Confessions of a (Palm) Tree Hugger

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My family and I recently returned home from a Caribbean vacation where we faced a 100 degree temperature swing upon our arrival home.  Our family was overdue for a break from everything and in deciding where to go we chose some place warm and that would guarantee a fun time for the kids, Bahamas Atlantis Resort.  I had rationalized the carbon footprint of our flights and various other environmental costs of taking a trip like this and we did a great job of ensuring our house used minimal energy while we were gone.  At the recommendation of a friend, we even packed lots of dried goods to avoid significant costs for food while in the Bahamas since our suite had a full kitchen.

One thing I was unprepared for and unfortunately had not researched at all was a total and complete lack of recycling.  Imagine a resort with 2400+ rooms, water parks, restaurants, a golf course, and more that does not have a single recycle bin for guests on its property.  Now add in that the tap water has an undesirable taste and color, so bottled water is bought and sold in enormous quantities.  Then add in the normal things like aluminum cans, bottles, cardboard boxes, paper, etc.  Every single item has no potential to be recycled on the grounds.  I was mildly disturbed and had taken the ability to recycle for granted.

After inquiring with the resort staff, resort management company, and doing some additional research I learned a few things; the most important is that the Bahamas does not have any significant infrastructure for recycling.  An island nation that prides itself on tourism and natural beauty lacks a fundamental way to separate waste from recyclables…  The country is working on developing its recycling program and one of the local waste providers is just starting a recycling program.  There are also discussions about piloting a project to collect and ship recyclables to the U.S. and determine if that is an economically viable option.

Other items I learned which offered some hope are that the Atlantis Bahamas delivers their unused food to Hands for Hunger to help feed the needy and eliminate food waste.  The resort also self-treats all toilet and shower water and reuses it for irrigation, is switching to green cleaning products that have zero toxicity, uses CFL’s and has various other efforts in place to reduce electricity usage.

Despite those efforts, seeing countless recyclable containers be thrown in to the trash day after day was troubling.  Moving forward I will be more diligent in researching destinations and continue to use my voice when there are things that should be fundamentally improved.

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