We had a little Earth Day celebration here on Thursday. Our Green Team, of which I'm a charter member, announced an initiative to reduce the embassy's energy usage, including the residences, by ten percent in one year. I printed up signs in English and French to remind people when they leave the office to turn off the lights and air conditioners, turn off the computer monitors, printers, and scanners, and unplug phone and radio chargers that are not in use. We found a local company that will take our shredded paper; they use it for making charcoal briquettes. We're eliminating paper cups for the water coolers in all offices except the health unit (we decided for sanitary reasons that it's one place paper cups can stay). We're putting in place a policy to have the drivers turn off idling engines after a certain amount of time.
But the most important part of Earth Day -- we had a quiz and gave out some pretty awesome prizes. In order to garner interest and make people sit through all your speeches (on one of the hottest days we've had in a while here), you have to promise prizes at the end. The quiz questions all related to our initiatives. The top prize was a solar-powered lantern, which is perfect for a place where the sun shines all day and then the power grid in most neighborhoods shuts down at ten o'clock every night.
I've said before that this is a country where Mike and I feel bad contributing more garbage than it already has and where anything you can do to relieve the strain on the power grid is a good thing. I'm sad that I won't be here next year to see how our initiatives have worked out, but at least I know that I've done what I can reasonably do while I'm here. And I'll bring my Green Team initiatives with me to our next post (where there's even more garbage, I'm sure).