Having That Talk ... About Going Organic

RSC's healthy yard co-chair Liz Garrett and Lenny Merone (Merone Landscaping) field questions from the audience.

RSC's healthy yard co-chair Liz Garrett and Lenny Merone (Merone Landscaping) field questions from the audience.

The room at the The Rye Nature Center overflowed with people as they crowded in to learn more about how to transform their yards into healthy and safe spaces.

The goal for RSC and healthy yard program partner, Rye Nature Center, was to spark a conversation between the homeowner and landscaper about natural landscaping. After introductions by RSC chair Sara Goddard, RSC member and healthy yard co-chair Liz Garrett took over to frame the issue that so many of us struggle with: how to maintain a yard that is both beautiful and natural? As Garrett pointed out, homeowners recognize the dangers inherent in applying synthetic pesticides to their lawns, but fear that if they "go natural" they'll end up with a weed-infested yard. "There's got to be a better way," Garrett concluded, and this event was intended to show the way.

Rye resident Stephanie Spierings shared her experiences about going organic.

Rye resident Stephanie Spierings shared her experiences about going organic.

After a few minutes of personal insights by Rye resident Stephanie Spiering on how she made the switch from conventional to organic landscaping, the audience jumped right in. Landscaper Lenny Merone fielded questions, but the success of the event was the enthusiasm from audience members, eager to learn how to make the transition. The collaborative nature of the event, where people shared tips and ideas, along with expert guidance from Merone and Garrett was energizing, and demonstrated the desire for residents to make a positive and healthy change.

Did you miss the talk? No worries, the entire event can be viewed here, thanks to Rye TV.

Visit our Rye Healthy Yard Section to learn more. And ...

Take the RHYP Pledge!

Spotlight on Sustainability: Carbon Neutrality at LPQ

RSC's ongoing series, "Sustainability in Our Community," features individuals, organizations and businesses that have taken steps towards a sustainable lifestyle. We hope you enjoy this profile of Le Pain Quotidien's energy efficiency efforts, are inspired to learn more, and will consider making changes to reduce your home or business' carbon footprint. Tips below.

Carbon Neutrality at LPQ

By Sue Drouin, Rye Sustainability Committee

Rye Sustainability Committee recognizes global restaurant chain Le Pain Quotidien for becoming certified CO2 neutral in all its U.S. restaurants.

A mainstay of the breakfast and lunch scene in downtown Rye, and highly visible on Purchase Street, Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ) serves local, mostly organic foods, including fresh bread. It now delivers a message of sustainability.

With dozens of locations across the U.S. and more than 200 restaurants worldwide, LPQ announced in October 2016 that the independent organization CO2logic has certified their U.S. restaurants as carbon neutral. It plans to achieve global carbon neutrality by 2020.


What is Carbon Neutrality?

LPQ staff with the CO2 Logic certification plaque.

LPQ staff with the CO2 Logic certification plaque.

According to one definition, carbon neutrality “or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, and industrial processes.”


How LPQ Achieved Carbon Neutrality

CO2logic helped LPQ identify its major sources of energy consumption and leakages. Switching to LED lights and using more efficient refrigeration, cooking and cooling mechanisms were some of the ways they cut restaurants’ emissions. By switching to LED lighting, for instance, the chain reduced by 20% its carbon footprint per restaurant. It has reduced its overall energy consumption by 60% and its carbon emissions by 168 metric tons.

To offset emissions, LPQ invested in a cookstove manufacturing project in Uganda. (Photo Credit: The Gold Standard)

To offset emissions, LPQ invested in a cookstove manufacturing project in Uganda. (Photo Credit: The Gold Standard)

A final step towards achieving carbon neutrality was the decision to invest in a carbon-reducing project in Uganda to offset the remaining unavoidable emissions. The project provides families with fuel-efficient cookstoves that reduce carbon emissions and deforestation.

Initiatives that reduce water and energy consumption and cut pollution and waste will improve any business’ bottom line. They also benefit from providing employees with a workplace they can be proud of.

By reducing carbon emissions and its carbon footprint, LPQ hopes that they can inspire other corporations, organizations and individuals to do the same to help mitigate climate change.


What Can You Do?

Photo Credit: The Gold Standard  

Photo Credit: The Gold Standard

Wondering how to get started? Whether you're a business owner or homeowner, start with an energy audit to determine your carbon footprint. The RSC Tips page includes several ways for residents to determine their carbon footprint. Businesses can engage a consultant, such as CO2logic.

For further energy efficiency ideas and tips, refer to RSC's Energy page and The Rye Sustainability Plan.

Are Your Trees in Trouble?

The meeting room at Rye Free Reading Room was packed on February 2nd as people gathered to learn about how to protect their trees from the threat of invasive pests. RSC and The Rye Garden Club co-sponsored the film screening of "Trees in Trouble", which was followed by a presentation from Frazer Pehmoeller of Bartlett Tree Experts.

RGC's Sarah Barringer has written an excellent article about the event and what we can do to protect our trees. The article is reprinted in its entirety below.

Want to do more to protect our trees? Consider a donation to the Rye Tree Fund!

