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This story is reprinted from the website of the Rye Sustainability Committee. 

By Melissa Grieco, Chair, Rye Sustainability Committee

Balloons are generally associated with fun and festivity. However, balloons have a dark side, as they can cause power outages and pose a serious threat to wildlife and the environment. They’re also an eyesore, marring the landscape of our beautiful communities.

Released balloons ultimately return to the earth as litter, with many ending up permanently clogging and polluting our waterways and oceans. As a coastal community, Rye (and Pelham) are part of an ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to the effects of released balloons.


Balloons are available in two varieties – latex and Mylar.

Latex: While natural latex qualifies as a biodegradable substance, balloon latex is treated with preservatives and plasticizers to guard against bacterial decomposition. It can take anywhere from six months to four years for a latex balloon to biodegrade.

Due to their bright colors, latex balloons in the ocean are often mistaken for food by marine life such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles, with deadly results. Once ingested, balloons can release toxic chemicals into the blood stream and cause physical damage to wildlife by blocking the digestive tract. In addition, ribbons, tassels and strings attached to released balloons can entangle and ensnare marine animals and terrestrial wildlife.

Mylar balloons are made from mylar nylon, a material developed for use in the U.S. space program. They are not biodegradable and are often coated with a metallic finish. Their durability means that Mylar balloons that land in the ocean remain forever. As they drift, they become part of the ever-accumulating hordes of permanent trash that we find in and around Long Island Sound – and beyond. Their shiny quality also makes them particularly susceptible to being mistaken for food by marine animals.



In addition to being a choking hazard in small children, balloons caught in power lines can be a real nuisance and hazard, causing power outages, fires, and possible injuries.

Furthermore, the widespread use of helium to inflate balloons is contributing to the depletion of accessible helium for use in MRI scanners, fiber optics and LCD screens.

Some communities, including East Hampton, NY, have taken action to prevent the proliferation of balloon litter in the environment by banning the intentional release of balloons.


The good news is that the party, parade, or real estate open house can still go on without the balloons. There are a wide variety of fun, colorful, and eco-friendly alternatives to balloons, including reusable paper streamers, flags, banners, and even bubbles.

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County Executive Latimer Launches Climate Action Task Force

Reprinted from

December 12, 2018 – Speaking to the crowd gathered at a workshop entitled “Confronting Climate Change: What To Expect In Our Region,” County Executive George Latimer announced the creation of a Climate Crisis Task Force tackling actions needed to reduce Westchester’s carbon footprint and make us more resilient to climate change.

Steered by Sustainability and Energy Conservation Director Peter McCartt, the Task Force led by Janet Harckham, Beth Sauerhaft and Anjali Sauthoff will be creating short-term action initiatives the County can take, while in parallel working on an updated long-term Climate Action Plan. Both of these moves will help shape Westchester’s climate future both now and going forward.

Latimer said: “Westchester County is one part of a very large puzzle in the Country – and we all must work together to make a big impact on stopping climate change. While certain levels of government might down play its impact – and even say its fiction – I don’t. We are going to fight for our climate’s future – we are going to do it together – and it starts right here at home.”

McCartt said: “I am proud of the work we are doing here in Westchester County under County Executive Latimer’s leadership. Global warming is real and we need to address our critical infrastructure to withstand rising waters on both sides of the county. Devastating storms and flood surges are going to be much more intense and frequent, we need to build resilience in addition to being proactive on long term sustainability.”

This task force joins an already extensive list of actions taken by the Latimer Administration aimed at combatting global climate change. A few of these actions include:

  • Entering into a Demand Response Program that eliminates the chance of brown-outs and black-outs and the subsequent need for more expensive infrastructure repairs and upgrades;
  • Solarizing County properties and facilities while creating energy savings and minimizing expensive and non-sustainable infrastructure construction;
  • Electrifying County Fleets which will result in savings on repairs and fuel costs, reducing reliance on fossil-fuels and reducing pollutants;
  • Expanding electronic vehicle infrastructure, creating a network of charging stations across the county.
  • Expanding recycling measures, including new programs for textile and food scrap recycling which minimizes waste disposal expenses including incineration;
  • Initiating a teleconferencing system which minimizes travel expenses as well reducing vehicle emissions; and
  • Installing 30,000 LED bulbs County-wide that maximizes energy savings and lowers the cost of maintenance of lighting.
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Where Do I Recycle or Donate Unwanted Items? 


Before you toss an item in the trash, please check this list of organizations and businesses that will gladly accept your items for donation or recycling. Many will provide a tax-deductible receipt. Thank you for giving your items a second life and keeping them out of the trash.


