Why Should We Go "Straw-less"?

Straws.... We don't think too much about them as we sip our frosty beverages before tossing them into the garbage. Unfortunately, these seemingly innocuous items are damaging to humans, animals and our planet.

Here are some reasons why...

  1. Americans use 500 million disposable plastic straws every single day but they do not biodegrade.
  2. In the U.S. alone, there's enough straw litter waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times a day, or fill Yankee Stadium over 9 times a year!
  3. Straws are one of the most common litter items found on beaches.
  4. Marine animals mistake straws for food. They can choke on them or straws can get stuck in animals' nasal passages.
  5. Plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a petroleum-based plastic. In effect, a non-renewable resource is used to create a single-use, disposable item.
  6. Health issues: According to BreastCancer.org and a recent study by Environmental Health Perspectives, research suggests that all plastics - including those advertised as BPA free -  may leach chemicals if they're scratched or heated.
  7. They cause wrinkles! Straw use causes people to purse their mouths and can create wrinkles from the repetitive muscle motion.
  8. Chewing on straws is bad for your teeth.
  9. It's a convenience; not a necessity. For most of us the use of plastic straws is just a habit of convenience, and habits can be changed with the desire to change.


What Can You Do?

Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem. Choosing not to use or purchase disposable straws is the most simple solution. In fact, The Plastic Pollution Coalition estimates that 1,800 “restaurants, organizations, institutions and schools worldwide have gotten rid of plastic straws or implemented a serve-straws-upon-request policy.”

If you're a ...

Food Establishment: Either opt out of serving beverages with straws or only serve straws on request.

Resident: Choose not to purchase disposable plastic straws for home consumption and say "no thanks!" to straws at restaurants, unless they're reusable.


Can't Live Without Straws? Some Alternatives ...

Although straws can be essential for some with disabilities (and a necessity for parents of young children!) there are natural and environmentally safe alternatives.

Here are some alternatives to disposable straws recommended by online e-magazine GOOP:

Paper: Aardvark Straws are customizable and durable (they can last for hours in water without disintegrating). There are more biodegradeable options on Amazon, too.

Steel: Crate & Barrel sells a set of four; these Mulled Mind straws are handmade and come in different sizes and widths.

Glass: Hummingbird Glass Straws are shatter-resistant and dishwasher safe.

Bamboo: Brush with Bamboo‘s are grown organically, plus you can wash and reuse them.

Grain: Harvest Straws are made from non-GMO grain and grown without chemicals.

Brass: Modern furniture designer Chris Earl makes these reusable brass drinking straws at his home workshop in LA.

On a Safari Trip for Trees

A Tree Planting Bonanza

Rye City staff went on a street tree shopping spree this fall, thanks to generous donations by Rye residents to the Branching out for Rye Tree Fund.

Rye Sustainability member and Tree Fund chair, Melissa Grieco, joined Rye City Planner Christian Miller and Rye City Engineer Ryan Coyne on a trip to Hardscrabble Nursery in October to select native trees for planting in various locations around Rye.  A total of seven trees were purchased and planted throughout the City.

Many thanks to our Rye City staff for their efforts in keeping Rye beautiful and green!

And a thank you to those who have generously donated to the Branching out for Rye Tree Fund.

For further information please visit Rye Sustainability's Tree Fund page and consider making a donation to the Tree Fund.

trees and their locations

  • "Central Park" (grassy area on Boston Post Rd across from Jerry's Market) - Three River Birches
  • Disbrow Park area - Tulip Tree
  • City Hall parking lot - Two Thornless Honey Locusts
  • Village Green - Sugar Maple

Put a Cork in it!

Rosemary & Vine is a "Put a Cork In It" participant.

Rosemary & Vine is a "Put a Cork In It" participant.

Spearheaded by RSC member Gretchen Crowley, one of Rye Sustainability's latest initiatives is a cork recycling campaign entitled Put a Cork In It. The initiative is designed to start a broader discussion about the importance of recycling and waste reduction.

