We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
Native American Proverb
Although it’s not easily seen, we have a huge global problem with trash. Humans produce incredible amounts of trash, and only a fraction of it is recycled. It is not uncommon for the wealthy countries to export their waste to be stored in the poorer ones, so the nations who consume the least actually have the highest trash pollution! We have even started to pollute the Earth’s orbit.
As much as 50% of plastic-made products are only used once, and according to our current knowledge, plastic takes at least 500 years to decompose. Recycling is costly and doesn’t apply to every product. It seems that the best way to limit pollution is to limit our consumption and re-use.
In Richmond Vale Academy we re-use most of our trash. We have several bins in different places around the campus to collect kitchen waste (two kinds: for the pigs to eat and for feeding our compost / biogas plant), paper and cardboard to be used in the garden, glass jars and bottles to store our delicious home-made preserves, and plastics which we use in different arts & crafts projects with the kids. Unwanted clothes go into a pile from which everybody can choose something “new” for themselves. This way we limit the amount of trash going to the landfill to the minimum, decreasing our collective carbon footprint.
Since we’ve created a well-working system for the Academy, we strive to lessen trash pollution all around the island with regular educational and practical actions, such as village trash pick-ups, beach and riverbanks clean-ups, recycling campaigns and workshops on re-using certain items. We always try to make those projects fun and rewarding, and we have more participants every time, with some of our former students-come-activists now coordinating the actions in their own communities.
One day we got tired of looking at all the trash around the streets and schools in North Leeward and we decided to take action!
We prepared a plan, found a sponsor and decided to involve students and teachers in the schools. The schools willingly signed up and we organized a Big Teaching Project, which led to a trash pick-up competition called “The World’s Cleanest Country Competition”. Prizes were distributed to the best trash collectors.
The Conference students arranged 5 lessons in every primary and secondary school of the 8 villages from Fitz Hughes to Spring Village. Some issues that were touched on included how to protect the environment, a focus on recycling, and reducing pollution from trash.
The topics of the lessons were:
• Global Warming and Climate Change,
• Organic Gardening and Sustainability,
• Nutrition and Healthy Living,
• The treasure called WATER.
The actual trash pick-up competition took place in each village on the 23rd of February 2013. All the participating schools had to mobilize and organise themselves. A wide variety of people came together to collect trash on the streets, rivers and beaches, including students, staff, families and different community groups. Trash bags and gloves were provided at the registration points.
The winner of the competition was to be the school who could mobilize the most people and collect the most garbage in a period of two hours. This title went to the Troumaca Government School, which received 500 dollars. The second prize went to Fitz Hughes Government School and they received 300 dollars while West-Wood Methodist School in Coulls Hill came in third. The winners were free to choose how to spend the money and could buy things such as sports or musical equipment for their school.
Big Thanks to Mountain Top for sponsoring this event!
Since 2008 Richmond Vale Academy has participated in and organized actions to clean up the beaches in North Leeward in connection with The International Coastal Clean Up Day. Every third week of September many communities in St. Vincent get together and clean up their beaches. In North Leeward we have removed close to 4 tons of trash and transported it to the Belle Isle Landfill. Several community groups like Generation Next, The Chateaubelair Police Youth Group, The Petit Bordel Police Youth Group, Yung Democratz Crew, The Rose Bank Development Association, North Leeward Tourism Association and more have come together to clean up in North Leeward while the 2014 action in Calliaqua was arranged by The Inivershall Rastafari Movement.
4 tons of trash removed from our beaches in connection with International Coastal Clean-Up Day:
2008: Chateaubelair, 15 people – 200 kg of trash removed
2009: Chateaubelair, 25 people – 300 kg of trash removed
2010: Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes and Richmond, 40 people – 500 kg of trash removed
2011: Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes and Richmond, 40 people – 500 kg of trash removed
2012: Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes, Richmond and Rose Bank, 100 people – 1600 kg of trash removed
2013: Chateaubelair, 35 people – 250 kg of trash removed
2014: Calliaqua, 15 people – 200 kg of trash removed
2015 Richmond, Chateubelair, Petit Bordel, Cumberland and Troumaka – 500 kg of trash removed.
The trash was transported to the landfill in Belle Isle.
Besides the annual event, we organize smaller beach clean-ups several times a year in nearby communities.
To many of us, living in the Western world, a river is just a river, nothing much. We have already forgotten many of its primary functions as well as a vast array of traditional rituals surrounding spending time at riverbanks. However, in a small mountainous community of Rose Hall, St. Vincent, there are still people who remember.
For many decades the people of Rose Hall have cultivated strong traditions which kept their community united, unfortunately many of those traditions have been lost to modernization. The river used to have a big impact on the community, serving as a community meeting point where youth, women and men came together and enjoyed a day of cooking, bathing and cooling off after a hard day’s work. They would drum, sing and share passionate stories from the courageous ancestors who kept the island protected from the invasion of the Europeans until the XVIII century. A tradition that kept people united as a community.
