Posted on Dec 13, 2021
Thanks to David Attenborough with his 'Blue Planet' television series and, more recently, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, the public has once again become very concerned with environmental matters.

In 2020, Rotary District 7030 joined many other Districts and regions around the world by establishing its Environmental Sustainability Program and Committee which has the express purpose of raising the profile of environmental issues within the Caribbean and encouraging Rotarians to take action to address environmental sustainability.

But what is environmental sustainability?
A brief definition is that it requires that the demands placed on the environment today can be met without reducing the environment’s capacity to allow all people to live well, both now and in the future.

That said, several Rotary Districts around the world have recently introduced suggested environmentally sustainable policies for Rotary clubs to adopt, if they wish, to demonstrate their commitment and objectives to protecting the environment.

Here are some successful initiatives:

An Annual Environment Award
In some district, there is an annual award which is open to Rotary clubs, or associated school and youth groups, which demonstrate their environmental projects and allows them to be recognized for those achievements.

The Abingdon Vesper Rotary is a recent recipient of Rotary Great Britain and Ireland's Rodney Huggins Environment Award with its project protecting the environment in rural Mubende in Uganda by using fuel saving stoves.

In Uganda, 85% of the population cook using wood or charcoal and this rises to 100% in rural areas, usually on open stone fires. The project has reduced households’ consumption of wood by 66%, which has cut the rate of loss of trees in the local environment, protected soil erosion, retained rainwater in the soil and provided an enhanced environment for insect life.

On average, a reduction of 28 days per year collecting firewood means that the predominantly young women who perform this duty now have more time to go to school, work in their market gardens or undertake more productive tasks.

An added benefit is that having a chimney in the kitchen reduces the amount of smoke in that environment with consequent benefits to health.

Other recipients of the award have seen domestic projects recognized, such as the Tiverton Hospital Wildlife Garden in 2018, a project organized by Exe Valley (Tiverton) Rotary.

They started their project in April 2005 when they designed and created a wildlife garden in the newly-built Tiverton Hospital in the UK..

The garden measures approximately 40 metres x 10 metres and is separated from the adjacent sports field by a stretch of Devon bank. It is next to medical wards whose windows overlook the area.

The area has been planted with trees and flower beds, containing a mixture of native plants, wild flowers and herbs known to be attractive to wildlife.

There are nest boxes and other suitable habitats to attract wildlife in general. A well-illustrated and informative signboard welcomes visitors and explains the importance of maintaining wildlife areas in our increasingly pressurized environment.

Encouraging Young People’s Interest
Getting young persons aware and involved is essential to any current and future environmental sustainability initiatives.
Fortunately, many of today's youth are already well informed on several issues, as well as, engaged in a variety of actions.
One goal of Rotary would be to develop relationships with youth-oriented groups which can prove to be mutually beneficial for all. 
In the UK, Rotary clubs teamed up with the National Association for Environmental Education and started a pilot project in ‘The Heart of England’ Rotary District with a focus on plastic pollution, its causes and effects on wildlife.

Entries were all displayed at an exhibition in Coventry for the final six months of 2019 with the aim of raising awareness of plastic pollution.

A new youth competition for the next academic year, encouraging schoolchildren of all ages to focus on the theme of ‘waste minimization’ was also developed and found great success.
Rotary’s Newest Area of Focus
In June, 2020 the The Rotary Foundation Trustees and the Rotary International Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the Environment as the seventh Area of Focus. In January, 2021, they finalized the Global Grant Policy guidelines detailing the kinds of projects that are now become eligible for Global Grants under the Area of the Focus for the Environment. The Rotary Foundation began accepting grant proposals in July 2021 with eligible projects covering an array of fields:
  • Protecting and restoring land, coastal, marine, and freshwater resources
  • Enhancing the capacity of communities and local governments to support natural resource management and conservation
  • Supporting agroecology and sustainable agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture practices to improve ecological health
  • Addressing the causes of climate change and climate disruption and supporting solutions to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases
  • Strengthening the resilience of ecosystems and communities affected by climate change and climate disruption
  • Supporting education to promote behaviors that protect the environment
  • Advocating for the sustainable consumption of products and the environmentally sound management of byproducts to build a more resource-efficient economy
  • Addressing environmental justice issues and environmental public health concerns
Overall, Rotary’s 7th and new Area of Focus opens opportunities to attract new members into the Rotary Family.
Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) was established to empower members of the Rotary Family worldwide to take actions to sustain our environment, particularly to stabilize our climate.

ESRAG provides an organizing point and informational resources to share information with clubs and communities about sustainable practices and the global humanitarian crisis of climate change.

Its action model centers on identifying environmental leaders within the Rotary world, assist them in initiating environmental service projects that are meaningful to them, help where it can, and acknowledge and publicize their awesome work.

