While enjoying the spectacular parades, which reach their colourful and noisy crescendo on March 2 in capital Oranjestad, visitors will unwittingly be playing their part in the island’s objective of becoming carbon-free by 2020.
During the island’s carnival – this year celebrating its 60th anniversary – a local company collects all litter and adds it to other refuse at its waste separation plant for recycling. Meanwhile, a sister company uses any refuse which cannot be recycled in its plant to produce biogas, which in turn is used for the production of electricity.
This recently-opened plant is producing around two per cent of Aruba’s electricity demand – around two megawatts – but aims to use 70 per cent of the island’s household waste to produce more than three times that.
However, combined with other new projects such as a wind farm and solar park, oil-fuelled power production will be reduced by around 45 per cent.
Construction of the solar park is underway at the island’s Queen Beatrix Airport. The airport’s main car park is being covered with solar panels and is the biggest project of its type in the Caribbean. It is expected to produce enough power for the airport’s entire consumption – equivalent to that required for 500 homes. The solar park is scheduled to be fully operational by May.
Aruba built its first wind farm, the Vader Piet Windmill Farm, in the winter of 2009. Located on the island's northern coast, 10 180-metre high wind turbines produce 20 per cent of Aruba's electricity. A second planned wind farm will double this.
Professor Daniel P. Schrag, director of the Center for Environmental Studies at Harvard University and member of the Advisory Council on Science and Technology to President Obama comments: ‘Few places in the world approach 50 per cent renewable energy use, and Aruba could soon be at nearly 40 per cent with a second wind farm.’
The island's constant supply of sun, eastern trade winds and ocean currents allow for research and field-testing of renewable energy technologies. In June 2012, Aruba’s Prime Minister, Mike Eman, and entrepreneur Richard Branson announced a partnership between Aruba and the Carbon War Room, an initiative aiming to reduce global carbon emission.
The partnership will move the island to 100 percent renewable energy while eliminating any reliance on fossil fuels and will create a model for other countries to copy.
Aruba's private sector is also committed to preserving and protecting the environment, underlined by the island's hotels achieving environmental certifications. EarthCheck, the premier international certification alliance for sustainable travel and tourism, complies with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 114064 range of standards for greenhouse gas accounting. To date, six Aruba resorts are certified by EarthCheck and eight are on the road to achieving certification.
In addition to pursuing alternative energy initiatives, locals and visitors alike join together for the Aruba Reef Care Project, the island's largest volunteer environmental initiative. The project has attracted more than 800 people annually since 1994 and results in cleaner reefs, public beaches and shallow waters.