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.
WHAT’S IN A BALLOON?
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.
BALLOONS AND YOU
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.
I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN! ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Dr. Heather Eliezer
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By Wendy Lipscomb @ itsafishthing.com
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.
The 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 itsafishthing.com 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.
- Coming to Terms With the Problem
- Where Does All the Plastic In the Ocean Come From?
- What Impact Does Plastic Have On the Oceans?
- Looking for the Solution to the Plastic Problem
- What Happens To All The Plastic Taken Out of the Ocean?
- Stopping the Issue of Plastic Garbage at the Source
- Sailing To Glory On Garbage
- Top 5 Ways To End the Problem of Plastics in the Oceans For Good
- We Are All At Fault. We Are All Responsible. We Can All Make A Difference.
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 bags; litter 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 Denmark, Hong Kong, South Africa, Britain 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.
Check out this awesome – and entertaining – video created by Mamaroneck High School about the staggering and unnecessary levels of waste created by plastic straws. Many thanks to Mamaroneck teacher and Rye resident Cathy O’Donnell for sharing! Stop sucking! #stopsucking
We’d like to introduce you to PEP (Pelham Eliminates Plastics), which aims to school parents, teachers, neighbors, merchants, and friends about the FACTS on plastic waste and what it’s doing to our threatened oceans.
The group takes its inspiration, in part, from Melati and Isabel Wijsen, sisters from Bali who organized a kids’ crusade that shamed the governor into phasing out all plastic bags on the island by 2018.
Please take the #PEPpledge: Stop using SINGLE-USE PLASTICS, including plastic bags, water bottles, straws, and takeout coffee lids, TODAY. For our kids’ sakes, and their futures!
You’ll learn why in Lauren Paige Kennedy’s COASTAL LIVING Magazine feature, Meet 13 Ocean Heroes Fighting to Save our Seas. For this story she met with musician and ocean conservationist Jack Johnson and a global tribe of scientists, citizen activists, and sea legends, who together crunch the numbers on what plastic waste is doing to our planet—and who also share what we must together do: save our waters one person, one town, one state, one country, and one nation at a time.
A NEW DEFINITION OF BYOB: “BRING YOUR OWN BAG” (A REUSABLE BAG RATHER THAN A PLASTIC BAG)
From The Pelhams – PLUS
PMHS senior Megan Ploch, head of PMHS Enviro Club, created the poster below emphasizing a new definition of BYOB—Bring Your Own Bag (A Reuseable Bag, Rather Than a Plastic Bag).
The PMHS Enviro Club was among the sponsors of a free screening of “A Plastic Ocean” at The Picture House on Earth Day (April 22). More than 100 people of all ages attended the screening of the documentary which chronicles the effects of plastic in the ocean. The film showed animals mistaking plastic for food and dying as a result or eaten by sea animals that make their way into the food chain—and into humans. From beautiful images of blue whales swimming to devastating stories of oceanfront communities living in washed-up plastic waste to natural ways to clean plastic from waterways, the documentary informed as well as tugged on the audience’s emotions.
EcoPel, in conjunction with Meridian Risk, Joan Solimine Real Estate, and the PMHS Enviro Club, handed out free reusable totes to highlight the simple way that Pelhamites can make a difference by shunning single use plastic bags and replacing them with reusable ones. EcoPel thanks The Picture House, The PMHS Enviro Club, and ConEd for co-sponsoring the screening.
He reflects back and thanks mentors like coach Ed Witz and his dad for getting him where he is today.
School: Pelham High School
Athletic accomplishment: Heintz had 30 goals and 30 assists for 63 points in 26 games to help the Pelicans lead to the programs first ever state championship. During the final four weekend, Heintz had two goals and an assist in the state semifinals 6-0 win. He garnered second team all-state and was named to the final four all tournament team. He also garnered all-league and all section honors. He was the tournament MVP of the Beektown tournament earlier in the season. He was the USPHL (US Premier Hockey League) player of the week during the season. Heintz was the captain of the hockey team this past season. He’s been a member of the lacrosse team for the last three years.
