Thanks to a fundraising campaign which included a golf outing, large and small donations as well as a matching pledge, Island Green Living Association officials are launching the Preserve St. John initiative with eye toward making Love City the most ecologically friendly island in the Caribbean.
IGLA board member Harith Wickrema, owner of the environmentally friendly luxury villa Eco Serendib, pledged to match up to $20,000 in funds for the initiative if the association could raise the money by Earth Day.
“The challenge was to raise $20,000 by Earth Day and I said I would match it dollar for dollar,” Wickrema said. “If they raised the funds a week before, I pledged to give $5,000 more to make it $25,000. And we did it.”
The well-attended Coral Bay Golf Open in March helped raise about $16,000 with individual donations ranging from $10 to thousands of dollars pushing the total above $25,000, Wickrema explained.
“Our goal turned into $50,000 with $25,000 from IGLA’s efforts matched by my donation from Eco Serendib,” he said. “We reached that goal and went beyond.”
While additional fundraising will be essential for Preserve St. John, so far IGLA has raised a total of $64,780 for the initiative.
The first phase of Preserve St. John will launch expanded aluminum can recycling on the island. IGLA has already received a large can crusher capable of crushing 600 aluminum cans at one time. The crusher was recently uncrated, but is not in operation yet, explained Wickrema.
“The can crusher was manufactured and delivered and it just arrived and we uncrated it,” he said. “We are not going to start crushing cans yet. We need to have a business plan about who we are going to collect the cans and what we are going to do when we crush the cans.”
“We need to put together a proper plan and we don’t want to start crushing cans until that is finished,” Wickrema said.
That can crusher will be fired up before too long, Wickrema added.
In separate meetings last week, IGLA officials met with Governor Kenneth Mapp and V.I. National Park Superintendent Brion Fitzgerald to work toward launching the first phase of Preserve St. John, he explained.
“I would say we’d be up and going in the next month and a half or so,” said the IGLA board member. “We met [VINP Superintendent] Brion Fitzgerald because they collect a lot of cans that go to the dumpster and we wanted to talk about separation at the source. We’re going to need other people involved as well.”
While the Preserve St. John will include on-island aluminum can crushing, IGLA officials plan to begin offering paper, glass and plastic recycling on Love City in the future with close government collaboration ranging from Departments of Education, Tourism and Public Works.
“Preserve St. John is more than buying a can crusher,” said Wickrema. “Our objective is to make St. John one of the greenest islands in the world. We met with the governor and I gave a holistic plan of how we plan to accomplish that.”
“One part of that is recycling and another is education,” he said. “We need to make it a part of the curriculum and have IGLA ambassadors and recycling clubs in each grade level. The next generation should grow up learning about how to protect our island including the beaches, our carbon footprint, and how to protect the environment.”
“All of it is part of Preserve St. John,” Wickrema said.
Mapp was impressed with IGLA’s plan and supports Preserve St. John, Wickrema explained.
“We were with the governor and his chief of staff for an hour and he took it very seriously,” said Wickrema. “I was very much blown away by his support and the time he gave he spent with us.”
One aspect which certainly appealed to the governor must have the amount of funds IGLA officials are hoping to receive from the government.
“We are going to fund this initiative,” said Wickrema. “This is not going to cost the government anything.”
The IGLA board member has already been in contact with Department of Education officials and plans to schedule a meeting soon, he added.
Getting Department of Education, Department of Public Works and Waste Management Agency officials on board is key to the success of Preserve St. John, according to Wickrema.
“The whole idea is for students and residents of this island to take ownership of this initiative,” he said. “We don’t want any politics in this. Every organization is invited to join our effort.”
“This is not just IGLA,” Wickrema said. “This is an island-wide initiative to protect our island for future generations.”
For more information about IGLA and to support the Preserve St. John initiative, check out www.igba-stjohn.org.