Trees in Trouble

By Sarah Barringer, Rye Garden Club

Trees in Trouble:border.jpg

The emerald ash borer (EAB) is on its way to Rye and the effects could be ugly. First discovered in the US in 2001, this tree eating pest arrived accidentally in wood crates from Asia. Since then it has spread to nearly all the states of the US and is estimated to have decimated 50 million ash trees already. This could have a devastating effect on the trees of our area, as white, blue and black ash trees comprise 13%-20% of the tree canopy of Westchester County. The emerald ash borer has been detected in Greenwich, so it is time we in Rye take action to protect our trees.

Frazer Pehmoeller, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts, is concerned. Frazer is known by many in Rye as he has been caring for Westchester's trees for the past 28 years. He leads Bartlett Tree's collaboration with the Friends of Rye Town Park and has been caring for the trees there for more than a decade.

In a program co-sponsored by the Rye Garden Club and the Rye Sustainability Committee on February 2 at the Rye Free Reading Room, Frazer addressed the threats to trees in Westchester and how we can protect them. The evening began with the film Trees in Trouble, a short documentary about the effect of the emerald ash borer on the city of Cincinnati. Cincinnati's trees were devastated by the emerald ash borer. What funds were put to the problem went to removing dead trees, with very little budgeted to protective measures. Some streets lost every single tree lining the roadway. Homeowners lost countless trees on their properties.

Frazer Pehmoeller (Bartlett Trees) with Melissa Grieco (RSC Tree Fund chair) and Julia Burke (RGC president)

Frazer Pehmoeller (Bartlett Trees) with Melissa Grieco (RSC Tree Fund chair) and Julia Burke (RGC president)

One of the difficulties with the EAB is that by the time you see the damage to the tree and/or see the insects, it is too late to save the tree. The EAB female lays eggs beneath the bark. The larvae feed under the bark in the cambial tissue of the tree. Their burrowing disrupts the tree's ability to absorb and transfer nutrients and water. By the time this larvae hatches into the bugs one can see, the tree is dying. Preventative measures are a must.

In a lively and informative discussion that followed the film, Frazer detailed what we can do to protect the trees of Rye.

  • Get a tree inventory. Have an arborist help you map the trees on your property so you know what you have. This is important for the city to do for civic properties.
  • Develop a plan to care for your trees. This means pruning trees, keeping in mind the pests and diseases that can harm different types of trees and treating trees that are susceptible to diseases and pests. As Friends of Rye Town Park have done, it makes sense to develop a long-term tree plan. You can spread the work you need to do over time.
  • If you have ash trees, it is time to protect them so they can ward off the EAB. Trees can be inoculated with pesticides that prevent the emerald ash borer from feeding. There is a chemical option and an organic option.
  • Plant trees and keep biodiversity in mind. Planting a diverse variety of trees will not only create a healthy ecosystem on your property, but will ensure that some trees remain even when a pest or disease attacks.
  • Plant native trees whenever possible. Fraser recommends oaks, the sugar maple, the red maple if you have a wet property, beech trees (but make sure to invest in their care) and the white birch. The ash is a wonderful tree to plant but will need inoculations over time.
RGC president Julia Burke with Frazer Pehmoeller and RSC chair Sara Goddard

RGC president Julia Burke with Frazer Pehmoeller and RSC chair Sara Goddard

Frazer concluded the evening with a reminder of the value of trees. Along with trees' essential roles as habitat and food for animals in a healthy ecosystem, we often take trees for granted and forget that trees provide so much for human health. They are necessary for clean air, for storm water management and for keeping our communities shaded and cool. Time in nature and among trees contributes to human well-being. Trees deserve our care and give back to us in so many ways.

The Rye Sustainability Committee has created a Tree Fund for the city of Rye. Contributions will be put towards planting trees and caring for the trees of Rye. Learn more by visiting RSC's Tree Fund page.

How to Live a Simpler Life

Rye resident Andrea Alban-Davies is a contributing writer for "Green Space," a regular column in The Rye Record that focuses on environmental issues raised by The Rye Garden Club Conservation Committee. In her 2/17/17 column, Alban-Davies addresses the problem of over-consumption in our culture with her review of RSC's most recent Green Screen, "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things." RSC has reproduced the article in its entirety here.

For more information about The Green Screen Series, and tips for how you can live a more simple life, visit RSC's Green Screen and RSC Tips for Homeowners pages.

Incorporating Concepts of Minimalism into Our Super-Sized Suburban Lives

Reprinted from Vol. 22, Issue 3 of The Rye Record

By Andrea Alban-Davies

You may have heard of the Rye Sustainability Committee’s (RSC) work encouraging Rye residents to adopt healthy gardening practices, but the activities of the group go well beyond advocating for non-toxic yards.  The RSC is a group of volunteers tasked by the City of Rye’s Council to implement the holistic Rye Sustainability Plan, and address significant environmental issues throughout our community.   They work to preserve many of the natural and open spaces that make Rye beautiful, protect our air quality, enhance our community through fundraising efforts like Branching Out for Rye to plant city trees throughout Rye, and more.  Perhaps most importantly, they spend a significant portion of their time dedicated to educating the members of our community on best environmental practices and strategies for adopting sustainable habits and, eventually, lifestyles.

RSC education efforts include, among other things, distributing educational materials, arranging informational neighborhood coffees, hosting speakers, and screening relevant documentary films through their Green Screen Committee, launched in partnership with Rye Country Day School.  The first Friday night in February, they screened Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things, after which Director Matt D’Avella spoke.

