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Easy Being Green

Try to imagine your daily life without plastic. It's impossible. Plastic is in everything. Whenever you buy something to drink, once it's gone you're left with what? A plastic bottle And what becomes of that plastic bottle? For most people, the answer begins and ends with: “I throw it in the trash.”

And what becomes of that trash? Well, in many communities, the answer might be a shrug of the shoulders. Here in the BVI, though, the answer is provided 24 hours a day by the slow curlicues of foul-smelling smoke rising from the smouldering pits at Pockwood Pond. While few residents of the territory look kindly upon the incineration of their garbage, it is one of those topics that goes largely without comment. Well, some residents have begun to look at solutions to the garbage problem, among them the activists of such environmental organization as GreenVI. One member of that organization, Abigail O'Neal has established a firm, Green Technology (BVI) Ltd., whose mission is to provide technological solutions to some problems of daily living, such as the ubiquitous plastic and other nefarious materials which, once in the system, are extremely difficult to remove.

Abby, along with her colleague Mark Austin, has set up a company to import and distribute such mundane items as disposable cups and plates, food service clamshell dishes and the like. While hardly glamorous, the availability of alternatives to nasty plastic and Styrofoam will have a huge impact on the disposal end, since the products are completely biodegradable.

 

As Abby puts it, “Environmental awareness is the socially and ethically correct way to be. It's in the consciousness of people; it's mainstream. So when we come along with our biodegradable products, people are like ‘We get it, let's do it.’” Having lived abroad for some years, her perspective on BVI life changed. “I lived in the UK for 10 years, and I was back and forth all the time, and I could see the BVI changing and evolving. I became very of the UK in my thinking—in terms of recycling, separating my garbage and looking at all the ways we can better treat our environment.”

“People here think of rubbish as just rubbish because they've never had to separate their stuff.”  But change is coming, driven in part by tourists from countries where the separation of trash and recycling has become second nature. But as Abby points out, “You can't just get up and say you're going to do a recycling programme; you have to have a public-private partnership; you have to have so many things sorted out. If you're going to do something, the community has to support it in terms of buy-in or commitment or willingness to participate.”

“I've always been an environmentalist,” Abby says. “From the time I was six years old, I was like 'We should ban Styrofoam.'  Mark and I are both dive instructors, always in the water feeling the natural beauty of the BVI. We can't promote sun, sand and sea and beauty without dealing with our rubbish situation.”  Mark, GreenTech's Managing Director, says “The technology's there and the products are there, so I don't see why people are still using Styrofoam.”  But there's more to it than strictly business, he says “It's doing something for the islands and for the people.”

Abby O'Neal's far-reaching list of contacts has as much to do with her ebullient personality as to the happy circumstance of being the child of a political family. Abby’s and Mark's diving and sailing contacts put them in the orbit of the organizers of BVI Kite Jam who chose the GreenTech products for their high-profile event. Having utensils made from sugar cane or plant starch that are otherwise indistinguishable from their plastic counterparts yet are compostable or bio-degradable is an obvious fit for an event that is all about the natural world and its beauty. GreenTech is also organizing the upcoming Go Green Festival and Concert, scheduled for June 23-26th.  

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