Are you getting ready for Earth Day weekend? Earth Day is on April 22nd, the weekend we speak of is April 20th to 21st. If you live in NYC (or are visiting) then here are 2 cleanup events that we are organizing or facilitating. These events will make you realize your power as a human and as a community. You will leave feeling like a steward for the environment.
This is Stay Blooming’s first ever cleanup event taking place at Ferry Point Park in Bronx, NY. It is in collaboration with Marjorie Velazquez of the borough. We put this event together to bring people into this lesser known park. It has a lot of visitors during the warmer months and is mostly used for its soccer fields and fourth of July views. Although there are plans for the MTA Ferry to service this part of the Bronx in 2021, the park can still use a lot of attention with its growing usage.
The second is a Veggie Mijas event that I am organizing and walking through. This even includes a mini recycling lesson and requires participants to RSVP beforehand. I organized the event to take place in Pelham Bay Park as it is a local park that I frequented growing up. It also features a bunch of back trails that are good for hiking and riding bike. Although this is a well known park and a well known area, the back trails do not get cleaned up like the BBQ sections and picnicking parts of the park.
The purpose of getting involved for Earth Day weekend is to learn how to treat out earth better. It is to raise awareness for issues like pollution, overconsumption, and climate change. When we are able to act out good deeds that promote a positive trajectory for our earth, then we are making that positive future more likely. Raising awareness can be teaching a workshop, a cleanup, community gardening, etc. The scale of the awareness does not matter, it only matters that it is happening. That
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We do not hear enough about the importance of civic engagement and the advantages it has for communities. Very often, it seems as though decisions that are made for communities do not actually involve the voices they home.
So, what is civic engagement? Any political or non-political action that is taken by someone in order to bring about a positive change to society or their community.
There are so many layers and paths of being civically engaged that it can actually intimidate residents from wanting to be involved altogether. In the New York City area, it is especially overwhelming with having a large population. However, there can be help navigating through it. All neighborhoods have a community board. These democratically run groups are ideally the foundation of all planning that takes place in NYC. The changes that they are typically involved with include local decisions like new construction projects, positive change for the community, or even safety enforcement.
Community boards are not responsible for reaching out to residents though, it is quite the opposite. If someone is passionate enough about something, they need to do research on how they can get involved in order to carry out the change they want to see. Following community boards are councilpersons. Each district in the NYC has an elected person for this position who is responsible for representing their district on a local, city level. Similarly to how a Congress person represents their district federally.
You can contact your councilperson in regard to a problem you notice in your community or a difference you would like to make. They will either lead you in the right direction as to how you can make it happen, or you just might find out you are the one to create the path to change. Nonetheless, finding resources betters your chances and you cannot do that without engagement.
The main benefits of civic engagement include…
enhancing the quality of life for society, the local community, and generations to come.
developing access to resources and distributing those resources to the public.
creating confidence as a community/society instead of individuals out for their own self-interests.
motivating communities to further partake in community involvement, thus continuing the cycle of positive change.
A perfect example of community involvement is the public meeting that was held for the discussion of NYC’s Orchard Beach‘s Pavilion Restoration recently. This well-known beach in the Bronx was first opened in 1936 and has not seen any construction since. It has been in desperate need of infrastructural attention for years. The pavilion restoration was jumpstarted by a $10 million initiative taken by the Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., and that has now grown to $60 million thanks to other contributors.
The Bronxites that came out to be apart of this meeting participated by asking questions and talking over what they would like to see at Orchard Beach as well as what they would not like to see. Although improvements are absolutely necessary for a beach that has 1.5 million visitors a year, it is imperative to see what will be most functional and useful for the community. If it is not practical for the beach’s users then it will not be an effective and successful restoration for the community… that is the exact reason why civic engagement is highly valuable.
Getting involved locally is the most direct way you can begin to make an impact. Not only does could it change lives locally, but it may change futures for some and that is an amazing power and influence to have.
There’s a cool new initiative in New York City and it’s for the school kids. Grow-to-Learn is a school garden program offering mini-grants to public city schools. These grants are for the students to learn how to build, grow, and manage a garden. All of which requiring a hands on experience and teamwork. Not only getting them outdoors but also building their connection to earth—away from technology.
Living in the city makes a hobby like horticulture seem difficult. Most city natives have this misconception because we imagine a garden needing a lot of land. Rather, we just haven’t tried it on this scale yet. Gardens are actually easily adaptable into any landscape.
The Grow-to-Learn program allows public schools to start a new garden or expand on an existing one. They provide free material for building and maintaining gardens and they also have a lot of great resources for garden maintenance. From tips/guides, to training videos, to toolkits of larger projects that’ll really give kids a hands-on learning experience. Grow-to-Learn’s online curriculum is for grade school through high school.
Get your reusable bags ready because a plastic bag fee is likely coming to New York City. The fee is part of an effort to prevent plastic bags from polluting our environment. Large corporations, politicians, and everyday shoppers, like you and me, have resisted proposals to charge shoppers for plastic bags (NY Times, 2017). But it is important to learn about why this is beneficial for the environment. We will see that it is not as catastrophic as we think.
Plastic bags are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by the year 2050 and 80% of that plastic was originally “land-based trash” (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). As if that’s not motivating enough, the economics behind this say that businesses spend up to $4 billion each year on purchasing plastic bags. That’s along with recyclable handling recovery facilities spending amounts ranging from $250K to $750K in maintenance and cleaning due to plastic bags (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2).
