I am pinching myself because I have been thinking hard and long about starting my own line of responsible travel products for those of you who are planning a visit to the Caribbean as well as for my fellow island residents. The requirements were easy enough. The merch must be affordable, Caribbean themed and hella cute. The only setback: How to make it available to the masses.
But even though this last part is still proving to be a challenge, I decided to go ahead and launch my first three products:
- Two different 11oz tumblers, perfect for happy hour at an island beach bar or anywhere else for that matter
- A travel tote for quick runs to the grocery store or just as a daily handbag
- Colorful cropped shirts with inspiring words every island girl or wannabe island girl should live by
The cropped shirts don’t have much to do with sustainability or my fight to reduce the use of single-use plastic but they do make for a cute reminder of your time here in the islands.
The Caribbean, St. Maarten is unfortunately no exception, still sees an incredibly large number of establishments using plastic cups, styrofoam packaging, plastic bags and even plastic straws, especially in the tourism and hospitality industries. Although I must say I see more and more bars and restaurants opting for recyclable cups and straws, the sad reality remains that the majority of establishments, especially the local little shacks, continue to use plastic, and why not? It’s cheap, readily available and, believe it or not, local customers will ask for it by name. Especially now in the COVID-19 era, when a lot of people don’t trust drinking out of a glass.
I am not naive and I know very well that the majority of islanders will not be buying my merchandise, either because they do not see the need or they think it’s an expense they can do without or just because they do not like the design, in which case no harm, no foul. I won’t be single- handedly saving the fate of our islands either, but if I can get at least a few visitors and environmentally conscious locals to actually use the tumblers at bars in lieu of plastic cups and the totes at grocery stores in lieu of plastic bags, I have made a slight difference in the ridiculous number of plastic dumped on our islands daily.
The painful truth is that until our governments ban single use plastic and styrofoam packaging, we will continue to see plastic and other harmful materials in our ponds, rivers, beaches and streets. Sadly with the arrival of this pandemic we can now also add masks and gloves to this list.
There is hope though. Slowly but surely more and more Caribbean countries are banning the use and import of single-use plastic. Turks & Caicos, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago and more have already introduced this ban. French St. Martin has announced that actions are being taken to raise awareness among merchants, to help them find economically viable alternatives to replace plastic containers, with recyclable or biodegradable containers. Meanwhile, my beloved Dutch side St. Maarten remains painfully behind when it comes to a ban, even though a draft law has already been introduced.
I have learned a while ago that bashing our governments or other entities, does not exactly expedite anything and only makes us an angry bunch. Instead, we could use that energy towards ourselves. It starts with the person in the mirror. YOU can make a difference.
If you want something done, you got to do it yourself, has been my motto in life for as far as I can remember. And so, I present to you TTIGer: The Traveling Island Girl Explores Responsibly line of products and services.
The TTIGer Merch will go hand in hand with my recently introduced TTIGer Tours, sustainable island tours by me on the island of St. Maarten and hopefully soon on other neighboring islands as well. The merch is only available on St. Maarten/St. Martin for the moment. Unfortunately this beautiful island I call home is also behind when it comes to e-commerce and an online store is not yet a possibility for many, including yours truly. So, for the moment I will have your tumbler, tote and shirt waiting for you once you arrive on beautiful SXM. Of course if you are already here, all you have to do is contact me by clicking here or via any of my social media handles (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube). The same contact details go for any Caribbean shop that is interested in carrying my products.
By booking the tour and purchasing my merchandise you will be helping St. Maarten/St. Martin become a greener and more sustainable Caribbean destination and you will be helping a Caribbean travel writer to do what she does best, which still is to continue to share travel tips and inspire you to visit the Caribbean more often. So, thank you for your purchase.