Area restaurants, bars and clubs have signed on to participate in this simple exercise: Instead of tossing corks in the trash, participants recycle the cork in a receptacle provided by ReCORK, North America's largest natural cork recycling program.

The receptacle with the used corks is then mailed (at no cost) to ReCORK where the corks are re-purposed into new products. RSC will supplement this activity through an education campaign designed to educate the community about recycling and waste reduction.

A list of participating food establishments can be found here. To find out more about how you can recycle other products, visit RSC's Where Do I Donate/Recycle? page.

For further information, read the recent article below about Put a Cork In It in Apawamis Now.

When Walking To School is A Perilous Pursuit

A major attraction of suburban living is the ability of children to walk and bike to school. Rye resident Kelsey Johnson lives with her husband and young children near Forest Avenue, but quickly discovered that the short walk along Forest Avenue to Midland Elementary School is a dangerous exercise. Johnson decided to take matters into her own hands and mobilized a group of concerned residents to study the feasibility of sidewalks on Forest Avenue. Now, three years later, Johnson provides an overview of the issue.

When Walking To School is A Perilous Pursuit

A car swerves to avoid pedestrians

A car swerves to avoid pedestrians

By Kelsey Johnson

The Rye Sustainability Plan has many goals, one of which is to “pursue and adopt measures that will encourage more pedestrian activity [and] less dependence on vehicle transportation”. The Rye City Schools District supports this mission with an annual Walk to School week to raise awareness and support for the health, community and environmental benefits of regularly walking or biking to school.

Walk to Schools Week at Midland Elementary School took place the first week of October and students were encouraged to walk to school and participate in this important initiative.  However, Midland, and hundreds of other Rye middle and high school students are prevented from safely participating in any walk to school effort. The problem: Along the portion of Forest Avenue between Manursing and Apawamis Avenues there is no sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into the street where they perilously navigate their way as cars speed by them. The situation has been made worse in recent years as access paths from side streets to Midland have closed. Children who live on the fifteen streets that feed into Forest Avenue (approximately 170 homes) now have no route to school except via Forest Avenue.

This stretch of Forest Avenue has been the subject of study and highlighted for safety improvements by the City, most recently through a comprehensive study drafting specific off-road alternatives to improve pedestrian and bike safety. It also evaluates the impact to mature trees and landscaping, among other metrics. For the second year in a row, this project has been identified as a "high priority" capital improvement project in the City's Capital Improvement Plan and awaits funding of an engineering and design study, which was deferred last year as the city awaited the outcome of two major grant applications. 

Children walking to school on Forest Avenue

Children walking to school on Forest Avenue

Unfortunately, the City was not awarded the grant money, so residents must rely on the City to keep momentum on this project and fund the next step to ensure the safety of our school children, dog walkers and runners.  The Rye Sustainability Plan highlights infrastructure improvements targeted at enhancing pedestrian activity that include repairing sidewalks and increasing the miles of sidewalks, which this project directly accomplishes.

Together, we can work to redefine idling for our school-aged children.

Rain Barrels in Rye: A Free and Convenient Way to Irrigate Your Lawn

Rain barrels are an excellent and economical way to capture rainwater from roofs for use on lawns and plants. The biggest hurdle is making the decision to set aside an hour or so to set up the system. Rye resident Colleen Margiloff recounts below how simple it is to install. Even a kid can do it!

For more resources, please see the Gardening Tips page and links at the end of Colleeen's article.

By Rye Sustainability member Colleen Margiloff

The process of going green has been slow and steady for our family. It started with recycling and then over the years its started to grow:  eliminating pesticides from our yard, purchasing an electric car and now, a rain barrel.


Why a Rain Barrel?

One day while it was raining, I began to think of the missed opportunity to capture that water for our plants, which I've kept alive in spite of my notorious brown thumb. I think this may have been one of the scariest changes for me since it required a power tool - not exactly my strong suit. However, with the help of my dad and kids, it took less than an hour to install and has allowed us to use less water.


