Waste Reduction/Recycling

Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Join your neighbors and participate in Rye’s Food Scrap Recycling program!

Join your neighbors and participate in Rye’s Food Scrap Recycling program!

Get Outside

Ditch the device and get outside. Explore one of the many area parks or organizations (such as Rye Nature Center and Jay Heritage) with beautiful outdoor spaces.

For more ideas, check out these local Earth Week events.

Watch a Movie

The next Green Screen will be this Thursday, April 25, 6pm at Rye Country Day School.

This year’s screening will be The Clean Bin Project, a film about whether it’s possible to live completely waste free. Special guest speaker: Chef, writer, and media host extraordinaire, Erica Wides.

As always, the film, speaker and refreshments are free thanks to the generosity of Rye Sustainability’s Green Screen partner, Rye Country Day School. Register at Eventbrite.

Volunteer for a cleanup

See here and here for a variety of cleanup activities planned in the area for Earth Day and Week.

And to help keep Rye clean and beautiful, sign up for the RSC newsletter to be notified of upcoming events.

Sign up for Food Scrap Recycling

Sign up for Rye’s Food Scrap Recycling pilot program. Hundreds of residents are taking part and you can too. Register online here (click on the yellow banana).

Information and FAQs about the program can be found on the FSR Program Page.

Say No to single-use plastic

Say “No” today and every day. Bring your own Bag and consider eliminating plastic straws from your life.

Read more about Rye Sustainability's Sound Shore Last Straw initiative here.

Plant a tree!

One of Rye’s street trees funded by the Rye Tree Fund.

One of Rye’s street trees funded by the Rye Tree Fund.

You can do it in your own yard or donate to RSC's Tree Fund to help defray costs associated with street tree plantings.

Say No to harmful pesticides

Read how to do it here, then complete the Rye Healthy Yard Pledge and receive your free lawn sign!

Say Yes to pollinators!

It's easy to plant a pollinator garden and the colorful plants that attract pollinators are beautiful. Visit Rye Garden Club's pollinator garden at Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary and then use the pollinator pamphlet to plant your own.

Recycle …

those wine corks at one of RSC's participating Put a Cork in it food establishments.

Be inspired by leaders in sustainability

Read about last year’s winners of the Rye Sustainability Leadership Award and what they've accomplished. This year's winner(s) will be announced on April 24 at Rye City Council’s general meeting.

Need more ideas?

Take a look at RSC's Tips for Homeowners on how to live a sustainable life.


Balloon Busters: What Goes Up Must Come Down!

They’re Just Balloons! What’s All the Fuss?

By Melissa Grieco, Chair, Rye Sustainability Committee

Balloons are generally associated with fun and festivity. However, balloons have a dark side, as they can cause power outages and pose a serious threat to wildlife and the environment. They’re also an eyesore, marring the landscape of our beautiful community. Released balloons ultimately return to the earth as litter, with many ending up permanently clogging and polluting our waterways and oceans. As a coastal community, Rye's ecosystem is particularly sensitive to the effects of released balloons.

What’s in a Balloon?

Balloons are available in two varieties - latex and Mylar.

Latex: While natural latex qualifies as a biodegradable substance, balloon latex is treated with preservatives and plasticizers to guard against bacterial decomposition. It can take anywhere from six months to four years for a latex balloon to biodegrade.

Due to their bright colors, latex balloons in the ocean are often mistaken for food by marine life such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles, with deadly results. Once ingested, balloons can release toxic chemicals into the blood stream and cause physical damage to wildlife by blocking the digestive tract. In addition, ribbons, tassels and strings attached to released balloons can entangle and ensnare marine animals and terrestrial wildlife.

Mylar balloons are made from mylar nylon, a material developed for use in the U.S. space program. They are not biodegradable and are often coated with a metallic finish. Their durability means that Mylar balloons that land in the ocean remain forever. As they drift, they become part of the ever-accumulating hordes of permanent trash that we find in and around Long Island Sound - and beyond. Their shiny quality also makes them particularly susceptible to being mistaken for food by marine animals.


