All posts by cheryl

Plastic-Free Island: St. John

Plastic-Free Island: St. John

Launches to Target Harmful Disposable Plastic

Working Group Formed; Support for Starfish Market Voiced

June 5, 2016 — A new collaborative project aimed at public awareness and targeting the elimination of immediate and long-term damage caused by disposable plastics is under way on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Plastic-Free Island: St. John is a new Innovation Project launched under the Plastic-Free Island concept founded by Pam Longobardi (Drifters Project) and Dianna Cohen (Plastic Pollution Coalition). Plastic-Free Island: St. John will work in close coordination with the leadership of the Island Green Living Association (IGLA) of St. John and other local organizations.

To begin immediately focusing on practical methods and new innovations to curb and prevent single-use plastic from harming the sensitive coastal environment and island community on St. John, a nine-person Working Group was created this month to tackle the challenge going forward.

Planning and executing definable, measurable and achievable actions to reduce and diminish harmful disposable plastic is the goal of the PFI: STJ Working Group. It was formed in the wake of an April 15-19 cross-island workshop that assessed the scope of the issue and local enthusiasm and support for addressing it.

While focused solely on the effect of single-use plastics on and around St. John, the effort is intended to complement current sustainability and environmental-protection initiatives already under way within the Territory. These include St. John-based programs led by IGLA as well as Friends of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John Community Foundation, Coral Bay Community Council, Gifft Hill School and other community-minded organizations.

Among other dimensions, the Working Group plans to immediately champion and support existing and new efforts to curb the volume of single-use plastics currently in use by businesses, consumers, residents, visitors, the marine community and others on St. John.

The announcement in April by Starfish Market to ban plastic bags at its checkout counters is a shining example of a leading local business taking a clear, definable action that benefits the community. Helping local businesses and their customers adapt to and sustain this kind of change is a core component of the Working Group’s focus.

Along with an initial statement of purpose, a list of the new nine-member Working Group and their affiliations follows. Look for additional timely information from the Group and development of strategy and tactics in the coming weeks and months. Taking critical actions and heightening awareness of the Plastic-Free Island movement before, during and after the Centennial Transfer Day 2017 in the Territory are driving forces behind PFI: STJ.  Click here to visit Plastic-Free Island: St. John’s website.

Plastic-Free Island: St. John Working Group [Alphabetical list + Affiliations]
  • Dianna Cohen, Plastic Pollution Coalition; Plastic-Free Island
  • Ken Haldin, Convener of PFI: St John; part-time STJ resident
  • Celia Kalousek, St. John Community Foundation
  • Erin Lieb, Get Trashed (coastal cleanup organization)
  • Pam Longobardi, Georgia State University; Drifters Project; Plastic-Free Island
  • Tonia Lovejoy, Get Trashed (coastal cleanup organization); Beautiful Nation Project
  • Anne Ostrenko, Ostrenko Communications; part-time STJ resident
  • Mary Vargo, Gifft Hill School
  • Doug White, Island Green Living Assn. of St. John, USVI
Statement from the Plastic-Free Island: St. John Working Group:

“We are a group of local residents, visitors, educators, artists, conservationists, activists, National Park enthusiasts, lovers of St. John and local organization members who have determined that, together, we can help make single-use plastic decline and eventually disappear from St. John.

“Too much single-use plastic does irreparable harm to the USVI coastal environment and its economy. Doing something today to curb the use and flow of these unnecessary disposables tomorrow will help to build a healthier, more vibrant economy and island community, both before and after Transfer Day 2017.

“We are proud to be connected with and indebted to the Plastic-Free Island movement, which is creating an exportable template for protecting precious island locations from disposable plastic intrusion. We are also pleased to work in close coordination with the leadership of St. John’s Island Green Living Association and connect with other local organizations that share a desire to proactively protect the island community and its future health.

