By Doug White, Rotary Club of St. Thomas East Eco

Climate-friendly in the Caribbean

Club members enjoying the vegan organic buffet during District 7020 Governor Kirkaldy’s visit

The Rotary Club of St. Thomas East Eco’s President Debbi Jackson welcomed 7020 District Governor (DG) David Kirkaldy to the DGs Annual Visit to the club with a delicious plant-based meal and a review of its environmental projects. “The East Eco meeting was great, and we had a super plant-based meal. The club is doing such a great job by being focused versus trying to be all things to all people, ”  he said.

The completely plant-based, vegan and organic menu (shown here, with Rotarians digging in enthusiastically) consisted of a kale Caesar  salad, eggplant parmesan, vegan mofongo (spicy baked plantains topped with black lentils and home-grown broccoli sprouts – see the recipe in this issue) and a sumptuous vegan cheesecake desert, prepared by Katherine Shegrud and my wife Leslie White and me, local club members of the ESRAG Plant Rich Diet Task Force. The dinner was enjoyed by all, including the DG, his wife Christina, Assistant DG Heflyn Royer, guests, and club members.

After dinner the club showed a PowerPoint presentation featuring its current environmental projects

  • A recently established thrift shop selling good-quality used clothing and household items at very inexpensive prices to serve the economically challenged members of the community. This recycles and keeps useable items out of the landfill.
  • Bi-weekly glass bottle recycling and crushing by club members, to reduce landfill waste and produce free sandbags for hurricane season and landscape use.
  • The “Share the Sun” Program providing portable solar power generators consisting of a battery and inverter, with a solar panel for charging (all on wheels) at greatly reduced prices to senior citizens and low- and moderate-income residents to provide solar backup power during our community’s frequent power outages. This also increases resilience after tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • The recently completed Rotary International Foundation Global Grant “Solar Refrigeration for a Community Farmers Market on St. Thomas, VI. The grant provided a 15 kW PV (solar panel) array, 15 kW Inverter with 18kW battery backup to take the We Grow Food Inc. non-profit vegan organic farmers market co-op off the fossil fuel powered grid, reducing CO2 emissions and providing resilience after storms.  The solar system also powers the co-op’s donated walk-in 10’ x 10’ cooler to reduce food waste.

In 2020, the Rotary Club of St Thomas East received permission from Rotary International (RI) to change its name to St. Thomas East Eco to promote RI’s initiative to create “theme-based clubs” to encourage new and younger people to join Rotary.  That strategy appears to be working! Recently the club, whose members ages range from the 50’s to the 80’s, inducted a new member and avid environmentalist, Scott Tanner, who is 29 years old!