  • Furniture Sharehouse. Small electronic appliances. Drop off location: Westchester County Airport Warehouse.
  • Renovation Angel, 275 Route 46 West, Fairfield, NJ, (973) 461-2344. They will inspect your kitchen (cabinets, counter tops, appliances, fixtures and building materials) and will arrange to have it removed by a licensed contractor if the kitchen is suitable.
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore, 659 Main St, New Rochelle. Submit photo via email to
  • Salvation Army, 34 North Main Street, Port Chester. Clothing, furniture, household items, cars, appliances
  • Vietnam Veterans. Small appliances. Pick-up service only.




  • The Sharing Shelf, 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester. Infant car seats (less than 5 years old – wash covers before donating), pack-n-plays, strollers (cleaned), new and gently used baby clothing. New only: bottles, pacifiers. (See CLOTHING for Sharing Shelf’s donation guidelines.)
  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye. Strollers, toys.
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore, 659 Main St, New Rochelle. Baby furniture, including cribs. Submit photo via email to
  • Vietnam Veterans. Baby clothing, baby items. Pick-up service only.


  • Midnight Run. Contact Robin Shainberg at for drop off details in Rye.


Note: Under the NYS Rechargeable Battery Law, rechargeable batteries can be recycled at most retail locations that sell them.

  • Battery Solutions. Recycles any type and every volume. Call: 800-852-8127
  • Verizon Wireless, 86 Purchase Street, Rye.
  • Rye Camera Shop, 55 Purchase Street, Rye.
  • Home Depot, Midland Avenue, Port Chester.
  • Staples, 515 Boston Post Road, Port Chester.


  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye.
  • Linking Handlebars, Rye – gently used bicycles a youth run not-for-profit Organization that collects and refurbishes bicycles and gives them away to underprivileged children in local area. Drop off or arrange for pick up.
  • Vietnam Veterans. Pick-up service only.


  • My Sister’s Place, One Water Street, White Plains. New, unopened full-size toiletries for both men and women, such as: deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo/conditioner, body wash, body lotion, shaving cream, and razors.
  • Hope’s Door, Hawthorne, (914) 747-0828. Full-size hair products (for all hair types), soaps, toothbrushes, toothpastes, deodorants.
  • The Sharing Shelf, 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester.
    • New, unopened full sized toiletries.
    • From October 15 – November 10 and March 15 – April 1: hairdryers, curling irons, flat-irons (must work!)
  • Midnight Run. Hotel size toiletries. Contact Robin Shainberg at for drop off location in Rye.
  • Vietnam Veterans. Cosmetics, body care items. Pick up service only.




  • Habitat for Humanity Restore, 659 Main St, New Rochelle. Submit photo via email to
  • Renovation Angel, 275 Route 46 West, Fairfield, NJ, (973) 461-2344. Cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures and building material.


  • Rye Arts Center, 51 Milton Road, Rye. Accepts art supplies, digital cameras and tablets.


  • Apple Products. Drop off Apple products at local Apple stores or recycle online with prepaid mailing label.
  • Hope’s Door, Hawthorne, (914) 747-0828. Call to schedule drop off.
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Accepts any cell phone/accessories in any condition, laptops, Mp3 players, digital cameras, video game systems, chargers, accessories, cords.
  • Verizon Wireless, 86 Purchase Street, Rye. Trade in devices for a gift card, or choose to donate devices to HopeLine, a charity that gives survivors of domestic violence a safe, reliable way to stay in contact with vital resources in a time of crisis.
  • Staples, 515 Boston Post Road, Port Chester. Accepts accessories, adapters, cordless phones, trade-in eligible mobile phones.



  • Humane Society ofWestchester, 70 Portman Rd, New Rochelle. Disinfecting wipes, paper towels, Windex, bleach, brooms, small scrub brushes, large garbage bags, disposable gloves, dish/liquid hand/bar soap, hand sanitizer, laundry detergent, Ziploc sandwich bags.
  • Hope’s Door, Hawthorne, (914) 747-0828. Laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish detergent, Brillo, sponges, cleaning supplies, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, napkins.