“Plastic-Free Island: St. John is meant to lift up and focus on new and innovative steps we can take — sometimes small, perhaps eventually dramatic — to make a difference in one essential dimension: reducing and eliminating single-use disposable plastic. We look forward to forging an array of definable, measurable and achievable actions and collaborating with others to make them happen on St. John.”

About Starfish Market’s Plastic Bag Ban:

“We wholeheartedly support Starfish Market’s manager Nedra Ephraim for making the bold ecoconscious decision to eliminate disposable plastic bags from the Market. Along with other businesses who have initiated positive change on St. John previously, this decision shows brilliant leadership to take a stance and act upon reducing the known damaging effects of disposable plastic bags in the environment and protection of the vibrant sea life of St. John. The transition to a bring your-own-bag routine may require a small change in behavior for customers and cause inconvenience in the short run. But a new, more sustainable habit will replace the plastic habit, and St. John will reap untold benefits in the future.”

Not For Profit: Island Green Living Association Introduces New Vision

IGLA Kicks Off 2016 With New High Profile Board of Directors, Ambitious Plans

Armed with a new board that includes top brass from the corporate world and academia, Island Green Living Association (IGLA) has conceived a comprehensive strategic plan that combats the significant environmental issues endangering the U.S. Virgin Islands. Key among the tactics are education and engagement initiatives, which include a hands-on Island Green Living/Sustainability curriculum in partnership with the V.I. Department of Education. Fundamental to IGLA’s mission are the four R’s: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

“The U.S.V.I. faces major environmental challenges including the impending closure of overflowing landfills in 2020, toxic storm water run-off, high energy costs and lack of viable recycling options,” said Harith Wickrema, the new president of IGLA. “The way we live plays a major role in the devastation, but most people don’t understand their impact. It is our belief that with awareness, education and community engagement along with the support of government, we can fight this battle together. Preservation of the territory is vital to our health and wellbeing as well as to tourism, the lifeblood of our economy.”

In addition to assuming the role of vice chairman of the VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA), Wickrema was elected the new president of IGLA in January. He has been dedicated to preservation and green issues his entire career, most notably developing the sustainable event management curriculum at Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is a trailblazer in the event management industry, championing recognition of sustainability and green events while president of Harith Productions Ltd., a 25+ year global corporate communication and event production company.

While traveling for business, he fell in love with St. John and conceived Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, an eco-luxury retreat on St. John where he now makes his home. For each night that the villa is rented, a donation is made to Friends of VI National Park and IGLA for restoration and recycling efforts on St. John.

Other board officers include:

Doug White, vice president — White is a licensed architect in the Virgin Islands since 1982 as well as a co-founder and past president of IGLA.

Rob Crane, treasurer — Crane is a licensed architect in Washington D.C., Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands, and he is past president of IGLA.

Akhil Deshwal, secretary — Deshwal is managing director at Gallows Point Resort and president of Ocean 362, the restaurant at Gallows Point.

Board members:

Dr. Laurie Bottiger, head of school, Gifft Hills School, St. John

Jim Dobrowolski, founder and CEO of U.S. Facilities Inc., owner of Dr. Cool, a leading mechanical services provider in the U.S.V.I.

Dr. David Hall, president, University of Virgin Islands

Christie O’Neil, broker, Holiday Homes of St. John Inc.

Dr. Gary Ray, restoration ecologist and co-founding member of IGLA

Susan Parten, licensed civil engineer and owner/manager of Community Environmental Services Inc.

Randy Thurman, past CEO of major global corporations including VIASYS & Corning Life Sciences, Rhone Poulenc Rorer, etc.

Karen Vahling, director of development, Friends of Virgin Islands National Park

Further details on IGLA’s plans are forthcoming.

