Most people gasp in horror as they watch the waves of trash wash ashore, threatening the island’s pristine coastline, and quickly move on, leaving the responsibility of dealing with the problem to others. Probably.
But Paige Garnett is different.
This young environmental activist is determined to keep Jamaica clean, one beach and one community at a time.
Her goal is to create a more sustainable environment for everyone to enjoy and to instill the value of a clean environment in the country’s youth.
“I like to see a clean environment. I know many people see it (cleaning up the environment) as a dirty job, but it can’t just depend on the government or private organizations, so For me it’s fun. It’s all our responsibility,” she says.
Garnett is driven by the satisfaction of having a clean environment, which inspired the creation of the Keep Jamaica Clean series, which she co-founded about three years ago.
Under this initiative, she works with private and public sector organizations to organize tree-planting and beach and community clean-ups across the island.
She is also a member of the Montego Bay Kiwanis Club, which works on environmental projects.
It was no surprise when Garnet won first place in the recently concluded National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA) Environmental Hero Contest.
NEPA’s environmental heroes are people who care about the environment and are committed to sustainable development, said Angela Hamilton, the organization’s manager of public education and corporate communications.
She says this is one way NEPA shows its gratitude to those who have cared for the environment over the years.
“NEPA’s mission is to manage and protect the built environment, but we cannot do this alone. We all recognize that Jamaica belongs to all of us and we need to protect the environment. “It’s important to understand that we all have to participate and do our part,” says Hamilton.
She hopes that recognizing people as environmental heroes will encourage others to place similar value on preserving and protecting the environment.
The first contest was run on social media, inviting the public to nominate and vote for the person they thought deserved the title.
Jamila Farak, co-founder of the “Keep Jamaica Clean” series, took second place, and student Crystal Mitchell took third place.
Garnett said she is happy to be recognized for her contributions to the nation.
But while she enjoys cleaning up the environment, she urges the public to adopt proper waste disposal methods to reduce the effects of climate change.
“Please stop littering and clean up afterwards. [Jamaica] This is our home and we all share the same space. If you clean up after yourself, you won’t have to pay to enter certain establishments that you could probably enjoy for free,” she says.