceries some length of a distance down a road, in the heat, or up a hill. You will be helping yourself by bringing a bigger and easier bag to lug.

4. If you have to take plastic bags from the grocer, re-use them.

Use em for your small trash bins.. or to collect compostables that can be later disposed. Coffee grounds and tea leaves have great nutrients for the soil. Collect em and dispose in the yard.

5. Use dishtowels, less paper towels.

Okay, so paper towels are biodegradable, but they can get expensive... they are packaged in plastic... plus that whole production process to get those things to your home is lengthy. Use less paper towels by stocking up on dish towels and surface cleaning sponges.

6. DIY/Kitchen aisle some of your most used household cleaners and beauty products - Laundry detergent, Shampoo/Conditioner, body lotion, deodorant..

One might be surprised how versatile baking soda, vinegar and coconut oil can be! I am going to have to write a separate post just on this topic, but in the mean time, Pinterest home made natural alternatives to your most used items, you will find a wealth of information. And for shampoo/conditioner alternative, google the "no poo method."

7. Buy/Find Local

Lessen your carbon footprint by buying products made in Dominica. Consumer products have to make a big trek to reach this tiny island in the sea... why not contribute to this economy by researching and finding local products? Bello is one brand that is produced in Dominica and sells grocery items. There are a number of Dominican soap companies, and the Saturday markets in both Portsmouth and Roseau have all you need in produce, coffees, teas, oils, herbs, and spices!

8. Eco/Organic Products can be found

Fresh Vitamins in Roseau and inside of IGA sells organic. Also, IGA, Astaphan's, and Jolly's stock organic products on their shelves. If the product says "Bio" it is organic. Just so you know to look out. The companies that produce these items emphasize their impact and are required to pass measures to achieve organic or bio status, making them more trustworthy than other products on the market.

9. Bring your own containers to the shacks.

Most shacks serve their food in styrofoam. Uh oh.. styrofoam is a majorly distressing product for me. It doesn't biodegrade ever. It emits a gas when broken. Fishies can choke on it (okay I don't know for sure, but a sad image none the less), and I have found tons of styrofoam trash in the gutters here.. which will eventually be carried out to the ocean where who knows what its impact on the reef and ocean-life are. Bring plastic reusable containers to the shacks and they will even give you a discount on your meal! Also, there is a washing station next to the picnic tables where you can clean them out when you're finished.

10. Re-use your containers, glass and plastic.

Tupperware is expensive here and glass jars can't be found for purchase. Save your yogurt containers to store food leftovers. Save glass peanut butter and jam jars to do the same, or for pickling! Or for making your own jams at home with all the fresh flavorable fruit from the island! Or for salsa.... or for anything!

11. Feed your compostable food scraps to the lizards and birds

I just throw my cooking food scraps into the bushes for my lizard friends... but I don't cook with meat. So my advice is throw none meat compostable food scraps away from the house but in the yard if possible. I have some friends who make bird feeders out of coconuts, too. The birdies love to eat the less desirable parts of fruit... seeds.. skin.

12. Generally try to avoid plastic and styrofoam plates and utensils.

Bring your own dishes to a pot luck. Compostable products are also available on the back shelves at IGA and other stores around the island. Seek 'em out.

13. "Give & Go" at the end of each Ross semester.

There is a relatively new charity on the Ross campus that picks up items at the end of each semester before people leave and especially so usable items don't get thrown in the trash. Why wait 'till your time has come to leave the island. A clean house is a serene house.. do a little cleaning at the end of every semester and donate your things to Give and Go.. and you can also make a few bucks by selling some things on Craigslist.

14. Bring your plastic and paper recyclables to the Ross campus. 

There IS a recycling plant in Roseau, and there IS a truck that has been designated to stop by the Ross campus on a weekly basis to pick up recyclables. Let's live by example and make sure this system is put into use. Bring your plastics, papers, and glass recyclables to campus and dispose in the properly marked recycling bins. Maybe you will want to ask around campus to ensure that others know that this system is being used, and to know that you do care that it DOES Work!

Do you have some tips? Any measures you take to live a little more green in Dominica? Please, do share! We can all benefit from the wisdom of our community.

 Let's live by example and see how far our impact can reach!

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