Why is acquiring less so important? Because ‘business as usual’ just won’t do; not if we want to leave our children, and their children in turn, with a safe, stable world.

The movie mainly follows The Minimalists, a popular simple-living duo as they spread their message, sharing their own experiences far from the familiar world of ‘more’, ‘bigger’, ‘better’.  Now, let me just lay the disclaimer out first: yes, sections of this movie are completely unrelated to the world that almost all readers of this particular paper (myself included) inhabit.  We’re talking the tiny house movement, small – or no – car, people with 33 items in their entire closet, a guy living entirely out of two bags.  It also veers unexpectedly into touchy-feely subjects like hugging strangers and discovering meditation.  Nonetheless, the majority of the movie conveys a powerful message with lasting value, and that’s why I wanted to write about it here for those that may have missed the screening.  The heart of the message was this: “Living more deliberately, with less.”

Why is acquiring less so important?  Because ‘business as usual’ just won’t do; not if we want to leave our children, and their children in turn, with a safe, stable world.  The current economic model in consumer cultures around the planet is leading to the degradation of our habitat.  We have already blown through the maximum safe level of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and are at a steady 400 ppm (100 ppm higher than at any time in the past one million years).  All scientists knowledgeable about the subject – including pretty much everyone at NASA – predict dire climate change consequences at this level, and we’re only going up from here unless we embrace dramatic change.  A significant part of our CO2 emissions is attributable to the resource extraction, production, transportation, and sale of all the stuff that we surround ourselves with.  A lot of which we don’t really need, doesn’t really matter, and doesn’t make us any happier.

Because people living in affluent communities generally have the means to purchase the most, we need to be the most careful.  So, where can we start?  One easy place is with apparel, which the movie examines.  We are living in the era of ‘fast fashion’, where consumers are encouraged in every imaginable way to buy as much clothing as quickly as possible.  Mainly through low prices (which are only possible because we aren’t paying the true ecological costs or production costs – think sweat shops – of the clothes that we wear).  One expert interviewed tells us the depressing truth: that this model “represents the economics of such an extreme and profound unsustainability”.  So, why not decide to get off that particular hamster wheel?  Why not stop buying lots of things as they come in and go out of fashion, and, instead, buy fewer, classic, high-quality items that we can envision ourselves wearing ten years from now?   By way of inspiration, we see many people interviewed that look great – for work and play! – and own only a handful of items.

Film creator and director Matt D'Avella speaks after the film.

Film creator and director Matt D'Avella speaks after the film.

This philosophy can then carry over to any area of our lives where we see high consumption trends.  Personally, I think about the toys and gadgets that I buy for my kids.  Maybe your weakness is the latest home consumer goods, or cutting edge technology devices.  Whatever it is, the important thing is that each of us examines it, and asks ourselves if we can be more thoughtful about what we acquire and do with less.  Which, by the way, also means less clutter, less junk, and less to get rid of once the items are no longer of interest to us. To me, this falls into the ‘easy’ bin in terms of emissions reduction.  More than, say, living all summer long without A/C!

The idea of minimalism is valuable for everyone to explore, and I’m so glad that RSC started the conversation in our community by screening this movie.  Even if you are wholly aware of the ravages wrought by our throw-away culture, it’s always sobering to get an acute visual reminder of exactly how much landfill our extreme style of consumption generates on a continual basis, or to watch the bleak scenes of Black Friday hysteria.  There’s still time to change the severity of our environmental fate; and we can each do our part by staying alert to the areas where we can pare back in our own lives.


A Rye Healthy Yard Neighborhood Coffee

Taro Ietaka imparting his healthy yard wisdom

Taro Ietaka imparting his healthy yard wisdom

Surrounded by the delicious smells of freshly baked muffins and brewed coffee, a small group gathered in Rye resident Mary Lyons' gorgeous home last week to learn about the benefits of natural landscaping. As part of Rye Sustainability's Healthy Yard Program (RHYP), RSC organizes neighborhood coffees at homes where the homeowner practices natural landscaping. The purpose of the coffees is to learn about RHYP in a small setting and how simple it is to transform a yard into a natural and safe environment. Although it was too cold to venture outside to wander around, Mary's naturally landscaped yard is a beautiful piece of property.

Rye Nature Center Director of Conservation and Land Stewardship, Taro Ietaka, led the conversation by walking us through his five lessons for a healthy yard. We then had a chance to ask questions and share lawn care tips before we continued with our day.

Want to learn more about how to talk to your landscaper about organic lawn care? Attend our workshop at Rye Nature Center on January 27th. Details and how to register here.

If you're a Rye resident with an organic and/or natural yard and would be interested in hosting a coffee for your neighbors, please contact us.

Visit our Rye Healthy Yard and Resources Section to learn more. And ...

Take the RHYP Pledge!

Planting Trees: A Smart Thing to Do

Click to enlarge image.

Urban trees aren't just frivolous ornamentation. According to a recent study by the Nature Conservancy, they're actually a wise investment and are one of the most effective strategies that can be used to reduce particulate matter emissions (see graphic).  Co-author of the Nature Conservancy report, Rob McDonald, concludes: "we should start thinking of trees as a crucial part of our public-health infrastructure.”

