Unexpected Benefits in School Wide Recycling Initiatives

March 3, 2014
Posted in Recycling

How do you improve recycling in NYC schools?  Involve the whole school in the effort!

Recycling protects our environment, stimulates economic development creating local jobs, and reduces global warming gases, benefitting the entire community.  At these K-12 Staten Island schools in the Recycling Champion Program , involving the entire community was the key to increasing recycling and environmental stewardship, but the additional benefits experienced have been an added bonus.
 

New Dorp High School
New Dorp High School improved cafeteria Organics Collection by launching an outreach campaign. Principal Deirdre De Angelis emphasized the importance of student participation before televising a recycling video in every classroom, featuring their mascot, the Cougar.  Custodial staff installed movie theatre style stantions next to the recycling station and additional staff instruction reinforced sorting. The Green Team sustained the effort by putting up posters and offering prizes for exemplary stewardship.  Cafeteria recycling and organics collection increased by at least 60%.

Students really appreciate the added bonus: the cafeteria is much cleaner, and is a more pleasant place to eat.  Cafeteria staff doesn’t mind the change either, since they were cleaning up after the students!

 

P.S. 30 Westerleigh

P.S. 30 dramatically increased recycling across the school by creating a Green Team that helps with cafeteria monitoring, and also communicates with the student body during morning announcements.   They kicked off their efforts with a school wide contest to decorate all their classroom paper recycling bins. The faculty enthusiastically supported the contest through their artistic flare and integrating recycling into lesson plans. The school’s overall diversion rate improved by 31%, with paper recycling rates increasing by 63% in just a few week.  Parents volunteered weekly to assist the Green Team with their own educational presentation.  According to Sustainability Coordinator Clare Mitchell, participating on this selective team has increased not only ecological literacy and stewardship, but has also proved to be an effective tool to improve attitude and behavior – improving overall academic performance.  

 

P.S. 21 Margaret Emery Elm Park

P.S. 21 created Dr. Seuss-like trees made from milk cartons, soda bottles, and magazines, to reinforce recycling, but also give students a creative way to practice their writing skills.  Students wrote “their story” on individual “leaves” which were strung on wire bases to create the trees.  Decorating the school at holiday time, Principal Gina Merino’s enthusiasm for the project helped student vocabulary “grow” along with school pride and awareness of environmental issues.  The Recycling Champions Program science class lessons reinforced the three RRR’s, which overlap with many requirements in the science Common Core and Regents exams.

Stakeholders in these schools increased recycling by working together, sharing the responsibility to teach and encourage environmental stewardship.  Improving recycling programs benefitted not only the NYC community, but their own school community as well.  For more information on how to improve recycling at your school visit www.grownyc.org/recyclingchampions

GrowNYC Community Compost Partner Profile: Gowanus Canal Conservancy

December 16, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged compost

GrowNYC collects food scraps and other organic waste at various Greenmarkets around the city to distribute to local compost partners in the surrounding area. With the help of community volunteers, New York City’s recycled food scraps are transformed into a nutrient rich soil amendment for farming and greening purposes throughout the five boroughs.

A few minutes’ walk from the F train, Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s (GCC) Salt Lot hosts a monthly compost windrow build for volunteers from around the city. November’s volunteers included about a dozen students from the Brooklyn Technical High School’s Red Cross Club, a group of elementary students from a Bed-Stuy Charter School, and a myriad of volunteers simply happy to enjoy an outdoor-community activity.

Sam and Maria Pruden of Harlem join GCC monthly to participate in composting. Behind Sam and Maria is an illustration of the compost build and process.

The volunteers arrived ready to tackle the record-breaking 10,000 pounds of food scraps that had been collected from four Greenmarkets the day before. The bins of food scraps are dumped and mixed in a large pile on the ground with leaves and yard scraps, taking about 4 hours. The pile, or windrow, will sit for two weeks, and then be turned by a GCC staff member once a week for the following four weeks, before it is sifted to make a final product. At the end of these six weeks, GCC has a fertile soil amendment for tree pits and rain gardens that help prevent polluted water from entering the canal.

