What is Greenrock?

Thank you to Gwyneth Rawlins and the Hamilton Rotary for inviting me to speak today. It is with pleasure that I talk a bit about Greenrock, a new and unique charity that is gaining more and more attention in Bermuda.

Greenrock was formed in 2003 and took a few years to find its true focus. Initially our goal was to raise environmental awareness through education and entertainment and the first step was to improve the island’s recycling program but we were limited because of the capacity of Devon Springs Recycling Center. We attempted to tackle the Ag Show for two years running, providing volunteers to man the recycling bins, and each year managed to collect about 20 blue bags full of recyclables (tin, aluminum and glass). It was not a fun job however! Our volunteers had to wear gloves and constantly pull French fries and half-eaten hamburgers out of the recycling bins. However, the following year, the Ministry of Works and Engineering decided to take over this major event and provide the recycling infrastructure. I would like to think that Greenrock’s efforts initiated a ‘ripple effect’ and encouraged Works and Engineering to realize the importance of providing bins for the public. Let’s face it, when people do not have a recycling bin in front of them, they won’t recycle. Out of sight is out of mind.

In 2005, Greenrock’s focus changed with the introduction of the yearlong, Government-run consultation project on Sustainable Development.  We were impressed with the level of public outreach of this Government initiative and were truly optimistic that all of the insight that went into this vital document would not be lost and shelved.

The Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan (SDSP) is, in our view, taking the prudent steps towards building a ‘realistic’ way to provide guidance for future Government policy in terms how Bermuda should develop itself today and in the future.  And what is critical is the standard on which this guidance is based was derived from studies, public consultations, and extensive critical analysis.  By implementing the SDSP, Government Policy would be more beneficial and transparent to the general public and less exposed to the will of party politics. 

In theory, a sustainable development plan incorporates three critical issues of a community: social, economic and environmental. The Government’s SDSP actually covers 5 major areas:

1.    Building and Maintaining an Inclusive Strong Economy

2.    Transforming Governance and the Public Sector

3.    Protecting and Enhancing our Natural Resources

4.    Sustaining our Communities

5.    Living within Bermuda’s Limits

(footnote: for example, Area 1 covers economic issues, Areas 2 & 4 cover social issues, Areas 3 & 5 cover environmental issues)

Most people may recall the 34 page booklet they received in the mail or picked up from Public Forums which was a simple summary that is filled with the problems we face and the solutions that can be implemented.   However, the actual document is 155 pages long and with about 305 addendum pages.  Greenrock has spent a great deal of time reviewing the full document.  Unlike the summary, the full document identifies what actions can be taken and by whom and what the challenges and potential outcomes of these actions are.  The general public, if they had the chance to read the whole document, would be amazed at what they would find.

We do face some problems in Bermuda.

For example- Energy use.
Government clearly states in the SDSP section 5.1 that “If Bermuda is to maintain its high standard of living, consumption patterns must become more sustainable.” Yet if you read on in the document, you learn that when BELCO uses a million barrels of oil annually (as in 2004), the Government receives $15 million in taxes. So there is a dis-incentive for Government to move away from fossil fuels even though the SDSP recommends a major shift to renewable energy like solar and wind power.

The SDSP then goes on to give “Options for Action”; the first one being to set up an Energy Unit within Government to effectively regulate and monitor BELCO as well as to push renewable energy sources. The second is to develop an Energy Strategy for the island. Examples would include getting 1000 homes using solar power by 2015, giving tax breaks and offering duty relief on the panels and making legislative provisions for reverse metering so that households could sell the surplus energy back to the grid. A third is to join the Kyoto Protocol and decrease our carbon emissions. (As we’ve all heard, greenhouse gases are causing global warming - and likely a shift in the climate of the globe with potentially massive consequences.) Finally, Government could also restrict the importation of energy-inefficient goods.

The entire SDSP document is filled with VITAL information such as this with reasonable actions that could be implemented with relative ease.

Yet we have not seen evidence from the Government that this document is being used or at least referred to.  Why is this?  Why after spending a great deal of tax payer’s money on building this document, consulting the general public, and establishing a unit within the Cabinet Office, have we not seen more reference to this document in Government initiatives?

