Our Battle with Waste
The fragile eco-systems, reliance on outside sources for goods & services, waste management issues and dependence on tourism make Caribbean islands especially vulnerable to environmental damage, economic devastation and health and wellness issues.
67% of St. John is preserved as national parkland, but with more than a million visitors a year, even our small island of St. John is in danger. The United States Virgin Islands (USVI) have been facing major environmental challenges including:
- 2020 closure date of our landfills
- Toxic storm water run-off
- High energy costs
- Lack of viable recycling options
A Greener Island
Established: St. John, USVI – 2004
Island Green started as Island Green Building Association (IGBA).
Co-founders Bill Willigerod, Doug White and Barry Devine recognized that environmental degradation places the quality of life and the economic well being of the island at great risk. Given the fragile nature of the environment and the direct relationship between construction disturbances on our steep hillsides and the negative impact on our reefs and oceans, IGBA recognized the need for responsible guidelines and regulation.
IGBA to Island Green
On our 10th Anniversary in 2014, IGBA expanded its scope to include green living and business practices to become the Island Green Living Association (Island Green). Island Green believes that a holistic approach to sustainable green island living can help preserve and protect the spectacular beauty and natural diversity that provides ecological health, a sense of community and the unique quality of life on our islands.
Preserving Our Island Territory
There is battle being waged on Mother Earth. We are fighting back with ethical business practices, responsible eco-conscious living, technological advancements, innovative systems, infrastructure and most of all: engagement, education and teamwork
We believe that most of those responsible for the devastation aren’t conscious of their impact. It is our belief that awareness, education and teamwork, will transform enemies of the environment into warriors for the cause.
Establish the USVI as an eco-destination.
We hope to inspire a culture of change within the islands, empowering and engaging the locals and visitors through education, reinforcement and recognition. Responsible living should become second nature.
St. John is the smallest and least developed island of the three, making it our primary focus initially. It is our objective to institute meaningful changes throughout the USVI, that could be mirrored in other locales throughout the world.
Some of the green island initiatives in St. John include:
- Smoke free beaches – currently implemented
- Free of single use plastic including water bottles, straws, plastic shopping bags, and Styrofoam
- Aluminum, glass, paper and plastic recycling
- Full scale composting or organic material
- Donation stations to keep valuable goods out of the landfill
IGLA will implement Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle along with composting
- Promote concept of rethinking before buying or throwing something away. Reducing needless consumption lowers shipping impact and contributes to waste reduction.
- If we are able to reduce the amount of garbage consumed and transported to St. Thomas’ landfill, it will help in complying with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closure mandate, and save the barge transportation impact.
- The ReSource Depot – our St John thrift store allows goods to be reused instead of thrown away
- Our recycling program will help keep trash to a minimum
In 12 short years, IGLA has matured to an organization with a high intellectual capital produced by high profile, public and private sector represented, engaged, and committed board that delivers results.
The Resource Depot is St. John’s local thrift store. It keep valuable goods out of the dumpsters and gives locals a low cost alternative to online shopping. To date the ReSource Depot has allowed more than 195,000 lbs of building materials to be repurposed or reused.
The USVI government has further acknowledged the importance of our role in the community by providing one of their buildings for the operation of the Resource Depot.
IGLA will formally institute Island Green Living/Sustainability as part of school curriculum in partnership with the USVI Department of Education in 2016 to encourage and reward green practices, creating the next generation of passionate “Green Living” ambassadors.
The organization also launched Green Building and Green Villa Certificate programs that encourage builders to use eco-friendly practices.
In recent months, Island Green has worked closely with the governor on legislation banning plastic bags, implementing source separation and establishing a plastic bottle deposit. Our current President Harith Wickrema, along with Emile Henderson, chief of Legal for the Governor and Dawn Henry, Commissioner DPNR co-authored the bill that was presented by the Governor to the VI legislature January of 2016. The plastic bag ban was succesfully passed and will be fully implemented in April 2017.
