Help Keep Aruba Eco-Happy!

“One Happy Island” is delighted to welcome over one million visitors per year, many of them repeat guests, but considering that this little rock encompasses only 70 square miles, that kind of human traffic can take a toll on the environment. There are, however, many ways that visitors can help leave a lighter footprint and even pitch in to keep this lovely island clean and pristine for future generations to enjoy.
 
The perils of plastic
Plastic trash is the bane of beach communities everywhere, but so much more so on a tiny island where recycling capabilities are extremely limited. A great first step to reduce the amount of plastic was the official island-wide ban on plastic bags that became law last January 1, 2017. But as forward thinking as that was, it is just a drop in the bucket.
 
There are still so many plastic items in continuous use for guests and locals alike. Plastic water bottles, plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic plates, plastic cutlery, and those plastic rings that hold cans together… they’re a big problem for Aruba! Any translucent plastic items that end up in the sea can appear like jellyfish to sea turtles – their favorite snack – and discarded plastic rings can strangle all kinds of waterfowl and marine life needlessly.
 
What you can do
Purchase a reusable souvenir cup with a permanent straw attached and use it for refills. Bartenders will happily rinse it out for you. And Aruba’s tap water is as clean, safe, and delicious as any bottled water. So why not save money and drink it from reusable containers?
 
La Cabana’s beach bar sells their glasses for only a few dollars, and to sweeten the deal, they take one dollar off select cocktails when you use it for refills. And Jolly Pirates Aruba has now begun selling their BPA-free cups for only one dollar as well; they have spearheaded the #CarryYourCup campaign to encourage guests to avoid disposable plastic cups on their tours.
 
You can also help by supporting the many restaurants that have now joined the Aruba Wine and Dine Group’s program of using biodegradable straws in their cocktails. You can help by asking for non-Styrofoam containers when getting food to go. And if you must purchase something that requires plastic rings, please cut them up into tiny pieces before disposing of them.
 
Pick up and pitch in
It’s heartening to see how many of Aruba’s visitors taking part in the major beach and reef cleanups like the annual Aruba Reef Care event; it’s a great way to make new friends while helping to keep the island clean. (And there’s usually a great party afterward!) But you can also ask your resort concierge if they arrange their own cleanup events where visitors can take part. And of course, if you see trash on the beach, you can simply pick it up!
 
However, trash should be the ONLY thing that you remove from the beaches or the land. Leave seashells and rocks and other natural things where you find them as they all have unique roles to play in this island’s ecology. For example, seashells are often home to hermit crabs. And the practice of stacking rocks to make art and a “wishing garden” might have started as a fun idea, but the sheer number of visitors doing it began to cause serious environmental issues. The rocks give shelter to many small creatures and stop the soil from eroding. This tradition is no longer encouraged on the island. If you want to see real rock art on Aruba, visit Casibari and Ayo to see how Mother Nature does it!
 
Also, never drive on the beaches as you might crush a sea turtle nest. And if you spot a nest, please report it to Turtugaruba’s hotline so they can protect it. As the saying goes, take only photographs and leave only footprints!
 
Eat ’em to beat ’em
The lionfish invasion of the reefs is another huge problem threatening marine life. These fish don’t belong here, and since they have no natural predators they eat everything in sight! Thankfully, there are organizations hard at work trying to eradicate them. Plus the island’s chefs are busy finding ways to serve up lionfish in appealing and creative ways. By supporting the responsible restaurants that have added lionfish to their menus you are also helping to save the reefs. E Sushi Shap, Screaming Eagle, Tulip Caribbean Brasserie, Passions on the Beach, Chicken & Lobster, Elements, and Carte Blanche are just a few, but many are also offering daily specials depending on the volume of the catch. So ask your server if it might be available that day wherever you dine.
 
These are just a few of the ways you can help keep Aruba eco-happy and healthy for the next generations to enjoy. And every action, no matter how small, is truly appreciated.