Thanks, Beaconites, for publishing two great pieces last week. In a commentary, Mike Burrill stressed the need to move to alternative energy sources.  And reporter Dan O’Connor got in an article on the embarrassing fact that the United States Virgin Islands is also upset about the Pockwood Pond trash burning, explaining that this territory’s air pollution is not only affecting the health of its own residents, but also our neighbours’.

Both of these pieces highlight the fact that the VI is doing almost nothing to come to terms with the current thinking about pollution and sustainable development.

If each and every one of us just thought before we bought, and took a proactive approach, we could reduce our garbage substantially each week. At the same time, we could put pressure on businesses to limit their garbage.

Positive steps

Here are just a few actions that are easy to embrace.

• Take your reusable bags to the supermarket.

• Refuse every time to take a plastic bag. In most countries now you either can’t get a plastic bag at the supermarket, or you have to pay for it, or you feel very guilty when they ask if you need a bag. But at least in those countries reusable bags are readily available for purchase. Three years down the line I am still waiting to actually see the reusable bags supposedly brought in by a VI supermarket. Where are they hiding?

• Constantly encourage the supermarkets here to make reusable bags readily available. Urge them to start charging for the use of plastic bags — or simply to make a radical move not to use plastic bags. I will certainly shift my loyalty to the first supermarket to discourage the use of plastic bags, and you can do the same.

• Stop buying drinks in plastic bottles.

• Get reusable bottles and use them. Ask your workplace to provide drinking water and refill your own bottle. Request that disposable plastic cups not be used where water is provided.

• Take your own water to restaurants so you won’t need to buy water in a plastic bottle. Not only is the plastic filling up our landfill here, but water in bottles has a huge carbon footprint attached to it: Much of it has been shipped here from places like Fiji and Scotland! It is also now thought that water that has been in bottles for a long time may be dangerous for our health!

• Don’t buy food in plastic containers. Refuse the plastic knife and fork.

• Lobby the education minister to put a stop to all the plastic and Styrofoam that the schoolchildren use.

• Encourage your favourite take-away vendor to use biodegradable containers.

• Praise those who are making an effort and tell your friends.  

• Remember that water is a costly resource, so think before you let the tap run while you clean your teeth or take a long shower. Think back to the days when we were all careful because all our water came from a cistern.

Tourism pollution

The tourism sector is a huge polluter, as it tends to rely on the “ease” of disposable items. If anyone in the tourism sector wants to seem “green,” they need to take care of the plastics they encourage their clients to use.

Bareboat companies should discourage their clients from buying cases of bottled water and ordering disposable plates and cutlery. The whole charter industry needs to come up with a way to provision boats without putting the provisions in plastic bags.

Finally, as the world’s oceans are facing a crash in the fishing industry, we also need to pay attention to where our fish products are coming from. We need the vendors of imported seafood to clearly label the source of the seafood. Restaurants need to take the bull by the horns and only put sustainably caught or farmed fish on their menus.

So let’s think before we buy and work together for a more plastic-free environment. Remember that before considering recycling, you should consider reducing your garbage.