Ask people from Europe about environmental initiatives in the Cayman Islands and you’ll likely get a dismissive chuckle in response.
Europe embraced environmentalism long before countries on the west side of the Atlantic. However, many places in Canada and the United States have also instituted more environmental protection policies and the movement is catching on with more of the public there. Unfortunately, such initiatives are not very popular here with the public nor, apparently, with the government.
Even the limited recycling programme in the Cayman Islands has been a frustrating experience of fits and starts. Many stores are selling environmentally friendly, re-usable shopping bags, but almost no-one uses them. The use of solar power and wind energy are just starting, but most people just seem to continue consuming energy and resources with no regard to conservation.
It is therefore encouraging to see that two Cayman tourist destinations, the Cobalt Coast Dive Resort in West Bay and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Frank Sound Road are both seeking Green Globe 21 certification through a programme called the Cayman Islands Environmental Project for the Tourism Sector. Green Globe is an international branding for environmentally friendly and sustainable tourism.
Some of what the certification requires is common sense, like using energy-efficient light bulbs and timers for outdoor lights to reduce electricity consumption. Other requirements would probably sound farfetched to many Cayman Islands residents, at least the non-Europeans.
Among the things Cobalt Coast is doing to try and attain the Green Globe standard include installing two-button-system toilets that allow people to choose the amount of water used, depending on what is being flushed; replacing disposable plastic cups in guest rooms with hard plastic cups that can be washed and re-used; and using refillable containers for shampoo in guest bathrooms rather than the small throw-away kind.
Just as the effort to attain the Green Globe 21 certificate has required a change in thinking from the Cobalt Coast staff, becoming a ‘green’ country will require a significant cultural change in thinking from many residents in the Cayman Islands.
In most places in the world that have initiated conservation practices, the change in thinking has required a kick-start from the government in the way of legislation. People in Germany, for example, wouldn’t dare throw glass bottles in with the rest of their trash for fear of fines. Several places in the U.S. have also adopted the strategy.
It is great that organisations like the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Tourism encourage environmentalism through voluntary programmes. However, until the government decides conservation and sustainability is important enough to enforce through law, environmentalism will remain the isolated endeavours of only a minority.