Where to Purchase

Like most things in life these days, I ordered mine online. With Amazon, Frontgate and Hayneedle, you have great choices. However, there are also local options from which to choose.  You can order one online at Home Depot and then pick up at the store, or every spring the Greenburgh Nature Center sells them. They start at $75 and go up from there and max out at $200.

Something to keep in mind is the location of the spigot. If you get a barrel with only one spigot close to the ground, consider getting a stand as well for easier access.


Start to Finish: 30-45 minutes

The first step is to walk around your house and locate the best fit for the rain gutter to lead into the barrel. Next you'll need  a hacksaw, a drill and teflon tape, which can be found in the plumbing aisle of a hardware store. (This is used to ensure a tight fight around the spigot.)

Remove the down-spout running down the side of your home so that you can shorten it to fit into the rain barrel.  Measure how long the down-spout needs to be to continue down the side of the house and into the rain barrel. We fit the existing curved piece back into the pipe and led it directly into the barrel. When sawing, keep in mind that it's easiest if you place a piece of 2 x 4 wood inside the pipe to prevent the aluminum from collapsing while it is being cut.  Saw a bit on each of the four sides before sawing all the way through.

Once the down-spout is securely in place, secure it back to the house and, if using a bent portion to lead it into the barrel, use a screw to hold the two pieces of down-spout together.

The final step: attaching the spigots. To ensure a tight fit, wrap teflon tape around the threaded (male) portion of the spigot. You'll only need to wrap it a few times, making sure you pull it taut. Screw the spigot into the appropriate hole(s) by twisting it into place. It's helpful to have two spigots, with one lower to the ground, so that if there's a small quantity of water in the barrel,  you can access water with the bottom spigot.

You're ready for rain!

Resources AND TIPS

  • Empty frequently after rain events so the barrel is ready for the next storm!
  • Empty completely in winter and store in a shed or garage. A full barrel will freeze and break.
  • Reconnect the downspout in winter or use a diverter.
  • EPA Sheet on Rain Barrels
  • Benefits of Rain Barrels

A Beautiful and Natural Rye Streetscape

The City of Rye has completed its downtown street improvements project on Purchase Street and a number of beautiful street trees, many of them natives, have been added to the landscape.

For Earth Week, Rye Sustainability helped commemorate the planting of the first native tree   purchased and planted with funds donated from the Branching Out for Rye Tree Fund - a Thornless Honeylocust. Now five more trees have been added to Purchase Street.

Thank you to City of Rye staff for their efforts in planting these trees and for recognizing the importance of introducing native trees into our community!

For further information about the benefits of trees, please visit our Tree Fund page and consider making a donation to the Tree Fund. Any amount is welcome!

For further information about the Purchase Street trees, please see below.

Thornless Honeylocust

Information about the thornless honeylocust from the Arbor Day Foundation:

A   thornless honeylocust   in front of TD Bank.

A thornless honeylocust in front of TD Bank.

"The thornless honeylocust has captured the hearts of arborists, community foresters and homeowners throughout America. And no wonder. This tree is easy to plant, grows fast, has reasonably strong branches, is aesthetically pleasing and is tough enough to withstand just about any urban setting."

"In nature it grows in both a thorned and thornless form, with thorns growing up to 12" long. Many regions in the South once referred to honeylocusts as Confederate pin trees because those thorns were used to pin uniforms together during the Civil War."

A thornless honeylocust near the intersection of Locust Avenue

A thornless honeylocust near the intersection of Locust Avenue


Two lindens flank Rye Country Store

Two lindens flank Rye Country Store

Information about lindens from the University of Kentucky Department of Horticulture:

"This American native was used for centuries for its fibrous inner bark and fragrant flowers. It bears unique flowers and large, heart-shaped leaves. The tree is stately as a single specimen or when it is allowed to form a clump."

