The Winners of the 2019 Environmental Leadership Awards

As part of its mission to implement the Rye Sustainability Plan, the Rye Sustainability Committee created a Rye Sustainability Committee Leadership Award. This award was first given out in 2017 so this year marks the third annual “bestowing”. The award honors individuals, organizations or members of the business community that have made significant environmental achievements and demonstrated excellence in leadership for the health of our community and planet.

For this year’s award, the committee expanded the award criteria to include five different categories. This was, in part, driven by the fact that there were too many well-deserving people and organizations to choose from. Rye Sustainability went ahead to create distinct award categories to make the selection process easier! These five categories are 1) business 2) individual 3) municipal 4) non-profit and 5) youth.

A big congratulations to all 2019 award recipients who are as follows:


Business Category

Rosemary & Vine

Berj Yeretzian and Tania Rahal relocated to Rye after living in the Mediterranean for a number of years. The husband and wife team co-founded Rosemary and Vine in 2015 to bring a comfortable, casual place to enjoy savory vegetarian fare with a nice glass of wine or beer to the downtown area. The restaurant was a model of sustainable operating during the years of its operation. A standard-bearer for food scrap recycling in the Rye business community, the Rosemary and Vine kitchen composted all of its food scraps. As a vegetarian establishment using many locally sourced and organic ingredients, the menu offerings constituted a lower carbon footprint than typical restaurant fare. Rosemary and Vine was one of the first establishments to sign Rye Sustainability Committee's 'Sound Shore Last Shore' pledge to only provide straws upon specific customer request in order to reduce the amount of single-use, disposable plastic entering the waste stream. Over the years, Tania and Berj supported Rye Sustainability through their generous donations of delicious food and beverages to numerous Rye Sustainability events. Rosemary and Vine will be sorely missed!


Individual Category

Carolyn Cunningham

Carolyn Cunningham has been a lifelong advocate and crusader for environmental causes. After graduating with a law degree from Pace University in 1988, she practiced environmental law for the National Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group headquartered in New York City. She has been an environmental consultant and was Executive Director of Federated Conservationists of Westchester County for five years where she continues to volunteer as a board member. Cunningham has served on the City of Rye Planning Commission, the Conservation Committee/Advisory Council and served two terms after being elected to the Rye City Council. She recently stepped down as Chair of the CC/AC and is a staunch advocate of Rye Sustainability and its efforts.


Municipal Category

Ryan Coyne, PE, City of Rye Engineer

As City Engineer, Ryan Coyne directs the City of Rye Department of Public Works which is responsible for maintaining the city's physical infrastructure, refuse collection, recycling, and vehicle maintenance. Under his leadership, the DPW has deployed a number of environmental initiatives that have helped boost and promote sustainability efforts city-wide as well as those led by the Rye Sustainability Committee. In 2018, Coyne oversaw the acquisition of a new fleet of Electric Vehicles (four Chevy Bolts) to be used by City staff, as well as the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at the DPW. He also facilitated Energy Code Enforcement Training to train compliance officers in energy code best practices (three employees from Rye attended in April 2018). These actions to promote the use of clean energy by the city led to the designation of the City of Rye as a Clean Energy Community by NYSERDA which rewarded the city with a $5,000 grant. Coyne has also been instrumental in advancing the purchasing and planting of a greater number of native perennials, shrubs and trees throughout city-owned property. Furthermore, Coyne was a key stakeholder in bringing a municipal food scrap recycling pilot program to Rye that included a curbside pickup component. He and his staff have worked ceaselessly to successfully implement the six-month long City of Rye Food Scrap Recycling Pilot Program that is currently underway.

City of Rye Department of Public Works

Staff members of the City of Rye Department of Public Works have worked tirelessly to help execute numerous City of Rye environmental initiatives. Staff have planned for, purchased, planted and pruned (all the Tree P’s!) a number of native street trees whose acquisition was made possible by the Rye Sustainability Committee ‘Branching out for Rye’ Tree Fund. These native street trees not only beautify the community, but also provide critical shelter, habitat and food sources for the city’s native wildlife and insect populations. Furthermore, without the hard work and unflagging support of the DPW staff, the City of Rye Food Scrap Recycling Pilot Program would not be possible. Members of the Rye Sustainability Committee have greatly enjoyed their volunteer time at the DPW main office while helping roll out the pilot.

