Environmental Responsibility: My Part

If it is the job of governments and environmentally-focused institutions to look after the development of laws, assure their compliance, and strengthen the bonds that human beings have with their natural habitat, placing a value on the benefits it provides to us, then each individual has a duty to play their part and fulfill their quota of responsibility for environmental conservation. Every day we are more aware of this fact and we now have within our grasp a large array of better tools to achieve our goals. There are many contributions to be made, and one day at a time we can begin with some of the following issues.

 

Bans

Human beings have responsibilities towards the products that we eat. We should be conscious consumers, given that the topic of nourishment is ever more complex due to global population growth, resource depletion, and the intensification of climate change which engenders greater resource expenditure and aggressive methods of feeding the global population.

Seasonal or permanent bans on the trapping, hunting, or fishing of species make it illegal to sell or consume the species in question. In the Dominican Republic there are very important seasonal bans which have been established to protect threatened species or species of commercial importance during their reproductive months, something everyone must respect.

Seasonal bans on various species are defined in Decree 119-12, where, for example, lobster is protected under a ban from March 1st until June 30th, during which time it is illegal to catch, process, or even possess the species. During this time, it is not politically correct to promote its consumption in hotels, restaurants, and even in the media.

The ban terms addressed in Decrees 316-86, 813-08, 499-09, and 119-12 are as follows: 

Caribbean spiny lobster (Panurilis argus), spotted spiny lobster (Panurilis guttatus), slipper lobster (Scyllarides sp), and the sculptured mitten lobster (Parribacus antarcticus): March 1st to June 30th. 

Queen conch (Strombus gigas), Atlantic triton (Charonia variegata), king helmet (Cassis tuberosa), West Indian top shell (Cittarium pica), and the Astrea caelata: July 1st to October 30th. 

Blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi), black land crab (Gecarcinus ruricola), and the Ucides cordatus: December 1st to April 30th. 

Atlantic blue crab: June 1st to September 30th.

Graphic 18
Informational Campaigns on Respecting Seasonal Bans. Source: Reef Check, Revista RD Verde, Guardianes del Océano 

 

Clarification is needed on why it is so important that protected species are not trapped or consumed during established ban terms. It has been determined that during these seasons, the above species go through their cycles of reproduction: therefore if we want to continue to enjoy exquisite gastronomic creations made from them in years to come, no human activity can be allowed to cause negative impacts to their reproduction. Fisherman, merchants, and consumers are obligated to respect the reproduction period and the habitat of marine species which are used for consumption.

Another species for which we must assume the same environmental consciousness, in spite of the lack of a ban term or any type of restriction on their capture is the parrotfish. The consumption of parrotfish leads to irreversible harm to the coastal ecosystems of the Dominican Republic. This type of fish, which plays one of the most important roles in bioerosion and in the formation of sand for the country’s beautiful beaches, is a significant contributor to the quality of the principal economic activity of the Dominican Republic. In recent years the consumption of parrotfish has risen due to diminishing stocks of other commonly-consumed fish. This has put greater pressure on the species which will soon run the risk of extinction, placing the Dominican natural coastal patrimony of crystalline waters and fine sands at risk.

All Dominicans should take on responsibility for the conservation of the parrotfish. Though consumption of the fish is not prohibited, it is encouraged that it not be eaten in order to reduce incentives for fishermen and merchants to continue with its capture.

 

Waste Production

More and more waste is being generated in the Dominican Republic. The country generates 10,000 tons daily, 51% of which is composed of organic matter, 16% is paper and cardboard, 10% is plastics, 6% is glass, 4% is textiles, and 2% Tetra Paks.

In Santo Domingo alone more than 900 tons of waste are generated daily. With a growing population and increasing visitors due to tourism, waste production is projected to increase as well.

Though there is no federal government-level recycling program, municipal-level initiatives have been implemented to classify the different types of waste and assure their proper disposal. On the other hand, the private sector has begun to identify business opportunities that exist in waste generated throughout the country. In turn, small businesses have sprung up with the objective of collecting domestic waste and principal aim of selling it to recycling companies. This newly-created market segment has provided the domestic-level opportunity of meaningful contribution to environmental conservation through in-home classification of various types of waste. By means of this process, recyclable materials can be used for other purposes after they have left our hands.