The bill to charge 5 cents per plastic bag was originally introduced by City Council in 2014. Ongoing development between the City Council, the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, and the Mayor, included several hearings, amendments, and approvals. It was finally passed over two years later on June 5, 2016.
The law requiring a fee of 5 cents per bag was supported by our City’s Council members as well as our Mayor, Bill de Blasio, so what could possibly go wrong? The plastic bag fee was killed before it even launched. (NY Times, 2017). The new law was rescinded by Governor Andrew Cuomo when he signed a bill that killed the fee immediately. He felt it was “deeply flawed” as it allowed business owners to keep the 5 cents which could amount to $100 million in profits (McKinley, 2017).
Not only did Cuomo insist on revamping the law, but he suggested making the plastic bag fee statewide. Cuomo promises direction, giving some hope to environmentalists and the City Council members who say they felt defeated by state government and “characterized the move as a classic case of Albany’s overreach” (McKinley, 2017).
But what do shoppers think of the plastic bag fee? I interviewed a frequent shopper about the potential statewide legislation. She expressed to me that she did majority of the food shopping in her household and always used plastic bags to take home. When I asked her about a plastic bag fee of 5 cents per bag she stated, “I feel the plastic bag fee should be imposed. It would push more people to start using reusable bags.” We spoke on how the legislation would prevent plastic pollution and she completely supported the cause. A much more optimistic shopper than I had anticipated, Ms. Alamo also was ready to make the switch to reusable bags exclusively.
A consumer’s opinion on the plastic bag fee depends on his or her environmental consciousness. Voters need to understand why decisions are being made and how they actually affect them—without that there may always be a pushback (NY Times, 2017).
The questions that consumers need to be answered include:
• What’s wrong with single-use plastic?
• How are plastic bags affecting the environment?
• How will the plastic bag fee help?
The New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags covers all of these questions in detail. It provides information for each legislation option, giving business owners choices with how to apply the plastic bag fee including pros and cons. The legislative options also explore the tedious details with strengthening existing recycling, enforcing manufacturer responsibility, bag fees, etc.
What’s wrong with single-use plastic and how are plastic bags affecting the environment? The report answers exactly that, plastic bags are already creating a number of problems we can see for ourselves today (NYSPBTF Report, 2018:2). They are made from fossil fuels from being manufacturing to being distributed to businesses. They are found littered on land, in small waterways, and in large bodies of water. Plastic pollution affects wildlife by disturbing natural habitats and life cycle events. This can be from littering or due to chemicals leeching out from the plastic (NYSPBTF Report, 2018: 2).
With considering that heavy load of information, we need to start thinking like conscious consumers. But people are afraid of what could be the negative results from a plastic bag fee. Assemblyman Luis R. Sepulveda says, “A 5-cent tax is a burden on many of our poor people and many of our seniors” (NY Times, 2017). Some are concerned with paying and some do not want their convenience to be tampered with.
In 2016, the state of California imposed both a “flimsy, single-use plastic bag” ban and also a plastic bag fee that charged consumers 10-cents for a “thicker, reusable plastic bag” (LA Times, 2017). Although there was initially push back, ideas of reusable bags causing bacterial outbreaks, and thoughts of low-income families not being to afford a plastic bag, no one went broke. The plastic bags in collected litter in California also went down from 7.4% of plastic bags in litter to 3.1% of plastic bags in litter. (LA Times, 2017).
California has shown New York City it is possible. Instead of worrying about the mass hysteria of shoppers, we need to consider our city’s environmental health. With 8.5 million people, it is New York City’s duty to follow standards that protect our environment.
This year, it seems that New York’s Governor Cuomo may finally be getting it. A recent article by the New York Post stated that Cuomo is “considering a statewide ban on plastic bags to help curb unnecessary trash” (New York Post, 2018). Although it isn’t a commitment on a plastic bag fee, it is a step in the right direction. Could you imagine New York City becoming a leader in the environmental movement?
Sources Alamo, Liza. Personal interview. 01 May 2018. Campanile, Carl. “Cuomo considering statewide ban on plastic bags.” New York Post, Mar 2018. May 2018. https://nypost.com/2018/03/05/cuomo-considering-statewide-ban-on-plastic-bags/. McKinley, Jesse. “Cuomo Blocks New York City Plastic Bag Law.” The New York Times, Feb 2017. May 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/nyregion/cuomo-blocks-new-york-city-plastic-bag-law.html. The Times Editorial Board. “It’s been a year since California banned single-use plastic bags. The world didn’t end.” The Los Angeles Times, Nov 2017. May 2018. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-plastic-bag-ban-anniversary-20171118-story.html. United States, Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State Plastic Bag Task Force Report: An Analysis of the Impact of Single-Use Plastic Bags. New York State, 13 Jan 2018.
Throwing electronics in the trash comes with a $100 fine in the city of New York. This includes items like mobile phones, televisions, DVD players, printers, video game consoles, tablets, or any other electronic waste that has no place in a landfill. The Department of Sanitation is not responsible for collecting these items even if they are left on the curb. It is the consumer’s responsibility to properly dispose of any electronics they no longer want.
So how does one responsibly get rid of their unwanted electronics?
1. Contact the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program you can send your electronic(s) to
2. Best Buy retail stores take electronics to be recycled—to be certain, contact the store you wish to visit and inquire about the electronic you want to recycle
Or! You can attend one of these E-Waste Collection Events hosted by LES Ecology Center. The events are taking place mostly on weekends between 10am to 4pm, although each is at a unique place in NYC. By using the calendar on our Events page, you can view the dates & locations of upcoming collection events or click here for LES Ecology Center’s calendar. Bring your electronic waste!
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