The road next to the river, together with the tradition, has been forgotten and almost fully covered by overgrown plants. On the 10th of October 2015, a group of teachers and students from Richmond Vale Academy, together with local activists, came back to the river to clean up its banks. The objective was to collect as many bags of trash as possible (mainly plastic littering downhill), and plant a dozen of trees at the bottom, by the side of the river as part of the ENO Treelympics action.
We have divided ourselves into three groups; one would clear the road with machetes, another pick up the trash, while the third one was in charge of planting the trees. The result was 20 trash bags full of plastic, 12 new fruit and moringa trees down at the river´s banks, a clean and clear river road, and around 40 men, women and children enjoying the waterfall and the river, the work well-done and the refreshing feeling of being together.
To finish the day we came back to Rose Hall and participated in a drum performance by Selly, one of the most recognized local activists, not only in Rose Hall but in the all country. We danced, following the rhythm of Selly’s voice and drum, telling us about the culture, the people, the lost traditions and how important is for us to recover and listen to the old roots and make a place for them in this modern time. The message was about how commodities could bring comfort and better living conditions but at the same time separate and divide a community. The message was about awareness and about people and their rights. The message was about the importance and the need of sticking together and protecting our values; bringing back forgotten ethics and justice. It was a message about the power of the community.
While cleaning up our rivers and beaches can be critically important to the environment, it is no less useful to clean the villages as well. There have been several occasions when the activists from RVA have partnered with local groups to help make their communities less polluted. On one such occasion we have marched from one village, Petit Bordel, to another, Chateaubelair, picking up all the trash on our way.
The Trash March took place on the last day of 2012, with the aim to welcome the new year with clean streets and backyards. The Climate Compliance Conference and Petit Bordel Police Youth Group mobilized around 100 people to join. They showed up already highly motivated to work towards a clean future and make St. Vincent the “World’s Cleanest Country”. The action showed that the environmental education in the North Leeward schools was not in vain, mobilizing people to help their own communities.
Moreover, many local and national entrepreneurs are taking interest in making St. Vincent a cleaner country. This time it was the Mountain Top Spring Water who sponsored the march, making it possible for us to distribute trash bags, gloves and the Climate Compliance Conference t-shirts for the participants. After the clean-up everyone was invited to a small meal and juice at Sacca’s Beach Front Restaurant where the activists got to rest and socialize for a nice ending of a productive day.
In celebration of World Environment Day 2014, the Richmond Vale Academy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Wellness & The Environment, held a recycling rally in St. Vincent.
This rally was part of a series of activities carried out to sensitize the public on the benefits of taking small steps to save the environment in the line of efforts to build resilience to climate change. The recycling of plastic bottles and cans started in St. Vincent in 2013 and this project aimed to promote recycling among all Vincentians. Basically, we demonstrated how easy it is to recycle and help keep the communities clean.
We targeted 11 villages in North Leeward to recycle on this day. First the Climate Compliance Conference participants went from village to village and talked about the rally, the benefits of recycling, put up the posters and handed out information flyers.
In each village a recycling pick-up point was organized and the people who first brought more than 1 kg of plastic bottles or cans got a t-shirt, a water bottle, a cap or a journal. Each person’s contribution was weighed and registered, and each collector received money for his or
her bottles and cans.
The rally became a great success and a total of 25 000 plastic bottles were collected and transported to the SVG Tidy recycling point in Campden Park.
Thank you to the OECS RRACC Climate Ready Project for the support to carry out the Recycling Rally.
There are 30 000 cars in St. Vincent and no place to recycle car tires.
In St. Vincent we are likely to produce more than 100 000 used tires per year. The two landfills in Belle Isle and Diamond do not accept used tires and people often go into the forest and burn them or dump them in the ocean.
Tires take hundreds of years to decompose. When they’re burnt, toxic smoke is released into the air we breathe. What to do?
The Climate Compliance activists decided to create a practical project where people could take part in reducing pollution by reusing tires. In February 2014 we decided to build a playground at Fitz Hughes Government School, made from recycled materials. The main goal was to show an example of the importance of recycling and to show that it is possible to make something useful from garbage.
We started our project by sharing the tasks at hand:
one group had to plan the next two weeks of the project,
one group researched what kind of playground elements we wanted to build,
one group was making a list of all the materials needed.
The only money we spent was for transporting the tires to the school and buying some screws, bolts and tools. Nothing expensive!
It took us one week to build the playground as an activity after school time and to our surprise it went very fast because a lot of kids were excited and helped out.
We built a long jump of wood boards that we had in our workshop, and we gathered some sand from the beach. Then we built two "motorcycles", a swing and a tower on a pole which was donated from VINLEC (St. Vincent's Electrical Company), and finally we built a big climbing wall.
The time with the kids was amazing, and building the playground was a huge success since we reached our goal of bringing the local community members to help out and the feedback was very positive and enthusiastic.
People say the playground looks nice and are surprised that it can be so beautiful being made of "trash" and even better, the children respect it and take care of it because they took part in building it. As Helen Keller, prominent American activist, once said:
Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.