Cook Islands Lagoon Day inspires Better Environmental Choices

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Hands-on projects, education to raise public awareness

By Sarah Wilson

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 23, 2015) – Lagoon Day kicks off tomorrow and is set to inspire better environmental choices in the community, as it has since its inception in 2008.

For the past eight years, non-government organisations, and public companies have been coming together annually for a common purpose, to raise public awareness through hands-on, and where possible, on-site education in matters impacting the health of our lagoons.

Throughout the year each sector works in various areas on problem solving for the sake of our future, and Lagoon Day is their opportunity to interact with many people in a short time through coordinated scheduling of tours around education booths and sites.

Lagoon Day encourages everyone to come along and be inspired, but a special place is given to educating tomorrow’s leaders.

Local schools make the most of this opportunity, with over 1000 students (the majority of middle and senior school students), taking the three hour tour in groups.

Many teachers also choose to maximise the experience with relevant in-class studies before and/or after the event.

And inspired by the Lagoon Day concept and what it stands for, many local businesses are now committed to being greener.

Over the last three years, Cook Islands News, for example, has changed its production processes and print technology in order to get rid of "nasties" and to produce a more environment-friendly newspaper.

The main change involved replacing chemical platemaking with computer-to-plate equipment. This has enabled removal of all liquid waste from the print factory, replacing film and aluminium plates with plastic plates, and converting to vegetable-based inks.

The unbleached newsprint used is entirely compostable, and leftovers and returns are 100 per cent recycled in a variety of ways.

The Esther Honey clinic uses newsprint for litter, car dealers use newsprint to clean windows, schools use it for crafts, and a local builder is using it for insulation.

To match this, the CI News Print division stocks 100 per cent recycled paper for high quality brochures and promotional literature.

CITC are also making greener choices, including only importing shopping bags that are bio-degradable, creating a recycle centre behind Foodland and employing a full time staff member to compress cardboard and plastic to be removed from the island. The company does not import laundry powder containing the phosphates which are harmful to our lagoon.

CITC have also invested in solar panels at the supermarket, building centre, liquor store and Oasis fuel station, which will in turn reduce the amount of diesel coming into the island to be used to generate power.

CITC general manager Gaye Whitta says it has taken everyone too long to recognise how much damage they have been doing to the environment, but she also believes that if everyone makes a small change to what they do, the impact will be huge.

"The rubbish that we generate in our day-to-day lives and how we dispose of rubbish is becoming more and more important as we realise how fragile our environment is.

"Where will the rubbish go when the dump reaches its capacity? What will become of the lagoon and the fish if we continue to drain our waste into the streams?"

Various other organisations and businesses such as Koka Lagoon Cruises, Titikaveka Grower’s Association, The Dive Centre, The Big Fish, kiaTAERIA, Pacific Resort, the Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative, Snowbird Laundry and Te Ipukarea Society are also dedicated to helping the environment.

The Dive Centre says the best that they could do was to begin educating, as education can make a big difference.

"Take nothing but memories and leave nothing but bubbles."

To find out more about what the nation is already doing to protect its lagoons, and what could be done in future, head over to Lagoon Day tomorrow and Friday at the National Auditorium.

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