  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye. Accepts only new clothing
  • The Sharing Shelf, 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester. New and gently used clothing, SHOES for infants, children and teen.
    • Clothing should be in clean, wearable condition ready for immediate distribution.
    • No used socks, underwear, hats or gloves (new is fine).
    • Accepts: Fall and winter clothing from July 15 – February 28 and spring and summer clothing/shoes from March 1 – July 14.
    • Recycling of stained or damaged clothing: Bag recyclables separately. Label bag “For Recycling”. Drop off Tuesday/Wednesday, Thursday between 9:30am-2:30pm. Do not include items for recycling in your regular donation bags.
  • The Children’s Collective. Collects gently used and new coats and warm winter clothing the first week in November. Email:
  • Bottomless Closet. Women’s professional clothing. Contact:
  • Operation Prom. Have an old prom dress still hanging in your closet? Donate it, jewelry or bags (no shoes) to a local teen. Drop-off locations are listed in the fall/winter. Westchester Contact: Noel D’Allacco, email:
  • Rye Middle School. Spring Clothing Drive
  • Midnight Run. Sweatshirts, sneakers and backpacks. Contact Robin Shainberg at for drop off location in Rye.
  • Salvation Army, 34 North Main Street, Port Chester. Clothing, furniture, household items, cars, appliances
  • The Golden Shoestring, 149 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont. Gently used apparel, accessories (shoes, handbags, scarves, belts, jewelry).
  • Vietnam Veterans. Clothing, accessories and shoes of all types and sizes (men’s, ladies, children’s, baby’s). Pick-up service only.





  • Westchester PC Renew. Refurbishes donated computers and distributes them to non-profit groups.
  • Apple Products. Drop off Apple products at local Apple stores or recycle online with prepaid mailing label.
  • Staples, 515 Boston Post Road, Port Chester. Accepts accessories, adapters, cables, all-in-one computers, computer speakers, desktop computers, eReaders, flash drives, gaming consoles/handhelds, GPS devices, hard drives, iPod®/Mp3 players, keyboard/mice. laptops (trade-in eligible), modems, monitors (LCD, LED, CRT), printers/multifunction devices (desktop), routers, scanners (desktop), shredders, small servers, tablets (trade-in eligible), UPS/battery, backup devices, and webcams.


  • Rye Arts Center, 51 Milton Road, Rye. Accepts art supplies, digital cameras and tablets.
  • Music and Memory. Accepts all Apple music players in working condition. Provides prepaid shipping label. Music & Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Accepts any cell phone/accessories in any condition, laptops, Mp3 players, digital cameras, video game systems, chargers, accessories, cords.
  • Apple Products. Drop off Apple products at local Apple stores or recycle online with prepaid mailing label.
  • Staples, 515 Boston Post Road, Port Chester. Accepts accessories, adapters, cables, all-in-one computers, computer speakers, desktop computers, eReaders, flash drives, gaming consoles/handhelds, GPS devices, hard drives, iPod®/Mp3 players, keyboard/mice. laptops (trade-in eligible), modems, monitors (LCD, LED, CRT), printers/multifunction devices (desktop), routers, scanners (desktop), shredders, small servers, tablets (trade-in eligible), UPS/battery, backup devices, webcams, cable/satellite receivers, calculators, camcorders, CD/DVD/Blu-ray players, computer speakers, connected home devices, copiers (desktop), cordless phones, digital cameras, fax machines (desktop), Flash drives, mobile phones (trade-in eligible), stereo receivers, video streaming devices (Apple TV®, Roku Player, etc.).
  • Home Depot, Midland Avenue, Port Chester. Accepts rechargeable batteries, CFL bulbs and plastic bags for recycling. Accepts incandescent holiday lights from November to mid December for recycling.




  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye. Accepts small furniture, including tables and chairs.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters.
  • Furniture Sharehouse. Bed frames, mattresses, dressers, tables, lamps, small electronic appliances, rugs, mirrors, artwork, TVs (less than 27” and less than 5 years old). Drop off location: Westchester County Airport Warehouse.
  • Salvation Army, 34 North Main Street, Port Chester. Clothing, furniture, household items, cars, appliances.
  • The Golden Shoestring, 149 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont. Small furniture pieces and bric-a-brac.
  • Vietnam Veterans. Small furniture, rugs. Pick-up service only.


  • Carver Center. Collection in early fall. Contact Shami Kini at



  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye.
  • Salvation Army, 34 North Main Street, Port Chester. Clothing, furniture, household items, cars, appliances.
  • The Golden Shoestring, 149 Larchmont Avenue, Larchmont. Household, decorative items, china, crystal, glassware, kitchen items.
  • Hope’s Door, Hawthorne, (914) 747-0828. Gently used or new household items: dishes, microwaves, toasters, silverware, coffee pots.
  • Vietnam Veterans. Pick-up service only. Household items, glassware. They will take almost anything.


  • Music and Memory. Accepts all apple music players in working condition. Provides prepaid shipping label. Music and Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.
  • Staples, 515 Boston Post Road, Port Chester. Accepts music players for recycling.
  • Apple Products. Drop off Apple products at local Apple stores or recycle online with prepaid mailing label.