"This tree will develop to its full potential if given full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil. American linden will tolerate clay, a wide pH range and partial shade. It is noted for its adaptability. "

Red Maple

A red maple tree near the intersection of Purchase Street and Locust Avenue

A red maple tree near the intersection of Purchase Street and Locust Avenue

Information about the red maple from the National Wildlife Foundation:

"Red maple is named for its red flowers, red fruit, red twigs, and of course, the brilliant red fall foliage! Autumn sightseers of the eastern deciduous forest praise the red maple for its striking scarlet leaves. Few people know that red maple foliage can turn yellow or orange in the fall too!"

"Red maples are perhaps the most abundant tree in the eastern deciduous forest. This status can be attributed to the tree’s generalist tendencies. A generalist species is one that can tolerate a wide range of habitat conditions and uses many different types of resources."

"Red maples do well in sunny or shady spots, dry or wet soil, high or low elevation, etc. It’s unlikely that any other tree in North America can match the red maple’s wide range of growing conditions! Adaptable roots help the red maple to cope with differing soil types. If the tree is placed in wet soil, it grows a short taproot and extensive lateral roots to soak up water at the surface. When red maples grow in dry sites, a long taproot and short lateral roots develop. Despite their remarkable roots, red maples grow better in some conditions than others. Deep, moist, acidic soil results in the healthiest red maples."

A   red maple tree midway down Purchase near Jos A. Bank store

A red maple tree midway down Purchase near Jos A. Bank store

Dogs and Healthy Yards: A Paws-itive Combination

By Rye Sustainability member Jenny Hirsch

Here in Rye, we all know the importance of walking your dog. The health benefits of dog walking for the dog owner are obvious.  It is also safe to say that dogs who are walked stay healthier.  And it is equally satisfying to note that dogs and their owners have a greater emotional bond when they walk together.  I have become a busy local dog walker and see this all first hand. I also see landscapers spraying lawns with pesticides and have learned of the dangerous health effects on our precious doggies that walk and even eat this toxic grass. On behalf of the Rye Sustainability Committee I am writing this article to educate and remind residents how a healthy lawn can have a positive effect on the health of your pet. (I know their are some cats on harnesses as well because I am one of those cat walkers.)


Health Dangers of Lawn Pesticides to your Pet

The dangers to pets of chemical use on lawns are very real. According to PET MD "many pets are susceptible to falling ill as a result of exposure to lawn chemicals."  And the lingering effects of these dangers are profound: Pesticides that are applied outdoors "often make their way indoors and onto surfaces."

According to the medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, "Lawn chemicals can vary widely in their safe use around pets. Some items such as fertilizers may only cause stomach upset, while others such as insecticides can be deadly."

Lawn pesticides have been linked to cancer in pets, nervous system disruption, respiratory failure, and serious digestive problems.  Even if you don’t use these chemicals on your lawn, a neighbor's lawn can also pose a threat.


Things You Can Do to Protect Your Pets

  • Use natural lawn care techniques. Check the Rye Healthy Yard Section for details.
  • If you must use pesticides:
    • Never apply pesticides when pets are on the lawn.
    • Remove all feeding bowls, water dishes, and pet toys from any area before applying a pesticide.
    • Avoid using pesticide in pellet form because it can look like food.
    • Watch for signs indicating when areas have been treated. Avoid walking in these areas with your pet for at least 72 hours.
  • Use alternative techniques for controlling fleas and ticks
  • Get to know how your neighbors treat their lawns and how it can affect your pet.

Let's all plan to make some healthy lawn changes today. Your furry babies will thank you!

Additional information about pets and pesticides can be found here.  The ASPCA Guide to Pet Safe Gardening can be found here.

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

Take the RHYP Pledge!

Does Organic Lawn Care Cost More Than Conventional?

Does Organic Lawn Care Cost More Than Conventional?

Beyond Pesticides is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., which works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. In their Winter 2016 edition of "Pesticides and You" the editors responded to a reader's question that many of us have: "Is organic lawn care more expensive than conventional?" BP's response is reproduced in its entirety below and makes a compelling case for why residents and municipalities that decide to make the switch won't be breaking the bank.

Do you think the City of Rye should adopt healthy landscaping practices for its open spaces? Let us know what you think by taking the very short survey on our Home Page.