Balloons and You

In addition to being a choking hazard in small children, balloons caught in power lines can be a real nuisance and hazard, causing power outages, fires, and possible injuries.

Furthermore, the widespread use of helium to inflate balloons is contributing to the depletion of accessible helium for use in MRI scanners, fiber optics and LCD screens.

Some communities, including East Hampton, NY, have taken action to prevent the proliferation of balloon litter in the environment by banning the intentional release of balloons.

I Just Want to Have Fun! Are there Alternatives to Baloons?

The good news is that the party (or real estate open house!) can still go on without the balloons! There are a wide variety of fun, colorful and eco-friendly alternatives to balloons including reusable paper streamers, flags, banners and even bubbles.

New Year's Resolutions from Local (Green) Leaders

With the New Year upon us and the possibility of a fresh start, consider a Green New Year’s resolution or two for 2019. To help you get started, here are a few ideas from some of the area’s local environmental and sustainability leaders.

And if you’re still looking for inspiration, check out Rye Sustainability Committee members’ own New Year’s Resolutions!

Andrea Alban-Davies

Conservation Chair, Rye Garden Club

A typical lunch for Andrea’s children

A typical lunch for Andrea’s children

  • Reuse it. Pack a waste-free lunch for yourself and/or your kids. To include in your (reusable!) lunch bag: reusable water bottle, reusable metal food containers, reusable cloth (or other) sandwich bags, silverware, and a cloth napkin.

Chris Burdick

Town Supervisor, Bedford & Founding Chair, Sustainable Westchester

Chris with his Electric Vehicle, the Chevy Bolt

Chris with his Electric Vehicle, the Chevy Bolt

  • Keep that car. Consider whether you can hang onto your car a bit longer. Maintaining your car as long as you can is the most cost efficient use of your automobile dollars and the fewer cars you buy, the less goes into the waste stream. 

  • Staying cool. Consider turning down your air conditioning next summer. Try fans.  

Liz Garrett

Organic landscape designer & former Chair, RSC Rye Healthy Yard Program

  • Leaves. Think of three ways you can use leaves in your own yard to feed the earth; be it the brown in your home composting recipe, shredding them and blowing them into a shrub (or arborvitae) border to blanket the shrubs and beds, or making sure your landscape company mulches the leaves in place on your lawn next fall. January is the time to discuss this with your landscape contractor or find a new one who can. [Need a new landscaper? Visit RSC’s Landscape Directory for suggestions.]

  • Pesticides. Remove at least one pesticide from your arsenal. Are you using chemicals to get rid of weeds in the patio or driveway? Hand pull them instead. Does your lawn care service apply some blanket herbicide as weed control? Try mulch-mowing or over-seeding in the fall to combat weeds that thrive in poor soils. Are you quick to grab a fungicide or pesticide if you see disease or an infestation on your prized ornamentals? Try an organic systemic soil additive or biologic control instead. The recent NY Times article on “The Insect Apocalypse” is a sobering read.

  • Go native. In that vein, if you are adding to your yard, add natives or other beneficial plants and shrubs that will provide pollen and sustenance for native caterpillars and insects. The birds and larger bugs will appreciate it.

Anne Jaffe-Holmes

Executive Director, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County

Anne’s 2019 Resolutions:

  • Get OUT OF MY CAR!!! I'm good about walking when I can, but I am pushing myself - already in December! - to ride my bike to the store, take the bus to work, and get on the train to meet people in another village or town! It requires being more organized so that I give myself enough time to bike, or to be at the bus stop or train station on time. The extra exercise is a major benefit, and being able to read on the bus or train feels like almost like a chocolate reward! The challenge is the discipline of getting out early on my bike, or being on-time for the bus or train I need to take!

  • Do I really NEED to buy this? In the interest of reducing the waste, the clutter, the maintenance that come with owning "things", in 2019 I am excited about slowing down my purchasing. I want to consider more carefully whether I really need to buy something, or whether if I dig through my closet I will find the item I need, or whether I can borrow it from a friend - or maybe even do without it!!! And if I DO decide I need to buy, I am excited about exploring whether I can buy it second-hand!