  • Rye Presbyterian Thrift Shop, 882 Boston Post Road, Rye.
  • Salvation Army, 34 North Main Street, Port Chester. Clothing, furniture, household items.


  • Hope’s Door, Hawthorne, (914) 747-0828. Crochet/knitting needles.




  • An In-School Program: Crayola ColorCycle will accept all brands of used plastic markers, including dry erase markers and highlighters. Schools box and mail collected markers to Crayola for recycling. Crayola pays all shipping charges.
  • See Art Supplies for related guidelines.


  • The AFYA Foundation. Collects used medical supplies to be donated to those in need. Accepts used medical equipment (wheel chairs, shower chairs, commodes, crutches, slings etc.) chucks, adult diapers, bandages, pencils, notebooks. Collections organized through Rye Rotary. Drop Off: Webster Bank, back entrance, 72 Purchase Street. Please call before dropping off: (914) 967-1679.



  • Mount Vernon Animal Shelters. Canned cat food, canned dog food, dog treats, cat treats, milkbones, peanut butter, bleach, laundry detergent/ powder, Pine-sol, Fabuloso, dish soap, paper towels, toilet paper, 30 gallon garbage bags.
  • Humane Society of Westchester, 70 Portman Rd, New Rochelle. Ziploc sandwich bags, snow shovels, pet-safe ice melt, heating pads/hot water bottles, toys, canned/dry food items, stuffed animals, peanut butter, hot dogs. (Accepts all food donations, but has a greater need for canned pet foods.)
  • Pet Rescue, 7 Harrison Avenue, Harrison. Dog food, dog treats, canned cat food, cat litter, kennels, cat toys, dog toys, laundry detergent, bleach.


  • Drop off at Rye Police Station, 21 McCullough Place. A full list of medication collection boxes in NY State can be found here.


  • By state law, stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains that operate five or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space are required to provide plastic bag recycling bins. Accepted items must be clean and include:
    • retail bags with string ties and rigid plastic handles removed
    • newspaper bag
    • dry-cleaning bags
    • produce bags with all food residue removed
    • bread bags with all food residue removed
    • cereal bags with all food residue removed
    • plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, etc.)
    • plastic stretch/shrink wrap with all food residue remove
    • plastic zipper-type bags


  • UPS Store, 222 Purchase Street, Rye. Collects plastic bubble wrap, but does not collect packaging peanuts.



  • My Sister’s Place, One Water Street, White Plains.
  • The Sharing Shelf, 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester. New, unopened and unused school supplies and new or used scientific and graphing calculators


  • Midnight Run. Sneakers for the homeless. Contact Robin Shainberg at for drop off location in Rye.
  • Rye Running Co., 37 Purchase Street. Collects gently used sneakers and donates them to
  • The Sharing Shelf, 47 Purdy Avenue, Port Chester. New and gently used sneakers and shoes.
  • Vietnam Veterans. Pick-up service only. All kinds of shoes.






  • Furniture Sharehouse. Drop off location: Westchester County Airport Warehouse. TVs (less than 27” and less than 5 years old).
  • Vietnam Veterans. Pick-up service only. Portable TVs.





RYE CITY INTERACTIVE SANITATION CALENDAR – Does everything except slice bread: You can create a personalized waste pickup calendar, schedule metal/electronics pickup, and its “what goes where” feature tells you where to donate/recycle anything. A must use for Rye residents.

RYE MOM SALES ON FACEBOOK –  You can sell any type of item or offer it for free in this group.

WESTCHESTER FREECYCLEJoin this group through Yahoo to offer almost anything. List your item through the group’s moderators, and a member will respond if they would like to take the item. You may only offer items for free. Visit

CRAIGSLISTPost items for sale on Craigslist or in the “For Free” section.

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Letter Advocates for Environmentally Sustainable Hutchinson School


Please Sign the Letter Below to encourage our BOE and Elected Officials that Sustainability is necessary as we build our schools and community for the future!
See link Below. Add your name in the comments below or email

Dear Pelham Board of Education, New Hutchinson School Committee, Dr. Champ:

I am sending this on behalf of a group of Pelham residents. Please see our letter attached. We would greatly appreciate if you would share the letter with the New Hutchinson School Committee members, and with the new Hutchinson School design team.

We are writing to urge the Board of Education to ensure that the new Hutchinson Elementary School building is designed and built as a modern, sustainable, and energy efficient facility that meets, at a minimum, LEED Gold or equivalent standards. We were unable to attend last night’s community meeting, but hope to attend and discuss at the upcoming September 25th BOE meeting.

