Connecting The Dots

by tacogirl
Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle Belize Magazine Conservation Issue Launch with Mcnab Visual Strategies

I recently attended the Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle Belize conservation issue launch and then the eco-marketplace expo afterward.

As I listened to the speakers, they were all connecting dots about the special edition’s important theme of conservation.

Everyone had something interesting and different on the main focus. Throughout the launch we heard from, master of ceremonies Kyle Montero, outreach program assistant, Oceana Belize; welcome address was given by Tanya Mcnab, Creative Director, McNab Visual; Strategies Conservation in Belize, Janelle Chanona Vice president, Oceana Belize; remarks Jesse Robinson, executive director of Getch Foundation; and closing remarks Louise Row Lead brand manager, Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle. In true meeting fashion, the Belize National Anthem was sung, this time by Jackie Castillo.

It was unanimous that we have to work together to highlight, value and take ownership of our most treasured and in many places overstressed environment. We need to be more passionate, inspire each other and do better about caring for it.

The eco expo afterward was great and there were some good products available. Everything from solar to fashion. Many places were giving out reusable shopping bags. A few companies were giving out some cool paper straws, another, bamboo ones. Both great initiatives to help us have plastic-free reefs. I ended up buying some recycled paper notebooks for Tinker (my friends Cindy and Andy’s daughter) for her first day of school.

Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle Belize Magazine Conservation Issue Launch
Eco-expo
Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle Belize Magazine Conservation Issue Launch
Information and education
Caribbean Culture and Lifestyle Belize Magazine Conservation Issue Launch
Paper straws for a plastic-free reef
Barrier Reef Ambergris Caye
More protection of our most valuable natural assets is needed

A Dot That Needs Connecting

The expo mentioned above is a great start to helping get eco-friendly options out there along with some education on why businesses and individuals need to adopt better practices across the board when it comes to Belize’s environment.

While the country of Belize has started out phasing non-environmentally friendly single-use products back in April 2019, more needs to be done in order to help people comply.

Last week or so, I started ordering food from Wake N Bake lunch delivery. When I enquired on the packaging I got an informative, realistic answer.

Me – Any way to cut back on nonrecyclables? I like your lunches but the packaging makes me cringe.

Wake N Bake – Miss Laurie I agree with you but so far I’ve found two kinds of recyclable containers. One in price comparison to styrofoam was very flimsy and the second was very sturdy but they are like 4 times the cost styrofoam! I’m already trying to provide an affordable product to my customers but by all means, if you know somewhere I can check for recyclable plates, do tell! I’m willing to look into it. All my customer’s opinion counts!!

Me -Ouch, I agree. What about dropping the fork and sauce containers from mine and if possible bag? I usually bring my own containers for take-out. I did not mean to make you feel bad in any way for saying that. My friend Dennis made me start using my own container on his last visit to Belize because he saw I do not cook much and wanted to help me be more responsible lol.

Wake N Bake -Miss Laurie you didn’t make me feel bad my dear! I honestly did seek options to not use styrofoam! If you would like you can get two of whichever containers and every time I deliver food for you just hand me the empty one and when you order again we just rotate those two containers! I’m here to work with all my customers so they get the best possible service I can provide! I appreciate your comments and will try to seek better alternatives for plating the food!

It is not the first time I have heard from business owners that the supply of reasonably priced environmental to-go container options does not meet the demand of phasing out unhealthy single-use products. We live in a highly take-out society and there are way too few well priced sturdy take-out containers available. Many businesses want to keep their to-go pricing low so that their customers can afford it.

Jackie Musante Feldman co-owner of the Truckstop restaurants Arepa and Rasa once told me “it is almost $1.00 BZ for a single biodegradable to-go container at a local shop….and that is ludicrous…I know it because we have been using them for 3 years….again, we started this from the beginning and of course, it takes a bite out of our food costs and it affects our pricing of food to the consumer. At least it is a start…..but without proper management, it could backfire.”

I have to agree that it could easily backfire or get lost in the day to day shuffle. Some sort of leveling up in the strategic plan and management of phasing out single-use is needed to bridge the gap, and a monitoring system to help businesses become accountable.

What does it say when the current choices are seeming to make many businesses potentially lose customers or take a hit in profit due to container-related price increase or serve food in non-environmentally friendly containers?

Potential Solution

Duty on environmentally friendly containers needs to come way down or lifted altogether. It has to become as cost-effective and easy for everyone to do the right thing without hurting the socioeconomics of businesses and customers in the process. It also needs to be harder and not cost-effective for businesses to do the wrong thing. Duty could be raised on all materials that should be phased out. Once reasonable alternatives that work for everyone are established and running well, banning specific things like styrofoam outright containers and cups would also be helpful.

As you saw above, Wake N Bake was immediately willing to work with me on a suitable option for both of us. After I told him I try to bring my own container for takeout. Together we instantly made my $12 chicken alfredo and garlic bread lunch zero waste. And today my $10 chicken burrito with pico de gallo and sour cream will turn up in my blue container.

Belize phases out single use plastics and styrofoam

Another Big Conservation Dot

We are known for our beautiful waters, yet more areas of Ambergris Caye waters are testing extremely high for coliform bacteria. This is from a bad combination of using garbage for landfill combined with improper infrastructure. As a result, the damage being done to our most precious asset is alarming. If we do not identify all areas and take proper measures to clean the water, we will suffer greatly. People in some areas and animals are already showing signs of living in a highly toxic environment.

Before building more tourism, and having a potential repeat in other parts of the island without proper infrastructure and building local housing in wetland areas, is not good. It would be beneficial to correct the already overstressed environment first.

I had an opportunity to talk to William Usher of Green Care products in-person at the show. I had previously only spoken to them by Facebook messenger. They have a great natural product that can clean our highly toxic waters. It is am EM technology (Effective Microorganism) that helps restore microbial balance. It’s a biological brown solution made from the mixing of aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms. The product that is formulated naturally with sugarcane molasses.

Before that happens though we need to identify and stop all sources of contamination. I’m still hoping more cavalry magically appears whos goal is to help save our unhealthy waters. I have a great stockpile of information and two significant studies, both which pinpoint that improper infrastructure in combination with using garbage for landfill is causing toxic land.

The pictures below show we have too much to lose by ignoring our toxic water situation on Ambergris Caye. I hope we can find the right help to get things in reverse and get a healthy water report card islandwide.

Flying in Belize with a Caribbean Sea view
Keep our waters clean
Jellyfish in San Pedro Lagoon
Snowflake Jellyfish in resting position
Top side of a Jellyfish in San Pedro Lagoon
Flatter side of Jellyfish in San Pedro Lagoon

Photo credits above go to Will Narod “The Paradise Guy” for feature image and Caribbean Lifestyle.com for the Belize Magazine cover. Unfortunately the unthinkable happened and two separate files of folders I took that day vanished into thin air. Thankfully I had those two resources mentioned above and just enough event pics left on my camera to go with this write-up.

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