Kerry Linderoth

Director of Sustainability & AP Environmental Science Teacher, Rye Country Day School

RYE_Family Wellness Day_118.jpg

I will continue striving towards a zero waste lifestyle - both at school and at home! I don't have a trash can in my office, which serves as a conversation starter and educational opportunity about the growing problem with waste in our society. The average American generates 4.4lbs of trash per day, but that number can be greatly reduced by recycling, composting, and reducing unnecessary packaging.

Kerry reports that she also asks her AP Environmental Science students to write out their own green New Year’s resolutions. A good idea to get young minds thinking green!

Peter McCartt

Director of Energy Conservation and Sustainability, Office of the Westchester County Executive

I, Peter McCartt, resolve to:

Peter has made the    Green Westchester Pledge   . Have you?

Peter has made the Green Westchester Pledge. Have you?

  • Complete the update of the Climate Action Plan through the newly established Climate Crisis Task Force;

  • Complete the Demand Response Program that eliminates the chance of brown-outs and black-outs and the subsequent need for more expensive infrastructure repairs and upgrades;

  • Complete the 2 MW Solar System on the Yonkers Bus Depot and start the solar projects on County properties and facilities totaling 4 MW;

  • Further electrify County and municipal fleets and expand EV charging infrastructure, creating a network of stations across the county;

  • Plan the construction of our County-wide food scrap recycling program;

  • Complete the installation of 30,000 LED bulbs across multiple County properties.

Nina Orville

Founder, Abundant Energy

Nina’s resolutions for 2019:

  • Raise awareness. Talk more directly about the implications of climate change for our future well-being. Our reluctance to discuss it makes it easier for us to carry on as if this unprecedented challenge was not disrupting the miraculous natural processes and systems that sustain us. When we connect what science tells us about future conditions with the implications of those conditions for our children and all that we love, it spurs action and resolve.

  • Reduce, reduce, reduce. Reduce use of plastics in all forms and to recycle all plastics that are recyclable (including bringing recyclable bags and plastics film to the grocery store for recycling).

  • Convert to LED. I've already done this one but it's timely for many people: Converting your interior and exterior lights to LED. Look for "warm white" designation to replace any incandescent bulbs. LEDs save about 75% in energy usage and will last for many years.

Ron Schulhoff & Michelle Sterling

Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council


The FSR Dynamic Duo’s resolutions:

  • Number 1, by far: Purchase a food scrap recycling kit and start using it!

  • Grasscycle. It’s so easy for your landscaper to do, requires no extra equipment, and has a significant environmental impact!

  • Mulch mow your leaves

  • Switch to an organic landscaping program. Get those little yellow poison signs off your law for good!

  • Use a Green Garmento bag for dry cleaning, and always save and return your hangers to the dry cleaner! 

Christine Siller

Executive Director, Rye Nature Center

  • Don’t let the winter cold make you idle! Turn off that engine.

  • Once a week, buy nothing.

  • Christine suggests taking a look at Rye Nature Center’s Green Tips as well.

Annie Teillon

Chair, Apawamis Club Green Team

My dream for 2019 is to help foster an understanding that going green is not just for the younger set. Our efforts to protect Mama Earth affect today's environment, economy and our overall health. I am working with members of The Apawamis Club Green Team to pinpoint areas that can easily go green without making a huge lifestyle impact to members. Our initial goals are to reduce the single use plastics such as straws and cups club wide and find alternatives to the coolers full of single use water bottles on the golf course. Waste reduction must span generations so that we can learn from and teach one another. Recycling is integral to regaining a balance of the environmental intricacies of our planet, but not using plastics in the first place beats all!


Tips for a Green Holiday!

The holiday season is here! As you gather with friends and family to celebrate, take some time to plan ahead and make it a Green Holiday. For further tips, see Rye Sustainability’s Thanksgiving Tips post.


Trees. Natural or Artificial? For an excellent analysis of your Christmas tree’s carbon footprint, watch the BBC’s video. The takeaway: The best option is a potted, native tree, but if that’s not possible, consider a locally grown tree. Be mindful, however, of disposal. Ideally, your tree should be composted or incinerated.