**IGLA’s Green Movie Series offers free family-friendly movie nights when films on green issues are featured, and there is a pot luck dinner. They movie nights are open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m. in the Great Room of Lower Gifft Hill School Campus on the following evenings:
March 17: “Cowspiracy”
April 14: “Racing Extinction”
May 12: “Forks Over Knives”


IGLA Launches Fundraising Campaign: Preserve St. John

The Island Green Living Association is proud to announce the launch of a major fundraising campaign in support of its mission to address environmental issues island-wide.

Together with the board of directors, Executive Director Barry Devine, IGLA intends to undertake key initiatives that will more aggressively target issues of recycling, resource conservation, responsible building and living, and preservation of St. John’s natural environment.

Collectively, the island’s residents, businesses, and more than 1 million visitors per year are utilizing St. John’s natural resources at a rate that poses a growing threat of degradation to the island. St. John faces unique economic, cultural, and environmental problems associated with its geography and tourism base; namely, tons of waste with little recycling, high energy and food costs, increasing pollution, decreasing land mass, and endangered wildlife. These are all key issues targeted in IGLA’s fundraising campaign, Preserve St. John.

As a non-profit organization, IGLA’s funding comes from members and generous donors. To date, public support has enabled IGLA to help St. John in many ways, and now more than ever, the non-profit needs financial support to reach higher and fund critical initiatives including island resource recovery, glass and aluminum can recycling, composting, green villa and green business membership programs, and green living education.

Contact Barry Devine today at   or 340-514-3532 to be a part of Preserve St. John, and share IGLA’s mission with friends, family, neighbors, and visitors. With help from the public, IGLA can enable St. John to move toward a sustainable future and preserve the island for the continued enjoyment of all.

Island Green Building Association Aims to Bring Glass Recycling to St. John with Help From Community

On an island with limited space for waste and few recycling options, the Island Green Building Association is working toward bringing glass recycling to St. John with the help of donations from the community.

IGBA hopes to purchase a solar-powered glass pulverizer to operate at its ReSource Depot site, across from the Susannaberg Transfer Station at Gifft Hill and Centerline. The glass crusher will pulverize glass waste down to the size of a grain of sand, making it ideal for reuse in water filters, landscaping, concrete, and asphalt. IGBA plans to sell 50-pound bags of the pulverized glass at the ReSource Depot.

“You get a sellable product right out of the machine,” said IGBA board member Doug White. “We estimate it can process between 45 and 90 percent of St. John’s glass.”

The island’s waste is approximately 5 percent glass, accounting for 680 tons annually.

“The glass crusher would take care of a phenomenal amount of glass that gets thrown away every year,” said IGBA volunteer Kristin Hawk.

The resulting pulverized glass would be competitively priced with bags of sand sold on St. Thomas.

With St. Thomas landfills ordered closed by 2019 by the Environmental Protection Agency, the territory will need to look at creative ways to dispose of its waste, White explained.

“Glass is a reusable resource,” he said. “It’s already on the island, so transportation and shipping are not necessary, and the material is virtually free except for the collection efforts. We can reuse it right here on St. John.”

IGBA plans to collect the glass alongside aluminum can collection points that stand at many island trash bins.

In addition to reducing the amount of waste produced by island residents and visitors, the solar powered glass crusher will also benefit the island by helping to free up St. John Capital Improvement Fund money, explained White.

“Right now, shipment of our waste to St. Thomas is paid for by the St. John Capital Improvement Fund,” he said. “That money should be going toward doing projects on St. John, not being used to haul trash. The more waste we can process on St. John, the more we can free up the fund for needed improvements on St. John.”

The entire cost of the project is estimated at $76,528, and donations from the community will be needed to help the non-profit purchase the glass crusher and get it up and running. Donations are being accepted at IGBA hopes to have the glass crusher up and running within approximately one year.

“The glass crusher will be a benefit to the people who live and visit here and a benefit to the island’s environment,” said Hawk.

Our Islands Our Future: Green Construction Trainings

IGBA is partnering with NOAA and DPNR to conduct technical training workshops and develop public service announcements targeting designers, builders, agencies, and homeowners with the green building message. First training is for designers, builders and contractors and is focused on building design, landscaping, and stormwater management. July 16, St. Ursulas Church, Cruz Bay. Registration required.

