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The PPM Blog

Paradise Practices

a person smiling for the cameraContributed by Rebecca Martin, Environmental Engineer, PPM Consultants

I just returned from my stay in the beautiful Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten, and this time, I took extra notice of the sustainable practices the island has established.

Sint Maarten is a family favorite vacation spot for us, and we always thoroughly enjoy our stay. During this trip and unlike our previous visits, I noticed that the resort we were staying at took great care in reducing the amount of energy consumed and waste generated. Signs were left on the mirrors in our room encouraging towel reuse, turning off lights when exiting the room, closing shades for more efficient cooling, using reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastics, limits on AC temperature settings, and even more environmentally conscious requests.

a sandy beach next to a body of waterThe island is small and has limited space for a landfill, and even more so considering their main economic pillar is tourism, pushing the landfill to be hidden from the public eye. While reducing waste generation is a current global initiative for most countries, the limited space to store/treat waste in Sint Maarten heightens the need for waste reduction, and so, the island encourages limited food waste as well as limited plastic use. Grocery stores reuse cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags, incorrect food orders are given away as complimentary dishes with no extra cost, etc. The island also hosts regular cleanup activities for the community to pick up litter and trash on beaches, protecting wild and marine life.

This is a personal preference, but most tourists walk to restaurants and other adventures around the island because there is so much to do right outside your doorstep, and if needed, taxis are easily available and carpooling with others is encouraged. Some visitors rent vehicles, but my family and I have yet to need one, opting to walk wherever we go.

a large body of waterAnother practice I have noted on previous trips while on boat charters/snorkeling cruises is that they tell snorkelers and divers not to step on or touch any coral in Sint Maarten reefs. There is currently a significant push to build back their coral reefs due to the recent hurricanes that destroyed several parts of the island including homes and boats in the marina. Sint Maarten is considered the Yachting capital of the world and with the large ships, cruises, yachts, etc. being destroyed in Hurricane Irma, this led to a substantial amount of fuels and oils polluting the surrounding waters. And speaking from my own snorkeling adventures, while the reefs are improving and the waters are stunning, the coral is limited and has a long way to go.

Tourism, while very lucrative, can also be extremely wasteful or environmentally taxing, so it is nice to see Sint Maarten installing sustainable practices in this industry, allowing natives and visitors to continue enjoying the charming beaches of Sint Maarten.

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