For an artificial tree, the biggest impact on the environment comes from production, so the key is to reuse the tree. The BBC analysis estimates, roughly, ten years. But don’t fret: Overall your choice of a tree has a relatively small impact on your carbon footprint.

Lighting. LED lights are the most energy efficient and consume 70% less energy than conventional incandescent lights. Some are even solar powered!

LEDs are also more cost effective: According to the Department of Energy, “it only costs $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights. On top of that, they are significantly less likely to burn out or break compared to their incandescent forerunners.”

Remember to unplug those lights when not in use. Even better, use a timer to regulate lighting use.


Food. Remember, when you can, shop local for locally sourced food. Consider buying extra for those in need. A list of area organizations that accept food donations can be found here. Compost unwanted food.

Don’t toss leftovers! Send some home with guests or check the shelf-life and how best to store foods at Still Tasty.

Traveling. If you’re driving, plan ahead and try to carpool. Maybe this is the year to buy an electric vehicle. NY State has announced a series of broad-scale initiatives to benefit electric vehicles, including the expansion of public fast charger networks across the state, lower residential charging rates, and customer rebates for EV purchases.

Worried about all that holiday air travel pumping tons of C02 into the atmosphere? Ideally, you’d keep your air travel to a minimum or travel direct, but one bit of good news is that according to Wired Magazine, by 2021, “airlines that fly internationally will have to offset any extra emissions under a UN agreement (called the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, agreed on in 2018 in Montreal, Canada).”

Cards. Consider e-cards this year or cards made with recycled content.


What's the environmental impact of online shopping?

Plan Ahead - Ordering Gifts the “Eco” Way. According to the Rainforest Alliance, the emissions from one- or two-day shipping options “tend to be extreme in comparison to slower methods.” By contrast, if you opt out for a slower shipping time the shipper can wait to load up and schedule deliveries in a more efficient way.

Shop Responsibly. Plug-ins such as DoneGood, offer a simple way to discover hundreds of socially and environmentally responsible brands.

Shop Local. Support your local businesses by shopping for gifts in your hometown. And don’t forget that restaurants and food purveyors often offer gift certificates.

Gift wrap. Re-purpose wrapping paper or get creative and use what you have around the house: newspaper, magazines, pillow cases, containers… This site has some great ideas.

Green gifts. Consider purchasing environmentally friendly items that are recycled, reusable and durable. Some ideas:

Gobble it Up! Thanksgiving Tips To Whittle That Waste

Giving Thanks to Family, Friends and Mother Nature


In this season where we cherish all that we have, consider taking a few extra minutes to plan your holiday celebrations to avoid unnecessary waste.

One of the largest sources of waste during the holidays is food waste. According to the National Resources Defense Council, “in 2016, six million turkeys—a value of roughly $293 million—ended up in the trash … And when it comes to climate pollution, it wastes emissions equivalent to driving a car across the country 800,000 times.” In fact, a staggering 40% of our food ends up wasted and is the single largest contributor to landfills in the US.

There are a variety of simple ways to keep Mother Nature in mind as we celebrate. We may not be able to help you with your waist-reduction goals, but Rye Sustainability lists here some easy tips to reduce unnecessary waste.

Reducing Food Waste

  • Plan ahead to limit the amount of food waste. Try out the National Resources Defense Council’s handy “Guest-imator” to help estimate the appropriate amount of food you need for your guests.

Reducing Single-Use/Disposable Items

  • Remember your reusable bags when you shop and select items with little or no packaging.

  • Consider using cloth napkins and reusable dishware.

  • Decorate with nature. Fall is a perfect time to venture outdoors for some beautiful natural decorations.

  • For more tips on how to reduce waste, check out RSC’s Tips For Homeowners page.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

  • Carpool to your destination.

  • Be mindful of your energy usage. Plan ahead to cook items together and unplug appliances when not in use.

  • Consider reducing the amount of red meat and dairy products on your Thanksgiving menu. New research shows that one of the biggest ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to reduce consumption of these products.

  • Shop local. Support your local farmers’ market and merchants to promote your local economy and reduce the emissions from transportation of those products.

