Earth Day 2023 – sharing our story

Thank you to our SITE Florida & Caribbean chapter for sharing this excellent Earth Day recap with us — as one of many SITE chapters that hosted planet-friendly activities this April to celebrate the day.

Making Babies this Earth Day!

Did we get your attention?

Well, what can we say — we had fun!

And we truly did go out and made babies: coral babies, to be exact! The SITE Florida Caribbean board decided to theme this year’s Earth Day event around reef reforestation.

Our destinations are surrounded by the ocean, from the many Caribbean islands, to most of the state of Florida. Tragically though, the reefs within our oceans are decaying at an unprecedented pace due mostly to increasing ocean temperatures and as a result of the impacts of global warming, coral disease, and acidification.

You can think of coral reefs as underwater rainforests. In fact, over 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from plants in the ocean. Corals are animals (not plants), but healthy corals live in symbiosis with underwater plants. Together, they not only make beautiful snorkeling sites, but also work as natural power plants, literally churning carbon dioxide into oxygen.


For Earth Day, we organized two events revolving around reef reforestation, starting with a reef renourishment sponsored by the 5-star Kimpton Seafire in the Caribbean’s Cayman Islands.

For our second event, we partnered with the Opal Reefhouse Resort in Key Largo, Florida, and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, an independent nonprofit leader of world-class ocean research and science education.

We held a hands-on reef restoration educational workshop, followed by a happy hour with plant-based food overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Under the guidance of Mote’s scientist, chapter members turned into coral farmers for the day on a land-based coral nursery adjacent to the Reefhouse Resort. We learned that corals are indeed animals - “sessile” organisms, meaning they don’t move but are affixed to the reef, which is why many think they are plants.

Most structures that we call "coral" are in fact made up of hundreds or thousands of tiny coral creatures called polyps. Each soft-bodied polyp — most no thicker than a fingernail — secretes a hard outer skeleton of limestone (calcium carbonate) that attaches either to rock or the skeletons of other polyps.

 After a bit of coral education, we turned to a hands-on activity and learned to fragment corals by cutting them into smaller pieces on a diamond band saw. This is called “micro-fragmenting coral” (aka, making coral babies) and has similarities to grafting fruit trees.

We then glued the coral fragments on a mushroom-like pin before transferring them back into the “coral spa.” Here, they will grow polyps until they are large enough to either repeat the fragmentation cycle OR will be put into the ocean in about six months.


This is where our other event, held in the Cayman Islands, docked on.

There, a team of volunteers, including Seafire guardians, transplanted corals out to various reefs surrounding Grand Cayman, ensuring both the vitality and expansion of Mother Nature’s underwater coral showcase. Non-divers went on a sea-turtle walk, safeguarding nesting sites and cleaning up the beach, which is also essential in keeping reefs clean and healthy.

To culminate our Earth Day celebrations, we gathered with industry friends, hotel sponsors and scientists over organic plant based hors d’oeuvres and — I guess you can call most alcohol also plant based? — libations!

This is a fabulous example of a very local and very meaningful activity that you can implement with your next corporate incentive — not just on Earth Day but year-round.

You will not only help re-grow the reef, but will leave with a new sense of the complex underwater eco-system (think: teamwork) and appreciation of its beauty and importance to life on land and underwater (think: synergy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals).

We’ve shared this Earth Day event with you too, as incentive travel programs are shifting to become more purposeful and integrate meaningful local experiences. This is a prime example of what you can do in our neck of the woods. We hope it inspires you to:

  1. Come for a visit and try it out
  2. Share your own Earth Day story with your fellow SITE colleagues

SITE Florida is grateful for the wonderful collaboration with our entire chapter board and our supporting sponsors, including the Opal Reefhouse Resort & Marina, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa.


Written by

Steffi Kordy

Steffi Kordy



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