Divers pull an abandoned and sunken dinghy out of the water at Long Bay, Beef Island, during the Blue Green Beach Day hosted by Green VI and other organisations in celebration of Earth Week 2019.
Divers pull an abandoned and sunken dinghy out of the water at Long Bay, Beef Island, during the Blue Green Beach Day hosted by Green VI and other organisations in celebration of Earth Week 2019. (Photo: Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed)

Reusable bags? Check. Recycling programme? Check. Organic foods? Check.

Keeping the Virgin Islands beautiful was at the forefront last week as organisations like Green VI celebrated Earth Day and Arbour Day with events that supported a clean environment.

On Friday, Green VI along with other organisations hosted a Go Green Fair in Road Town. Their philosophies were put to the test on Saturday during the Blue Green Beach Day in Long Bay, Beef Island, where volunteers collected several bags of trash from land and certified divers pulled garbage out of the ocean.

The prize of the day? An entire sunken dinghy.

Blue Green Beach Day

Sail Caribbean Divers geared up at the start of the Saturday event, gathering people interested in learning how to scuba. Once the new divers went through a tutorial, instructors geared them up and sank down to the shallows of Long Bay.

“Is that a rug?” asked Chloe Forbes, a 12-year-old student from St. George’s Secondary School, as she broke the surface of the water.

It was her first time diving and she got to peek around the ocean floor.

What she really saw was a sunken dinghy in the water, just a few feet away from the shore.

“[The boat] was about ten metres out, and it was a hazard because it was so close to the beach,” said Chris Cowlson, a certified diver and former student of Sail Caribbean Divers.

He and others joined the cleanup effort by diving for trash on the seafloor. Once they spotted the boat, three divers tried to lift it out of the water. Unable to move it, they then tied it to floaters to help dislodge it so that they could drag it out of the water. They removed the sea life inside, which included crabs and snails, and lifted the boat into a trash container nearby.

While the divers were busy taking care of the ocean trash, volunteers scoured the beach for litter. Once several bags were collected, it was time to sort the trash into categories: plastics, aluminum, glass and others. Green VI hosted a competition where volunteers raced to sort the trash into containers provided by the non-profit organisation.

Additionally, the event included booths for other environmental supporters like the Department of Waste Management, Unite BVI, the Association of Reef Keepers, and Naturally Tasty.

Just the day before, the same vendors were part of the Go Green Fair, which attracted crowds in Road Town.

Volunteers pick up bags of trash along Long Bay East End during the Blue Green Beach Day. (Photo: Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed)
Go Green Fair

Gardeners, farmers and conservationists gathered in the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park on Friday in celebration of Earth Week 2019. Green VI Deputy Director Sarah Penney said the event was designed to encourage positive behaviour change.

“Today is really about helping people figure out how they as individuals can make seemingly small changes in their lives,” Ms. Penney said.

Attendees were able to purchase reusable bags from re-CREATE BVI, buy organic produce from three farms, petition for legislation that protects sea turtles through Unite BVI, buy reusable bamboo forks from Nutmeg & Co., and learn about the work of the National Parks Trust.

“What we really try to do is be that connecting tissue between the private sector, government, education communities, civil society, and get the conversation happening. Right now we know there’s a lot of critical issues,” Ms. Penney said.

Nutmeg & Co. encourages people to go green in 2019 during the Go Green Fair last Friday. (Photo: Zarrin Tasnim Ahmed)

Waste is the biggest environmental health issue that the Green VI is trying to address, she said.

“We need to start managing our materials and seeing waste as a resource instead of something that we burn,” Ms. Penney explained.

She added that there is a lot of community interest and support, but the territory doesn’t have the infrastructure needed for recycling yet. Recycling plans

Last week, however, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone signed a memorandum of understanding with Green VI to implement a territory-wide recycling system.

Additionally, Green VI has partnered with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration to implement a Green Certification Programme for businesses.

An Earth Day message posted by Premier Andrew Fahie stated that over the course of six months, the government will coordinate a comprehensive cleanup of the territory under the theme, “A Beautiful Virgin Islands Begins with You.”

The government also released a monthly schedule focus- ing on different districts until the end of September. So far, in the month of April, which was dedicated to the cleanup of the Ninth District, the government has removed 180 derelict vehicles from Virgin Gorda and organised a cleanup of the island, officials reported.

“We need to make amends for all that we have taken for so long, and amends are typically not convenient,” Ms. Penney said. “But if we want our children to have a planet that’s healthy enough for them to live on, we have to act now. And there’s no time left. So simple things — if you change your diet a little bit. Try a meatless Monday.”

Her other suggestions were separating waste, composting, planting a garden at home, lobbying elected leaders, and walking or carpooling to work.

“These things are much more accessible than people think they are,” Ms. Penney said.