Follow the journey of a strawberry from the farm to the refrigerator to understand all that it takes to bring your food to you.

Community Composting in Rye?

Supporters attend and speak out in support of community composting at 10/17/18 City Council meeting.

Supporters attend and speak out in support of community composting at 10/17/18 City Council meeting.

Should there be community composting in Rye? City Council heard the answer from numerous residents at last week’s City Council meeting. With letters of support to council members, or in person, residents asked for the opportunity to discuss and implement a Rye community composting program.

What is community composting? And why does Rye need a composting (or food scrap recycling) program? Read on to learn more.

Promote community composting through education and awareness programs. Emphasize the benefits of composting as a method for decreasing waste while reducing waste collection costs.
— Rye Sustainability Plan: Waste Reduction & Recycling, Section 2.6


A residential composting program is a suggested initiative in the Rye Sustainability Plan for cost savings and waste reduction reasons.

Food waste is not trash: It’s a potentially valuable resource that can be turned into compost. We lose this resource when we send it to the incinerator. The act of composting can also help change habits. As residents begin to separate their food waste from the rest of their garbage, they become more aware of how much food they toss, prompting them to buy less. Ultimately, this can lead to less garbage collected and potentially less waste management expenses.  

In addition to these reasons, RSC members have focused their interest on composting in response to increased community interest and requests for a municipal composting program. To date, a number of residents, businesses and many of our local schools (all Rye elementary, Rye middle and Rye Country Day schools) have instituted various programs.

Town of Mamaroneck’s Food Scrap site

Town of Mamaroneck’s Food Scrap site

There are challenges, however, to individual residential composting setups. Backyard composting is impractical and a perceived nuisance to neighbors. Most importantly, FSR programs sponsored by municipalities have the ability to accept far more food waste (meat, fish, bones) than a backyard composting setup.

For these reasons, a number of local municipalities recently instituted their own residential food scrap programs, with Scarsdale setting up the first voluntary drop off program in 2017. This program was so successful that the town has now added curbside pickup. To date there are ten residential Westchester composting programs and the recent approval by Cortlandt’s Planning Board of a new composting facility indicates that more will follow.

Rye Sustainability Explores a Potential Rye FSR Program:

A Rye resident speaks at City Council in support of community composting.

A Rye resident speaks at City Council in support of community composting.

For over a year, the Rye Sustainability Committee, under the leadership of RSC members Patti Capparelli and Linda Mackay, has been studying the feasibility of a Rye food scrap recycling program. During this time they’ve met with members of the Scarsdale Food Scrap Recycling group and representatives of other municipalities that have adopted composting programs. They have also met with public works’ department heads, toured composting drop off sites and attended conferences on food scrap recycling. They’ve learned a lot about composting!

In addition to meetings with other municipalities, RSC members have met with Rye City staff to determine costs and feasibility of a Rye program. The suggestion of a curbside program was raised by staff, which prompted RSC members to review and interview representatives from municipalities nationwide that offer curbside composting.

Working with Rye City staff, the details for a potential Rye curbside pilot program were then sketched out. RSC has canvassed residents for interest in participating in a pilot capped at 150 households. The response has been enthusiastic and we are currently oversubscribed by 60%.

Details of Proposed Rye FSR Pilot (as of 10/22/18)

  • Source of Funds: $5,000 NYSERDA CEC Grant for community composting and pilot participants’ subscription fee ($26/household).

  • Estimated Start Date: February 1, 2019

  • Number of Households:  A maximum of 150 households (no apartment complexes) will receive curbside FSR collection. Unlimited households, including apartments, can participate through the drop off location at Disbrow Department of Public Works.

  • Duration: 6 months

  • Subscription Fee/home: $26/household

  • Frequency: Once per week curbside collection by DPW.  The curbside collection will be on a day determined by DPW. Drop off participants may drop off during DPW open hours.

  • Drop off Location: at DPW will be open to all residents who sign up and purchase mandatory $20 or $25 starter composting kits.

What’s Next?

City Council would need to pass a resolution approving implementation of the pilot. Discussion and potential vote is scheduled for the November 7 City Council meeting.