The Preserve St. John initiative was the organization’s single most successful fundraiser, exceeding its $40,000 goal through a matching donation of $25,000 from Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, more than $65,000 was raised. In 2015, IGLA launched the Preserve St. John initiative to combat recycling issues on the island, starting with aluminum.
$1,800/month or $21,600/year
total to fund Resource Depot: $46,600
K-12 SUSTAINABLE CURRICULUM IN VI SCHOOLS
Sustainable Living becoming part of our K-12 school curriculum is perhaps the single most important initiative- sowing “seeds of change.”
Island Green developed the initial sustainability curriculum and now requires funding to launch sustainable programs in the USVI schools. Educating the next generation will aid in accomplishing our end goal of Preserving our Island Paradise and becoming one of the greenest islands.
Curriculum includes hands on activities, such as composting, recycling, home gardening, energy and water conservation, upcycling competitions, renewable energy sources and an annual “Eco Knowledge Bowl,” promoting and testing green ideas.
Phase 1, Two-School Pilot:
$48,000.00x 2 = $96,000.00
$12,000.00x 2 = 24,000.00
TOTAL TO FUND PHASE 1, SUSTAINABILITY CURRICULUM: $120,000.00
For more information on supporting these programs please contact Mary Vargo or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
IGLA sees the following as vital to the effort:
- Partnership/coordination and cooperation between various government agencies/departments along with environmental/civic organizations and the private sector. The idea is to pool resources and work together.
- Accelerate the adoption of aggressive solid waste reduction, reuse, composting, recycling, and related job creation activities.
- Establish a Vocational Job Training Center that emphasizes Sustainable Materials Management (SMM)
- Education including school curriculum to teach benefits of recycling, composting and environmentally responsible practices as well as the devastating environmental impact without such practices.
- Build excitement and engagement of all residents including youth — instilling ownership and pride in the initiatives and progress.
We see an opportunity for civic organizations, the government and private sector to team up on the sustainability effort and in the process, help save the environment and the livelihood of the islands. An important component of our strategic plan is to publicize our efforts/results through the media and social networks. We envision the following:
- Initiation of the Green Living with Zero Waste educational program with a formal announcement by the Governor at a school assembly. IGLA will create a presentation that will be shown to each class.
- Sustainability incorporated as part of the curriculum, K-12
- A formal announcement by the Governor at a school assembly
- Students become ambassadors of change and influence their parents as well
- Hands-on opportunities for students to become part of the sustainability solution
- Recognition programs for students, encouraging participation
- Encourage formation of Island Green Living/recycling clubs and advisory committees at each school
- Provide opportunities for the community to be engaged in environmental issues on occasions such as “Green Thursdays,” a monthly event featuring movies on environmental topics and guest speakers to demonstrate composting, home gardening, green products and other green practices, as well as the economic benefits that recycling brings (jobs, new business opportunities, etc.)
- Institution of Town Hall meetings and the formation of work place advisory committees to engage community support. Town Hall meetings will offer a forum for education and communication and include IGLA, government representatives and members of the private sector and general public. Highlight trash/garbage as resource/energy
- Promote Green Villa & Green Building Programs
Preserve St. John/ Preserve St. Thomas/ Preserve St. Croix
- Expand Resource Depot concept to include a thrift shop component where clothing, toys, food, and other household items will be donated and re-sold to others, thereby encouraging reduction in consumption and reusing items otherwise destined for the landfill, generating funds to support IGLA’s conservation efforts in the process. This program will especially be beneficial for low income families
- Secure renewable energy to manage the Preserve St. John can-crushing operation and the Resource Depot
- Placement of large containers labeled for aluminum, plastic, paper/cardboard at strategic locations for collection such as grocery stores, banks, post office, etc., in addition to current locations (separation at source)
- Volunteer Recycling ambassador program that will engage residents at drop off points
- Mandatory recycling and fines for littering/not recycling
- Deposit on bottles/cans to further encourage recycling
- Ban on plastic bags; introduction of reusable grocery bags
- Paper straws vs plastic straws
- Cameras installed at drop off points with live broadcast/live web cam – solicit Innovative as a sponsor
- All dump sites to be enclosed and sponsored by a local business. Efforts to enclose dump sites will provide advertisement opportunities for the sponsoring business or opportunities for students to take ownership of the site and create mural art. Proper disposal protocol to be displayed at each location
- In collaboration with the University of the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean Green Technology Center, support research and development efforts to maximize upcycling of materials such as plastic, construction and demolition debris, styrofoam, packaging, etc. through TerraCycle or similar: terracycle.com
- Any items that cannot be upcycled will be crushed/baled and shipped to mainland U.S. through cooperation of companies that transport empty containers back (Crowley, Tropical, Home Depot, etc.). Request the donation of space to transport recyclables to Miami.
