EXUMA, BAHAMAS — As organizations around the world mobilize their networks to commemorate Earth Day on April 22, Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), is intensifying its Caribbean conservation efforts by committing to plant 10,000 trees by June 2022.
The effort forms part of a wider Caribbean Tree Planting Project coordinated by the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance in collaboration with Trees That Feed Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and other partners to plant one million trees across 14 Caribbean countries by June next year.
Over the last 12 years, the Sandals Foundation has engaged local schools, community groups, partners, team members, travel agents and guests to plant more than 17,000 trees across the Caribbean.
This intensified tree planting mission, while taking on a more controlled approach in line with national COVID-19 protocols, will undoubtedly strengthen the region’s climate resilience as it empowers even more people to take action in line with this year’s Earth Day theme to “Restore Our Earth”.
Through the efforts of environmental partners in each of the seven countries it currently operates, the Sandals Foundation will coordinate the planting of fruit trees, timber and mangroves to protect the terrestrial and coastal zones of the islands.
Sandals Foundation Executive Director Heidi Clarke said: “Never before has it been more important to reinvest in the sustainability of our natural environment.
“Our tourism product as a region and the livelihoods of all Caribbean people are intricately linked to the health of the environment. It is therefore our duty to play our part to strengthen this amazing ecosystem.”
In 2019, the leadership of the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance recognized the need to accelerate specific activities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.
Professor Rosalea Hamilton, chairperson for the alliance, said planting trees was identified as a practical activity that could help mitigate the threat of climate change.
“Planting trees not only improves soil and water conservation, provides shade, stores carbon, regulates temperature extremes and improves the land’s capacity to adapt to climate change but also provides sustainable livelihoods for many in need,” she said.
“The environmental, economic and related social benefits are essential for Caribbean development.”
The commitment from the Sandals Foundation, Hamilton said, “is a great example of corporate partnership and social responsibility in accelerating the achievement of SDGs in the Caribbean”.
Those wishing to support the tree-planting efforts can visit the Sandals Foundation website at www.sandalsfoundation.org and donate to the Caribbean Tree Planting Project. One hundred percent of all funds donated will be directed towards purchasing seedlings and maintaining the plant sites to ensure tree survival.
The Sandals Foundation has an extensive record of environmental conservation efforts, establishing and managing two marine sanctuaries since 2013, supporting the operations of some 14 marine and forested areas across the Caribbean and assisting the safe release of over 100,000 sea turtles into the Caribbean Sea.
By training local residents within fishing communities as environmental wardens and coral gardeners, the philanthropic organization has out planted more than 8,000 coral fragments from their established coral nurseries. They have mobilized students and community groups to collect close to 60,000 pounds of solid waste and helped raise environmental awareness for close to 40,000 people.
The foundation is also working very closely with the Ministry of Education in The Bahamas and the Bahamas National Trust to develop the island’s very first environmentally-focused component of its national primary science curriculum to improve the environmental literacy of students and, by extension, the future citizenry of the country.