Lush and Tropical

As more and more of us realize how our daily lives can affect the environment, it is crucial for us to understand and implement ways to reduce our negative impact. Here on St. Croix, we are surrounded by the beauty that nature provides us, and yet it seems as if we are behind the times in trying to preserve that. So what can we do? Seek to reduce your personal impact by implementing small changes. Reduce the amount of waste you produce and the non-renewable resources you consume. Re-use as many things as you can instead of tossing them. Recycle whatever possible. Seek out the businesses on St. Croix that are striving to improve their environmental impact. The more we support those businesses, the more they can do for our community and our environment.

Buy Local! Fresh Produce Markets on St. Croix

BananasDid you know that nearly ALL the food on St. Croix (approximately 99%) has been imported? Imagine the journey your food has taken to get to your plate. The boats, planes, and trucks that carried it from farm to warehouse to grocery store or restaurant. How long ago was your produce picked? Where did it come from? Buying local produce and products eliminates all these middle steps and a whole lot of time and resources. Buying local means enjoying farm fresh foods on the day they were picked. It means knowing where your food is coming from. It means eating produce when it’s at is freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious.

Eco-Friendly Lodging

Mt Victory CampSome of the best places to stay on St. Croix are the ones that bring you closest to nature. Eco-friendly lodging will truly make you feel like you are on vacation. Listen to the tree frogs singing you to sleep and the birds serenading you in the morning. The tropical breeze passes through your room, cooling it without any effort at all. The stars and the sky provide all the comfort you’ll need to feel at home in the natural state that St. Croix’s tropical climate can offer. Try camping in a tree house made from exotic wood that came from the very forest you are staying in, or relax in an eco-villa with ocean views and shade trees. Explore the many ways to be as close to outdoors as you can —St. Croix is a nature lover’s paradise.

St. Croix Environmental Association

St Croix Environmental AssociationLocation : Gallows Bay
Tel : 340-773-1989
Fax : 340-773-7545
Website : www.stxenvironmental.org

Conservation, Education & Advocacy!  A non-profit, membership driven organization, SEA is committed to protecting and conserving the beautiful island environment of St. Croix.  By creating innovative environmental education programs for children and adults, sponsoring engaging activities, and remaining vigilant in seeking compliance with local and federal environmental regulations, SEA continues to provide leadership for a healthy and sustainable environment   Take part in SEA’s guided hikes, snorkel clinics, or specialty workshops and learn about St. Croix’s unique environment. See their website for the SEA’s latest programs, sponsored activities, to become a member, or volunteer.

Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority

VIWMAHotline : 340-713-1962
Local Office: 340-718-4489
Website : St. Croix Recycling Guide

Promoting and Encouraging Recycling on St. Croix! In an effort to reduce the amount of materials sent to our local landfills and to conserve our natural resources, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority has provided a “St. Croix Recycling Guide.”  This guide is an excellent source of information about where to recycle, donate for reuse, or properly dispose of a wide variety of items.  When you recycle, you preserve and protect the environment.

VINE (Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators)

VINE (Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators)Location : Island Wide
Local Tel : 340-778-7657
Website : www.gotostcroix.com/leave-paradise-in-its-place

Leave Paradise in its Place! Seeing a need to improve environmental and cultural education opportunities through out the U.S. Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators (VINE) was formed in August 2004 by educators wanting to share information and community contacts. VINE members work together to offer environmental education programs and provide resources for teachers and the community. VINE is actively developing new programs and materials for use on a number of issues, including the impacts of water pollution, the role of mangroves in the marine environment, the life cycle of the leatherback sea turtle, energy conservation, the cultural history of the virgin islands and preventing soil erosion to name a few.

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Savor the Flavor at Ridge to Reef Farm’s Slow Down Dinner

When I arrived at Ridge to Reef Farm at VISFI (Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute) for my first Slow Down Dinner experience, staff member Patrick told us to expect great food, fun, and a lots to learn. “Emphasis on the fun,” he said, and he was right on all three counts.

Ridge to Reef Farm at VISFI has been hosting Slow Down Dinners for several years now, as a way to raise funds for their community programs, and to educate people about the importance of locally grown, organic food. Over a 6-course organic, local, gourmet meal, we were able to enjoy the relaxing ambiance of the the farm, which is tucked away in the western hills in the rainforest, and learn more about the Slow Food Movement and how important it is to our world right now. The movement was started in Italy in the 1980s as a reaction to the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Rome, and aims to preserve cultural cuisine, promote growing your own food, and ethical buying in the local marketplace.  Jay, one of the farm staffers, rightly pointed out between courses that two of the most important issues we are facing right now are climate change and health care. Changing our lifestyles to incorporate local, organic food is a way in which we can affect change  in our daily lives and support a grassroots movement that aims to promote the health and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. The dinner, aside from being delicious and a wonderful time, was also incredibly inspiring and educational.

But, on to the food! Arriving at the farm just before 6 pm, we stashed the drinks we brought, claimed seats at one of the long communal tables set up on the covered mahogany porch of Ridge to Reef Farm’s main building and went on a short walk to explore the grounds. After spending some quality time with the most adorable baby goats and sheep we headed back to settle down for the meal. The first course was a passed appetizer of a fried breadfruit chip topped with a beet slice, cilantro pesto, cashew and pomegranate seeds. It was divine (I had two). The chef  spoke a bit about each course before they came out, and the farm staff carefully explained all the components of the food. Knowing each green in the salad or soup really makes one think about each bite, slow down and savor the food.  The second course was a crepe stuffed with green papaya and green mango chunks in a soft, creamy sauce. Our vegan friends were served the papaya and mango in a pepper boat, with wing beans, which I had never seen before and were deliciously fresh tasting and crunchy.  Onto the third! Big bowls of vegan kalalloo were served topped with crispy, smoky strips of sweet potato “bacon.”  Then a green salad with so many different greens, we kept asking the staff to name every one. If I recall, it included amaranth, sorrell, and moringa. Finally, it was onto the fifth course, inspired by Chef Keith’s grandmother’s Hanukkah meals– green banana latkes topped with smoked mahi, yogurt sauce and some kind of red garnish (I forget what it was) that was amazing. The smoked mahi had a rich flavor, and paired with the texture of the latke and the tartness of the yogurt, and the crisp garnish, it was a perfect combination. Somehow I had room for dessert which was a cake made of oats, mango and fruit juice; so moist and tasty you’d never believe it was vegan.