As citizens of the Town of Pelham and parents of children attending school in the Pelham School District, we believe that the District has a once in a generation opportunity to demonstrate its commitment, to students and the community, by doing its part to maintain a healthy environment and to address the increasingly urgent climate change and sustainability crisis.

We urge the Board to aim for a net-zero emissions design which also moves the district toward a zero-waste future, eliminating waste from the cafeteria by including dishwashers to enable reusable dishes and utensils, as well as food scrap composting.

We believe it is critically important that the District participate in the sustainability revolution. Doing so would not only allow the District to “walk the walk” in teaching our students environmental values; it would instill in them the pride in knowing that we can work together to address environmental problems. It would also save money — because minimizing energy usage reduces energy bills.

The new Hutchinson Elementary School will operate for the next 100 years. Our hope is that it will stand as a testament to the environmentally, educationally, and economically sound thinking of the current members of the Board of Education.

We urge you to think outside the box, to set an example for future building projects, to tap into all the support and resources available to Pelham through NYSERDA and other programs such as the Zero Energy Accelerator Program, and to strive to preserve the best future for our children by building a green, sustainable, Hutchinson Elementary School.

We look forward to continued discussion on the new Hutchinson Elementary School building and how best to ensure a healthy environment and sustainable future for Pelham’s children.


Elizabeth Braun
Kristen Burke
T.K. Chang
Amy Dunkin
Dr. Heather Eliezer
Melissa Eustace
Thomas Farley
Kevin Healy
Maryanne Joyce
Matt Kaplan
Aimee Linn
Rosemary Maggiore
Lindsay Preftakes
Anna Riehl
Mark Rookwood
Ariel Spira-Cohen
Thomas White

* List in formation

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Plastic Is Killing our Oceans – The Issues, Facts, and Possible Solutions

By Wendy Lipscomb @

Approximately 40% of the world’s 7.6 billion people live within 62 miles (100km) of an ocean coast. For the other 60%, some of whom may never have even seen an ocean, the seas still play a vital role in their lives.

Oil and consumer goods are moved around the world on vast ships, keeping the wheels of commerce, and vehicles, turning. Most importantly, the ocean is vital to the food chain.

Unfortunately, we collectively treat the oceans worse than most of us treat the inside of our cars. Every year, anywhere from about 8 to 12 million US tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans.

For perspective, that’s close to three times as heavy as all the elephants on Earth combined.

Close up of a ton of plastic floating in the oceanThe scale of the problem is enormous, but it’s not a lost cause. Just like when your dentist says you can avoid further problems with your gums if you brush better and floss often, a change in how we live could be the catalyst for cleaner oceans in the future.

Read on to learn about the true scope of the issue, why plastics in our oceans are such a problem, why we at are so concerned, and why you should be too.

We’ll finish by looking at some of the methods currently in use for ocean cleanup, what the future may hold, and what you and I can do to help put the brakes on plastic pollution.


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EcoWise: For a Festive and Eco-Friendly Party, Bypass Balloons

By Cathy Taylor

In this season of graduations and summer celebrations, it’s a good time to think about alternatives to that most popular of party decorations: balloons.

Unfortunately, balloons are harmful to the environment on three fronts. First, just like single-use plastic bags and straws, discarded balloons – particularly those that are released into the air — make their way into the environment where they do not biodegrade.

Pieces of balloons have been found nearly everywhere – including in the digestive tracts of animals, blocking their ability to absorb nutrients and slowly killing them. The texture and color can be particularly deceiving for marine animals, which can mistake them for food.

Second, balloon strings and ribbons can prove dangerous to animals, who routinely get tangled in them.

Third, party balloons are often inflated with helium, which is not a renewable resource and has more important uses, such as in the treatment of emphysema, the production of MRI scans and the manufacturing of semiconductor chips.

Unfortunately, balloons that are not made of plastic also miss the mark. Mylar, which has become a popular material for making balloons, comes with its own environmental hazards. Made of synthetic nylon with a metallic coating, it is not biodegradable.

Also beware of the many stores and sites that market “biodegradable” latex balloons. While natural latex is biodegradable, by the time the latex is treated with chemicals, plasticizers and dyes, the final product’s biodegradability slips. During that time, these so-called biodegradable alternatives can do plenty of damage to the environment.

But EcoWise doesn’t want to be a party pooper. Fortunately, there are many festive eco-friendly alternatives. Here are just a few:

Tissue paper flowers: These are easy to make and can be created in as much variety as there are colors of tissue paper.