Question: I’m trying to work towards safer lawn care practices in my Homeowners Association, but I’ve run into problems with the board and administration that say that it’s too expensive to transition to organic. Do you have any information that could help me make the case that the “cost” of organic lawn care won’t break their bank?

Answer: This is an argument used frequently to dismiss a commonsense change to organic and sustainable lawn care practices. While there is certainly a good amount of information that finds that a transition to safer methods is much cheaper in the long-term, start the conversation by reminding people why eliminating toxic pesticide use is essential in the first place. It is important to remember that the focus of pesticide reform is on public health. While the economic benefits of cosmetic pesticide use are concentrated within the chemical industry, the costs are often borne by individuals, particularly children, pregnant mothers, the chemically sensitive and others with compromised immune and nervous systems. Preventing or reducing the health costs associated with a child-hood disease should be considered a benefit to the community. Given that there have been numerous localities that have successfully implemented organic land care practices, the community should strive to do the same, and act as a leader in the protection of public health, particularly children’s health.

But if an appeal to the greater good doesn’t make an impression, there are some well-respected sources to help you make your case. To start, look at the understanding the state of Connecticut has about organic lawn care. Its Department of Energy and Environmental Protection notes on its website, “If your lawn is currently chemically dependent, initially it may be more expensive to restore it. But in the long term, an organic lawn will actually cost you less money. Once established, an organic lawn uses less water and fertilizers, and requires less labor for mowing and maintenance.” Other respected institutions back up this experience. Harvard University has a long-running lawn care program that was transitioned off of chemicals nearly a decade ago, and the school wisely documented the economics of its transition. Harvard indicates that it was able to reduce irrigation needs by 30%, saving two million gallons of water a year as a result of reduced demand. The school was also spending $35,000 year trucking yard waste off site. Harvard can now use those materials for composting and save an additional $10,000/year due to the decreased cost and need to purchase fertilizer from off-campus sources.

Beyond Pesticides’ Board Member and nationally renowned turfgrass expert Chip Osborne conducted a study several years ago that compares the costs of conventional and organic turf management on school athletic fields. The report concludes that, once established, a natural turf management program can result in savings of greater than 25% compared to a conventional turf program. This report was conducted in 2010, and since then there have been significant improvements in organic-compatible products that help speed organic transitions.

Seeing how cost issues play out at the community level can also be helpful. As part of Reno, Nevada’s pilot pesticide-free parks program, the city estimated that there would be no additional expenses to transition off of pesticide use. City staff stated in a report, “There are no cost implications as staff will implement changes within its adopted budget.” The city estimated it spends approximately 1.4% of total maintenance time applying herbicides, and 4.1% of time using manual or mechanical weed control alternatives. To implement the program, the Park’s Department discontinued herbicide use and began to implement alternative strategies that include the use of organic products, burning, or additional manual or mechanical weed control. The City did not expect the total time spent on weed control to differ as a result of the change in practices.

Saving Money While Going Green: Home Energy Efficiency Workshop

Rye residents and people from neighboring communities showed up at the Rye Free Reading Room on April 1 for Rye Sustainability's first home energy efficiency workshop. The free event was geared to the homeowner who wants to learn how to make his or her home energy efficient while saving money.


A panel of industry experts presented and answered a wide variety of questions, ranging from free home energy assessments to New York State programs that help homeowners finance energy efficiency projects. Attendees also learned about residential renewable energy options, including solar, geothermal and pellet stove heating.

Participants and the topics they covered included:

Delicious refreshments were provided by Le Pain Quotidien in Rye.

Thanks to Rye TV, the event can be viewed here.

We Have Two Winners! Rye Sustainability Leadership Award Announcement

2017 Rye Sustainability Leadership Award winners Christine Siller and Taro Ietaka

2017 Rye Sustainability Leadership Award winners Christine Siller and Taro Ietaka

We have TWO winners for the first Rye Sustainability Leadership Award: Taro Ietaka and Christine Siller of Rye Nature Center. The awards were presented to Taro and Christine at the May 3rd 2017 Rye City Council Meeting by Rye City Council members Julie Killian and Danielle Tagger-Epstein.