See RSC and Scarsdale FSR Group’s presentation to City Council on 10/3/18 here (Item 5). See residents’ calls for discussion of community composting here (Item 5).

Interested in learning more or expressing your support for a Rye program? Contact Patti Capparelli at patticapparelli@gmail.com

Members of Rye Girls Scouts Troop 2196 speak at City Council in support of community composting.

Members of Rye Girls Scouts Troop 2196 speak at City Council in support of community composting.

A Plastic Free July? Try It Out!

Bring your own Bag!

Bring your own Bag!

Plastic Free July, a global initiative of the Plastic Free July organization, is just a few days away. Rye Sustainability is encouraging residents to join us in making a commitment to ditch those pesky and unnecessary single-use disposable plastic items that never degrade and can easily be replaced by durable, reusable products.

Studies show it takes only three weeks to form a new habit, so start with July and go from there!

What Can You Do?

Here are some easy tips to get started:

Participate in a beach cleanup. Most beach waste is plastic.

Participate in a beach cleanup. Most beach waste is plastic.

  • BYOB: Bring your reusable bag when shopping.
  • Water Bottles: Instead of reaching for that plastic bottle of water, fill up a reusable bottle.
  • Drinking Straws: Take the Sound Shore Last Straw Pledge and say "no thanks" to plastic straws that are never recycled and last virtually forever in our waste stream.
  • Utensils: Avoid disposable plastic utensils in favor of metal or, if you're taking your meal outside the home, bring more sustainable bamboo.
  • Produce Bags: Avoid pre-packaged produce and bring along a cloth produce bag.
  • Containers: Check out the bulk food sections at the grocery store and stock up with your reusable container. Some stores will even allow you to bring your own containers from home to fill prepared foods.
  • Wrap: Instead of plastic wrap, try beeswax that can be washed and reused multiple times.
  • Clean it up! Sign up for a beach clean-up to help reduce plastic waste that never degrades.


Rye Boy Scouts Project Aims to Reduce Plastic Straw Consumption


As summer swings into full gear, most of us are planning to kick back and relax. But the boys of Rye’s Boy Scout Pack 2 Den 1 have far more ambitious plans. Their newly launched project selling metal drinking straws is designed to raise awareness about the detrimental environmental effects of unnecessary single-use plastic waste.

Den Leader Emily Dorin explains that the scouts were inspired to take action after watching the recent Green Screen screening of Straws"The movie Straws truly peaked their awareness about the issue and encouraged them to be part of the legislative process for making change.  They held a great self-initiated brainstorming session about how they could use the intercom during morning announcements to spread the word, present to various grades, go to City Council and encourage our leaders."

Recent news, including coverage about a dead whale found with 17 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach, has only served to heighten their awareness of the need to reduce disposable plastic. 

Members of Boy Scout Pack 2 Den selling metal straws at Midland Elementary School.

Members of Boy Scout Pack 2 Den selling metal straws at Midland Elementary School.

The boys have dived into their project with energy and enthusiasm selling straws at local elementary schools and working with the Little Garden Club of Rye. Sales to date have been very successful, with a sellout at Milton Elementary School and more sales to come at Midland and Osborn Schools. During the summer, look out for the scouts at the Rye Sidewalk Sale on July 26, 27 and 28. They also plan to organize an effort to educate their peers and business owners about the long-term effect that straws have on our planet’s ecosystem.

All proceeds from their straws sales will be donated to Soul Ryeders


How can you help reduce your consumption of plastic straws? It's simple:

  • Purchase a metal straw (or more!) from Boy Scout Pack 2 Den. For questions or details, contact Emily Dorin at emily.dorin@accenture.com. 
  • If you're an owner of a food establishment, consider participating in Rye Sustainability's Sound Shore Last Straw initiative by making the SSLS Pledge to only offer straws upon request, or consider eliminating plastic straws completely.

Eight Easy Ways to Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

  • Ditch the Device and get outside. Explore one of the many area parks or organizations (such as Rye Nature Center and Jay Heritage) with beautiful outdoor spaces. For more ideas, check out these local Earth Week events.