Pinwheels: Part of the fun of having balloons at an outdoor gathering is watching them dance in the wind. Paper pinwheels can have the same effect without the environmental hazards.

Kites: If you’re tempted to do a balloon release, think of flying kites instead. It’s another way to get that uplifting feeling – but in an eco-friendly, reusable manner.

Flags: String small paper flags across the party area and watch them flutter in the wind.

Crepe paper: Crepe paper can be used in a number of different ways, not just as streamers.

Bunting: Bunting can be made out of a number of materials, from construction paper to fabric, and it’s an interesting way to tie a party theme into whatever you create.

Plants: Flowering plants make for great décor and are a particularly wonderful alternative if party-goers can plant them afterwards.

Painted rocks: These can be placed all over the party setting, adding color and imagination.

The Internet is full of balloon-free decorating ideas that can spur your imagination. Enjoy this season of celebration, and try looking beyond balloons.


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EcoWise: Huguenot Says No to Waste

By Cathy Taylor

Huguenot Memorial Church went zero waste last month, which means the entire building is now recycling, reusing or composting all discarded items, from apple cores to plates, cups to paper towels.

The initiative also includes the Huguenot Nursery School and Spotlight Gymnastics, which operate out of Huguenot. “It only made sense if it was the whole campus and the whole facility,” said Lynne Dintrone, a member of Huguenot’s Building and Grounds Committee.

The Committee voted in favor of the move in early January. The organization officially shifted to zero waste on April 25 at Huguenot Cabaret, an annual fundraiser for the church’s mission work that is one of its most well-attended events of the year, drawing almost 240 people.

For Cabaret, Dintrone ordered cups that looked like plastic but were actually compostable, used the church’s reusable dishware and utensils, and strategically placed blue bins for recycling of glass and paper and green bins for cups and food scraps. A humorous sketch during the show instructed attendees on how to dispose of everything.

A successful zero waste dinner last fall for Huguenot’s youth group helped move the larger initiative forward. Associate Pastor Jacob Bolton realized then that if the church could go zero waste for a small event it could do so on a larger scale.

Huguenot received extensive guidance from Michelle Sterling and Ron Schulhof of Scarsdale, the duo who started the food scrap recycling program there and also helped make Westchester Reform Temple the first zero-waste house of worship in the county. “They were phenomenal,” Bolton said. “They held our hands through this entire thing.”

Along with giving frequent consultations, the two did a full walk-through of Huguenot’s 35,000-square-foot building to figure out how zero waste could work for a facility that size.

The biggest challenge was implementing food composting, which is not offered by garbage services in either Pelham Village or Pelham Manor. The church contracted with CRP Sanitation, which transports the material to a composting facility in Ulster County. The topsoil produced is then sold throughout the Hudson Valley.

The decision to go full-out zero waste was years in the making. In 2012, the church launched its Sustainable Huguenot campaign by converting the entire building to a geothermal heating and cooling system and later buying a refurbished organ when the old one needed to be replaced.

Also in 2012, youth group members learned how to perform an eco-audit, sorting through trash and figuring out what could be recycled, composted, and so forth; the group also performed audits for houses of worship throughout Pelham.

But the idea of becoming a zero-waste facility sprouted anew last September when Bolton and just-hired Pastor Paul Seelman attended a zero-waste event for the Hudson River Presbytery, which guides 79 regional Presbyterian congregations.

Seeleman gave the green light to move forward on a dream Bolton had held for a long time. For Huguenot, this is a major step forward in living out its faith in caring for the earth.

(Disclosure: The author is an active member of Huguenot Church.)

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EcoWise: A Way for Educators to Embrace Earth Day

By Cathy Taylor

This year’s Earth Day, on Sunday, April 22, is focusing on a theme familiar to readers of EcoWise: ending plastic pollution. In fact, Earth Day organizers want it gone by 2020, which, not coincidentally, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

That’s not a lot of time to rid the world of a scourge that’s poisoning our environment. So we’d like to take this column to urge local educators to incorporate lessons about it into Climate Education Week, which begins on Monday, April 16 and ends on Earth Day. has interactive educational toolkits for elementary school, middle school and high school, but if you can’t work plastic pollution into the curriculum that week, the lessons can be helpful at any time.

First, let’s discuss why there is such urgency about plastic – and specifically single-use plastics, such as straws and plastic bags.

Even though some plastic is recyclable, plastic pollution has become a global crisis because it doesn’t degrade and much of it makes its way – eternally — into the environment. Once there, it poisons and injures animals, particularly in the oceans; disrupts human hormones; litters our landscapes, and clogs landfills. According to a story last month in The New York Times, the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, “is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish.” The vast majority of it is plastic, from hard hats to water bottles.

