Looking at Dome's Beach from El Faro Park

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eco Tourism in Puerto Rico

The title of this blog post may be misleading as I won't be writing about the latest Eco-resort if such a thing exists in Puerto Rico, but I will be writing about ways that tourists here can help minimize the impact of their visit to this island, whose natural beauty, beaches and coastline draw millions (yes millions) of visitors each year.  It seems to be a bit of a catch-22 as these beautiful natural resources can only stay that way if they are managed properly, bringing in millions of people who create trash and waste and consume can only be a negative, but there aren't many alternatives for the Puerto Rico economy; manufacturing and agriculture can have as much if not more negative environmental impact.  A growing tourism industry relies on keeping Puerto Rico's natural resources clean and beautiful and hopefully the Puerto Rico tourism Company and the visitors to Puerto Rico understand this.  To see a report from the Puerto Rican Tourism Company from 2006, click here.  But I don't see a lot of this in action here on the West Coast.
Sometimes people go on vacation and take a vacation from their responsibilities as citizens as well, using bottled water just because you're on vacation doesn't make sense, but it happens.  I'm hoping to reach some of the people coming here to let them know that as a group, things will not change, its up to individuals to think about what the impact of their lives is on the planet and how they can lessen that impact.

Unfortunately, Puerto Rico doesn't have very good public transit, I know in Old San Juan it is ok, but generally the Publicos are unreliable and a mystery to tourists.  So a rental car is probably the only option, but before you think about getting a nice big sedan, try a smaller vehicle and realize that alot of the roads in Puerto Rico are small 2-lane roads. you'll be saving gas and not be reduced to playing Chicken with the oncoming cars.
Very little of the plastic consumed on this island gets recycled here.  Most ends up in landfills, some gets shipped off the island and some make it to the plastic recycling centers on the island, please read about the misconceptions of recycling here.
Water is a big issue nowadays and bringing a water bottle with you, instead of buying bottled water will make a huge difference, but also asking the hotel if they filter their water and letting them know that that is important to you as a consumer. 
When you go out to eat, once again bringing your own water or asking if the restaurant filters their water keeps restaurant owners accountable.  If a bar serves you a drink in a disposable plastic cup, ask if they have a reusable cup or for your next drink, request to use the same cup.
Trash - Very little glass get recycled on Puerto Rico 7-10%, most gets ground up and put in landfills, so the best environmental  material is aluminum.  While Puerto rico does not have a bottle bill like many states requiring a deposit for all bottled beverage or aluminum can sales, many individual collectors still make aluminum and cardboard the most recycled materials on the island.
Asking if bars, restaurants and hotels recycle will help get these operators on board.
Try to buy local food and remember to seek out eco-friendly businesses on the island, make your tourism dollars count by giving it to those that care about keeping Puerto Rico natural and beautiful.  Find more info on 2006 PR Recycling Report.