RSC member Melissa Grieco writes below about the benefits of planting the right tree in the right place.

The Right Tree in the Right Place

By Melissa Grieco, Rye Sustainability Committee

Planting ‘the right tree in the right place’ can help minimize any potential danger or inconveniences that mature trees may pose. In addition, proper tree care and maintenance, including regular pruning, are vital to promoting tree health and safe growth. Below is a list of important factors to consider before breaking ground:

  • Height: Will the tree bump into anything when it is fully grown or will it pose a potential hazard to wires or residences once it is mature?
  • Canopy spread: How wide will the tree grow? Again, will its mature canopy eventually cause undesirable proximity to wires or a building or residence?
  • Type: Is the tree deciduous or coniferous? Will it lose its leaves in the winter?
  • Form/Shape: A columnar tree will grow in less space. Round and V-Shaped species provide the most shade.
  • Growth Rate: How long will it take for your tree to reach its full height? Slow growing species typically live longer than fast growing species.
  • Invasive vs. Native: Is the tree species native to this region? Invasive trees tend to grow quickly with a shallow root system causing them to be more prone to blow-downs. In addition, native species are the optimum choice for wildlife habitat restoration or enhancement.
  • Care and Maintenance: What are the tree’s soil, sun, and moisture requirements? How often should the tree be pruned to ensure safe growth?
  • Fruit: Who wants messy droppings on busy sidewalks or driveways?

Unfortunately, we lose trees every year and at an alarming rate here in Rye. Several factors are contributing to the accelerated loss of trees:

  1. New development and construction.
  2. Extreme weather events.
  3. Street trees that were planted decades ago are now succumbing to old age and disease.
  4. Residents, fearing that trees will fall during the next extreme weather event, are intentionally removing trees.

The Rye Tree Fund: Branching Out For Rye

In order to help offset tree losses while preserving these critically important features of our beautiful neighborhoods, Rye Sustainability Committee and the Conservation Commission/Advisory Council have launched a municipal tree planting fund named Branching Out for Rye. For further information please visit RSC's Tree Fund page and consider making a donation to the Tree Fund. Any amount is welcome!



Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You and Your Budget?

An example of Watt Plan's personalized summary. Click to enlarge.

Is an electric vehicle (EV) right for you and your budget? Although many major car manufacturers are adding EVs to their fleets, there's still a lot of confusion among consumers about EVs and their benefits. In fact, a recent survey found that the main issue slowing down EV adoption is lack of awareness: 60% of those surveyed said they were "unaware of electric cars.”

To help you sort through the details here's a list of a few useful sites and articles:

EPA's Green Vehicle Guide: In addition to providing an overview of "green" vehicles, this guide includes fuel-saving tips, information about fuel economy savings and a search function for finding fuel-efficient vehicles in your area.

An example of Watt Plan's personalized summary. Click to enlarge.

NYSERDA's Watt Plan is an excellent resource for determining the savings potential of an EV. It helps consumers make informed decisions on whether an EV is a good investment by calculating savings potential based on driving habits, home electricity use, and available tax incentives. You can also learn about how adding rooftop solar power to your home can increase the benefits of driving an electric vehicle by charging it with solar power.

The Sierra Club EV Guide: By taking a short quiz, this site helps you determine which type of EV is best for you and then includes a guide to research cars, calculate CO2 and fueling costs savings, and learn about EV incentives in your area.

Green Car Reports lists a number of different buying guides on its site, including model-specific and annual reviews.

So take a look and see if an EV is right for you. Rye residents own more EVs (78, according to NYSERDA data) than their neighbors, but we can do better. And once you buy your EV, check out where the charging stations are located on Plugshare or Chargepoint.


Pesticides: A Quick and Easy Primer

Click on image to expand.

Pesticides .... You've heard the term, but do you really know what it means? These handy informational pamphlets from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will give you the quick and dirty:

Lawn & Garden Pesticides: What You Need to Know, provides an overview of pesticides, health risks and how we can reduce exposure.

Glyphosate-Based Weed Killers examines one of the most widely-used pesticides.

For information about the types of chemicals and ingredients contained in numerous household and garden products, visit the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation's information portal.

Learn more about how you can create a healthy yard by visiting our Rye Healthy Yard and Resources Section.

  • Take the RHYP Pledge!
  • Should the City of Rye adopt a natural landscaping policy for its public spaces? Let us know what you think by responding to our survey on the RSC Home Page.

Solar Resources for New Yorkers

With the cost of solar plummeting, now is the time to learn whether solar is right for you. Here are some resources to consult as you consider making the switch.

Energysage: The company's mission is to "make going solar as easy as booking a flight online" by acting as a clearinghouse for solar companies and prospective customers. Energysage helps over 25,000 people each year get multiple solar quotes from their network of pre-screened solar installers. The company has won the support and backing of the U.S. Department of Energy and New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). The site also has a number of informative videos and FAQs for background information.

NYSERDA Get Solar: NYSERDA, a public benefit program, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise, and support to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. In addition to a variety of energy efficiency resource material, its Get Solar page provides information on solar financing options and available incentives.