Two students from Brooklyn Technical School’s Red Cross Club carry a bin of food scraps to the compost pile to be mixed with leaves and other dry yard trimmings.

GCC Coordinators Jared McGuire and Christine Petro, sift processed compost to make final product with a Bed-Stuy group leader.

Christine Petro has been volunteering with GCC for almost two years and has noticed a steady increase in the amount of food scraps being delivered from the weekend markets over the past three months. Salt Lot is just one of many community compost sites around the city. Asked about the objective of these local projects, she says, “The objective is twofold: to have a positive environmental impact for the surrounding community, and also to teach the practice of composting for educational and applications going forward.”

Jared McGuire and Christine Petro, GCC Volunteer Coordinators.

Meet the Swapateers

July 17, 2013
Posted in Recycling


Since 2007, GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education has been hosting community swap events to reduce waste and engage residents in the practice of reuse.  Stop ‘N’ Swap® helps keep good things out of the landfill by bringing together people with good things they no longer need and those who can use those items.  We have held 47 swaps so far, serving nearly 12,000 New Yorkers.  With the addition of two new staff dedicated to our Stop ‘N’ Swap program, we aim to dramatically increase access to these events.  Meet TK Zellers and Carl-Harry Nau, the team working to bring a swap to each of the city’s 59 Community Districts each year. 

What’s your favorite part of the job?

CHN: At a Stop ‘N’ Swap you have a diverse group of people show up all looking for something new to add to their life. Interacting with the folks at the swap is fun because you get a sense of who they are and why they are here, and I get to see cool new stuff. 

TKZ: Telling people who’ve never heard of Stop ‘N’ Swaps about what they are and what we do.  There’s always a moment of disbelief, and it sometimes takes some convincing to get people to believe that, for instance, ‘it’s totally free!’, but in the end everyone I talk to is impressed, happy, and excited to get swapping!  I’ve even got some high-fives, and one hug so far. 

Have you always been inclined to reuse things? 

CHN: I grew up in a house with two brothers and both my parents working their tails off to pay rent. So it was safe to say things like clothes, cell phones, video games, and toys were passed down from one child to the next.  I even took some items that my friends no longer wanted. Reusing is second nature.

TKZ: I always liked the idea of repurposing things for more creative uses.   Every gift I gave anyone until about the age of 16 was handmade out of old papers, cans, bottles and duct tape. My artistic talent didn’t ever live up to my aspirations, but it’s the thought that counts, and ugly or not, that soda-can-picture-frame stayed out of the waste stream!

What are some of the reactions you get when bringing a swap to a community for the first time? 
CHN:
People usually ask whether we’ll be back the next week, or when we will return to the neighborhood.  Swaps receive a warm reception from those who grasp the concept of what we do and they also conjure feelings of regret by those who pass by and realize what they missed out on.

Does the swap change from neighborhood to neighborhood, or is it relatively consistent?

CHN: I have noticed the items that are swapped change from location to location. Some areas have more books, others have more house wares, and some areas have more children’s clothing.

The Stop ‘N’ Swap volunteers are pretty incredible.  What keeps them going?  Do  you stretch before the event? 

CHN: I want to say we have a great staff that works alongside the volunteers at each event. The staff leads by example and takes an “All Hands On Deck” approach during all aspects of the event. We also care for the opinions and concerns of our volunteers and take care to assign them to appropriate tasks. I will say stretching is not a bad idea!   

TKZ: We haven’t come up with a Stop ‘N’ Swap calisthenics warm-up routine yet, but we do make sure to supply everyone with plenty of food and coffee before and after.  I think a big motivator is how much fun Swaps can be.  You never know what you’re going to find at the sorting table, and impromptu fashion shows and ‘what-is-this’ guessing games are common.  Everyone manages to have a good time while helping hundreds of people find a new home for thousands of pounds of good, reusable stuff. 

What is one of your favorite swap moments? 

