Monday, December 20, 2010

A shift in perspective saves 24,000 wine bottles from the Grand Bahama landfill

By Cheri Wood – Grand Bahama Branch, Bahamas National Trust

Have you ever hesitated to throw something away knowing that you may find a use for it in the future? Or maybe you just occasionally wonder about things you repeatedly discard that might be valuable to someone else? For those of us that have a green conscience, thoughts like these drive us nuts. On Grand Bahama we are fortunate to have recycling programs for aluminum cans, paint, scrap metal, automotive batteries and toner cartridges, but what about all the glass? Of course the Bahamian Brewery and other locally brewed beverage companies have bottle return programs, but what about all the wine bottles?

Let’s face it, people on Grand Bahama drink alot of wine. Whether or not you are an environmentalist does not matter- if you drink wine, chances are you are throwing your empty wine bottles in the trash. This is a fact we cannot deny, and I am certainly not going to recommend anyone refrain from drinking wine.

However, if your bottles are green in color, there may be a solution. There may be someone who will recycle them for you. To date, Grand Bahama resident Fred Riger has saved over 24,000 wine bottles from the fate of our local landfill and our ocean’s floor. The number is staggering and is estimated using mathematical calculations of cubic foot volume of the crushed glass he currently has.

Mr. Riger has been crushing glass for quite some time and his reason for doing so is pretty interesting. Being an environmentalist and a scuba diver, he had been thinking about the wine bottle dilemma for years. While diving in local waters he was constantly picking up wine bottles from the ocean floor. He also couldn’t help but notice cases of bottles being discarded after parties and events. Then one day he experienced a shift in perspective.

He started viewing the bottles as beautiful glass versus just another piece of trash. An idea came to him that he could not let go, and a few years later he found himself building a house using wine bottles as one of the prominent building materials. Mr. Riger’s future home is currently under construction and he is using a mixture of crushed green glass and concrete to create a beautiful exterior finish. Once completed, his home will be a masterpiece of unique colors that glistens in the morning light and only becomes more beautiful as the natural elements of sun, wind and rain penetrate the outside walls.

The “wine bottle house” is an ongoing personal project for Mr. Riger and his wife Melinda. They have given their love, sweat and sacrifice to overcome many hurdles in keeping their dream alive. There is no estimation when their home will be finished, however every wine bottle they crush in the process contributes to the Greenification of Grand Bahama.

So why do the Rigers care about the island’s environmental sustainability? What’s in it for them? The answer is quite simple. They love Grand Bahama and want to see it preserved and protected for future generations and for all of us RIGHT NOW.

Over the years they have seen changes in our coral reefs and our surrounding waters that put the very future of our island in jeopardy. They know. They dive our waters every day that mother nature allows. The Rigers could be diving anywhere they wish and they choose here, Grand Bahama. They love the island.

Fred and Melinda share their love of the island with other divers from around the world. Their business, Grand Bahama Scuba, has brought many people from the international diving community to our island for many years. And how about the thousands of divers and tourists that UNEXSO has attracted to the island over the years as well?

These divers and eco-tourists come for one reason. The beauty of our environment and nothing more. They come to Grand Bahama for its crystal clear water, its ocean life, and all the amazing species who call our island and her surrounding waters home. Fred and Melinda as well as the entire staff at UNEXSO know this first hand. That is the visiting divers’ and eco-tourists’ perspective.

And if you don’t care about their perspective then maybe you’ll care about this one. These people will not continue to come to our island and stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants if our environment is not preserved and protected.

So if you drink wine and find yourself throwing out green wine bottles, think about recycling them. Although there is no formal recycling program or drop off point, you can contact Fred Riger at fred@grandbahamascuba.com and he would be happy to let you know where you can bring them.

It should be noted that the Grand Bahama Branch of the Bahamas National Trust is currently working with Mr. Riger to establish a wine bottle collection area at the Rand Nature Centre. This process should be solidified by February of 2011 and will be publicized as soon as the Nature Centre is equipped to accept the bottles.

Mr. Riger’s ingenuity and creativity, along with his passion for keeping Grand Bahama clean, led him to seeing discarded wine bottles as something beautiful, not something to be tossed into a landfill for eternity. So maybe, just maybe, if each of us shifts our own perspective, even just a tiny bit, we can begin to see possibilities and opportunities instead of obstacles and roadblocks. Think about it in every aspect of your life-for your children, for your environment, for yourself.

Cheri Wood recently retired from Bank of America and has now permanently relocated to Grand Bahama. Her career of over 20 years in corporate America included serving in various capacities including training, marketing, sales, quality control, risk assessment, communications and operational management. While performing her regular job responsibilities, Cheri also served several years as the president of the Environmental Network for the Bank of America in the State of Rhode Island. Her experience in the environmental arena includes project management and coordination of volunteer events on local and national levels throughout the United States. Over the years she has worked closely with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, the Rhode Island Rivers’ Council, and in 2010 Cheri was elected as secretary of the GB Branch of the Bahamas National Trust. Serving in her voluntary role with the Bahamas National Trust, Cheri is involved with increasing recycling on the island, promoting green practices with local businesses, educating the community on the importance of preserving the environment, and serving as a resource for those who wish to participate in environmental opportunities on local and international levels.

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