RSC Chair Sara Goddard made the announcement of this year's award, the text of which is reproduced below.

Announcement of 2017 Rye Sustainability Leadership Award

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the first Rye Sustainability Leadership Award.

This 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.

Most importantly, the winners reflect the spirit of the Rye Sustainability Committee, which embodies collaboration, hard work, and a deep love of our beautiful community.

There are two winners this year: Christine Siller and Taro Ietaka.

Taro and Christine at City Council

Taro and Christine at City Council

From the moment our committee was formed, Christine, as Rye Nature Center’s Executive Director, has been a staunch and loyal supporter of all Rye Sustainability programs, from the reusable bag initiative to partnering with us on the Rye Healthy Yard Program. Christine has willingly opened Rye Nature Center's doors for our many workshops and events and underwrote the production costs of our healthy yard signs. She has provided guidance and advice over the years and advocated for us at public hearings. She was even a judge for our sign design contest and spent several hours pouring over hundreds of submissions. For all these reasons, we’re honored to present her with this year’s Rye Sustainability Leadership Award.

Rye Nature Center Director of Conservation & Land Stewardship, Taro Ietaka is RSC’s soil, composting, lawn, and gardening expert. Whether it’s speaking at numerous healthy yard coffees, helping lead our composting workshop, talking dirt to a packed audience for the What’s Under Your Soil event, Taro approaches his many commitments with a positive, cheerful enthusiasm and he seems to have limitless amounts of energy. And despite his packed and busy schedule, he always has time to listen patiently to us gardening neophytes and provide a word or two of help. It is such a pleasure to present him with this award.

Congratulations to Taro and Christine for their much deserved awards!

You can read more about the award and all nominees here.

Killian Announces Nominees for Rye Sustainability's First Leadership Award

One of the suggested items in the Rye Sustainability Plan is the creation of an annual sustainability award. Accordingly, Rye Sustainability is pleased to announce its first Rye Sustainability Leadership Award. Councilwoman Julie Killian announced the award and the nominees at the April 19 City Council meeting.

“Recognize significant environmental achievements made by citizens, organizations or the business community through an annual sustainability award.”
— Rye Sustainability Plan: Community Awareness/Outreach, Item 1.9


RSC Award and Announcement of Nominees - 2017

In recognition of Earth Week and as part of its mission to implement the Rye Sustainability Plan, The Rye Sustainability Committee has created a Rye Sustainability Committee Leadership Award.  This award honors individuals, organizations or the members of the business community that have made significant environmental achievements and demonstrated excellence in leadership for the health of our community and planet.

The members of the RSC, including their two City Council liaisons, have nominated the following individuals or organizations. The winner or winners will be announced at the May 3rd City Council meeting.


Scott Nelson and Rye Country Day School for consistent and generous support of the RSC/RCDS Green Screen film series. At Nelson’s direction, RCDS has partnered, promoted and underwritten the entire cost of the Green Screen program so that the general public can attend, learn about important sustainability topics, and enjoy delicious refreshments, all free of charge. In addition, the RCDS faculty has supported the Green Screen by offering course credit to students who attend. Nelson and RCDS' support of the Green Screen allows the message of sustainability to reach so many more members of the public who would otherwise not be able to learn about it.

Christine Siller and Taro Ietaka of Rye Nature Center for their deep commitment to environmental and conservation education and their continued and generous support of RSC educational and conservation-related programs. Taro Ietaka has attended and participated in numerous events related to RSC’s healthy yard program, while Christine has supported RSC initiatives, including underwriting the production of the healthy yard signs.

Jim Boylan, Midland principal for his leadership and perseverance spearheading the Midland cafeteria composting program and inspiring other schools to follow. This waste free lunch program has reduced the Midland’s contribution to landfills by an estimated 25,000 lbs since the program started, and about 150 lbs per day is now being re-purposed or primarily composted. The program has made a substantial impact on waste reduction with the added benefit of educating students about the impact of their waste. 