  • Volunteer for a cleanup! There are a number of cleanups planned for Earth Day. To help keep Rye clean and beautiful, sign up for the RSC newsletter to be notified of upcoming events.

  • Say No to single-use plastic today and every day. Bring your own Bag and consider eliminating plastic straws from your life. Read more about Rye Sustainability's Sound Shore Last Straw initiative here.

  • Plant a tree! You can do it in your own yard or donate to RSC's Tree Fund to help defray costs associated with street tree plantings.


Sustainability is A.L.I.V.E. at Rye Middle School

By Lila Capparelli, Rye Middle School

Emma Kelly-Walsh, eighth grader, sorting through collected plastic bottles.

Emma Kelly-Walsh, eighth grader, sorting through collected plastic bottles.

Sustainability is alive at Rye Middle School (RMS).  Students take RMS A.L.I.V.E. (Always Looking Into Vital Ecology) as an elective course in seventh and eighth grade.  This course was created by RMS teacher, John Borchert, and is currently taught by himself and John Griffin. Mr. Borchert explained that "RMS A.L.I.V.E. was started to give Middle School students the opportunity to make their school a greener place.  Students maintain an organic garden to supply the cafeteria.  Students also assist the school’s recycling programs and are always looking to make the school more environmentally friendly."

Students in the class learn about the environment and protecting their planet.  They chose to work on projects that make the school more sustainable or increase their schoolmates awareness about their environment.

Projects include:

  • Creating and displaying environmental posters educating students about food waste
  • Petitioning for a greenhouse in the Middle School
  • Building bird, owl, and bat houses
  • Creating art out of recycled materials
  • Making automatic planters out of recycled water bottles
  • Managing indoor and outdoor gardens
RMS ALIVE seventh grader, Harry Swanson, building a bat house for our school grounds.

RMS ALIVE seventh grader, Harry Swanson, building a bat house for our school grounds.

Additionally, students oversee the school’s outdoor vegetable garden where vegetables are harvested and used in school lunches or brought home to students’ families.  They collect recyclable water bottles from the cafeteria and hallways.  Students also collect 2 5 gallon orange buckets full of compostable food from the high school cafeteria and add it to the outdoor compost bins.  Every fall and spring, RMS A.L.I.V.E. encourages all students to participate in Walk or Bike to School Week through a raffle drawing.

Due to the fact that students get to do whatever project they please and are able to recycle and compost, it is easy to believe that this class is so popular.  Also, With all the environmental pollutants being added to the Earth every day, even the smallest actions make a difference.  RMS A.L.I.V.E. is helping make this difference.

I think it’s one of the best classes we run. I love it that kids get a choice in what they do. And this is the generation that will helps save the planet from the environmental poisons.
— Dr. Ann Edwards, Principal, Rye Middle School

Rye Sustainability's New Year's Resolutions

It's that time of year when we scratch our heads for meaningful yet attainable New Year's resolutions. As you try to sort it all out, Rye Sustainability members offer some suggestions to help your 2018 be a "green" one. We've also compiled a list of suggestions from other organizations.

Happy New Year!

Rye Sustainability's New Year's Resolutions

Walker Healthy Yard Signs.jpg


Other Great Ideas ...

  • Although designed for school children, One World's Eco Passport contains a list of "eco actions" that everyone can print out and complete.
  • Varsity's list includes simple action items, such as turning off the dryer and recycling paper.
  • Huffington Post interviewed eco-friendly experts and celebrities for their suggestions, which include switching to a green energy supplier and avoiding disposable containers when purchasing fresh produce.
  • EcoWatch lists 10 ways to be an environmental steward. Some ideas: Buy local and change your mode of transportation.

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.

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.

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.


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?

Five Healthy Yard Lessons by Taro Ietaka of Rye Nature Center

Taro Ietaka, Director of Conservation & Land Stewardship at Rye Nature Center, shares insights and tips about maintaining a healthy yard.

