St. John's Recycle

I was invited down to St. Johns in the U.S. Virgin Islands to help set up a program for recycling the sheets, pillow cases and towels from a resort that are taken out of use and are headed for the land fill. I've just returned from a second trip there to help progress the project.

Maho Bay Campgrounds is a project of Stanley Selengut who has developed one the most environmentally sensitive Eco resorts in the world. Located on a small island which is mostly National park lands, the facility was built using a variety of recycled building materials. Walkways and stairs enable a minimum of disruption to the natural landscape, and it runs on state-of-the-art solar powered electric, solar heated hot water, extreme energy efficient everything, and is able to still provide a great experience for visitors. Quite a remarkable place.

For some years, all waste glass, beer and other bottles, have been crushed and melted and used as the raw material for the glass blowing program. This program involves visiting artists, classes and continual production for sale in the gift shop. Something like 70,000 lbs of bottles are recycled into art each year.

The ceramics program has similar goals, and also involves visiting artists, classes and the use of locally mined clay. The kiln is fired with wood shipping pallets that would otherwise go into the land fill.

The textile program is just getting started and with some suggestions from myself and the Dharma staff and quite a lot of supplies ordered from Dharma, the results are beginning to show. Because the sheets are currently 50/50 the dyed patterns are somewhat pastel. They are tie-dyeing the sheets and then printing, painting, stamping designs on them and sewing them into sarongs, bags, and other clothing items. Pretty much everything they have made so far has sold.

They also order Dharma blanks and tie-dye and decorate them as well. Our T-shirts are used in the classes offered for children and adults. Our tie-dyed aprons are everywhere in the kitchen.

The idea is to expand into drawing in recyclable materials from other resorts that are now just added to the landfill. The first batch of sheets from another resort is just arriving. A new, larger tent campground is under construction on the other side of the island and a major craft center is part of the plans. This will allow an expansion of all aspects of the programs.

I went into a few of the clothing shops in Cruz Bay and was delighted to find Dharma clothing and supplies all over the place. Dharma has quite a large presence on the island. As always, everyone I spoke to had the highest praise for the quality of customer service they receive from the Dharma customer service and they marvel at the speed and care with which their packages arrive - Dharma is definitely on their A list.