NY Solar Map: The NY Solar Map and Portal is an invaluable tool for any New Yorker who is beginning to research whether solar is a viable option. With localized information, it provides detailed cost, industry and market statistics for any type of customer throughout New York. The site can also connect customers with accredited solar installers. Simply type in your residential or business address to get started.

According to the map's creators, the Map is unique in that "consumers, installers and municipal leaders can also access information on resources and programs available in their local community through the ‘In Your Area’ feature. This tool connects consumers to local ‘solarize’ group purchasing campaigns and community shared solar opportunities, which are open to renters, investors and those with non-viable roofs."



Announcing the Rye Tree Fund

The Rye Tree FUnd: Branching Out for Rye

Greenburgh, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Mamaroneck Village, New Rochelle, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Yonkers .... What do all these neighboring communities have in common? They're all members of Tree City USA. Rye, once a proud member of this organization that "celebrates the importance of an urban tree canopy," lost its designation in 2006.

To assist the City of Rye with its tree planning and planting needs while, underscoring the importance of trees as one of Rye's natural treasures, RSC is pleased to announce the launch of a tree fund named Branching Out for Rye.

The fund will help replace lost trees by collecting donations of any amount from Rye residents to defray the costs associated with the City of Rye's planning, purchasing, planting and maintenance of municipal trees. We will work with the City of Rye to identify appropriate locations in public spaces for native or non-invasive species of trees. We will provide periodic updates on how Tree Fund donations are being used.

With your donation, we can help the City plant the right trees in the right places and reinstate its Tree City USA membership.

Visit the Tree Fund page to learn more and please consider making a donation.

Thank you!

Rye Sustainability's Healthy Yard Contest: We Have a Winner!

Grand Prize Winner Liv McNamara's winning design.

Grand Prize Winner Liv McNamara's winning design.

The Rye Healthy Yard sign design contest is over and the winners have been announced. The Grand Prize winner is Liv McNamara. Congratulations Liv!

Visit the contest photo gallery to view all entries and watch Rye TV's coverage of the event.

Details about the age category winners can be found below, including more photos from the contest.


Visit the Rye Healthy Yard page to learn how you can make your yard safe and healthy. Then take the RHYP pledge so you can receive a lawn sign with the winning design!

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who helped make this initiative such a successful one:

Judges: Catherine Parker, Jennifer Sandling, Christine Siller, Tracy Stora, Danielle Tagger-Epstein and Mayor Joe Sack for announcing the winners.

Refreshments: Rosemary & Vine

Awards: Rye Arts Center, Arcade Booksellers and A.I. Friedman

And a special thank you to Rye Arts Center for graciously opening their doors to host this contest!

Contest Winners

Overall Grand Prize: Liv McNamara

Elementary School Category:
Winner: Mattia Gibbs
Honorable Mention: Julia Zanolin, Clea Rousse and Sofia Rodrigues

Middle School Category:
Winner: Geordy Varino
Runner Up: Rory Cronin
Honorable Mention: Reese Wolfe and Charlotte Lee

High School Category:
Winner: Charlotte Townley

Adult Category:
Winner: Sheri Amsel

Announcing the Rye Healthy Yards Photo Gallery

Have you wondered what it looks like to have an open space that’s free of toxic chemicals? Do you think you have to make a trade-off between beauty and safety? Check out RSC's new photo gallery of Rye families’ healthy yards to see stunning examples of how you can have both beauty AND safety. And maybe you’ll see your neighbor’s yard! Do you have photos to share? Contact us!


Protecting Pollinators: Rye Garden Club's Pollinator Garden

Sustainability in Our Community:

Rye Garden Club

Did you know that seven species of bees were placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act for the first time? You may have read about the declining bee population in the U.S., but pollinators as a group are in peril. In the last few decades, bee and butterfly pollinator populations of some species have plummeted. It has been difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the decline, but evidence points to a number of stressors, including loss of natural habitat, diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides.

The Pollinator Garden welcome sign

The Pollinator Garden welcome sign

In April 2015, the Rye Garden Club, in honor of the Club's centennial anniversary, donated a pollinator garden to Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary. RGC members designed the garden layout, selected appropriate pollinator-friendly native plants and helped construct and install the garden. In addition, RGC created informational panels for the kiosk next to the garden. After touring the garden, visitors can read about why pollinators are so important and learn how to build their own garden.

The goals of the garden are to provide habitat and food for pollinators and to educate visitors on the importance of pollinators and planting native plants to support pollinators.
— Rye Garden Club

Rye Sustainability Committee will cover more in future posts about the importance of pollinators, so stay tuned. In the meantime, visit Edith Read and check out the Rye Garden Club Pollinator Garden. Although its past peak season, you'll be able to read the information boards and start planning your own pollinator garden!

Visit RGC's website for more photos, a PDF of the signage, a general list of pollinator-friendly native plants, and a list of all the native plants, including photos, used in the garden.

Visitors enjoying the Pollinator Garden

Visitors enjoying the Pollinator Garden

Learn more about how you can create a healthy yard by visiting our Rye Healthy Yard and Resources Section. And ...

Take the RHYP Pledge!

It's Fall: A Perfect Time to Switch to Natural Landscaping

Are you thinking about switching from conventional to natural lawn care but don't know how to make the transition? The fall season is a perfect time to make the switch and transform your yard into one that's healthy and beautiful for all.


