Show Island Pride: Help Keep Puerto Rico Clean
Many of the industries in Puerto Rico have been declining. The number of individuals moving off the island is astronomical. But one industry that is doing well is tourism. Not only are we continuously bringing people to this magical island, but we are resurrecting our own love for it. Or, are we?
As internal tourism increases with the re-emergence of the love of the bandera (flag) with various social media campaigns like #78PueblosY1Bandera, people of all ages have begun to find places in Puerto Rico they never knew existed; never dared travel to before. As internal tourism increases, many of us have given a false sense of pride in the island. As more people visit these sites to snap a selfie for social media there has been a large amount of trash left behind.
Puerto Rico Island Guide has first-hand experience seeing adults (age 45+) hike for a mile in search of a new place that has become popular due to social media. As we reached the site, most of the adults threw their beer cans on the ground instead of placing them in their backpacks to take home with them and dispose of it properly. Still yet, as these individuals threw their trash on the ground they expressed a fake pride in the island as they removed their 5ft flags from their pockets and waved them for photos. It didn’t make sense. Why litter in an area in which you claim to take pride?
But let’s solve this problem together! Here are a few tips on how to start your own group to keep these areas clean and to help show your island pride.
The goal is to spend a day cleaning up litter on a regular basis, and establish resources for the area with like-minded people. This will encourage others to not leave trash behind either. When people see you involved with picking up litter, the tendencies to leave trash behind will lessen.
- Find a Location. Think of a place you visit on a regular basis. Make sure it’s a place you don’t mind visiting often and you are passionate about. Claim it as your unofficial territory you’d like to help keep clean. Firmly tell yourself your boundaries. How much of the area will you plan to clean?
- Create a Team. With the help of your social media platforms, friends, and family create a team. It doesn’t have to be large. The most important part is they need to be as passionate as you about keeping the area clean. After all, cleaning up trash isn’t fun. But having a nice team of good-spirited individual can make a few hours on the weekend pass quickly and offer laughter along the way.
- Make a List. Consider everything you may need. Some suggestions could include, but not limited to:
- An Oversized Trashcan.
- Gloves. You can either use the disposable gloves or invest in the more expensive garden gloves. The Great thing about the garden gloves is that you can easily wash them and eventually save money.
- Handheld Trash Picker Tool. This tool is ideal to eliminate any stresses on the back.
- Heavy Chain. This is definitely optional, but I like the idea of punching small hole into the side of the trash can and using a chain to fasten it to something immobile.
- Find Sponsors. You’ve made your list of items needed. You have your team in place. Your team should buy as much as they can with their own funds. In doing so, it will guarantee their interest and dedication to the clean-up project. Find a local business that is willing to offer a few dollars to purchase the trashbags or the trashcan, itself. As an incentive, you can tell them you can add their signage to the trashcan. Also encourage them to invite their employees to join during a clean-up day.
- Purchase Items. Most of the items can probably be found in various locations such as Costco, Home Depot, or Amazon.com.
- Adopt. Since no one has been taking care of the area, claim it as your official clean-up area. Go to your local print shop and get laminated signage to avoid decay and, with zip ties, hang it up in the area, preferably above the trash can. Create a hashtag just for your group, like #7SeasCleanup. Be creative and have fun with it.
- Plan in Advance. Plan Regularly. We make time for the things we want to make time for. Plan six months on your calendar in advance. Perhaps every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month could work. Ideally, especially during tourism season, you may need to check up on the litter quite often.
- Dedicate. Make social media pages that support your group, its initiatives and your potential sponsor’s generosity. Take before and after photos for your social media pages to show people the time and effort your team has put into it. Add your cleanup schedule.
Once everything is set up, things should flow easily. You and your team should meet up as scheduled, empty the large trash container, replace it with new trashbags, and comb the area for any other trash that may have been dropped since your last visit. When people see you have taken an interest and showing your island pride, a chain reaction will occur. Hopefully it will inspire people to visit these beautiful places and leave with the trash they brought with them. Even if you don’t want to start your own clean-up group, feel inspired to bring a trashbag when you tour the island and eliminate any excess waste found. Happy travels!
Articles for additional reading:
- “Dirty, Trashy, Littered Beaches” A compilation of comments on Tripadvisor.
- “The Ugly Truth Behind the Trash on the Beaches of Puerto Rico” A blog writeup of personal travel experiences.
- “Puerto Rico’s Extensive Pollution Problems” (2017). First-hand, business perspective from BioMASS Lab.