Mark Dellicolli, Rye resident and assistant to the Chief Information Officer, Westchester County Department of Information Technology, for his efforts to drastically decrease the energy costs of the County Data Center, which had traditionally been a huge energy drain. Dellicolli’s plan to rearrange the room where all the servers were kept decreased energy use by 10%. This was especially impressive given that the data center is 15 years old, data needs have increased drastically and most importantly it was done in lieu of expensive capital projects previously proposed.  The County now has room to possibly offer local municipalities space for off premises storage for emergency purposes.

Congratulations to all the nominees and we look forward to hearing from the Sustainability Committee on May 3.

"Branching Out For Rye's" First Tree Planting

Plaque CU.jpg

All branches of the community were represented at the April 19 tree planting ceremony commemorating the first tree purchased and planted with funds donated from the Branching Out for Rye Tree Fund.

Rye Sustainability Chair Sara Goddard thanked the many members of the City of Rye staff for their support with facilitating the fund and with the selection of an appropriate and sustainable tree - in this case, a beautiful Thornless Honeylocust. RSC is honored to assist the City with its beautification efforts and Goddard pointed out that that this first tree planting symbolizes a partnership in sustainability among all branches of the community – civic, municipal, residential and business.


RSC member and Tree Fund Chair Melissa Grieco thanked the donors for their generous contributions, noting that donations to date total $4,250. A ribbon cutting ceremony followed, as Deputy Mayor Julie Killian performed the honors with "official" garden shears. City Council member Danielle Tagger-Epstein affixed the Branching Out for Rye tree plaque and then everyone had a turn at shoveling the final clumps of dirt.

The highlight of the day, however, was the arrival of members of Brownie Troop 1915 who, in addition to displaying their expert shoveling skills, plan to embark on a tree fund fundraising campaign as one of their troop activities.

For further information please visit RSC's Tree Fund page and consider making a donation to the Tree Fund. Any amount is welcome!

Bronxville: Healthy Fields, Healthy Kids

For those who attended Rye Sustainability's 1/27/17 healthy yard workshop, you would've heard landscaper Lenny Merone speak about the benefits of natural landscaping. In addition to providing landscaping services for Westchester residents, Merone created a natural landscaping program and oversees grounds maintenance for Bronxville school fields. The Bronxville school district maintains the field for school use, but it's considered a recreation field, and is open to the public.

The naturally landscaped fields are “as good, if not better than the original.”
— Karen Peterson, Bronxville Athletic Director

In a recent interview with Karen Petersen, Bronxville Athletic Director, Peterson explained the logic behind making the switch to naturally landscaped fields.

How long have the fields been free of synthetic chemicals? We first switched over to "green products" -  corn gluten and organic fertilizer - about six years ago, and then about three years ago, Merone put together a comprehensive natural landscaping program for us.

Why did you decide to switch to synthetic-free landscaping?

Three reasons:

  • Mainly, the kids: The chemicals, including high phosphorus fertilizers and weed killers, have a detrimental effect on the environment. Bronxville has had a green policy in the schools and it seemed hypocritical to be teaching about a healthy and natural lifestyle while treating the fields with chemicals.
  • Our ecosystem: Bronxville is near the Bronx River and we don't want chemicals leaching into the water supply.
  • The protection of our wildlife, particularly, a threatened pollinator population.

What are the secrets to success of a well-maintained field?

  • Regular aeration.
  • Fencing to keep traffic off the fields when they're not in use.
  • Overseeding at the right time to control weeds.
  • Leaving the fields untouched during the winter months.

Is natural landscaping more expensive than the traditional method? We made the switch a number of years ago and the products are more expensive, but not outrageously so. The fields require some additional care and maintenance, which is provided by our contract with Merone. The main cost increase is due to the overseeding required to control weeds.

Do you have any future plans? Looking ahead, we have plans to put in an organic infill turf field.

Should the City of Rye adopt a similar policy for its public spaces? Let us know what you think by responding to our survey on the RSC Home Page.

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.