IGBA members, above, were recently were recently honored with an EPA Environmental Quality Award.
The U.S. Environmental Protections Agency last month announced the 2012 honorees for the group’s annual Environmental Quality Awards for Region 2 were the Island Green Building Association of St. John and Beyond Visions Foundation of St. Croix.
EPA officials hosted an official ceremony at their offices in Manhattan last month and plan to travel to the territory to personally present the awards later in the year. Speaking at last month’s Manhattan ceremony, EPA regional administrator Judith Enck hailed both groups as setting a high bar for environmental excellence in the territory.
“Change that will create a healthier and more sustainable future begins with people like those the EPA is honoring today,” said Enck. “They give of themselves and set a high bar in their actions to protect public health and the environment.”
EPA presents Environmental Quality Awards each year during Earth Week to individuals, businesses, government agencies, environmental and community-based organizations and members of the media in EPA Region 2 — which includes New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally-recognized Indian Nations.
“The awards recognize significant contributions to improving the environment and public health in the previous calendar year,” according to a prepared statement by EPA.
On St. Croix, the Beyond Visions Foundation has been leading programs in environmental education, awareness, advocacy and stewardship since 1997. The group hosts nature explorers clubs, community assessment programs and health awareness initiatives, according to information from EPA.
On St. John, IGBA officials were thrilled with the news of their EPA award.
“We’re very excited about being honored by EPA,” said IGBA executive director Karen Vahling. “We’ve been hearing from so many people in the environmental community and the larger community who have been calling us and congratulating us. It’s really nice to be recognized this way.”
With a degree in environmental work, IGBA is truly Vahling’s passion.
“This is really what I love to do and what I went to school for,” said Vahling. “This really is where my heart is.”
Vahling’s dedication to IGBA and the environment comes through in the group’s many programs from its Green Building Certification to the ReSource Depot.
“The ReSource Depot has been taking up most of our energy right now because its young and we’re getting it up and off the ground,” said Vahling. “We’re still getting more and more donations and we’ve got the system set up there now so we’re really flowing. We’ve got a pretty good pool of volunteers to draw from, but we can always use more.”
Located across from the Susanaberg Transfer Station on Gifft Hill Road, IGBA’s ReSource Depot accepts gently used construction materials from pipes and wood to frames and furniture. The depot helps the local environment in several ways; by keeping items out of the waste stream; and reducing the amount of new material brought to the island.
Since opening its doors four months ago, the ReSource Depot has proven to be incredibly popular, Vahling explained.
“We’re keeping track of the weight of everything we sell and we average 125 pounds an hour,” said Vahling. “Of course, we’re only open two hours a week.”
The ReSource Depot is currently open only on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. But Vahling envisions a way to have more of a presence at the Gifft Hill Road outpost.
“We want to expand our hours because we have so many people coming and going like crazy dropping things off and shopping and buying stuff for those two hours we’re open,” said the IGBA executive director. “We could do better if we could expand our hours and one way to do that is to lease a little trailer from Storage on Site for a small office. I could go up there and do a few hours of office work during the week and have the depot open then.”
“There is no sense sitting in my office at home in Coral Bay, when I could be up there on site and be able to be open on weekdays,” said Vahling.
A $400 monthly donation would cover a lease for small office trailer, Vahling added.
For more information about IGBA, check out the group’s website at www.igba-stjohn.org, call Vahling at 227-1110, or stop by the May 10 meeting. IGBA officials are hosting their last meeting of the season on Thursday, May 10, on the second floor of The Marketplace from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
For information about the Environmental Quality Awards in EPA Region 2, visit www.epa.gov/region02/eqa/.