Depending on the country and established systems of collection and recycling, waste can be classified into different types. The easiest separation which businesses tend to engage in is of paper, plastic, and Tetra Pak containers. Classification of waste produced at home is also very simple: it only needs to be taken into account that materials be free of organic matter, chemicals, or liquids – and clean enough to assure proper classification. Once this is done, they are ready to be entrusted to a recycling or collection center.

Recycling and collection centers are locations to which solid waste can be sent after classification. The main goal of these centers is to prepare the materials for transportation to locations which can better use them, such as recycling companies. This prevents recyclable material from ending up in landfills, as tends to happen when it is mixed with all other types of waste, and allows it to be used as raw materials in the creation of something new.

In the following table, the locations of some recycling and collection centers around Santo Domingo are pointed out.

Graphic 19
Location of some collection centers around Santo Domingo. Source: Revista RD VERDE) 

 

After having disposed of waste at the nearest collection center, there is still one type of waste with an incredible amount of potential: organic waste. One interesting fact is that organic waste can be used as compost for garden plants and home gardening. It is easy and fun to make compost (link in Spanish), and the knowledge of nature acquired through it is very educational.

Having the opportunity to make compost in our homes also makes us more conscious of the non-biodegradable products we consume and motivates local consumption which foregoes unnecessary bags and extra packaging.

 

Energy Conservation

Texts extracted and adapted from the Practical Guide to Energy, Efficient and Responsable Consumption (link in Spanish).

Energy is a scarce and exhaustible commodity in nature that should be shared and looked after by all. Its indiscriminate use results in negative impacts on environmental health of a planet which we are obligated to conserve. Responsible energy use is fundamental to the sustainability and future of our planet. The behavioral patterns of Dominican families are critical in achieving efficient use of energy resources. Some things which should not be forgotten along with a number of steps which can be taken to begin to include best practices on energy use are as follows:

Energy Consumption and Storage

  • Ever more energy is being consumed: if present trends continue, global energy consumption will be doubled in 35 years and tripled in 55.
  • The housing and transportation sectors have seen the highest increases in energy consumption in recent years.
  • Renewable energy is not exhausted upon its use; it is naturally re-used. Additionally, it has a practically net-zero environmental impact.

Household Appliances

  • Do not choose larger or more powerful appliances than you need.
  • Proper maintenance and cleaning of appliances prolongs their life and saves energy.
  • Air conditioning should be used with the thermostat set between 21 and 24 degrees Celsius.
  • Refrigerators and televisions are the appliances with highest global energy consumption. They should be completely switched off when not in use.
  • Choose computers and printers with energy saving capabilities.
  • For lights which are turned on for more than one hour per day, install energy-efficient light bulbs or fluorescent tubes.

Housing

Given that the purchase of a home tends to be the largest investment throughout an individual’s life, it is very important to consider all aspects which contribute to its quality, and therefore, your quality of life. Generally, the main concerns leading up to a purchase are focused on price, size, and location. However, its energy facilities, in particular its ability to tap into renewable energy sources, should also be part of the concerns and interests.

  • Solar photovoltaic equipment constitutes a reliable and worthwhile technological development for the production of hot water.
  • A good bioclimatic design can lead to savings of up to 70% in the climatization and illumination of a home.
  • Wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal equipment can be installed to supply green and renewable energy to our homes.

Vehicles

Movement via motorized vehicles, especially private cars, constitutes one of the largest uses of fossil fuels. It is always more efficient and preferable to use public transport to get around urban areas.

  • In the city, avoid the use of cars for short distances. Instead, walk or bike.
  • Efficient driving can lead to average savings of fuel and CO2 emissions of 15%.
  • There are alternatives to vehicle use a majority of the time. Public transportation is much more efficient than private cars.
  • Vehicles are the main source of contamination and noise in our cities, and one of the principal sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
  • Sharing vehicles or carpooling constitutes a more efficient energy use than driving alone.

Waste

Domestic patterns of consumption, waste, reuse and recycling have an indirect impact on global energy consumption and environmental protection.

  • It is possible to avoid the discharge of 90% of waste when proper waste management practices are implemented. Such practices include measures to promote reuse, recycling, and energy recovery.
  • For each ton of glass that is recycled, 1,200 kilograms of raw materials and 130 kilograms of fuel are saved.
  • Progressive increases in paper recycling in the Dominican Republic need to be sustained with collaboration from all citizens: recycling avoids excessive use of forestry resources, water, and fuel.
  • Recycling and collection centers are facilities where pre-selected types of domestic waste such as paper, furniture, appliances, spent oils, batteries, and more are delivered so that they can be recycled and used again.

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