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April 23, 2013

EPA recognizes Sierra Club grassroots efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico

The Sierra Club’s Leslie Fields (center) accepts a 2013 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award on behalf of the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico with our partners and EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith Enck (far right)

Last week, the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency with the 2013 U.S. EPA Environmental Quality Award for efforts to create an innovative recylcing program.

Leslie Fields the director of the Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program (EJCP) was on hand in Washington at the EPA’s offices on April 19 to accept the award on behalf of Sierra Club of Puerto Rico. That chapter was singled out for recognition because of the program volunteers there created with the San Juan Bay Estuary Program. Called SanSe Recicla after the San Sebastian Street Festival (Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian), the program seeks to create “zero waste” areas. By setting up recycling programs at major events and festivals like Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian with the goal of producing zero waste, Sierra Club volunteers help keep the recycling bins full and the trash empty.

“Over 200 volunteers manning recycling stations collected 70 tons of recyclables at the festival,” said Camilla Feibelman, Organizing Representative for Sierra Club Puerto Rico. Festivals draw in thousands of guests that generate a lot of trash.

At the same time, proposals to build seven trash burning incinerators are being considered for Puerto Rico - so every bit of recycling helps reduce demand for the incinerators. Jessica Sieglie and Isiali Mariñez, the two lead Sierra Club volunteers at the San Sebastian Festival are looking beyond just that event by working to bring recycling solutions to offices and schools. Sieglie especially cares about working to reduce the amount of trash the island produces, considering she lives in Arecibo - the site of one of the proposed garbage-burning facilities.

“If we can attend to the trash problem, reduce, reuse, and recycle, we’ll protect the environment, create raw materials, and create jobs,” says Camilla Feibelman. Like Camilla, the Sierra Club is proud that she and the Puerto Rico Chapter are being being recognized for these critically important efforts, calling attention to the fact that Recycling is a much better alternative than burning trash.

The next big recycling push for the chapter will be at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC on June 9, 2013. For the third year in row, the Sierra Club of Puerto Rico, EJCP program, volunteers and partners will have a float built and salsa down 5th Avenue and recycle. Come join us! You can help support their efforts by looking for a recycling program in your area and by checking out the Puerto Rican Day Parade website for tips on how to make your Puerto Rican Day greener.

--Sierra Club Media Team Intern Kristen Elmore


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