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Outside of the box effort by Santa Barbara-based international relief agency to fight climate change

Committee for the Reuse of Discarded Shelter Items
Some items used by ShelterBox to ship aid to Mozambique are being repurposed and will be used to build bathrooms.

ShelterBox ramps up efforts to provide aid in environmentally friendly, sustainable ways.

It’s a Santa Barbara County based non-profit that’s helped more than two million people deal with some 300 disasters, and conflicts in close to 100 countries since the year 2000.

One of the big issues Shelterbox is constantly grappling with is how to raise the money it needs to operate. But, another, lesser known issue it faces is how to operate in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.

"Sustainability is embedded in everything we do. We have to do our best to continue to learn, and improve our practices, and to be as environmentally friendly, and sustainable as possible," said Kerry Murray, who is the President of ShelterBox.

She said operating in an environmentally friendly way is a big topic among international non-governmental agencies. They have a network to talk about, and share ideas about how to reduce their footprints as they work globally.

"This really insures we aren't adding to the issues people are facing who are already displaced by disasters," said Murray.

Murray talks about some the things ShelterBox is doing to control its footprint while supplying global aid.

"One is the materials we use. We've made massive strides in reducing the plastics for aid items, like wrappers. We've also been looking how we can recycle aid and shipping materials," said Murray.

The ShelterBox executive cites a way that some of the aid shipment packing materials were repurposed, instead of ending up as waste.

She said wood from shipping pallets used to get items to Morocco after that country's major earthquake last were turned into bed frames for people who were displaced.

They have warehouses around the world, to try to reduce the need for long distance shipping. And, Murray says they are working where possible to create aid packages in the countries where they are needed.

The goal is to use locally sourced labor and material whenever possible, to try to reduce the footprint of aid efforts.

They also have to be conscious of environmental requirements where they work. For instance, while there’s no national ban on single use plastics, like plastic bags in the United States, some countries like Kenya have them.

Murray said as we prepare to commemorate Earth Day, she and other non-profit agency leaders feel that it’s not just important to provide critically needed aid to those in crisis around the world, it’s also doing it in an environmentally conscious way.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.