Letter to the Editor: Thanks to All Who Made the Summit on St. John Possible

Last month, Plastic-Free Island: St. John kicked off its first-ever Summit on St. John. Read the July 28 Tradewinds’ article here.

Across 2 and a 1/2 days and evenings, more than 100 individuals (in addition to our own Working Group) attended one or more Summit sessions or related awareness activities involving 15 presentations made at seven different local venues. Collectively, they represented 20+ organizations, enterprises or businesses and members of the USVI Legislature. We also were pleased to honor and recognize 14 local restaurants/establishments that made the switch to No Plastic Straws in 2017 as part of their commitment to reduce unnecessary disposable plastic across this island.

In addition, students from St. Thomas (Youth Ocean Explorers) were joined for a Summit youth session by the students of Heirs to Our Oceans.The latter group traveled here from California and elsewhere in the Pacific to be with us and engaged in many additional sessions. The Heirs also gave an incredible (and emotional) concluding presentation at The Westin as well.

This is to publicly thank the amazing support provided by our local venue hosts: The Westin, Cinnamon Bay, St. John Brewers and Bajo el Sol Gallery at Mongoose Junction as well as Movie Night at Susannaberg Ruins and The Bowery at Wharfside Village. The generosity of these venue leaders in opening their doors to us — at no cost — plus providing dedicated support while we were on-site is tremendously appreciated and will not be forgotten.

We are also indebted to our local mentor organization, Island Green Living Association, and its President, Harith Wickrema, as well as Island Green’s Board of Directors for their continuing guidance and support. In addition, Dr. Gary Ray went above and beyond to spend his personal time enlightening our youth visitors, deepening their knowledge of island conservation and related sciences.

We were also grateful to synchronize and coordinate our Summit efforts and public outreach with the Coral Bay Community Council under the leadership of Sharon Coldren. In addition, we received essential accommodations support + gracious hosting from Harith Wickrema and Brad & Juli Camrud. Through the efforts of VIWMA’s Alice Krall, the Youth Ocean Explorers were also safely transported to and from their STJ session.

Appreciation also goes to our many session speakers and presenters who gave generously of their time and expertise, including representatives of Green VI/Bugout BVI, USVI/DPNR and The Nature Conservancy, among others.

Finally, deep thanks go to our friends and mentors from the Plastic Pollution Coalition under the leadership of Dianna Cohen. Dianna, along with Jane Patton, PPC managing director, and Jackie Nunez, founder of The Last Plastic Straw, traveled to St. John to join us at their organization’s own expense, accompanied by Kristal Ambrose, founder of the Bahamas Plastic Movement. Together, they provided the expert knowledge, insights and spirit we needed to make the Summit truly meaningful and forward-looking. We literally could not have done it without them.

The Summit on St. John’s sole purpose was to galvanize those already involved in reducing single-use plastic waste to become even more informed and engaged plus to create awareness among others not previously reached but motivated to learn more then act. It’s fair to say we achieved that — and more.

On behalf of the Plastic-Free Island: St. John Working Group who diligently laid the groundwork for the Summit and Plastic-Free July over the past six months, many thanks to all of our wonderful supporters and attendees. Please stay tuned to plasticfreestjohn.com for news + updates on how you can become even more involved.

Ken Haldin
Plastic-Free Island: St. John Working Group