Each year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “honors individuals and organizations who have contributed significantly to improving the environment during the prior year in … Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands”.
This year the recipients of the USEPA Environmental Quality Awards for Puerto Rico are:
Father Efraín Rodriguez
Father Efraín became interested in environmental issues while studying to become a priest in Boynton Beach, Fla. He noticed that a pesticides-dispensing plane flew over the crops, and that animals were dying from ingesting pesticides. Father Efraín became concerned for the safety and health of the workers. Between 1971 and 1975, he traveled across the United States defending migrant workers and educating them about the dangers of pesticide exposure. In 1998, he started his own radio show called “Hablando Claro,” a program that serves as an open forum for environmental issues and health and safety themes in Puerto Rico.
Lyvia Rodriguez Del Valle
Lyvia Rodriguez Del Valle is an urban and regional planner who currently serves as the executive director of the Corporación Del Proyecto ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, a redevelopment authority that brings together the organized communities, the private sector and government around an agenda for an inclusive city. Over the last 10 years, she has worked together with an interdisciplinary team to create innovative and highly participatory mechanisms to overcome poverty and address environmental degradation.
Ana Margarita Pérez Mejías and Carmen Febres
Under the leadership of Ana Margarita Pérez Mejías and Carmen Febres, their organization, Martín Peña Recicla, has become a model for community involvement and education through teaching residents of Barrio Obrero Marina about recycling, solid waste reuse, and other environmental issues. The project recovers approximately four tons of recyclable newsprint, paper and cardboard each month, reducing the community’s daily waste load. The work is performed entirely by community volunteers, who have no specialized equipment or tools. The materials are separated and stored temporarily before being sold to a major recycling corporation on the island. Any proceeds are reinvested in community projects such as youth programs.
Amgen Manufacturing, Limited
Amgen Manufacturing, Limited (AML) established an environmental sustainability program in 2010 to further its commitment to improve the environment. As part of the program, AML launched a number of efforts to protect and save natural resources, including reducing waste, sustaining a best-in-class recycling program, establishing energy and water conservation programs, and promoting practices to reduce emissions into the atmosphere.
And the honorees in the Virgin Islands are:
Audrey Penn is passionate about environmental education, which she expresses though her role as the program manager at the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. Audrey produces the program entitled “School Kids in the Park” (SKIP) as a means introduce youths to environmental issues. In 2010 alone, over 600 students took part in the SKIP program. During the summer, Ms. Penn works with Student Conservation Association to recruit high school students from around the world to St. John to spend a month learning the trades in cross cultural life skills of the USVI.
St. John’s Recycling
The St. John’s community recycling initiative started by promoting recycling at one or two dumpster stations. It eventually expanded across the island when the group created homemade recycling boxes in response to public desire to recycle. The organization and its message has grown, paving the way for government provided recycling containers and a multipart group-run collection system.
Ridge to Reef Farm
Ridge to Reef Farm (R2R) is an agri-tourism enterprise that has made great advancements with regard to sustainable local food production in the USVI. Through its unique visitor programs, organic farming methods, and open source local food web market, R2R has a creative approach to community engagement. R2R welcomes over 4,500 visitors a year to its completely solar-powered facility and U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic farm for tours and workshops, and farm-fresh food events. At such events, experienced guides educate community members about R2R’s food production strategy and how it helps restore a recovering native ecology.
Gulf of Mexico Foundation
Gulf of Mexico Foundation (GMF) has been working in habitat conservation, restoration, and protection in the U.S. Virgin Islands for over five years. As a result, they have restored more than 700 acres of critical habitat, installed mooring buoys for vessel protection during storms, implemented best management practices to reduce sediment runoff into bays, and conducted marine debris and derelict vessel removal, all with community involvement. Through their partnerships with local stakeholders, they have provided training related to grant-writing and project development.
Kudos to all!
[Photo: via epa.gov]