Although the COP16 Climate Change Summit is nearly wrapping up in Cancun, it seems the whole Yucatan Peninsula is still on the Go Green bandwagon. There are special programs going on in the schools to educate the next generation of energy consumers about how to make choices that are better for our environment. Art exhibits, film festivals, eco-fairs and even a family Eco Challenge hosted by Playa del Carmen's Ak Lu'um International School! We have also seen a lot of information on the internet offering ideas for environmentally friendly living with tips from all over the globe.

Go Green Riviera Maya Go Green Riviera Maya

For our part, as we move forward with the plans for our new home, we are investigating and hoping to implement as many energy saving and eco-friendly systems into our design as possible. For many home builders and home owners on the Riviera Maya, the choice to install eco-friendly systems may come down to availability, affordability and the possibility of finding replacement parts and someone capable of doing the necessary maintenance and/or repairs. Over the past two years, we have seen solar and wind energy options increase in popularity and decrease in price but the up front investment is still well out of reach of many people. many of the residents of Playa del Carmen are here in a long term rental, a villa or condominium they plan to stay in for a year or more but do not own. Retrofitting a rental with solar panels is certainly out of the question but that does not mean that this large segment of the Playa population cannot incorporate green thinking into their daily life. Here is a list of ten ways to help save the environment and, at the same time, keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket whether you own or rent a home in Playa del Carmen.


1. Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent light bulbs. They are expensive so if you are in a rental, save the old incandescent bulbs in a safe place and replace them when you leave. Think of you florescent bulbs as an investment in the environment and your pocketbook!

2. Set your air conditioners to a higher temperature and only air condition the room you are in. While most of the homes we see down here have a very open floor-plan downstairs, bedrooms can always be sealed off to prevent loss of cold air. Try keeping your thermostat set for 26 Celsius. Setting your temperature even 5 degrees lower can make your air conditioner use up to 40% more energy costing you lots more money. Run your ceiling fans. Using fans to circulate the cool air means you don't need quite as much pumped into the room.

3. If you have a private pool, install a timer on your pool pump/filter. The average pool with average use really only needs to be filtered 8 out of every 24 hours (more in the rainy season). Why run it more than you have to. You may have to purchase a timer in the US or Canada and bring it down but it will be easy and inexpensive to install and will save you loads of money on your electric bill.

4. Install and use curtains or blinds. Take the time to find where the sun shines brightly through your windows. In the winter time (believe it or not) you will welcome this warmth. The rest of the year you will want to block as much of this light/energy/heat as possible by using blinds or curtains. There are special materials available that really reflect the sun away but if the price is an issue, some window covering is better than none at all.

5. Carry your own shopping bag. There are inexpensive options for sale in Sam’s Club and most grocery stores. DAC has the traditional plastic mesh shopping bags and if you are looking for a more fashionable alternative, from WearEarth is the way to go!

Tote le Monde

6. Buy a bicycle and use it whenever you are going to work or school. There is nothing in downtown Playa that is not easily accessible by bike. With parking becoming more and more of a nightmare, you can avoid all the hassle by jumping on your cruiser and fitting it with a good bike lock. We buy all of our bikes at Bicicletas Luisito on the corner of Ave. 30 and Calle 30 but they are also available at Walmart, Sam’s Club, City Club and many other places. Shop around but definitely bring your bike maintenance needs to Senor Luis. We call him the “Bike Nazi” but he is the best!

7. Turn off your computer/laptop when you are done using it. Do the same with your TV rather than just switching off the cable/satellite box. Those nice big flat panels throw off an awful lot of heat and make your AC/mini-splits work lot harder.

8. Recycle! The Municipality accepts all recycled items including appliances and batteries on the first Friday of every month. In Playa del Carmen there is a collection center set up in front of the Municipal Plaza. In Puerto Aventuras, you may leave your recyclable items in the “centro de acopio” at the skate park. Some of the schools run their own abbreviated recycling program and bins can be found now at most of not all of the supermarkets and big box stores but the best place to go is Parque la Ceiba. They operate the most complete recycling center in Playa del Carmen and provide many educational programs for school children to teach them the three “R”s. Tin cans from soda, vegetables, tuna fish etc. can be rinsed out and left in a used grocery bag next to your large garbage bin. The guys that collect the trash will appreciate it as they will return them for cash.

Parque la Ceiba Recycling Center

8. Save water! Energy efficient shower heads (same pressure but less water flow) will save approximately 17,800 of water and 72 cubic meters of natural gas per year. Install faucet aerators. This small inexpensive adjustment can save up to 9,000 liters of water and 28 cubic meters of natural gas per year. Reduce the amount of water used with each toilet flush by reducing the capacity of toilets with a 2 liter bottle of water. Fill the bottle with water, close it tightly and submerge it in your toilet tank. A family of five that flushes five times a day each -- the US national average -- will save about 700 liters of water each month.

9. Buy an insulating “blanket” for your hot water tank. Insulating your hot water tank can save 25-40% of heat loss. I know it sounds crazy here in the tropics but insulating your hot water tank will significantly reduce the amount of gas used and reduce wear and tear on your tank. Keep in mind; some systems specifically state that an insulating cover may not be used. Check your appliance manual first and have a professional (stop giggling) do the work.

10. Carry a thermos/water bottle with you and reuse it. It is so important to keep hydrated here and purchasing bottled purified water is a necessary evil. That doesn’t mean you have to stop into Oxxo 5 times a day for a bottle of water. Find a nice insulated water bottle and refill it from your garrafon at home. Stuck out without your thermos? Buy bottle water but don’t throw away the bottle. Bring it home and reuse it. We keep several bottles of cold water in the fridge at all times so we can grab them on the fly.

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