- Negotiate a marketing agreement with end-users of recycled aluminum, plastic and paper/cardboard to purchase at market pricing. Propose usage of “Recycled from Virgin Islands” logo as marketing.
Island Green Living Global Summit
- Event will focus on examining the challenges, benefits and vital sustainability solutions in the Caribbean and beyond.
- Lay the groundwork for a “green paper” with actionable items and a set timetable, feature case studies and best practices from experts and provide a forum for education and engagement.
- Individuals, companies and organizations that are leaders in the area of sustainability, green initiatives and environmental education will be honored.
- Representatives from the UNEP, EPA, UN, Caribbean government offices, universities, environmental/community organizations, media, and business leaders will be featured.
- Organic, pesticide mitigated environment, reduction of the carbon foot print.
- Introduction/education of reef-safe sun protection.
- Introduce natural gas powered shuttle bus services to transport visitors from key locations to Hawks Nest, Trunk Bay, Cinnamon Bay and Maho. This effort will reduce dependence on cars and encourage car-pooling.
- Educate/promote green initiatives through public service announcements, visible posters in public places/port authority approval for signage for maximum exposure.
- “Preserve our Paradise Day,” perhaps in conjunction with Earth Day; Keep Our Island Beautiful campaign.
- Further promotion through flyers for employee cafeterias, buttons, bumper stickers for cars.
- Seek engagement of hotels and restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
- Cabinet level engagement/endorsement.
- In association with the Tourism department, we could potentially work to establish an eco-tourism destination status, incorporating additional features and highlights.
- Grocery stores and all others selling fruits and vegetables to have signage encouraging composting and ways to reduce food waste.
- Bio diesel fuel from restaurant oil.
- Encourage solar, wind, renewable energy to cut carbon emissions, VI Energy office involvement.
- Install EV station in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
- Encourage electric cars; ban sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2025.
- Investigate feasibility of fleet of clean-energy motorized bike rentals.
- Mandates for new construction: larger cistern and 6 inch gutters for collection of water; include 50% green elements. Product identification by Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
- Encourage environmentally safe sewer and storm water management
- Ban on sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, which disrupt coral reproduction.
- Introduce home gardening and composting in limited confined space.
- Ban on Styrofoam
- Educate and encourage compostable products rather than biodegradable products.
- Stores to carry a section dedicated to Island Green Living resources such as non-toxic cleaning products, non VOC paints, biodegradable products, etc.
- Promote volunteering for beach trash pickup/indigenous vegetation plantings on the coast to combat erosion.
It is vital that we have a comprehensive plan to fight the attacks on the environment in the USVI. Our residents, the eco-system and the health of our tourism industry, the lifeblood of the island, depend on it. This document sets forth an outline of our battle strategy but there is still much to be done. We hope for the support of the governor and cabinet, government agencies along with civic organizations to support the mission. We invite others to contribute and expand on this topic. We are looking to identify corporate sponsors and business partners that will benefit from being involved in this disruptive approach to protecting the environment.
If we all work together as ONE, we can accomplish and preserve our islands from environmental and economic devastation.