St. John’s Island Green Building Association and Beyond Visions Foundation on St. Croix Friday received this year’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Quality Awards.
“Change that will create a healthier and more sustainable future begins with people like those the EPA is honoring today,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said in a press release. “They give of themselves and set a high bar in their actions to protect public health and the environment.”
IGBA got the award in the Non-Profit Organization, Environmental or Community Group category.
“We got it because of our ReSource Depot,” director Karen Vahling said.
The ReSource Depot sells leftover building materials, tools and decorating items. The items are donated and sold at a low cost to keep them out of the landfill.
“We’re keeping 125 pounds an hour out of the landfill,” Vahling said, adding that the organization weighs items as they go out the door.
The ReSource Depot, located on Gifft Hill Road across from the Susananberg Landfill, is open from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays only.
According to the EPA, Island Green Building Association created the first and only Residential Tropical Green Building Certification program designed specifically to promote the development of sustainable tropical architecture and environmental preservation on St. John. In 2012, the association established the ReSource Depot on St. John to promote the reuse and recycling of unused construction materials to reduce the amount of construction materials going into the territory’s waste stream. The association also conducts monthly public environmental education meetings on topics that include municipal composting, solar power and recycling.
Beyond Visions Foundation received the award in the environmental education category. Director Yvonne Petersen was at EPA Region 2 headquarters in New York accepting the award and could not be reached for comment.
The EPA said the organization was picked because it has made environmental education, awareness, advocacy and stewardship its mission since 1997. Its efforts across the U.S. Virgin Islands have helped a diverse range of communities by providing youth education and community assessment programs as well as health awareness initiatives.
In 2011, one of its peer-led programs, “The Nature Explorers Club,” visited marine areas in St. Croix that are designated areas of concern. Participants in the program learned about the environmental and ecological importance of natural resources, and ultimately produced a short video about their experiences. Beyond Visions is also highly active in promoting environmental justice in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
EPA presents Environmental Quality Awards annually during Earth Week to individuals, businesses, government agencies, environmental and community-based organizations and members of the media in EPA Region 2, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and eight federally-recognized Indian Nations.
This year, there were only three nominations, EPA spokesman Elizabeth Myer said. She said one of the three didn’t make the cut. Last year, EPA made four Environmental Quality Awards. Myer said she wishes there were more nominations.
“We love giving awards to the Virgin Islands,” she said.
The awards recognize significant contributions to improving the environment and public health in the previous calendar year.