We Can Totally Do It: Cleaning up Belize

You may not be old enough to remember it – I barely am! – but the roadsides of the United States used to be a giant garbage dump.

There was no recycling…you would finish your packed lunch on a long road trip and throw the trash out the car window.  Shot gun a can of beer  (yes!  while driving!) and…out it went.

And then in the early 1970s, things started to change.  A incredibly famous commercial starring a “Native American chief” (the actor was actually 100% Sicilian) is shown canoeing by ugly smoke stacks and trash and shedding a dramatic single tear over disrespect shown to his native land.

It was a massive “Keep America Beautiful” campaign and it highlighted something that many weren’t even thinking of…

Why am I throwing soda cans and gum wrappers out my car window?  Wouldn’t our beautiful country look more beautiful if I didn’t do it?

Cool thing is that this Keep America Campaign was started by Philip-Morris, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  Let’s try to reduce litter with public service announcements.

Soon we had Smokey the Bear telling us to watch our cigarette butts and to put out our camp fire.

And Woodsy Owl telling kids to give a HOOT, don’t pollute.  Targeting small kids with the catchy song.  (I still know every word to this commercial)

Kids got involved.  We (I was a kid back then!) started to shame friends and parents for throwing candy bar wrappers and soda pull tabs on the ground.  In the 70s, it became cool to care about the environment.  To show an interest in recycling and animals and our oceans and our surroundings.

Even cartoon characters were doing it.

And fast forward 40 years…littering is down IMMENSELY and is a criminal act in most of the United States.

And here’s why I’m telling you about the roadside trash in America.

  1.  To highlight that it was and IS a problem everywhere
  2. It’s a process – awareness and action does not happen overnight
  3.  Even small changes, like kids shaming dads, can help!

There are so many causes…good causes…that it may seem overwhelming.  But this takes almost no effort…just a tiny shift in mind-set.    Easy…but no overnight.

We got this.

Awareness is growing…the MOMENTUM is happening in Belize.  I’ve written about some of the trash issues that we have…things ARE moving in the right direction.  Sometimes 4 steps ahead, 3 back but the forward movement is there!

Belize is SOOO incredibly unbelievable ridiculously beautiful.  It’s why people visit in droves and a huge part of why we love living here SO much.

Let’s all work to keep her this way.

Here’s what is happening and some ways EVERYONE can help.

Oceana Belize Clean-Up THIS Saturday Morning, Sept 30th

Every Saturday Morning – You can join the amazing team at the Phoenix Resort for a beach clean up in town.

They go out every week – groups big and small – with staff, guests, volunteers – groups big and small.  Check their facebook page.

They also happen to be one of the top resorts in the country.   Do you think there is a link?

Mata Chica Resort, another favorite on Ambergris Caye, recently put up signs and trash barrels on the road north.  Making it easier to throw your trash IN the bins rather than the road side.  Hurray!!!!

And Belize Chocolate Company – one of my favorite places in the world – is launching a GO-STRAWLESS campaign.

LITTLE THINGS LIKE STRAWS MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Do I ever even use these straws?  NO.  Do I use the 2 cocktails straws that come in all drinks?  No.  Where do they end up?

Here’s the low down and the CONTEST from Belize Chocolate.  I know I want free chocolate.

On 1st October 2017, Belize Chocolate Company (BCC) will start its “Go straw-less” campaign.

In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic straws that end up in our oceans and on our beaches, BCC will be encouraging all their customers to “Go straw-less” when buying a milkshakes or cold drink.

Between the US and UK nearly 550 MILLION plastic straws are used every day. These straws will be on our planet and in our oceans forever as they take 200 years to breakdown and remain as tiny toxic particles. As an incentive for every customer who chooses to “Go straw-less”, Belize Chocolate Company will contribute $1bz to Oceana. “We are really hoping that our customers will support this campaign and we would like to encourage other businesses to do the same” said Chris Beaumont, Owner, Belize Chocolate Company.

Contributions to Oceana will be published monthly.

In addition, Belize Chocolate Company have launched a “Go Straw-less” poster competition, open to all Primary school and High School Children of Belize. The poster which must use the words “Go Straw-less” will be used in all publicity and posted in Belize Chocolate Company Boutique.

Prizes of gift certificates for chocolate for $75Bz, $50BZ and $25 BZ will be given for first, second and third prize. For more information and rules email gostrawless@belizechocolatecompany.com

Here’s my 2 minute entry – a bit harsh maybe?  Probably.  But you get the point.

 






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  • Awesome. LOVE your poster and all the initiatives. I know Belize can do this, and they so need to. Such a small country with so much trash; a cultural change and education is needed…step by step, you will get there. Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue!

    • Martha Burke Wilson

      I hope they clean up San Mateo. It is horrible for the hard working Belizeans to live there. They live with trash in their yards. It is a health issue also.

  • Dr Mel.

    Great post! I’m so glad you are addressing this issue. Keep up the good work, Rebecca!

  • erictomlin

    So happy to see this. Littering is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. There is simply no need for it. If you can’t hold your trash until you get to a trash can, you are one lazy S.O.B. In my visits to A.C. so far, littering is the one thing that stood out as a major negative to me. I was shocked how prevalent it is…but I understand why. I am so pleased to see a campaign starting to address this. I know it will take time – maybe even an entire generation or more – but you have to start somewhere.

    • So so so so true – it’s just infuriating. I’m slowly working thru that 🙂 – kinda why I was reading about the history of change in the US and other places. And how it is still such a huge problem EVERYWHERE and how it’s a process. And then I like to breathe in blue and breathe out red 🙂

  • Vince Yambrovich

    Very well-written post! I liked how at least two actionable activities oriented toward making forward progress on cleaning up Belize were woven into the narrative – the Annual Coastal River Beach Cleanup on 9/30 and the Belize Chocolate Company ‘Go Straw-less’ poster competition.

    That being said, my observation is that a major impediment to growing the recycling culture and mindset is the lack of viable scrap metal and plastics recycling industries in Belize. I advance the notion that a sorting/loading infrastructure should be put in place in Belize and sorted scrap metal and plastic materials loaded onto barges for transport to Houston, TX, New Orleans, LA, or Mobile, AL

    I am pleased that so much progress is being made on this front!

    • Thanks for the input – and YES recycling plastics would be amazing. People visit and often ask “why don’t you recycle plastic”? It’s not as easy as that! It’s a huge investment — I like your idea of loading it on barges…we just need to figure out a way that it would be a business for someone!