CHN: At our Upper West Side swap I spoke with a woman who came to gather items for her friends at a nursing home. She said that she had the ability to leave the facility and she knew that the others would have relished the opportunity to attend.  Later I was asked by someone from the neighborhood what items people like to take at swaps and I told her sometimes people come looking for items to help others, such as the woman from the nursing home.  At that point I created a connection between them and the lady who lived in the area left and returned with 6 new walkers, which went back to the residents of the nursing home. 

What do you hope people take away from the experience? 

CHN: I hope they understand that everything they own has value, and even though they may no longer need the item that someone else can use it.  I hope the joy people get from the items they find encourages them to continue to participate and bring their unwanted items so that they can have a second life.

TKZ: Besides a few pounds of reused items, I hope people leave Stop ‘N’ Swaps with a newfound respect for reuse, and a curiosity to find out more about using and wasting less.  There are so many resources to help people figure out ways to repurpose, repair, recycle or reuse anything we might otherwise just waste.  GrowNYC and Stop ‘N’ Swaps are a great place to start!

P.S. 154 Queens Wins the Big Lift Recycling Contest

July 8, 2013


This spring, GrowNYC’s Recycling Champions Program held a recycling contest amongst schools in the program to see which school could achieve the highest recycling rates. 22 schools participated in the six-week long "Big Lift"– where schools once weekly weighed the recycling and trash from classrooms, offices, and the cafeteria. With an overall recycling rate of 54%, P.S. 154 in Queens was the grand prize winner! P.S. 154 increased their recycling rate by 268% and reduced the amount of trash by 46%. Other top winners include: P.S. 29 Brooklyn and the High School for Law and Public Service in Manhattan which improved recycling rates by 146% and 88% respectively. P.S. 25 Bronx had a 47% overall recycling rate – 20% for metal, plastic, and cartons.

As a result of their outstanding recycling rate, P.S. 154Q won a school greening package valued at $2,000! The prize included tree mulching, park benches made from recycled plastic and a new school garden. On June 25, students and faculty worked alongside staff from GrowNYC to construct the school garden and assist with tree mulching. For many students, it was their first experience with hands-on landscaping and gardening. Students filled the bed with top soil and planted a number of perennials and herbs that will attract butterflies. In addition to beautifying the school, the 8' x 3' raised bed constructed from recycled lumber, will serve as a valuable educational tool for students to learn about the natural environment.

Greenmarket and Compost+Textile Recycling Easter Schedule Changes

March 28, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket

Easter Greenmarket Schedule - Sunday, March 31st
Also, Some food scrap composting and textile recycling collections at Greenmarket will be affected by the Easter holiday:


MANHATTAN
Tompkins Square Park Greenmarket - OPEN Saturday, March 30th (food scrap collections-YES, textile recycling-NO). CLOSED Sunday, March 31st (no food scrap and textile collections). 
79th Street Greenmarket - OPEN
Columbia University Greenmarket - OPEN

QUEENS
Jackson Heights Greenmarket - OPEN

BROOKLYN
Carroll Gardens Greenmarket - CLOSED, No food scrap or textile collections.
Cortelyou Greenmarket - OPEN

Meet a Recycling Outreach Coordinator

March 19, 2013
Posted in Recycling

At GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education, five stellar staffers are responsible for covering outreach activities throughout the five boroughs. For almost five years, Ermin Siljkovic has spent countless hours getting to know Manhattan’s communities and working to improve their recycling habits. Ermin took a few minutes between recycling presentations to answer a few questions about his job, and his personal quest for a more sustainable NYC.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Interacting with so many people from all different walks of life and informing them of choices we have available to us, and which of those can have a positive impact on their lives. I guess I am sort of a good deed machine and this is essentially what drives me every day.

What is one of the most common public misconceptions about recycling in NYC?
That it is “too confusing” and “has changed so many times”. Both are untrue!

What is one golden rule you try to teach New Yorkers about recycling?
I encourage folks to stick to the basics by simply going by the tips we teach. There many things in life that we must learn in order to adapt to our roles at home or at work. Recycling is one of those things and thankfully, learning how to recycle at home is not very difficult. Unfortunately, we are not where we would like to be in regards to our diversion rate so I think a big part of our mission is to promote the simplicity of the DSNY curbside residential recycling program. If we can do that successfully I believe we will have then made great strides toward achieving our goal.

