The CNMI heralded three climate change champions—Caravan of Food, Saipan Community School, and Riya Nathrani—at this year’s Green Gala, organized by the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance last Friday, Sept. 10, at the Aqua Resort Club in Achugao.
For this year’s green awards, they focused on individuals, green businesses, and schools that “really take the issue of climate change seriously” and have incorporated that ethic into their daily lives and shared it with the community, said MINA executive director Roberta Guerrero in a later interview.
“We encourage everybody to continue what they can do,” Guerrero said. “We’re fortunate here in the CNMI because we are a small community and we all support each other. Even a small little initiative to help combat climate change [that] started here goes to the broader community, and then goes to the world.”
Green Business of the Year
With a long-held belief that an eco-conscious business is a healthy business, Caravan of Food won as Green Business of the Year. From the beginning of its operations, Caravan has embraced environment-friendly practices, including the elimination of straws and plastic bags, reduction in oil use, and the use of totally-compostable packaging materials.
Their patrons also get to have a taste of fresh produce, locally grown at their farm in Dandan, a member of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
Caravan’s Salam and Jihan Younis expressed appreciation to MINA for honoring businesses that do environmental initiatives, and to their patrons, who they encourage to also adopt eco-friendly practices.
The Younis couple also extended an invitation to other businesses to collaborate with them, to work with the government to incentivize plastic-free and environmentally-friendly businesses.
Environmental Heroes Award
With a dedication to the environment echoed though its students, Saipan Community School bagged this year’s Environmental Heroes Award.
Saipan Community School teaches environmental stewardship through its Eco-Avenger program, where teachers and staff do eco-friendly activities with students through projects like recycling programs, installation and maintenance of trash receptacles around and even outside the campus, tree plantings, and beach cleanups.
The school was nominated by a parent of a student, who also has been an Eco-Avenger since first grade, where she learned how to recycle, and her parents were encouraged to drop recyclable items that can be up-cycled to use for class projects, or take it to the transfer facility.
“We’re working to take care of the blessings that God’s given us with this earth and they [students and staff] are’ doing an amazing job,” SCS principal Amanda Dunn said in an interview.
Dunn added that through MINA, the Eco-Avengers were able to plant trees, and that they were able to start a sustainable beach cleanup along Susupe Beach, where they put trash cans out, and go with the students, and collect trash from the beach area once a week.
Environmental Champion Award
For her extraordinary commitment to conservation, Hopwood Middle School teacher Dr. Riya Nathrani was named Environmental Champion awardee for this year.
Nathrani bested other nominees with her environmental efforts built “from the ground up”—beginning with debris removal, planting trees along the perimeters of her workplace, and overcoming the challenges into keeping the trees viable.
With the assistance of MINA and the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Nathrani developed a rainwater catchment system with the new tree saplings and then expanded this system to include a fruit and vegetable garden in the premises. Now, the rainwater system is being used in agriculture class, for the students to water the plants.
In her interview, Nathrani said that she may have received the award, but it is really her students who work hard to bring the projects to life. “My main goal, through these activities, and of course with MINA’s programs, is to inspire my students to be aware of our natural resources and conserve them and get them interested in careers in the environment because we really need more of that in our island.”
Nathrani also encourages everyone in the community who, like her, are aspiring to champion the environment, to look out for opportunities. “We have so many environmental organizations on island that provide programs and ways to get involved, whether it’s planting a tree with the MINA projects or being a part of the BECQ beach cleanups. I think if everybody does a small part, we can do so much for our island.”