During our first two weeks in Tortola we couldn’t believe that we hadn’t found that much rubbish on the beach. We were happy to see that, but we had our doubts on whether we weren’t looking in the right places. Of course we were visiting all the touristiest beaches on the island and all of these were protected bays where the swell and currents don’t really bring to much rubbish in.
We then talked to Majel, the lady where we are staying at and she gave us a few tips on where to go. On the last day with our rental car, we made the drive to the east side of Trelly’s Bay and we were actually excited for a minute (because we knew we could find lots of bottle caps for our mats) but then sad and disgusted by how much rubbish there was everywhere.
We walked the whole beach, picking up as many bottle caps as we could and we saw all sorts of things; from boat seats, to deodorants, to big nets full of plastic bottles; it felt like instead of walking on a beach in the Caribbean we were in the middle of a landfill.
On this particular clean-up we were not only after bottle caps for our doormats, but we kept our eyes open for useful things for our boat. Unfortunately the ocean has now become, thanks to our consumerism and disposable societies, a big shopping centre( for the right people), where one can find all sorts of things like, thongs, dresses, t-shirts, buckets, spray bottles, toys, brushes (for scrubbing), and many other things..so every clean-up session is like a treasure hunt, where you never know what you may find!
These are a few treasures that we’ve found
On 20 September was International Clean-Up Day so I went to the Ocean Conservancy website to see if there were any groups in Tortola joining the clean-up. I got an email for a lady called Jasmine who was supposed to be the contact person for Tortola but didn’t hear back from her.
Mick and I were still willing to do a clean-up so we went to the next place Majel had suggested to go for rubbish, Peter Island. This island is a 20 minute ferry ride from Tortola. Once we got to the island, beautiful place full of palm trees and white beaches, we walked across the island to get to its east side. We found again, plenty of rubbish there, too much rubbish for Mick and I to be able to pick up, so we grabbed what we could and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the island.
After that weekend, Jasmine, the contact person on the Ocean Conservancy website emailed us, apologizing for being away sick but informed us that there was going to be another clean-up led by the Filipino community on the weekend. She invited us to join them and even offered to pick us up and take us to Road Town that Sunday morning.
We had to wake up at 5am as Jasmine was picking us up at 6am sharp. When we arrived to Road Town, a part of the Filipino Community, approximately 30 people, were already cleaning up the rubbish. We quickly joined them and we started making new friends. They were all curious to know why we were there, so we told them about our doormats and showed them some pictures that were on our phone.
After an hour of picking up rubbish they told us to join them for breakfast. They had brought so much food and coffee; they were all talking to each other, happily and loudly sharing their food with us. They told us there are around 300 Filipinos in the BVI and most of the people we talked to really liked living here because they said it’s pretty similar to the Philippines.
It was fantastic to see this tight community in action, getting involved and trying to make a difference. But even in groups like these, which are out there, getting their hands dirty, picking up other people’s rubbish and helping the environment, there is still a message to get across, and for me, one of pivotal importance: We should not only concentrate on recycling and joining groups for clean-ups but we should also think about reducing our rubbish production; there we all were filling up bags with rubbish we were collecting, while on the other hand, we were drinking from our plastic water bottles and being served our coffees and breakfast in Styrofoam containers.
It was a very fulfilling morning anyway and Jasmine offered to give us a ride back to another area where we continued, Mick and I, picking up more rubbish. Jasmine is a local woman who has been organizing and taking part of the clean-ups and educational talks since 2001. She was very friendly and even introduced us to the principal of one of the local schools and talked to him about us coming to do a talk in the next month or so.
This last week has been really exciting for us. We finally got in touch with Charlotte McDevitt, the Executive Director of Green VI, a non-profit doing all sorts of wonderful things to help the environment here in the Virgin Islands. One of their projects is to recycle glass bottles, and turned them into new things like pendants, glassware, and beautiful adornments. They also run different educational programs in schools and are passionate about helping the islands take the right steps towards a more sustainable future.
For Mick and I, it was a very inspirational meeting, because Charlotte is so passionate about her cause and so involved in it. We talked for over an hour about our project with the bottle caps and the possibility of working together with Green VI to do some talks around the local schools about plastic pollution. They also have a great little shop in Cane Garden Bay, one of the most popular beaches here in Tortola, so we left a few of our mats there to be sold. http://www.greenvi.org/
The more time we spend doing our doormats and walking this path, the surer we are that this is what we want to spend our time doing. I think we CAN make a difference, we CAN start conversations about the problem with plastics and the terrible pollution in our oceans, we CAN make people think about our impact to the environment. I think there are lots of good things coming from this and I’m very excited.