Here are some of the suggestions for educators at (Check out the site to figure out what is age appropriate.)

  1. Have your class list all of the plastics they use, and then have students brainstorm a about ways of shortening the list.
  2. Take a quick field trip to one of the neighborhood storm drains to illustrate how plastic travels down them and ends in waterways.
  3. Watch a short film, such as the PBS video featuring Jean-Michel Cousteau’s trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or a National Geographic video that discusses the connection between plastic pollution and the foods that we eat.
  4. Hold a low-waste lunch day.
  5. Test the recycling IQ of your students – before and after they’ve learned more about plastic pollution.
  6. Teach the class about composting, which is a great jumping off point for discussing decomposition and the nutrient cycle.
  7. Focus a lesson on microplastics, which are what larger plastics become when they break down in our oceans.

There are also plenty of resources at the site if you’d like to help your family end plastic pollution, such as a calculator for adding up your household’s plastic pollution, and suggestions for alternatives. Let’s all celebrate the earth on April 22 — and every day, for that matter.

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EcoWise: Affordable Solar Energy Set to Come to Pelham

Discounted solar energy is finally coming to the Town of Pelham through the Solarize Westchester program. The deadline for homeowners to sign a solar contract is June 4.

The model takes advantage of economies of scale in individual municipalities to bring down the installation cost of solar for interested residents and commercial property owners.

“[Solarize Pelham] is a way to be more responsible to our planet, our community, and each other,” said Town Supervisor Pete DiPaola.

Since it began operation in 2015, Solarize Westchester has conducted 11 Solarize campaigns in 20 Westchester municipalities, resulting in 500 solar installations. It is currently rolling out new efforts in Pelham and Croton, among other communities. “The municipalities we worked with have been very positive about the program,” said Nina Orville, principal of Abundant Efficiency, a sustainable consulting company that administers the overall program and coordinates between municipalities and solar contractors.

The selection of Pelham as a new Solarize market followed an extensive vetting process. Pelham first had to submit an application to Sustainable Westchester, which looks for a number of attributes, including whether the population is big enough to qualify for discount.

According to Pelham resident Lindsay Preftakes, who served as team lead on Solarize Pelham, “We also had to show that we had support through dedicated community members to run the campaign and civic organizations such as EcoPel.”

Village of Pelham Trustee and EcoPel liaison Ariel Spira-Cohen coordinated the municipal application process between Pelham and Sustainable Westchester. Pelham residents Kevin Healy and Maryann Joyce worked with former Pelhamite and EcoPel board member Christian Privat to initiate the application process last year.

Sustainable Westchester also promotes the opportunity to participate in Solarize Westchester with its municipal members and issues the requests for proposal to solar installers. Additionally, solar installers are pre-screened by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Pelham chose Ross Solar, a ConEdison Solutions Company, for the Solarize Pelham campaign, which has been the contractor for 21 other Solarize campaigns.

How big are the potential savings? Excluding the long-term reduction in energy costs, once the estimated 20 percent group discount is applied, along with a mix of rebates and tax credits, the price of a solar installation can drop by as much as two-thirds off the average market price of $28,000. Payment plans are also available through Ross.

An initial kickoff workshop was held on March 7, organized by the Solarize Pelham team with a presentation will by Ross. Other forums are being planned, including one focused on commercial property owners. While homeowners have until June 4 to sign a solar contract, commercial property owners can register for site visits until June 4 and wait until October to sign a contract.

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Let’s Bag Plastic Bags

This op-ed piece was published on Mar. 3, 2018 in The New York Times:

All it had taken was a moment’s distraction. In a well-practiced sleight of hand, the cashier had double-bagged in plastic a dozen eggs, which were already encased in two protective layers of plastic. I briefly contemplated appealing for the liberation of my groceries but chose the path of least resistance. The deed was done, and the purveyors of plastic had been victorious on this occasion.

It was not always thus. In the late 1970s, single-use plastic bags were seldom available in grocery stores. Since then they have become an omnipresent part of the exchange of merchandise for money, a “free” offering to consecrate the ritual. An estimated one trillion bags are used each year globally, but they are so seamlessly ingrained into our daily routines that we hardly notice. It is difficult to imagine life without them.

The average American throws away about 10 single-use plastic bags per week, but New Yorkers use twice the national average. Some 23 billion are used across the state each year — more than enough, when tied together, to stretch to the moon and back 13 times. In the short trip from store to home the utility of these bags is spent, but the bags themselves can take millions of times longer to break down in landfill.