Green Thursdays – “Recycle What, Where?” On May 30

The development of a comprehensive recycling program on St. John has never fully come to fruition, despite interest from many island residents. Join the Island Green Building Association and Gifft Hill School’s Education and Resiliency Through Horticulture program on Thursday, May 30, at the GHS Upper Campus atrium to see how community members can help bring recycling to St. John.

A presentation entitled “Recycle What, Where?” will feature a panel of community activists discussing which recycling activities are ongoing – aluminum can recycling and composting – and which efforts are gathering steam – plastic bailing, glass crushing, and others. Panelists will also discuss the best path moving forward, and share with community members how they can be a part of the solution.

A potluck, beginning at 5:30 p.m., will precede the panel discussion, which starts at 6 p.m. Please bring a dish to share if you wish to join the potluck.

This presentation is a Green Thursdays Seminar, part of the Island Sustainability Series presented by IGBA and GHS’s EARTH program. These monthly seminars focus on making the Virgin Islands a greener place to live. All are welcome to attend.

Green Thursdays: Learn How to Save Money on Your WAPA Bill with Renewable Energy Alternatives March 28

The rising cost of energy is something with which Virgin Islanders are well-acquainted; however, there are ways to get rid of the fear one experiences upon opening a WAPA bill each month – renewable energy alternatives.

Join the Island Green Building Association and Gifft Hill School’s Education And Resiliency Through Horticulture program on Thursday, March 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the GHS Upper Campus atrium to learn about ways to break dependence on traditional energy sources. A panel of professionals will be on hand to answer the most important questions on the economics, suitability, and efficiency of sun, wind, and water energy systems.

This presentation is a Green Thursdays Seminar, part of the Island Sustainability Series presented by IGBA and GHS’s EARTH program. These monthly seminars focus on making the Virgin Islands a greener place to live. All are welcome to attend.

Green Thursdays: Virgin Islands Resources Worth Protecting May 2

The Island Green Building Association will remind residents why the natural environment of St. John is worth fighting for on Thursday, May 2, when IGBA Executive Director Dr. Barry Devine will present “A Naturalist’s Journey From Ridge to Reef: Virgin Islands Resources Worth Protecting.”

Devine will deliver a fascinating presentation on the wonders of Virgin Islands beauty from peak to reef. This potluck event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Gifft Hill School Upper Campus atrium; please bring a dish to share.

This presentation is a Green Thursdays Seminar, part of the Island Sustainability Series presented by IGBA and GHS’s Education And Resiliency Through Horticulture program. These monthly seminars focus on making the Virgin Islands a greener place to live. All are welcome to attend.

Devine’s May 2 presentation will wrap up the 2012-2013 Green Thursdays series. Note that the date has been changed from April 25 to May 2 so as not to interfere with St. Thomas Carnival festivities.

Green Thursdays: Learn About Growing Organically and the USVI’s Local Food Movement on February 28

“Organic” is the latest buzzword on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but as Virgin Islands residents are all too aware, buying organic locally can be prohibitively expensive, and at times, doing so feels next to impossible.

The Ridge to Reef Farm on St. Croix is trying to affect positive change in this area. The farm’s Nate Olive will bring residents up to date on what Ridge to Reef is doing to strengthen the local food system throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands through efforts like certified organic production on Thursday, February 28, at 5:30 p.m. at the Gifft Hill School’s Upper Campus atrium.

This presentation is a Green Thursdays Seminar, part of the Island Sustainability Series presented by the Island Green Building Association and Gifft Hill School’s Education And Resiliency Through Horticulture program. These monthly seminars focus on making the Virgin Islands a greener place to live.

The Feb. 28 presentation is a potluck event; attendees are asked to bring a dish to share along with their farming questions. All are welcome to attend.