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Greenrock delivers Throne Speech ‘wish list’

Jonathan Starling, Greenrock executive director. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Environmental group Greenrock has called for a range of initiatives in an effort to protect the Island and its waters.

Speaking in advance of next week’s Throne Speech, Greenrock executive director Jonathan Starling listed a range of initiatives that the organisation would support, including a ban on Mylar balloons, a “bottle bill”, a mandatory charge for single-use shopping bags and the creation of a marine reserve before the 2017 America’s Cup.

While he accepted such measures have met with mixed reactions, he said: “These are initiatives that Greenrock believes in, and we strongly believe there’s an evidence base to support them too. Our mission statement is ‘to engage the community to share solutions for a sustainable Bermuda’, and we do this through a mix of projects, programmes, raising awareness and also as a facilitator for research, for conversations on these issues.

“By raising these issues, and putting forward the reasons why we believe they’re both needed and good, that raises awareness and stimulates conversation on these issues. Quite frankly, there’s a lot to do and radical change is not going to happen overnight, and certainly not by fiat. Sustainable change has to come through popular buy-in, popular support, if those changes themselves are to be sustainable, to become accepted as right and not resisted because they’ve been imposed.

“In other jurisdictions, initiatives like the bottle bill and the levy on what’s called ‘single-use’ bags, they didn’t happen overnight. They took time to be adopted, but after their adoption they become part of everyday life, the mindset is changed through this process and through the doing.

“Everyone has a part to play in creating a sustainable Bermuda, be it a small lifestyle change, learning about and acting on a particular issue or taking a more active role through supporting or joining Greenrock or one of our sister groups to effect change.”

Mr Starling noted several other initiatives that Greenrock would like to see implemented to make the coming America’s Cup the greenest ever, including prohibiting items such as single-use beverage bottles and styrofoam takeout containers.

“All of this contributes to a healthier marine environment, as well as reduces the total ecological footprint of the event,” he said. “We certainly encourage the Government to continue with these initiatives going forward with the America’s Cup, and we take note of the Principles of Sustainable Events developed by the UN Environment Programme.”

Mr Starling also discussed the coming Electricity Act, expressing hope that environmental and sustainability elements are taken into account.

“Environmental externalities should be costed into every electricity investment decision — the pollution and GHG emissions associated with continued fossil-fuel use will have an impact on Bermuda, and so ‘least cost’ electricity should include these costs,” he said.

“Standardised Power Purchase Agreements should be finalised immediately to facilitate non-traditional energy sources — likely to be lower cost and lower impact than fossil-fuels — and the Regulatory Authority should establish a public repository for all relevant data from all stakeholders, with public access, to increase transparency, facilitate investment and build trust in the process.”

Mr Starling also said that the organisation hopes to see issues of sustainability addressed in the classroom, noting the success of the Eco-Schools Programme, already in place in ten of the Island’s schools, and the Water Explorers Programme.

On the opposite end of the age spectrum, Mr Starling said Greenrock had recently conducted a pilot “Savings for Seniors” programme, through which seniors were given more energy-efficient lights and water heater timers to help reduce their electricity bills.

“This is an effective way of assisting Bermuda’s seniors while reducing Bermuda’s environmental footprint,” he said. “We hope the Throne Speech includes support for similar green initiatives that benefit those most in need.”