We interview Sandra Benbeniste, Executive Director of «IbizaPreservation» Foundation

Hello Sandra, could you give us some general brushstrokes about yourself?

As soon as I finished my university studies in Spain I got specialized in development and environment, and I had the opportunity to work during five years in Latin America. In both places, I’ve had great teachers from whom I have learned the importance of collaboration and strategic alliances.

You were born in Barcelona, but have visited Ibiza since you were a baby. You have always felt Ibiza in your heart, haven’t you?

My grandparents fell in love with the island in the 1960s, and they built a family home here. I have spent many of my holidays here, enjoying all its corners. It was sad for me when I discover that I would no longer be able to go to some of my favorite beaches because their overurbanization. For a few years I stopped willing to come to Ibiza, because of all those painful changes, but later I realized how much beauty remains to preserve. In 2011 I had the opportunity to move myself to live in this paradise, with my husband, and I started working with IbizaPreservation.

You hold a degree in Law and Economics from the University of Deusto. What does the word «Justice» mean to you??

The search for justice has always been the value that moves me the most, at work and in my personal life, this is the reason why I’ve studied law and worked a few years in development cooperation area. I
understand justice in two senses, the intragenerational one, which has to do with all the people of the same generation having access to essential human rights. And the other one, inter-generational justice, which refers to the fact that the next generations have the right to enjoy an environment that is at least as healthy and unique as the one we have today.

You have worked on sustainable development programs of several foundations and from the United Nations and have been a Corporate Social Responsibility consultant for international companies. How do you understand «Sustainable Development»?

I see Sustainable Development as the guarantee of a balance between economic and social, individual or community wellbeing, and environmental care. When I first heard about this concept, linked to the 1992 Rio Accords, I knew it was what I wanted to work on. For many years it has been understood that there is an opposition between economic development and environmental protection, but fortunately we see more and more people and companies working to reconcile both, in a win-win situation.

You have been working in IbizaPreservation for nine years, consolidating its approach and strategy. Could you explain us about it?

IbizaPreservation started as a bridge between people, mainly foreigners who wanted to “give something back to the island” and environmental projects that we selected for their local impact. After a few years we saw that in addition to raising funds, we could also help to create alliances between entities that had never worked together, allowing to achieve common goals. The best example of this was the creation of the Mar Blava Alliance, that was able to stop 4 oil exploration projects.

Also, after years of working on all issues related to the environment, we decided to focus for a period of time on certain areas, in order to better measure the impact of our work.

Which are the four strategic areas of work of IbizaPreservation?

Ibiza Produce, to strengthen the capacity of local food production, revitalizing our landscapes.

Sustainability Observatory, from where we annually measure more than 50 indicators to contribute to the conservation of the island’s natural resources.

Posidonia Protection, from the hand of our partners in GEN-GOB and Vellmarí.

Plastic Free Ibiza y Formentera, fpromoting the certification of companies and other entities in their process towards the elimination of single-use plastics, and bringing together more than 15 local organizations.

Currently, in these moments of world crisis, are there any particular projects or actions that you are carrying out?

During the lockdown we have carried out several special actions, trying to respond to the needs of the moment. For example, we created the Learning for Sustainability, joining forces to prepare modules on the main environmental issues, to help teachers at this critical moment of lack of online resources. We also promoted an initiative in collaboration with the national foundation ECODES and Trasmapi-Be Blue, called Sustainable Homes, trying to give simple ideas on how to improve sustainability of our houses (consumption of water, electricity, etc.). We also actively promoted Ibiza Produce, a guide on how and where to find local products. Local product demand really increased during the crisis.

How are local companies reacting on relation with the current economic crisis and their commitment with environment?

During this period of lockdown we have also developed a weekly series of talks about «The Future of our Islands». The entrepreneurs we have invited have agreed that the «new normal» should integrate sustainability in one way or another. Of course, they also ensure that in the short term the urgent thing is to be able to breathe and to prevent closing their blinds, they are also requesting administration aid, this is everyone’s job.

Is it possible to combine health and safety measures with environment care, without moving back and losing all what you’ve done, regarding Plastic Free Ibiza and Formentera?

Of course it is necessary to guarantee all the necessary sanitary measures. Having said this, we hope that measures such as the reintroduction of single-dose oil and vinegar in restaurants, or single-use amenities in hotels are only for a short period of time, and that soon we will be able to return to the point where we were before COVID- 19, where more than 100 companies had been certified Plastic Free for their commitment to disposing of single-use plastics.

IbizaPreservation financed during 2017 an important study about social and environmental carrying capacity of Ibiza island.

Indeed, this 2017 study was the seed of the current Sustainability Observatory. Every year we carry out an exhaustive report, with indicators on water, energy, waste, water quality, traffic, etc. With our Observatory we want to contribute making all these indicators accessible to everyone (available on our website) and use them in the necessary debate about the development model we want for Ibiza.

How can the island revive local economy and protect the environment at the same time?

It is a complicated question to answer, but to sum up I would say that, for example, resources can be invested (and jobs created) in the necessary reforms o energy efficiency of many buildings (allowing to stop losing heat and cold). With the installation of solar plates we could improve the shameful renewable energy rate of 0.25% that we currently have, also their could be actions to improve mobility,including more electric cars and motorcycles, or more and better public transport, the incorporation of more bike lanes, etc.

During the lockdown, the Observatory has worked to get information about CO2 emissions during this period, and the data shows, of course, a huge improvement. The challenge is to keep the environmental status of these months together with the necessary economic recovery.

 

Thank you very much Sandra for this interesting conversation and your sharing. I love this island and I really appreciate your work. By supporting each other, we can achieve a better island in many senses.

Thank you very much for the invitation, and for your wonderful and important communication work.


IbizaPreservation

TheHUB Ibiza, Polígono Ca na Palava, Carretera Santa Gertrudis, km, 5
(07819) Santa Eulària des Riu – Ibiza
info@ibizapreservation.org
Fb e Ig: @ibizapreservation

 

* Photographs by Jon Izeta

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