We spent some time hanging out after the meal, finishing up the rum and chatting with program director Nate Olive about some of the services and programs Ridge to Reef Farm provides to the community. Check out the VI Locally Grown market– it’s an online market for ordering local produce and products. Just place your order online at vi.locallygrown.net between Sunday and Tuesday, and the VISFI staff will drop it off to you at Polly’s the Pier in downtown Frederiksted. Ridge to Reef Farm is also starting school gardens and offers various programs and workshops to the public throughout the year. The suggested donation for the dinner is $60 and it feels great to support such an important cause.

There are so many ways in which we can support local food and agriculture here in the Virgin Islands.  St. Croix used to be known as “The Breadbasket” and I was shocked to learn that 99.5% of all of our food is imported. That’s a big carbon footprint. It’s easy, delicious and healthy to buy local– support the VISFI online market, or other Farmers Markets and Farm stands. Check out the Slow Down Dinners at Ridge to Reef Farm for a way to learn more about this movement, eat some delicious local, organic food and enjoy the beauty of the farm.  Bon appetit and happy ethical eating!

Slow Down Dinners will be listed on our Event Calendar!

Leave Paradise in its Place

KEEP THE VIRGIN ISLANDS BEAUTIFUL!

Residents and visitors appreciate the Virgin Islands for a number of reasons, but the gorgeous beaches and stunning underwater ecosystems definitely rank at the top of our list of favorite things about St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. That’s why it’s important that we all keep our marine life healthy and safe. The Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators (VINE) has launched a new awareness campaign called “Leave Paradise in its Place” to tackle the problems we face in protecting our delicate ecosystems.

IT’S THE LAW!

All native plants and animals of the USVI are protected under the Indigenous Species Act. It is illegal to take, catch, possess, injure, harass, or kill any native animal, or plant. All fish (unless harvested for food), coral, shells, and other marine life are protected. This means no one is allowed to leave the territory with shells, corals or any other marine life in their possession, or to mail them off-island.

WHY SHOULD WE LEAVE PARADISE IN ITS PLACE?

Pieces of coral that wash up on the shore today will break down and help form the sandy white beaches of tomorrow. Please, do not remove anything other than trash from the beach.

CORAL, SAND, AND SHELLS ARE NOT GOOD SOUVENIRS!

Did you know that in the past two years alone, more than 1 ton of sand, coral and shells removed from St. Croix beaches  have been confiscated by customs agents at Henry E. Rohlsen airport from visitors wanting to bring a piece of paradise home with them?  Our famed white sand beaches are beautiful places to relax and hang out, but they are also living organisms that play an important part in the balance of our ecosystem as a whole. Sandy beaches are made of coral and shelled organisms whose remains erode into sand particles. Shells also serve as homes for hermit crabs and other sea creatures. By leaving the treasures of the beach in their place, you will be helping to keep our beaches  beautiful so they can be enjoyed for years to come.

THE BEACH IS WHERE LIFE BEGINS

Many animals use the beaches for nesting and hatching. Green, leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles come ashore throughout the year to lay their nests, and the baby turtles then make the harrowing journey from sand to sea upon hatching. These turtles are all on the Endangered Species list, though their numbers have started to climb in recent years due to positive intervention and awareness. Please be careful where you walk, drive or place your belongings when hanging out at the beach!

The Virgin Islands is well known for having some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world, and we need to keep it that way! When enjoying an underwater adventure, please respect the corals and sea life– they are integral to the underwater ecosystems and animals that use reefs for shelter and food. Because they are so delicate, reef organisms are affected by the slightest touch by a hand or snorkel fin. Please look but don’t touch when exploring underwater.

If you’re operating a boat, please be careful where you toss your anchor! You can protect our vital reefs by making sure you anchor in the sand only. Grab an underwater camera and take a few snaps of your snorkeling trip, but leave everything where it is so that other travelers and residents can enjoy the beauty of the reef!

SPREAD THE WORD WHERE YOU LIVE TOO!

The V.I. Network of Environmental Educators (VINE) is putting a lot of effort into making the “Leave Paradise in it’s Place” initiative a fun, educational group effort, and it’s our responsibility as residents and lovers of the Virgin Islands to do our part as well. Hotels should be putting up educational information and as residents we should be sure to share our knowledge and respect for the environment with visitors and friends as well. There are fun ways for us to all support this program:

There are several ways you can help or get involved:

* Take advantage of FREE Snorkeling trips!
* Pick up some postcards while in the Virgin Islands, and share them with others.
* If you are a parent, make sure you encourage your kids NOT to take that shell or piece of coral off the beach, but instead gently give it back to the environment by leaving it where you found it.
* If you are a teacher or educator yourself, you may want to take some posters back to the mainland with you toshare with your students. The next time they go to the beach (wherever that is) we hope they remember to Leave Paradise in its Place.

With the power of our community, we can come together to protect our most precious natural resources and the delicate ecosystems of our island home. Won’t you join us? Please contact  the Virgin Islands Network of Environmental Educators (VINE) for more information.