Did you recycle as a kid?
I grew up in an era in NYC when our trash burned right under our noses, and later, our family moved to a suburban area where recycling wasn’t implemented until I was practically on my way out to college. Other than occasionally recycling bottles at the supermarket, the short answer is “no”.

What got you interested in recycling?
The realization that I am accountable for my actions and that how I manage my waste plays a big role in this consideration.

What are some steps you have taken in your personal life to leave less of a footprint on the environment?
Aside from composting more of my food scraps (most recently with indoor Bokashi composting) or donating more of my unwanted personal items, I have been really big on growing at least some of my own food during the year and buying locally whenever I can. I am encouraged that this not only benefits the environment but helps build resilience in our communities.

Do you have a favorite story from the field?
Hard to pick just one. I know it sounds cliché but every day there is another new story. I always love finding “diamonds in the rough” which can be best described as individual people who want to recycle but just don’t know how or where to recycle or a property manager or building superintendent who has been looking for advice but just didn’t have access to a person who can explain it to them in way they could understand.

Have a Superbowl Party as Green as the Big Game

January 30, 2014
Posted in Recycling



This year’s Super Bowl is being touted as the “greenest ever”.  Out-green the Meadowlands with these tips for your own Super Bowl party!
 

Greenmarket Food Scrap Collection Surpasses 2 Million Pound Mark

November 7, 2013
Posted in Greenmarket | Tagged compost

Since 2011, GrowNYC has worked to expand food scrap collections at Greenmarket. In partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation, the program has grown to 30 markets, averaging 100,000 pounds a month diverted from disposal and used locally for renewable energy or fertile compost for urban farms, gardens and more.

To date more than 2 million pounds of food scraps have been dropped at market, which would fill enough of our collection boxes to create a stack taller than Mount Everest! But the impact is even greater: every apple core deposited in a compost bin has been a vote for increased composting citywide, which has come to fruition with the Department of Sanitation’s new Organics Collection Program. Keep on composting!

Read the complete press release here.

NYC Residential Organics Collection is Growing!

October 16, 2013
Posted in Recycling | Tagged recycling, organics, compost

Morningside Gardens Composts

(Residents at the Morningside Gardens cooperative celebrate their new compost program)

Organics make up almost 30% of NYC's residential and institutional waste stream. This includes yard waste, food scraps, compostable paper (tissues, napkins, soiled paper, paper plates, etc.), and other materials suitable for industrial-scale composting.

By collecting this material, NYC can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and incinerators, reducing expensive export costs and greenhouse gas emissions, all while generating a valuable material that can be used as fertilizer in NYC parks and gardens.

In May of 2013, the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) began a bold, new initiative to provide curbside collection of organics. The Program started in Westerleigh, Staten Island and this fall has expanded to include communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, with further expansion in the spring of 2014.        

Wondering how you can participate? 

The City provided bins and participation instructions to buildings with 1-9 units included in the pilot areas. DSNY is also recruiting large apartment buildings—on the west side of Manhattan, in parts of Brooklyn, and on Staten Island—to participate in the program. GrowNYC is assisting with this effort, and we can help your building with the signup process, and to prepare your tenants and staff to participate. 

Take Morningside Gardens, who joined the DSNY Organics Collection Program in June, for example. Prior to the program’s implementation, many of the residents dropped off food scraps at GrownNYC’s Columbia Greenmarket and a group of residents formed a Compost Club.  GrowNYC worked with club members, property management, and the co-op board to help the 980-unit complex create a plan to establish organics collection to be serviced by DSNY.  GrowNYC provided hands-on assistance in creating a suite of educational materials and training to ensure that staff and residents were well-informed about the program, which included mailers detailing the program, attendance at a series of public meetings, and signage in every trash room.