Academic accomplishment: Heintz has a 95.06 GPA. He’s undecided as to where he’s going to school next year and what he’ll study. He’s a member of the National, Math, Italian, Science and English honor societies, and Rho Kappa Honor Society. After school, Heintz is a member of the Italian Club and the EcoPel Program (Environmental Safety Club). In the community, Heintz has volunteered his time with Room to Read, a USA Hokey Level 2 Referee, Coast to Coast, and Relay for Life. Heintz has a summer internship at Rockefeller University. In his spare time, Heintz kayaks, plays golf and tennis, does Yoga, and reads.
Getting to know Nathaniel Heintz
The Journal News: A few weeks removed now has it sunk in yet that you and your teammates won the first state title in program history?
Nathaniel Heintz: It started to sink in a little more over the past few days you know once we got back to Pelham and everybody said congrats. Now we’re getting into lacrosse season, we’re working towards hopefully winning a section title this year. It’s awesome, we’ve been talking with coach and there’s been a lot of talk amongst ourselves and it’s starting to sink in a little more, I’m not sure if it’s fully sunk in yet though.
TJN: Is there anything you can take from your experience during the hockey season and transfer it into the upcoming lacrosse season?
NH: A lot of the dedication that goes into it is the same. Both of them are team sports and there are a lot of guys who play both so it’s important for both teams that we got to be close knit and that was a big part of our success — the way everyone backed each other up.
TJN: Describe the moment you knew the team was going to win and the moment when the horn blew and the win became official.
NH: I think once Stef (Stefan Miklakos) scored that second goal and we sort of got out in front, that was a pretty big one to get but once we got that fourth goal, with like 10 minutes to go, I think that’s when I thought we had it. When the buzzer sounded, it was unbelievable. All the hard work we put in our whole lives is incredible to do it especially for coach Witz. He dedicated most of his life to the program, building it up. All the fans came up – there were probably 100 kids up in Buffalo, our families, and all our teammates that worked so hard together to get where we were and no matter how much anyone played, they gave it their all. It was awesome to see everyone’s hard work mean something.
TJN: How long have you been playing hockey?
NH: My dad was a big hockey player so I think I was always around it. I started skating when I was three but I didn’t start playing till I was five. I started doing the clinic and we built a rink in my backyard. He taught me to skate and shoot out there.
TJN: When you get to college, are you going to continue playing either sport?
NH: I want to play club hockey in college because I was thinking about taking a gap year because that’s what you have to do to play college hockey but I decided I wanted to go to college and focus on my academic career. Club hockey is still pretty competitive for a lot of guys who like me take academics seriously.
TJN: Do you know where you’re going next year?
NH: No, I haven’t decided yet. I’m still waiting to hear from 10 schools. That should happen within the next nine days or so it’s going to be a pretty packed next few days. Then I’ll have the next month to decide. Wherever I’ll end up, I’ll be happy.
TJN: Do you know what you want to major in?
NH: I’m not exactly sure yet. It depends on which college I get into I guess. I was thinking engineering either mechanical or biomedical because I’ve always liked to build things for the mechanical aspect. Then I think biomedical because I’ve spent the last couple of summers working at a neuro-molecular biology lab researching Parkinson’s and that was interesting.
TJN: What was the one piece of community service work you’ve done that left you with a lasting impact?
NH: I think the EcoPel work I’ve done. My friend’s mom started it and pretty much what it’s doing is promoting a healthy lifestyle and promoting ways to create a more sustainable environment around Pelham. EcoPel stands for Environmental Coalition of the Pelhams so, we do a lot of town cleanups and yoga solstices on the summer solstice. That’s the one that affected me the most because of how important it is nowadays with all the pollution and what not to do to have a healthy environment and healthy lifestyle.
TJN: How cool is it to know you get to follow in Ben Hurd’s footsteps in winning the Con Ed award?
NH: It’s awesome that we’ve got two guys in one year. It shows how special our team was I guess. Not say we’re the two best players, we’ve got 10 guys who were huge on the team even more really. To have two winners in the same year is remarkable.
The Con Edison Athlete of the Week recognizes students in Westchester and Putnam schools who excel athletically. Academic achievements, leadership, citizenship, and school and community activities are also factors. The winner is selected each week by a panel of athletic directors and coaches who review ballots submitted by each athlete’s athletic director or coach.
Debbie Schechter; Twitter: @LoHud_Debbie