Print Icon

December 2020 Volume 5 Issue 6

RI President Holger champions ESRAG!

Plus: projects and gifts that protect the planet

RI President Holger Knaack is sponsoring an ESRAG video contest starting January 1 to showcase what Rotarians are doing to save the planet!  This fabulous idea was spearheaded by ESRAG Europe.  Also in this issue:
• ESRAG GBI's Advent Calendar
• Save the planet from your parking lot!
• How to donate for RI environmental grants
• Sustainable Santa
• Biodiversity webinars Dec. 23 and Jan. 13
• Green Rotaract Earth Day challenge
• Share how you're reducing food waste
• Engaging women in climate solutions
Photo: a snapshot of RIP Holger's video invitation to the whole Rotary world to enter ESRAG's "I Fix the Planet" contest

 Share your "I Fix the Planet" story!

We're thrilled to announce that Rotary International President Holger Knaack is teaming up with ESRAG on a film contest to showcase the wealth of ways Rotarians are striving to save the planet. RI President Holger recorded an irresistible video of his own inviting YOU to share your project.

The contest will generate a bumper crop of 70-second videos to inspire Rotarians, so we can hit the ground running all across the globe when RI’s new Protecting the Environment Area of Focus goes live July 1. You’ll be able to hunt through the films to find great stories to use with your own community, club, district, or region. 

How will it work? Starting Jan. 1, 2021, you can upload a 70-100 second video on the theme # I Fix the Planet.  English is the common language judges will use, and the website offers a way to add English subtitles so you can record in your own language if you prefer. 

Use your smart phone to tell people about an environmental project you’ve done, are doing, or plan to do, or simply share what you are doing personally to “fix the planet.“ Then, watch other people’s videos and vote for your favorites.  

Submissions and votes will be accepted through March 31.  A panel of Rotarians and Rotaractors will then select seven winners from the top People’s Choice vote getters, and those seven will win a Zoom conference with RI President Holger. The top three will win a “social good” prize donated to an approved Rotary, Rotaract, or Interact project of their choice.

The contest is the brainchild of ESRAG Europe member Ludwig Kalthoff and is generously sponsored by PI President Holger Knaack. Heartfelt thanks and cheers to the implementation team: ESRAG Europe Chapter members Klas Holmlund, Ingrid Hesser, Gunnar Akeblom, and Felix Rodenjohann, Rob Anderson of ESRAG’s Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands Chapter (ANZPI), and Leonie Böker and the team from The Climate Task Force.  

ESRAG GBI's Advent Calendar

ESRAG members in Great Britain and Ireland have rescued Advent calendars from being an excuse for eating chocolate, and restored them to what they are supposed to be:  food for thought.  

“Running on each day until Christmas Day, 25 December, we are sending out an e-mail to raise awareness on Rotary's seventh area of focus 'Protecting the Environment,' writes Kirsten Weber, Co-Chair of ESRAG’s Great Britain and Ireland Chapter (ESRAG GBI). “The Advent Calendar ‘doors’ include tips for a sustainable life, stories and information about Clubs' projects, and personal stories from GBI Rotarians related to the environment and sustainability. Rotarians and Non-Rotarians are invited to subscribe and to enjoy reading our entries.” The daily windows provide inspiring information, like the Dec. 13 post on ESRAG members’ participation in the UN Climate Change Conference, and this Dec.15 post by Sam Forsyth, Satellite E-Club Barnard Castle, UK: 

"Water, Sanitation & Hygiene + environmental benefits:  Kipsaina WASH+ aims to provide sustainable clean water to up to 8000 people around Saiwa Swamp in rural Western Kenya. The “+” stands for the environmental benefits the project will bring to the wetlands, through environmental education, sustainable agriculture training,  and tree-planting. Barnard Castle and Kitale Rotary Clubs are collaborating with Kenyan community conservationist Maurice Wanjala to deliver this ambitious and inspirational project. Maurice narrates the Kipsaina WASH+ Promo film in this link. "

In the spirt of the ancient Christian practice of Advent, each day's "window" provides readers with an opportunity to reflect on and reform their life to prepare the way for a better future. Even better, the learning and growth are communal, not solitary. Readers respond, and Kirsten Weber shares their thoughts on subsequent days. 