With the addition of this initiative, Morningside Gardens now diverts 39% of all waste from landfills through recycling and composting, compared to an average diversion rate of 14% for their community district as a whole.  Overall improvement of waste separation and storage has also reduced the presence of rats on the property. To highlight the success of the program at Morningside Gardens, Mayor Bloomberg chose the site as the location to announce the expansion of the DSNY Organics Collection Program and to launch the “Recycle Everything” advertising campaign in July of 2013.

Does your apartment building want to take recycling to the next level? 

Get more information on Organics Collection in Large Residential Buildings and contact GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education to get started. 

 

 

A Day in the Life: Recycling Champions Coordinator Julia Goldstein

October 11, 2013

GrowNYC's School Recycling Champions program works with schools in all five boroughs to help them achieve and exceed the NYC recycling standards. They work to inform and empower the key participants in a school by providing hands-on education through materials, workshops, assemblies, and on-site demonstrations.

Recycling Champions has five outreach coordinators, each of whom works in a particular borough. Below, Manhattan Outreach Coordinator Julia Goldstein takes us through a typical day in her life as a Recycling Champion.

What I love about being a Recycling Champions coordinator is how much creativity and dedication the principals, teachers, custodians, kitchen staff, recycling coordinators, parents, and above all the students, all over the city bring to making their school environment more sustainable.

Let me give you some examples from a typical day:

The first stop of the day is my office, where I pick up materials for workshops I’m doing on the new Organics Food Scraps Collection program at Chelsea Prep (281 9th Avenue in Chelsea). I make sure to grab a coffee from Laughing Man on the way to the C train.

In the 2013-2014 school year, over 300 schools in Staten Island, Manhattan, and Brooklyn are participating in the Organics Collection Program, a joint initiative between the NYC Departments of Education and Sanitation. The goal is to collect the organic material from school cafeterias and kitchens to reduce the waste NYC sends to landfills. Organic Food Scraps Collection includes: meat, fish, dairy, vegetables, fruit, grains, baked goods and all soiled food service paper products.

I chat with the school’s Fireman, Ed Pierre, who has been working hard to get the new Organics signs up in the cafeteria

On Saturday I’ll go to another workshop at Chelsea Prep that includes parents, and we’ll use this, a trivia game created by RCP’s Thaddeus Copeland. The Trivia Game is one of several tools we use to engage the students in participatory learning. A student spins the wheel and depending on which icon they land on, they are asked a recycling-related trivia question

I hop back on the C to 110th Street to my second stop: Wadleigh Secondary School for the Visual & Performing Arts (215 W 114th Street in Morningside Heights).

I touch base with Al Spechar, the Custodial Engineer, who shows me a new system he is trying for separating the curbside recycling – he has painted green lines around where the paper recycling goes, and hung a mixed paper and cardboard recycling decal. Great idea! It makes it easier for the Sanitation workers if it’s always in the same place, and it makes it easy to check to make sure each type of recycling has been put out.

I jump back on the C train to 86th Street and go on to my next stop: Louis D. Brandeis High School (145 W 84 Street in the Upper West Side).  I check in with Helena Fisher, the SchoolFood Manager , to see how the Food Scraps Toter bins are working for them. We talk about how frequently they need new bags – the students are catching on to the Food Scraps Organics program faster than we had hoped!

I board the cross town bus and grab a seat and work on email. I spend so much time on public transportation it feels like my second office.

My next stop: Robert F. Wagner Middle School (220 E 76th Street in the Upper East Side). I meet with the 6th grade cafeteria recycling monitors, who make the fantastic recycling station work every day. They bring both knowledge and tact to the job of reminding their peers of the recycling rules.

I take the 4/5 back downtown to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall for my final stop of the day: Murry Bergtraum High School (411 Pearl Street in the Financial District). The sustainability coordinator, Bob Menning, walks with me through the school. Bob takes his role seriously and his energetic and talented Green Team students, like Elena Tsoy, bring creative flair to the task -- they’ve hung signs throughout the cafeteria and school reminding classmates and faculty/staff of best recycling practices.

That’s my last visit and all that’s left is to convince my fellow rush-hour passengers on the 4/5 train to make room for me and my Santa-sized bag. To their credit, being New Yorkers, they hardly give it a second glance.

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