Greenrock’s Mission therefore is “to encourage and empower individuals and companies to do their part in making Bermuda socially, economically and environmentally sustainable for future generations.”

As with the recycling bins, if the SDSP is out of sight, it is also out of mind. We must keep this document in the forefront of the public and Government’s mind.
We can do this by providing this information to the public and provide avenues to take action. In this way, Greenrock acts as a Communicator, Facilitator and a Repository.
As a Communicator, GR actively reaches out through the general media, its website and other alternative means to raise awareness of and promote solutions. We do this through our events and projects or by seeking collaboration with other associations who share the same concerns.
Two examples of things GR has done as a communicator: A series of eye-catching newspaper ads last year that highlighted a few of the facts from Government’s SDSP document. (See ads attached).
And the Heather Nova and Friends Festival of Music last month was a great example of bringing the community together, collaborating with groups, educating the public and enjoying some great music in a beautiful outdoor venue that is located in the Central part of the island (the Arboretum).

As a Facilitator, GR assists entrepreneurs interested in developing “green businesses or technologies” in Bermuda. We can promote new products and services through our network of GR members and volunteers as well as through our contacts with local associations. In doing so, we hope to eventually establish a “Greenrock Approved” standard whereby organizations can apply and if they fulfill the criteria, they can display the “Greenrock Approved” Sticker. Examples of entrepreneurs that we are currently working with- GoGreen.bm and Bermuda Biodiesel.  Go Green is a start-up company bringing in electric scooters, grey-water systems and wind turbines. Bermuda Bio-diesel is a company that is working to get many of the diesel operated boats, trucks and construction equipment using this recycled vegetable oil as fuel.

As a Repository, GR maintains a website to be a local resource for practical advice on how individuals and companies can become more environmentally friendly. The website lists topics and volunteer projects relating to Bermuda’s SD effort and will soon have a public forum where people can pose a question and GR will arrange to have an expert provide a response.  We will create a search engine that will allow users to easily retrieve Q&A’s specific to their interests.  Plus, we are working on building a calendar of events where people can come together to celebrate Bermuda’s natural beauty and cultural diversity. (See www.greenrock.org)

I truly believe that Bermuda is at a crossroads. We are responsible to choose whether she becomes an idyllic place, which is envied by other countries. Envy not just based on the natural beauty …but rather on the way in which our island has socially banded together to ensure that the quality of life we live here is sustainable for our children.  Things can only change when the general public demands the change. It takes more than a political party to change this island; it takes the will of its people to make those in power accountable.  When people have more information and resources, then they can start asking questions and making changes.

Greenrock’s slogan- “Changing the Mindset”- refers to the acceptance of the values of sustainable development. We use the term “mindset” because it really is a different way of thinking.  Greenrock does not expect people to stop driving cars, or purchasing goods, or building.  But what we are asking is that you consider alternative ways to minimize the impact your lifestyle choices have to the island.  More and more technologies are emerging for renewable energy, more and more eco-friendly products are becoming available at reasonable prices, and more and more information is being revealed about how much healthier one can be by adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

Within the charitable landscape of Bermuda, Greenrock is very unique in its mission and how it plans to utilize the funds it raises. We are really focusing on increasing the number of young members and encouraging change through education. At the same time, we are educating the consumer in Bermuda by helping to introduce green technologies and products to the island.  We will use the funds raised to help broaden our website capability and our presence in local media.  Like the ‘Truth’ campaign in the U.S. against smoking, Bermuda needs to learn the facts – the truth – about Bermuda’s inability to sustain its current level of development.  And GR has the skills and capability to use the facts already compiled by the SD Unit to create an effective and necessary Public Service Ad campaign.

As a new charity, Greenrock needs the support of companies, benefactors and patrons in order to do its ‘good work’.  Our challenge is that most people are hesitant about giving to new charities and are more likely to only give to those well-established institutions.  However, Greenrock is fortunate to have a strong and ethical management committee made up of professionals who hold senior positions in both the private and public sectors.  Plus, we have an advisory board made up of international and local experts who give GR further depth of knowledge and experience.

I invite you and those listening to come and join this movement.  With your support (particularly financial support!), you can help Greenrock achieve its goal of ‘Changing the Mindset’ in Bermuda.  Come visit us at our website – greenrock.org today.

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