The scope of ESRAG includes:
  • Protect, preserve, and conserve natural resources
  • Implement pollution solutions
  • Avert biodiversity and ecosystem loss
  • Support sustainable and resilient food systems
  • Promote clean and affordable energy and energy efficiency
  • Implement climate solutions
  • Foster circular economies that eliminate waste
  • Support sustainable living and responsible consumption
  • Promote ecosystem and community resilience
  • Advocate for environmental equity and public health
Goals of ESRAG:
    1. Foster environmental activity by developing impactful, and sustainable multi club and district projects and communicating these to clubs
    2. Stimulate significant environmental action by establishing task forces and teams, developing expertise and educational materials
    3. Engage, inspire and support Clubs and Districts to plan and implement sustainable environmental projects in the Rotary Areas of Focus
    1. Build ESRAG’s influence by increasing ESRAG membership and establishing networks within Rotary
    2. Inspire and develop environmental awareness and leadership by providing educational materials, training and mentoring
    3. Develop systems that collect key metrics, including project and membership data, as best management
    1. Expand ESRAG’s impact by networking and collaborating with key internal and external stakeholders
    2. Enhance project realization by building relationships and raising funds from groups (governments, NGO’s, philanthropic groups, businesses)
    3. Increase cooperation by connecting clubs especially those with similar environmental project interests
ESRAG assists Rotary clubs, districts and multi-districts in planning, implementing and evaluating service projects, building awareness, and inspiring action. These projects promote environmental sustainability, awareness of climate change, and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to mitigate climate disruption. ESRAG promotes educational resources, initiates dialogue about environmental sustainability, and uses best practices in models and assessments for both projects and daily choices. This work advances the Object of Rotary through positive impacts in all six Areas of Focus.
ESRAG’s focus on environmental sustainability offers Rotary the opportunity to provide long-term benefits for people all over the world. We will work to ensure that project investments preserve the ability for the environment to renew itself and continue to support human well-being, thereby supplying life-sustaining benefits to communities.
The need for Rotary to engage more around environmental sustainability was poignantly demonstrated at ESRAG’s Inaugural Meeting in Sao Paulo. Rotarians were able to hear first-hand from fellow Rotarians about how the changing climate is already adversely affecting people in their countries. For example:
  • Bangladesh – their economy is primarily based on agriculture; climate change is causing more flooding and droughts which are negatively affecting both the economy and food supplies.
  • Benin Republic, Africa – droughts are adversely affecting most aspects of village life in Africa.
  • Netherlands – significant investments have been and continue to need to be made to create flood defenses.
  • ESRAG will facilitate dialogue and drive action on critical humanitarian problems like these.
ESRAG & UNEP Handbook: This handbook has been created by ESRAG with input from UN Environment. Its purpose is to educate and inspire Rotarians around the world to take action for the environment, and to bring attention to the important role the environment plays in Rotary’s six areas of focus. The handbook includes a selection of 11 green themes for activities that Rotary clubs can do for World Environment Day on 5 June or make a commitment to commence an activity in the future. Click here to download
Plastic Pollution
One issue which not only is a focus for ESRAG, but also, has been identified as a matter for critical concern in the Caribbean is plastic pollution.
In most, if not all, of the Caribbean, 90% of each country's population lives within 25km of the coast and the majority of many countries GDP depends on ocean and coastal activities and resources.
Along many Caribbean coastlines, oceans roar in agony as they wash up assorted debris; used fishing equipment, plastic bottles, empty sun cream containers and flip-flops, as well as many other items.

Beaches across the region are becoming a living horror story that many are failing to address.

The top enemy is plastics. However, to most, plastic is a useful material.

Researchers have discovered that over 40% of plastic produced is packaging, so it is used once and then discarded.

And eight million tons of plastic enters the oceans every year - equivalent to five shopping bags sitting on every foot of coastline around the world.

Plastic is at the fingertips of many all day long; water bottles, your computer mouse and keyboard. The amount is unimaginable.

Recent research has shown that the toxins inside plastic are affecting both animal and human health conditions.

According to Plastic Oceans UK, we manufacture over 300 million tonnes of plastic every single year. That is the equivalent to the weight of the entire adult population of the planet.

With the problem of plastic pollution high on the environmental agenda, Rotary is taking action to clean up our communities.
ESRAG's Plastics Solutions Task Force was established to support Rotary clubs and districts around the world take action to reduce plastics pollution. Plastic Solutions is leveraging the power of Rotary to develop a global network to rethink and influence how we create, use, and dispose of plastic.
Stayed informed about upcoming events focused on reducing and mitigating plastic pollution
Want to help or find out how your club can take here to get involved