AFTER being unable to host its annual “Green Gala” last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Marianas Islands Nature Alliance bounced back with the return of its gala on Friday night at Aqua Resort Club.
Following a meticulous reviewing process, locally owned Caravan of Foods was selected as the recipient of the Green Business of the Year Award; Saipan Community School, the Environmental Heroes Award; and Dr. Riya Nathrani, the Environmental Champion Award.
Green Business of the Year
The Green Business of the Year Award is given to a business that is committed to conservation and has incorporated the green business culture throughout its entire company.
Located on Alahai Ave. in Garapan, next to the Marianas Variety building, Caravan of Foods believes that an eco-conscious business is a healthy business.
Since its inception, it has initiated environmentally friendly practices, including reduction in the use of oils and the use of fresh locally grown produce which are grown its farm in Dandan.
It is also a member of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
The elimination of straws and the use of totally compostable packaging materials also put this company on top of the environmentally responsible companies in the CNMI.
The elimination of plastic bags in its operations has become more of a norm and habit rather than something that they have to stop and think about, encouraging its customers to also adopt the practice of reusable bags.
Caravan of Foods co-owners Salam and Jihan Younis thanked MINA, all of the event sponsors, and everyone involved in the event.
They likewise thanked their customers for their continuous support in their efforts and adopting these new changes with the business.
“With them, we can continue to be an eco-conscious business,” said Salam.
He added that his late father, Abed Younis, who founded the business and was also the founding publisher of Marianas Variety, would be very proud of the business for this achievement, given that the environment was something that he really cared about.
Salam and Jihan Younis said they were very surprised to receive the award because they are aware that other businesses are also environmentally friendly.
“This isn’t really something that businesses are highlighted for. We hope that other businesses are inspired to do the same thing, to be plastic-free,” said Jihan Younis.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant has been a completely takeout business, using strictly compostable products to reduce plastic pollution in the CNMI.
Environmental Heroes Award
The Environmental Heroes Award was awarded to a school, public or private, whose dedication to the environment was echoed through its students and their efforts to conserve and protect CNMI natural resources.
Saipan Community School or SCS was nominated by a parent of a student who said that the school produces “eco-avengers.”
Students learn to be eco-friendly through the school’s recycling program, where parents are encouraged to drop off recyclable items that can be upcycled and used for class projects, or be taken to the transfer facility.
Students have included special projects on their school campus and surroundings by installing and maintaining trash receptacles, remaining trash-free and preventing marine debris.
The best lessons and most noticeable efforts undertaken by the school are brought back home to encourage eco-friendly household practices.
Through active engagement, the teachers enrich their students’ knowledge and life skills using the resources available to them, to inspire their families to adopt environmentally friendly practices in their homes and community.
SCS principal Amanda Dunn received the award on behalf of the school and said that the award is for the students and staff, or as they call themselves, the “eco-avengers.”
“We have some very eager staff that really care and have taught our kids to be little activists for the right reasons. We are working to take care of the blessings that God has given us with this earth. They’re doing an amazing job,” said Dunn.
She noted that the “eco-avengers” were not as active due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but with MINA, were able to plant trees and start a sustainable beach clean-up along Susupe Beach, putting trash cans out and collecting trash from the beach area once a week.
“They own it. Giving them ownership of the great things that they can do and empowering them are what it’s all about. If they feel empowered to not use that plastic straw… or try to tell someone else the good thing about not doing that is actually making a difference,” Dunn added.
She said that her hope is that the students in the CNMI can continue to learn about the power that they have for change.
“We are changemakers. I really want them to know that every single choice they make is the next step for something big, to make those big changes and to do great things. That’s what this is about: doing great things,” she added.
Environmental Champion Award
The Environmental Champion Award was awarded to an individual who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the environment and conservation of CNMI natural resources.
The commitments and conservation, as demonstrated by Hopwood Middle School computer literacy teacher Dr. Riya Nathrani, is an ongoing effort that started in the workplace and transferred out to the community at large.
Nathrani’s efforts began at the ground up, beginning with debris removal, planting trees along the perimeters of the workplace, and overcoming the challenges in keeping these trees viable.
With the assistance of the CNMI Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality and MINA, Nathrani developed a mainwater catchment system for the new tree saplings, and then expanded the system to improve the fruit and vegetables installed at Hopwood.
She incorporated her passion for the environment into her classroom lessons, and under her guidance, her students learn to think critically about pressing issues, such as climate change, conserving water resources, and protecting biodiversity.
“It feels like an honor to be recognized for efforts that go on in the schools because I feel like education is a huge part of me, so being able to spread that awareness to my students and at the community level is really a great honor in that sense. I feel like this award is really for the students who have worked with me for the past few years. Every year, it’s a different batch, but we come up with ways to promote environmental conservation in our own way in our school. I’m just so happy that MINA provides the opportunity for them to get involved in the community,” said Nathrani.
She added that when the students get to meet with the different local environmental agencies such as MINA and BECQ, it’s an eye-opener for them.
“Even having that little impact meant a lot to them,” she said, noting that even in the midst of the pandemic, students were still able to gain firsthand experience of environmental conservation.
The sold-out event is to celebrate CNMI natural resources, as well as to recognize the efforts of members of the community, schools, and businesses in advancing the environmental goals of the Marianas.
It is also a way for the organizations to raise funds for its environmental efforts.
MINA executive director Roberta Guerrero said the organization was pleased to be able to host the gala again this year and to have such positive feedback from its sponsors and partners.
This year’s sponsors included Aqua Resort Club Saipan, Salty Skin Pacific, The 2D Canvas, Blossoms Floral, Poki-Yaki, Pacific Trading Company, Marpac, Mobil, Bank of Guam, Champeian Art, Godfather’s Bar, Pacific Insurance Underwriters, Inc., Angil Design, Taniguchi Ruth Makio Architects, Inas’ Kitchen, Marianas Building Inspection & Consulting Services, LLC, Flowers + Flames, ACE Hardware, Marianas Legal Strategy Group, LLC, Paradise Dental Center, Da Kine w/Larry & Kui Lee, IT&E, NMI Artistry & Designs, E-Land Group, JCT Enterprises, Chong’s Corporation, Marianas Creations, Furey & Associates, LLC, Horizontal Group HBR International, Inc., Top Shelf Wine & Spirits (BFJ Corporation), Hyatt Regency Saipan, Tropical Instant Press, MyCapitures Photography, Atkins Kroll Saipan, Docomo Pacific, Triple J Enterprises, Tan Holdings, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, GHD, Latte Built, Marianas Variety News & Views, Monika’s Furniture, McDonald’s, Tribes, Century Hotel, Gold’s Gym Saipan, Hofschneider Engineering Corporation, Roil Soil Clothing, Marianas Insurance Company LTD, Matson Navigation, Medical Associates of the Pacific LLC, and Saipan Shipping Company.