Click here to subscribe to the Advent Calendar. 

Photo credit:  David Maslowski, Mother Earth News 1/11/2011


Save the planet from your driveway: 

ESRAG Freon pilot extended to March 31, 2021

Liz Vogel was one of the first Rotarians to volunteer as an ESRAG Feral Freon hunter, drawn by the prize: proving that Rotary volunteers could help to permanently eliminate 10,000 pounds of incredibly potent greenhouse gases in three months. Now, three months in, the young President-Elect and fellow members of Grosse Pointe Rotary Club in Michigan,USA have bagged one 35-pound cylinder and three small cans.  And they are hooked:  the prize is elusive, but its value is immense.

“I’ve had to change my mindset.  I love that graphic which shows that if the Freon in one 30-pound tank escaped, it would have the global warming impact of burning all the gasoline in two tank trucks,” she exclaims. “645 pounds or 2,775 of CO2 equivalent has been removed!” wrote Clari Nolet, director of ESRAG’s carbon offset projects, on Dec. 2.  That’s in just nine cities. “We’re extending the pilot through March 31, 2021 to get all the cities covered,” Clari adds [see the list here]. “Our partner Tradewater is very pleased and knows this takes time.  We are looking for sites to be ongoing, too.”  

The mission is to collect stockpiles of Freon and other refrigerants which have been banned from production since the early 1990’s by the Montreal Protocol. The international agreement unfortunately included no mandate on how to eliminate existing supplies. But with a rapidly-expanding market for carbon offsets, the Chicago-based social enterprise Tradewater is now finding sellers. Tradewater buys cylinders and cans of specific CFC refrigerants and has them shipped them to a licensed facility that permanently destroys them. Tradewater then sells the resulting high-quality carbon offset credits to companies committed to carbon-neutral operations. The role of Rotary teams is to schedule a reverse yard sale to accept the refrigerant, hand over payments provided by Tradewater, and store the containers a few days till they can be picked up for shipping. If the pilot project succeeds, this will open the way for Tradewater to share the money Rotary volunteers are saving them, by donating it to Rotary International for environmental grants.

One reason for the slower-than-expected pace of the plot is that sellers don’t always show up on the scheduled day. Clari Nolet is exploring alternate strategies, like scheduling regular quarterly collection days in each city to build up volume. Another hurdle is that it’s been hard to persuade Rotary clubs to agree to handle cylinders that look as if they hold something scary. Freon is non-flammable, non-explosive, and non-toxic to humans.“It’s safer than the propane you use in a grill, so I feel perfectly comfortable putting Freon in my garage until it can be shipped by Tradewater,” says Liz Vogel. Readers!  Take note! This is not risky!

“I have to admit it’s frustrating when you plan an event for five sellers, and two show up,” Liz adds.  “But cancellation is just normal. When our Club collected their first cylinder, we were really excited.  That’s a greenhouse gas which is now off the shelf where it could have leaked. If it leaks in Michigan, that’s a problem for the whole world." Photo above:  Liz Vogel and Grosse Pointe Rotary Past President Ted Everingham celebrate their first catch of Feral Freon!

The project has proved especially welcome in the COVID crisis. “Rotarians are People of Action,” Liz points out.  “This whole pandemic has stifled our ability to get out and do community service. A lot of clubs do big international projects that are on hold right now.  This is an international project you can do at home.”

“Assuring that feral Freon CFCs cannot be emitted into the atmosphere is one of the clearest contributions we can make to keeping climate change in check,” says Ed Church, Rotary Club of Berkeley, California, USA. “Most of our Rotary hands-on projects await the ending of COVID restrictions, so collecting and shipping these refrigerants is a powerful way for our Club to make a difference.”  Liz Vogel suggests that you approach this project like a fisherman. “Just because you don’t catch anything one day doesn’t mean you stop fishing. Besides, even if no seller shows up, you’ve just gotten to hang out with a fellow Rotarian you wouldn’t ordinarily see from 5 to 6 on a Tuesday. That’s fellowship!” 

