Rotary and Earth Day
As People of Action, Rotarians have been shaping the conversation on the environment for years
Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day was held on 22 April, 1970, launching a wave of action to protect our environment, including the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States. Other countries soon followed suit. Every year since, the day has been set aside to focus on mobilizing for action to protect our planet.
As people of action, Rotarians have been shaping the conversation on the environment for years, from addressing climate change that threatens entire food systems to fighting pollution that clogs our air and water. Rotarians are well-suited for the challenge. They use their connections to find creative solutions and take action to safeguard our vital resources.
The Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) assists Rotary clubs, districts and multi-districts in building awareness, inspiring action, and planning service projects that focus on environmental sustainability, awareness of climate change, and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Below are just a few of the ways that Rotarians are working to preserve our planet, all year long.
- Dutch Rotarians have been tackling the vexing problem of plastic waste. The End Plastic Soup project started with a cleanup in the canals of Amsterdam and has expanded to collecting and recycling plastics and raising awareness of plastic waste in the Netherlands and nearby countries.
- In Hawaii, USA, ocean currents that used to deliver enormous evergreen logs of driftwood to the white sands of Kamilo Beach now clutter it with debris, earning “Plastic Beach” the distinction of being one of the dirtiest beaches on earth. Volunteers from the Rotary Club of South Hilo periodically recruit their colleagues and neighbors for cleanup days. During one cleanup last August, volunteers collected 37 bags of trash, 100 pounds of loose plastics and 300 pounds of nets and fishing lines. The club is also working with the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund to divert plastic from landfills. Read the full story in Paradise Lost.
- In Rio Claro, Brazil, waste pickers separate plastics according to their type and sell the material to an intermediary that cleans, grinds, and dries it, then sells it at a profit. Through a Rotary Foundation global grant project of the Rotary clubs of Rio Claro-Alvorada, Brazil, and Longwood, Pennsylvania, the local waste pickers cooperative received equipment to process the plastic itself, meaning a 50 percent income increase and an expansion in the number of waste pickers who can participate.
- The Rotary Club of Vero Beach, Florida, USA, is working on a plastic recycling project in its community. In collaboration with the county landfill, the club has placed recycling bins in commercial facilities — such as a brewery and a store at a local outlet mall — to collect the shrink-wrap that their pallets of products are wrapped in. The county then takes the shrink-wrap to a recycling center, which sells it to companies that make plastic furniture and outdoor decking.
- German Rotaract clubs and their sponsoring Rotary clubs have been working to educate people about the importance of bees to our environment. The club members are taking steps to stem the bees’ decline, including by building wooden “bee hotels” where wild bees can safely make their nests and lay eggs. Bee populations have been declining because of the widespread use of toxic pesticides, the practice of growing a single crop in given area, and climate change. But bees play a vital role in the ecosystem. Read the full story on Rotary Voices.
- The Rotary clubs of Leogane, Haiti, and Parker, Colorado, led a global grant project to install a hybrid solar, diesel, and grid power system. The school saved $4,000 a year in fuel costs and reduced air and noise pollution. The hybrid system also powers interior and exterior lighting, computers, fans, and educational tools. A new water distribution system, which uses the hybrid power, and a literacy program were also part of the grant.
- A global grant project of the Rotary clubs of Taipei Lungmen, Taiwan, and Patumwan, Thailand, trained 40 people from Meihua village in organic farming techniques. The effort, carried out in partnership with the Organic Farming Association of Taiwan, included creating a training facility and providing internships at organic farms. The agriculture practices include avoiding the use of plows to keep from disturbing the soil; planting a diverse array of cover crops; and limiting or abstaining from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. These methods boost the amount of organic matter — carbon — in the soil, improving its health and that of the plants growing in it.
- The Rotary clubs of Bucaramanga Nuevo Milenio, Colombia, and Woodland Hills, California, are working with a food wholesaler in Bucaramanga to reduce food waste by 15 percent. The wholesaler generates about 20 tons of organic solid waste per day. Under the grant a center will be set up to use the surplus produce to provide training in safe food handling and processing while creating employment opportunities.
- The Rotary clubs of Antananarivo-Tsimbaroa, Madagascar; Torino Mole Antonelliana, Italy; and Annecy Tournette, France, partnered with a local nonprofit on a project to reforest about 125 acres with native species grown from wild seed, creating jobs for area families and a tourism infrastructure. Rotarians also trained women in gardening techniques, constructed toilets, and provided 500 improved cookstoves that reduced the families’ dependence on charcoal.
- The Rotaract Club of Tagbilaran, on the island of Bohol, Philippines, is focusing on the issue of single-use plastics. Working with Fablab Bohol Philippines, the country’s first state-of-the-art digital fabrication laboratory, members of the club designed prototypes for souvenir items made of recycled spoons from nearby ice cream shops. The project won an award during a national Rotaract competition. The club also is working to reduce plastic straw use by selling metal straws in a locally handcrafted pouch. Read the full story in Trash to Treasure.