Five Lessons from an Organic Farmer and a Naturalist

By Taro Ietaka

Friends of Rye Nature Center teamed up with the Rye Sustainability Committee’s Healthy Yards Project (RHYP) this spring to help spread the word on home landscaping without chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. The kickoff event, “What’s Under Your Lawn: The Secret to Healthy Soil” featured Max Apton, former field manager at Stone Barns and now owner of the Farmer’s Garden. During our discussions leading up to the Healthy Yards event, it became apparent that Max and I had arrived at many of the same conclusions when it comes to what makes a yard healthy.

Lessons from the forest and organic farm for a healthy yard:

Let this be your pesticide!  (Photo of ladybug by charlesjsharp on commons.wikimedia.org)

Let this be your pesticide! (Photo of ladybug by charlesjsharp on commons.wikimedia.org)

  • Nature provides for its own. A big goal of the RHYP is to wean properties off of chemical-dependence. Synthetic pesticides and herbicides kill beneficial soil micro-organisms that are helping your plants.The trees and shrubs in our forest grow just fine without the addition of any fertilizer other than decomposing plants and what animals leave behind. Be like nature: amend your soil with compost and manure, and leave shredded leaves and grass clippings in place to decompose.

  • Bare ground is bad. Aristotle may have said it first: “Nature abhors a vacuum.” In our case, that “vacuum” is bare, exposed soil which quickly dries out and gets washed away with a heavy rain, or gets colonized by weeds. So remember to mulch between your plants or, even better, plant close together to cover the ground in green.

  • Diversity is desirable. Our Eastern forests have been hit by chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, and many other pathogens over the years, and yet, they have survived. Forests are resilient because of their diversity: if the chestnuts go down, the maples step up. A monoculture, such as a tree plantation or a lawn of Kentucky bluegrass, has no backup plan and is an easier target for marauding insects or fungal invasion.

  • Insects are good (for the most part). Pesticides are poison. They are designed to kill insects and they don’t discriminate between unwanted potato bugs and desirable honeybees. A healthy, diverse ecosystem (see above) will have checks and balances that keep insect infestations under control: let birds, spiders and beneficial bugs be your natural pesticides.

  • Go native. – Don’t give in to the temptation to plant that new beautiful Asian shrub that just arrived at your nursery! We have many examples of gardeners who inadvertently started an invasion after succumbing to the tempting flowers of Chinese wisteria, fruit of wineberry, or one of the many other plants that have run amok in our region. An extra benefit of using native plants is the increase in birds and butterflies you’ll see. Our wildlife generally prefers local cuisine over the exotic.

Did you miss the Wainwright House kickoff event? You can watch Max and Taro's presentation on Rye TV.

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

Take the RHYP Pledge!

Worms and Dirt Featured at Composting Workshop

A large group of brave souls ventured out into the rain storm on Friday to learn how to compost from Rye Nature Center experts, Taro Ietaka, Courtney Rothaus and Annette Hein.

The workshop was part informative introduction and part therapy session to ease the fears of those who might be intimidated by the process. Inspired by Midland school's new composting program, Taro said he decided to organize a workshop to share his knowledge of composting with others in Rye.

Taro began by explaining the mechanics of composting - what to include, what not to include, optimum carbon/nitrogen ratios - and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of composting, chief of which is smelly, decomposing waste. He showed us how he stores scraps in the freezer before transporting them outside. He also provided examples of different kitchen compost collectors and bins.

Annette showed us some of the outdoor compost bins, explaining the pros and cons of each. She recommends at least two bins to store waste in different stages of decomposition.

Courtney concluded by presenting an alternative composting option: vermicomposting (or worm composting, in layman's terms). She described how, with minimal fuss and attention, specialty worms (red wigglers) can be employed to decompose home waste, including paper. With vermicomposting, no sifting or turning is necessary. Homeowners can purchase vermicomposters and worms online to begin composting at home.

Rye Nature Center executive director Christine Siller ended the presentation by stressing the important point that as a by-product of composting, we're helping to achieve a critical goal of reducing waste from the general waste stream.

An enormous thank you to the Rye Nature Center, the presenters, and Christine Siller, for organizing this informative event!

Check out our Resources page for more information on composting. Let's all start composting!