Click here and scroll down for the  list of cities where Tradewater would like Rotarians to collect Freon.  Email Clari Nolet if you’re intrigued, even if your city is not on that list. We need just 2-4 volunteers from your club, plus a bathroom scale, a folding table, and the use of a parking lot or driveway for a couple hours for each collection event.  This winter, switch into garage sale mode, recruit a couple of friends, and help Rotarians save the planet!

How to donate to Rotary for environmental grants

ESRAG is delighted to point you to The Rotary Foundation’s online overview of the newest Area of Focus, the Environment.  Scroll down this new TRF link to see the kinds of work the Foundation now encourages Rotarians to take on.  

You can now make contributions by check or phone, earmarked for environmental Global Grants to be launched after July 1, 2021. We also share a brief explanation why online giving is not live just yet.  

You can support Rotary’s new area of Protecting the Environment by: 

   1. Mailing a check with ENVIRONMENT AOF in the memo line to  The Rotary Foundation, 14280 Collections Center Drive, Chicago, IL 60693, USA or your closest Rotary International Office -  Download the Rotary contribution form and write “Protecting the Environment” under section 2, “Purpose," or 

   2. Calling a friendly staff person with your credit card at the Rotary Support Center at +1 866- 976-8279 and letting them know you want to support the new Environment AOF.  The office is in Evanston, Illinois, USA, UTC -5. If US. donors want to qualify for a charitable deduction on their 2020 taxes, they should call the RI Support Center no later than Dec. 30, or make sure their check is postmarked by Dec. 31.  

Here’s why the option to give online will take a little longer:“Rotary plans this avenue of activity to be a great resource for Rotarians to literally change the world for centuries to come!  Please remember that for a global organization it is not as easy as just adding a button, especially when we are presently expending resources upgrading our systems,” explains Karena J. Bierman, Rotary International’s Director of Planned Giving.  “Additionally, we need to ensure that on-line access is functional in multiple Rotary countries and regions, languages, and currencies, which complicates our ability to instantly add a link.  We would if we could!”

How to be a Sustainable Santa

By Diana White, 

eClub of the Caribbean (D7020)

ESRAG GBI published these delightful ideas on Dec. 14 in their email Advent Calendar. 

Zero shipping & carbon-offset delivery:

   • You can support small businesses and artists at Etsy. The company boasts 100% carbon-offset on its deliveries and has a special eco-friendly range of unusual hand-crafted items.  

  • Want to hold a fun family party online and need some ideas? Try a 30 Minute Mystery.

Sustainable Gifts or Support:

   • The UK's National Trust has eco-gifting – and you are supporting the charity as well.

   • Looking for a gift that lasts a lifetime? Give a tree from The Woodland Trust. They have a great variety for your gardens or for wild hedgerows, and you get the added bonus of supporting their work.    • You may be surprised at the creatures which invade your garden at night. This night vision camera is a big success in our house! 

   • I want to give a special plea for a Rotary item, available worldwide. Giving The Butterfly StoryBook will benefit children throughout the Caribbean region through the Youth Projects of the Rotary E-Club of the Caribbean (D7020). These are stories of doing good, written by Caribbean children for children, available in both English and French! To buy in bulk to donate to a school library, contact the E-Club for discount prices.  

The Great Conjunction and Solstice Round-Up: Biodiversity Webinar, Dec. 23, 2 pm UTC

by Dr. Christopher Puttock, ESRAG Chair

Happy holidays! For our holiday season round-up we will be reviewing the twice monthly presentations and two webinars that we have had over the past six months. 

