As a result of global warming, or climate change as it is sometimes called, all kinds of new words and phrases are cropping up in our every day speech. They have come about due to the fact that it is now widely accepted that global warming threatens our planet. Green is no longer just a color; it has become a generic term for initiatives to clean up our world. Carbon footprint is a term used to describe how the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels caused by what we use and burn causes global warming resulting in polar ice caps melting and rising sea levels that threaten low lying islands and coastal areas. Emission reduction is required to alleviate the effects that greenhouse gases have on our planet.
So what is the answer? Clearly, the reduction of wasted energy is key. If you've ever flown over a large city at night the use of electrical light is staggering – empty buildings are ablaze with light. Alternatives to fossil fuel burning generators are necessary and emissions from petrol burning vehicles must be addressed. Natural energy sources like solar and wind power are effective in reducing the world's carbon footprint and bio fuels are an alternative for the combustion engine. Reforestation can also help in a big way; trees absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide and disseminate water and life giving oxygen into the atmosphere. The benefits of recycling must also not be forgotten: aluminum, steel, glass, cardboard, paper, plastic and food waste can all be effectively recycled, saving money on garbage disposal and conserving the world's natural resources.
The BVI is slowly becoming aware of the importance of green initiatives. The Peter Island Resort has installed two 250 kw wind generators, the first in the territory, to address huge electricity bills and help combat pollution from the territory's diesel generators. It is anticipated the two turbines will provide in excess of 40 percent of the peak load energy requirements and save over 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which translates into a saving of about a quarter million dollars. The wind turbines are located on a remote SE facing ridge and will not impact the island's beautiful scenery. This environmental initiative will be an economic boon and a step to diminish pollution in the Territory.
One of the BVI's most high-profile, part-time residents, Richard Branson, has long been a supporter of eco-friendly solutions to the problem of global warming. Realizing that carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere is largely to blame for the world's climate change he has established a prize fund, the Virgin Earth Challenge, awarding $25 million to any person who can successfully develop a device that captures and reutilizes carbon in the atmosphere. Branson's newly acquired island of Mosquito, bordering Virgin Gorda's North Sound, will be a high end, eco-friendly, luxury resort and is planned to be as carbon neutral as possible by using solar and wind power. Recycling will also feature highly in the running of the resort, even offices will use recycled paper. Bio fuel will likely run the proposed golf carts and back-up generator.
The Moorings charter yacht company opened its new base in March '09 and "green" innovations include the ability to recycle the laundry water, which purportedly saves about 1,200 gallons per day. The base itself is in a very protected location behind a rock breakwater and as such the lack of circulation was a problem. During the recent upgrade two large pipes were built into the sea wall with a hefty pump increasing the water flow into the inner harbor and creating a cleaner environment.
The Cooper Island Beach Club recently completed a renovation project and has introduced several green initiatives in the process. A state-of-the-art solar panel system, which gleams atop the roof of the new restaurant building has been designed to supply 30 to 40 percent of the resort's power requirements. Each of the resort's cottages has its own cistern and rooftop solar heater to supply the showers. The waste shower water is used for irrigation, and to ensure the water is contaminant free, bio-degradable shampoos and soaps are provided.
Much of the resort's furniture is made from recycled wood from disused fishing boats and the cooking oil from the fryer is recycled into bio-fuel for the generator. Eco-products are used in the resort's bar and restaurant; cups and straws are made from corn bi-products and are bio-degradable.
Other private sector companies in the BVI are "stepping up to the plate" to meet the increasing demand of a green world. Alternative Energy Systems has a team of professionals to advise on any alternative power supply enquiries. New local company GreenTech can provide businesses and restaurants with eco friendly materials.
Charlotte McDevitt is the executive director of Green VI, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to a greener, cleaner and healthier BVI. According to Ms. Mc Devitt, initial projects will focus on waste reduction and resource management. Top among these is the Glass Furnace Project. Funded by numerous local and international sponsors, the venture aims to collect glass waste generated in Tortola and convert it into recycled products for the construction industry, as well as domestic and tourist markets. Local apprentices will be taught how to build and maintain a furnace, as well as the art of blowing glass. As the main fundraiser for Green VI, the glass furnace will help to ensure further green initiatives in the territory, including partnering with organizations to implement further waste reduction projects and developing an environmental education strategy. Recyling tips can be found at the organization's website, www.greenvi.org.
Many of the BVI's charter companies have long been aware of the importance of conservation stressing the need to be mindful of reef preservation. The slogan of ARK (Association of Reef Keepers) has long been: Protect the Reefs: "Millenniums to Grow, Seconds to Destroy." Crewed yachts are increasingly eco conscious. Many now make their own potable water from onboard water de-sal plants eliminating ubiquitous plastic bottles. Eco friendly soaps, shampoos, dish liquids and cleaning agents are non-polluting and demand has prompted BVI stores to stock them.
Plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam food containers and cups are pollution nightmares in the islands. The BVI's Conservation and Fisheries department initiated a program with sponsors First Bank to try to alleviate the problem by providing free reusable bags at supermarkets. Although the effort, hailed as a breakthrough at its inception was not carried on, a growing number of shoppers are carrying along their own bags.
The BVI Spring Regatta Committee made a big effort to turn green in 2009. With a donation from the BVI Tourist Board green reusable water bottles were sold at the Regatta Village on Nanny Cay and cold potable water was provided free by Chuck Peterson, director of Clearwater, a company with fresh water distribution machines installed at various locations around the BVI. The proceeds went to Green VI and the BVI's invaluable VISAR (Virgin Island's Search and Rescue) whose president said the donation will go towards a 'green' four-stroke engine.
Although there is still a long way to go, it is reassuring to see so many residents taking up the cause of a clean and green BVI. Not only is it a boon to the territory it is a relief to the world.