What Does Healthy Mean?

First, it's important to understand why making the change is so important. It all starts with the definition of "healthy." A healthy - and by extension, beautiful - yard is one that starts with good soil.

Beyond Pesticides, a non-profit environmental organization committed to ending reliance on pesticides, states it clearly in their Organic Lawn Care 101 sheet: "Healthy soil contains high organic content and is teeming with biological life. Healthy soil supports the development of healthy grass that is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. In a healthy, fertile and well maintained lawn, diseases and pest problems are rare."

In fact, applying damaging and dangerous chemicals is the worst thing homeowners can do if the objective is a beautiful yard filled with vibrant plants, trees and a lush green lawn. As Rye Nature Center's Director of Conservation & Land Stewardship, Taro Ietaka, points out: "synthetic pesticides and herbicides kill beneficial soil micro-organisms that are helping your plants."

“Recognize that your soils are living and that you are the primary caretaker or destroyer of that living environment.”
— Dr. Kris Nichols, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute

In short: soil is living. And during the fall and winter, the diverse mix of organisms contained in soil continue to live. In a recent article on The Nature Conservancy's blog, Dr. Kris Nichols, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute comments: “Even when we think of our soils as frozen and dead, there’s still a living component to that.”

So now that you know why you should make the change, how can you care for your yard with the goal of minimizing pesticide applications? Here are some fall lawn care tips to get you started.


fall landscaping

General Tips

Beyond Pesticides' Organic Lawn Care 101 sheet provides a useful list of general tips, reproduced in part here:

1. Mow High Until the Season Ends – Bad mowing practices cause more problems than any other cultural practice. Mowing with a dull blade makes the turf susceptible to disease and mowing too close invites sunlight in for weeds to take hold. Keep your blades sharp, or ask your service provider to sharpen their blades frequently. For the last and first mowing, mow down to 2 inches to prevent fungal problems. For the rest of the year keep it at 3‐3.5 to shade out weeds and foster deep, drought‐resistant roots.

2. Aerate – Compaction is an invitation for weeds. If your lawn is hard, compacted, and full of weeds or bare spots, aerate to help air, water and fertilizer to enter. If you can’t stick a screwdriver easily into your soil, it is too compacted. Get together with your neighbors and rent an aerator. Once you have an established, healthy lawn, worms and birds pecking at your soil will aerate it for free!

3. Fertilize, but go easy and go organic! – Fertilizing in early fall ensures good growth and root development for your grass. Nitrogen, the most abundant nutrient in lawn fertilizers promotes color and growth. Adding too much nitrogen, or quick release synthetic fertilizers, will result in quicker growth and the need for more mowing. Too much nitrogen can also weaken the grass, alter the pH, and promote disease, insect, and thatch build‐up. If applied too late, nutrients can leach directly into nearby surface waters. Be aware of local phosphorus or nitrogen loading concerns. Your soil test results will ensure that you apply only what you need.

4. Overseed With the Right Grass Seed – Once again, fall is the best time to seed your lawn. Grass varieties differ enormously in their resistance to certain pests, tolerance to climatic conditions, growth habit and appearance. Endophytic grass seed provides natural protection against some insects and fungal diseases ‐ major benefits for managing a lawn organically. Talk to your local nursery about the best seed for your area. Check to see the weed content of the grass seed and that there are no pesticide coatings.

Leaf Mulching

What is leaf mulching? According to Leave Leaves Alone:

"Leaf mulching is the practice of chopping leaves into small pieces. Mulching can be done with a lawn mower or a leaf shredder. Mulched leaves can be left on your lawn (they fall between the grass blades) or piled 3" or 4"  deep on garden beds and around shrubs where they act as a protective layer in the winter and, in the growing season, prevent weed growth and help conserve water. Leaf mulch decomposes over time, adding important nutrients and structure to the soil."

To learn more about how you can mulch leaves in your yard this fall, visit the Leave Leaves Alone or Love 'Em and Leave 'Em sites.

Soil Testing

The benefits of soil testing cannot be overstated. It's simple to do and homeowners will be provided with a comprehensive profile of their soil upon which to build the foundation of their natural lawn. For a modest fee, Rye residents can have their soil tested and analyzed through the Westchester Cornell Cooperative Extension.

For more information on healthy soil and landscaping practices, watch RSC's What's Under Your Lawn presentation.

Visit our Rye Healthy Yard and Resources Section to learn more. And ...

Take the RHYP Pledge!


East Hampton's Healthy Lawn Policy: A Model for Rye?

Perfect Earth Project's "Leif" Sign in front of East Hampton Village Hall

Just across Long Island Sound, there is a community where residents, pets and visitors enjoy the outdoors, safe in the knowledge that the public open spaces where they walk, play and rest are healthy and free of harmful pesticides.

The Village of East Hampton adopted a policy in 2002 requiring organic maintenance of public parks, greens, and lawns. Specifically, the official policy states that the "use of pesticides/herbicides are prohibited on village owned property." According to a Village statement, the rationale behind the policy is simple: "We believe this helps to protect public health and reduces potential impacts on ground and surface waters."