These reviews will include pollinators, biodiversity loss, aquaponics, insects, coral reefs, soil health, connected communities, and diverting ocean plastics.  We will be asking “what solutions by the way of projects have been stimulated in your clubs and Districts from these presentations?”  

We will also be asking, “What in the biosphere would you like to hear about in the next six months,” and we will do our best to program discussions on those topics.

Check ESRAG's Biodiversity page for recordings of previous webinars, which we generally get posted a few weeks after they happen. The talks are 20 minutes, ideal for sharing at a club or district meeting. Discussion follows, always a wonderful time of networking and fellowship. Through Zoom, these webinars enable Rotary environmentalists to share lore, building our capacity as a worldwide resource team to support Rotary's new environmental Area of Focus.

Good Clean Air: 

Biodiversity Webinar 

Jan. 13, 2021 2 pm UTC

Charlie Garlow J.D. will address clean air policy in general and climate in particular, including possible solutions: price on carbon, other market-based alternatives, planting billions of trees, carbon capture and storage, and other ideas. 

An environmental lawyer, Charlie Garlow worked nearly three decades in Washington DC suing polluters who violated the Clean Air Act. He is an advocate for clean technologies, smart transportation alternatives, and alternatives to carbon-based fuels.  Charlie holds degrees from Harvard and the West Virginia University College of Law. A leader in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby of Lower Delaware, he's a Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow.

Green Rotaractors: gear up for Earth Day!

By Pat Armstrong, ESRAG Communications Director

#Green Rotaract is another great opportunity to engage members of your club in "green" projects.  All your club has to do is to participate in an environmental project during the month of April to celebrate world Earth Day (April 22).

#GreenRotaract is a novel initiative of the Rotary Club of Siesta Keys in District 6960 (Florida, USA) to promote the new Area of Focus: Environment. According to Rotarian Belinda Rodebaugh, coordinator of this project, "some of the other key benefits will be to energize Rotarians and Rotaractors, promote peace, and increase membership."  Belinda encourages volunteers to wear green while working on the project; and clubs to upload images of their project, together with a 15-second video, to the #GreenRotaract Facebook page.  You can even use the same video you're posting to "I Fix the Planet" to promote your "green" project even more widely!


Share how you're reducing food waste:

Rotarians John Harder (RC Hanalei Bay, Kaua'i, USA) and Amelie Catheline (Solana Beach Eco Club, California, USA) are organizing a Reduce Food Waste team as part of ESRAG's Project Drawdown Solutions Working Group. They would love to learn about your projects to prevent food waste by reduction (such as lifestyle changes, purchasing local food, and changes in transportation and storage), reuse (food banks, animal feed), or repurposing (land application, compost, anaerobic digestion, clean energy).  You're also invited to join their team.  Email Amelie  or John to connect and share what you're doing!


Engaging women in climate solutions

Rotarians are uniquely poised to foster fair, socially-sustainable solutions by drawing on their vital community networks and deep understanding of their own culture. Indian Rotarian and social entrepreneur Binish Desai shared a powerful example in his Nov. 1 webinar for ESRAG’s South Asia Chapter:  when sex workers in Mumbai lost their livelihoods in the pandemic, Binish and his wife recruited them to start making lamps, clocks, and jewelry from eco-wastes.  The women’s first project was to create beautiful products for the Hindu festival of Diwali. 

Women’s  entrepreneurship is central to Desai’s comprehensive strategy of turning wastes – such as coffee grounds, multi-layer plastic, and PPE -  into practical, attractive  and affordable products. The photo above shows women making bricks from materials that Desai's social enterprise successfully diverts from waste streams.

Here’s a valuable resource for Rotarians seeking ways to build gender equity into climate solutions: the website of the Women and Gender Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The site includes descriptions of 136 gender-just climate solutions around the world.  You can filter your search by project year and location.


The Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group operates in accordance with Rotary International policy, but is not an agency of, or controlled by, Rotary International.

This email was sent by to
Not interested? Unsubscribe | Update profile
Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group | 2 S. Carroll Street, Suite 255 Madison, WI 53703 USA