Yes, you are correct. This is crazy and entirely unnecessary. In Ireland, my home country, plastic bags were once an essential part of daily life. They were often found polluting waterways and littering the countryside, fluttering in trees and hedges. After a 15 euro cent fee was introduced in 2002, however, annual use dropped from an estimated 328 to 14 per person by 2014. Within a year of the fee’s imposition, a national survey found that 90 percent of shoppers were using reusable bagslitter had also been reduced significantly.

Other countries have followed suit, though in a trickle, not a flood. But now political momentum is gathering across the globe to address the problems that plastics pose for the planet. Last year, Kenya banned plastic bags, becoming the latest of more than two dozen countries to either prohibit them or impose a fee for their use.

In the United States, California is the only state to have imposed a comprehensive solution to the plastic bag problem, banning single-use plastic bags in stores in 2014, an action then endorsed by voters in a statewide referendum in 2016. Dozens of municipalities have banned plastic bags or imposed fees to discourage their use, including Austin, Tex.; Chicago; and Seattle. New York State and Massachusetts may well find themselves on the front lines of the plastic bag war this year.

In January, the European Union responded with its first Europe-wide strategy on plastics, which aims to clamp down on single-use plastic items and ensure that they are fully recyclable by 2030.

All of this is part of a growing realization that our feckless use of plastics is out of control. This has become particularly evident in what is happening to the world’s oceans. In December, an important milestone was reached when 193 countries signed a United Nations resolution to monitor plastics disposal in the oceans and 39 countries committed to reducing the quantity of plastics going into the sea.

The United Nations Environment Program estimates that some eight million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year, while a 2016 World Economic Forum report projects that there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the oceans by 2050 if current trends continue. Plastic production and disposal also generates around 400 million tons of carbon dioxide a year globally, more than total annual emissions from Britain.

Millions of whales, birds, seals and turtles die because they mistake plastic bags for food or because they become ensnared in nets, packing bands and other items. Trillions of microplasticsend up in the ocean, with seafood eaters ingesting an estimated 11,000 tiny pieces annually. Plastic fibers have also been foundin tap water around the world; in one study, researchers found that 94 percent of water samples in the United Stateswere affected. The impact on human health from direct exposure to microplastics is unknown.

One of the most direct ways to begin to address this problem is by taking on the single-use plastic bag.

Following in the footsteps of California, Massachusetts may attempt this year to impose a statewide solution to the plastic bag problem. In December, Boston’s mayor, Martin Walsh, signed an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags in city stores. With around 60 other municipalities in the state restricting or imposing fees on these bags, the State Legislature is considering banning them.

New York is another potential battleground. Efforts by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and by Mayor Bill de Blasio to introduce a bag fee have been stymied in part by opposition from the “big plastic” lobby.

Last year Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked a law that would have imposed a 5-cent fee on plastic bags in New York City and called instead for a statewide solution. The task force he established identified eight options in a report released in January, including voluntary initiatives, outright bans and fees. But it makes no specific recommendations.

In choosing a solution, it is important to understand the real cause of the plastic bag problem: the myth of free plastic. Retailers pay up to 5 cents per plastic bag, but the cost is hidden, passed on to shoppers through higher grocery prices. This is, no doubt, a brilliant business model for plastic manufacturers, but it has had a devastating impact on the planet.

Fees charged to consumers for each plastic bag undermine the foundation of this myth. They have a long track record of success, and not just across American cities. They have been effective in DenmarkHong KongSouth AfricaBritain and Botswana. The average Dane, for example, now uses just four single-use plastic bags a year, after the introduction of a fee in 1994.

Some see fees as a regressive tax on seniors, the sick or the poor, but these arguments do not hold water. It is unjust to charge more for staples like food so that discretionary plastic items can be offered free, especially when there are alternatives. In any case, reusable bags can be provided for those in need.

Fees set above 15 cents that flow to an environmental fund strike a good balance between flexibility and effectiveness. They can be more politically acceptable than outright bans. For example, a survey of Irish citizens revealed that a remarkable 91 percent welcomed the fee because they witnessed the drop in litter and found reusable bags more suitable for carrying groceries.

The cultural impact can be game changing. As was the case with smoking indoors, the use of plastic bags becomes less socially acceptable over time once the government moves to restrict them. Reusable bags become the norm quicker than one might imagine, and shoppers seamlessly adapt their daily routines to the new reality. Action aimed at plastic bags can pave the way for further measures to address free coffee cups, lids, stirrers, cutlery, straws and takeout packaging.

When achieved, these small changes to our daily routines can be surprisingly empowering.