A recent conversation with Edwina von Gal of The Perfect Earth Project in East Hampton highlights how the success of the Village policy is dependent on community support that includes residents, landscapers and policy makers. PEP promotes toxin-free landscaping on municipal and residential property, but von Gal stresses that they are not activists. Instead they strive to "change attitudes."

Indeed, PEP's goal is to "raise consciousness about the dangers of synthetic, toxic, lawn and garden chemicals to humans and the environment, and educate homeowners and professionals in nature-based techniques that provide beautiful, safe results."

Hook Pond Windmill

Hook Pond Windmill

Ultimately, the objective is to create "a future when it can be taken for granted that land is managed without toxins and is safe for people, pets and the environment ... "

In East Hampton, the Village is taking the lead in setting a positive example. Recently, PEP's "Leif" signs have popped up next to Village Hall, indicating a sign of support and commitment by the Village for pesticide-free land management.

PEP provided us with some visual examples of how beautiful a naturally maintained landscape can be and they are reproduced here.

Should the City of Rye adopt a similar policy? Read the East Hampton policy and let us know what you think by responding to our survey on the RSC Home Page.

South End Cemetery

South End Cemetery

Tax Credits Available to "Green" NY Home and Business Owners

According to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, almost 26,000 New Yorkers claimed $23 million in tax credits for clean transport infrastructure and solar investment in 2014. You could do the same by taking advantage of multiple tax credits available for "going green" by conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

As part of New York's Reforming the Energy Vision  program, the NY State Tax Department and NYSERDA have highlighted tax credits for "environmentally conscious homeowners." Details are reproduced below:

Solar energy system equipment credit

New Yorkers are eligible to claim the solar energy system equipment credit if they've purchased solar energy equipment, leased the equipment, or have agreed to purchase energy produced by a solar energy system for at least ten years.

The credit is equal to 25 percent of the expenses related to the qualified solar energy system after subtracting grants from NY-Sun, and is limited to $5,000.

Alternative fuels and electric vehicle recharging property credit

Property owners or their business can claim a credit worth up to $5,000 for investments in new alternative fuels vehicle refueling property or electric vehicle recharging property. For Tax Year 2014, nearly 26,000 environmentally-conscious New Yorkers claimed $23 million in credits for these programs.

One of Governor Cuomo's environmental initiatives, NY-Sun, is working to move the state closer to a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry. The growth of solar energy installations in New York State has increased 575% between 2012 and 2015 and strong demand continues. New York State now ranks fourth in the number of people employed in the solar industry and fifth in total annual solar installations, up from ninth in 2013.

For more information:

Dayle Zatlin, Assistant Director of Communications
Phone : 518-862-1090, Ext. 3359
Email : dayle.zatlin@nyserda.ny.gov

James Gazzale,
Phone : 518-530-4643
Email : James.Gazzale@tax.ny.gov

Water, Water Everywhere: How Do You Know It's Clean?

Bottle filling stations are popping up in schools and businesses. They aren't just cool to look at; they also reduce waste and their filtration mechanisms ensure a clean drink for all. In light of heightened concern about lead in drinking water (read Rye's water report here), people are searching for alternatives to tap water. Bottled water? It's expensive and wasteful. Two recent articles address why bottled water is bad for you, the environment, and water. You can read them here and here.

Bottle filling stations could be one easy, inexpensive and waste-reducing solution. Read RSC contributing writer Sonja Bartlett's in-depth piece here and decide for yourself.  Wouldn't it be terrific if we had more bottle filling stations in our public spaces?

water, Water Everywhere: HOW DO YOU KNOW IT's CLean?

By Sonja Bartlett

Turns out what’s good for the earth is also good for our health. Did you know that those water bottle filling stations that are popping up in our area schools don’t just save on plastic water bottle use but they also FILTER OUT LEAD?

The filtered bottle fillers are a terrific addition to the District. They encourage students to drink water, rather than sodas or other sugary drinks and they drastically reduce the number of plastic bottles heading to our landfills. At one filling station ... alone, we’ve saved 28,286 disposable plastic water bottles.
— Sam Carder, Director of Facilities, Rye City School District

Once a novelty found mostly in high-end gyms, water bottle filling stations are on the rise in Rye area schools. The Rye City School District boasts 24, with plans for 15 more. Independent schools in our area including Eagle Hill, Hackley, Rippowam Cisqua, and Rye Country Day have recently installed them as well. Not only do they make life easy for kids and adults with water bottles in tow, but unlike the older plumbing fixtures and traditional drinking fountains, they actually filter out lead.

This generation is growing up not thinking twice about refilling water bottles at school because of the Elkay EZH2O, the market leader on this product, which seems to have little competition. It might look like a traditional drinking fountain from a distance but in the back it has a simple spigot made specifically for filling up water bottles. A digital counter lets users know how many plastic bottles have been spared because of this simple act.  The instant positive feedback for the user cannot be discounted.

It is made by a Chicago-based, family owned business called Elkay, which makes a variety of plumbing supplies. But the EZ-H2O rapid water filling station is what has gotten this company a lot of buzz lately as more and more schools realize the double benefit –health and sustainability- it delivers for their students and all the adults who work in their buildings. 