Michelle Sterling & Ron Schulhof, Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council

Over the last five years Michelle and Ron have been instrumental in launching sustainability initiatives throughout Scarsdale and Westchester County. Together they have helped all seven Scarsdale Schools, a number of Scarsdale Houses of Worship and Scarsdale Village launch food scrap recycling and zero waste programs. Their efforts have made a tremendous impact within the Scarsdale community as well as throughout Westchester as other municipalities, schools and organizations have come to Scarsdale to learn and launch their own zero waste programs. In addition to zero waste programs, Michelle and Ron have worked on a number of other successful sustainability initiatives in Scarsdale such as the LED Streetlight conversion project, furniture donation, take it or leave it shed, textile recycling, recycling education and expansion, and updating Scarsdale’s tree code.

Michelle serves as co-chair of the Scarsdale Forum Sustainability Committee, a member of the Conservation Advisory Council, member of the Food Scrap Recycling Committee, member of the LED Streetlight Committee, and chair of the Scarsdale Middle School PTA Sustainability Committee. Michelle has also previously served as PT Council Sustainability Chair and as chair of the Greenacres PTA Sustainability Committee.

Ron serves as Chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, a member of the Food Scrap Recycling Committee, a member of the LED Streetlight Committee, a member of the Forum Sustainability Committee, chair of PT Council Sustainability, Quaker Ridge PTA Sustainability Committee and a member of the School District Sustainability Committee.


Non-Profit Category

Suzanne Clary, President, Board of Trustees, Jay Heritage Center

As President of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), Suzanne spearheaded a landmark public-private partnership agreement with New York State Parks and Westchester County to ensure continued preservation of, and public access to, the historic buildings and landscape of the 23-acre Jay Estate. She expanded the breadth of community programming, particularly in the areas of sustainability, native habitat management and environmental stewardship. She oversaw the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system in the 1838 Jay Mansion and is currently leading the rehabilitation of over four acres of sunken gardens and open meadows for use as outdoor classrooms.


Youth Category

Rye Girl Scout Troop 2196

Rye Girl Scout Troop 2196 has been indispensable in helping get the City of Rye Food Scrap Recycling Pilot Program up and running. The troop’s journey towards getting involved started when Troop Leader, Marilyn Jackson, saw a social media post about bringing municipal composting to Rye. The troop seized upon the opportunity to pursue their Girl Scout Silver Award through helping to make the Food Scrap Recycling pilot a reality.

The troop’s contributions to date have included attending city council meetings to show support of the proposed pilot and speaking out in support of it at these meetings; spreading awareness about the initiative through the Rye Girl Scout’s Instagram page; helping with Food Scrap Recycling kit assembly after school; and attending the pilot launch ribbon cutting ceremony.

The troop is committed to helping grow and market the program and to encourage the city to adopt Food Scrap Recycling as a permanent program after the six-month pilot ends. After all, the one of the goals of the Girl Scouts is to leave the world a place better than you found it, and there is no time to waste in helping our environment.

Winners of the Business Category Award - Rosemary and Vine

Winners of the Business Category Award - Rosemary and Vine

Winner of the Individual Category Award - Carolyn Cunningham

Winner of the Individual Category Award - Carolyn Cunningham

Winners of the Municipal Category Award - Ryan Coyne, PE, City Engineer and the City of Rye Department of Public Works

Winners of the Municipal Category Award - Ryan Coyne, PE, City Engineer and the City of Rye Department of Public Works

Winners of the Municipal Category Award - Michelle Sterling and Ronald Schulhof, Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council

Winners of the Municipal Category Award - Michelle Sterling and Ronald Schulhof, Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council

Winner of the Non-Profit Category Award - Suzanne Clary, President, Board of Trustees, Jay Heritage Center

Winner of the Non-Profit Category Award - Suzanne Clary, President, Board of Trustees, Jay Heritage Center

Winners of the Youth Category Award - Rye Girl Scout Troop 2196

Winners of the Youth Category Award - Rye Girl Scout Troop 2196