"I have to bring my water bottle to school every day. It is the rule. So we love refilling them and seeing the number of plastic bottles we have saved." (Meredith Bartlett, 3rd Grader at Rippowam Cisqua School)

"I have to bring my water bottle to school every day. It is the rule. So we love refilling them and seeing the number of plastic bottles we have saved." (Meredith Bartlett, 3rd Grader at Rippowam Cisqua School)

The price tag for the EZH2O ranges from $400 to $1000, depending on the model. You can even find them on Amazon. But getting them installed incurs plumbing costs that will vary from building to building, often putting some schools in a tough spot financially.

Elkay was fielding so many requests from schools across the country for donations of these filling stations that they knew they had to do something. Linda Carlisle, a company spokesperson says they had to come up with a creative response to all the demand.

Budgets aside, we knew all this demand was a good problem to have. We decided that instead of giving away a set number of the EZH2O filling stations each year, we would find a way to help the schools raise the funds they needed to purchase them at a special school-discounted price, and offering a fundraising solution to help them raise that amount. It’s a win-win.
— Linda Carlisle, Elkay Spokesperson

Elkay partnered with EcoVessel, a reusable water bottle maker, to launch a student-led fundraising program to help the schools get filling stations at a special price. The students apply online and EcoVessel provides stainless steel water bottles with the school logo on them to sell in a student-led fundraiser. The funds raised are used to buy the EZH2O at a discounted price. It’s clearly a teachable moment for the kids, a hands-on community service opportunity, and a way for the school population to use fewer disposable plastic bottles.

The water bottle station at Row America Rye.

The water bottle station at Row America Rye.

We all know it ‘s not always easy to do the right thing by the environment. Filling up water bottles on the go used to be messy and awkward at best. Who could not be forgiven for grabbing that case of plastic water bottles at Costco and leaving them in the trunk? Did anyone see?  Just for emergencies, right?!

However it does seem a new horizon is in front of us. The water bottle filling stations are now at every turn, offering fresh, cold, lead-free water…. A simple change in how we live our daily lives that will clearly have an enormous impact on our planet now that an entire generation seems to see this as a normal part of their day.

Healthier for us, healthier for our planet.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful next step for our public buildings to start installing water bottle filling stations as well?

How Much Do You Know About Rye Town Park?

Who owns Rye Town Park? If you answered, Rye, you would be half right ... What is the Rye Town Park Commission? What is FRTP? Stumped, or do you have the answers at your fingertips?

Test your knowledge below (quiz reproduced, thanks to Rye Town Alliance). Understanding the ins and outs of RTP - its mission, ownership structure and financial health - is critical for its continued survival as a natural open space that functions for public enjoyment.

You can see a PDF version of the quiz here.

For more information, visit the RTP.

To see the different ways that you can get involved in the preservation of this treasured space, visit FRTP.

Who owns Rye Town Park?

A.    Rye Town

B.    Rye City and Rye Town Jointly

C.    Seaside Johnnies

Answer: B. The establishing legislation said the park should “be known as Rye Park.”

What are Rye’s financial obligations to RTP?

A.    It’s a 50-50 split with Rye City and Rye Town

B.    It’s a 60-40 split with Rye City and Rye Town

Answer: The answer is A and B.  Under the agreement between Rye Town and City, Rye City is responsible for 46.654% of the operating costs, 39.278% of capital expenditures and is also responsible for policing the park.  [Source: 2014 Audited Financial Statements]

Can Rye Town Park operate revenue generating business activities to defray the costs of operating and maintaining the park?

A.   Yes

B.    No

C.    It depends

Answer: C.  It Depends.  Under the New York law “public trust” doctrine, this may be permissible if the purpose is to enhance the experience of the public when using the park as a public park.  So charging for beach access, offering restaurant facilities and providing reasonable parking is generally permissible to enhance public use of a park as a public park.  However, if the real purpose is not to enhance the park experience but primarily to raise revenue to defray costs, that is not a sufficient justification.

How many cars parked in RTP in 2012 and 2013, respectively?

A.      8,000 and 10,000

B.    12,000 and 13,000

C.    56,724 and 53,622

Answer: C

Of the million-dollar RTP annual running costs, where does most of the money come from and where does it go?

A.    From taxpayers, to park maintenance

B.    From park users, to employees

Answer: B. For its financial year 2014, Rye Town Park revenues were $892,000 of which cash receipts from parking and beach were approximately $618,000 (or about 70% of total revenue).  Of total operating expenses of $892,934, approximately $522,000 (59%) was spent on staff salaries and benefits. [Source:  2014 Audited Financial Statements]  The figures for receipts do not include approximately $116,000 for permit sales (presumably charged online or by credit card) and $95,000 from concessions (e.g., Seaside Johnnies).

Who runs the Park?

A.   The Rye Town Park Commission, made up of officials from Rye City, Rye Town, Port Chester and Rye Brook.  Rye’s representatives are Mayor Joe Sack and Councilmember Julie Killian.

B.    RTP Staff

C.    Seaside Johnnies

Answer: A

Does RTP financially “break even” every year?

A. Yes

B. No

Answer: As a public good, a park should NOT be expected to break even. Yet even with a largely cash-based system, the park was even in 2013, lost approx. $50,000 in 2014 and was up in 2015 (unofficial). The park posted a deficit of $500,000 the year before reforms were implemented and differential pricing for non-residents was put into place.