Water/Land Use

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!


Arbor Day Returns to Rye!

October 12 - Rye City’s official Arbor Day! Rye Sustainability worked to reinstate Rye City as a Tree City USA. The official celebration of this important designation occurred next to the new native tree plantings on Purchase Street. Mayor Cohn read a proclamation announcing October 12 as Arbor Day, followed by a ribbon cutting. Thanks to donors to the Rye Tree Fund who made the new plantings possible. For more information on the benefits of trees visit the RSC Tree Fund Page.

Watch Rye TV’s coverage of the event here.

RSC Chair Melissa Grieco's Arbor Day Remarks

Happy Rye Arbor Day everyone and welcome to this Arbor Day observance and ribbon cutting ceremony. 

As you may already know, the City of Rye was reinstated as a Tree City USA in 2017 after a long lapse of 11 years. Before 2017, Rye was last designated as a Tree City back in 2006, so it's wonderful that we are now back in business as a tree city once again!

This ceremony today is first and foremost a celebration of the importance of trees to our municipality. Trees confer innumerable benefits on our community including:

  • reducing heating and cooling costs

  • enhancing property values

  • cleaning the air

  • providing habitat for wildlife 


And, this is a big benefit for flood-prone Rye, trees are being increasingly recognized for their importance in managing stormwater runoff. In urban and suburban settings a single deciduous tree can intercept from 500 to 760 gallons per year; and a mature evergreen can intercept more than 4,000 gallons per year! Trees also filter out pollutants that would otherwise wind up in Blind Brook and the Long Island Sound in a rainfall event, which we seem to be getting a lot of lately.

Unfortunately, we are losing trees in Rye at an alarming rate due to old age, disease, extreme weather events (which are also happening more frequently) and of course we are losing trees to construction and development.

That is why it's great to see that the Rye Department of Public Works has done a beautiful job with this little plot of land here in our downtown and has planted some native grasses and shrubs as well as these two native trees, a redbud and red maple. 

The funding for the planting of these two trees came from the City of Rye Sustainability Committee Tree Fund. The Rye Tree Fund collects donations of any amount from Rye residents to defray the costs associated with the purchasing, planning, planting and pruning of native municipal street trees. All the Tree P's, as we like to call them.

I'd like to thank several people today.

Arbor Day Proclamation

Firstly I want to thank our Mayor Josh Cohn for all he has done to help Rye become reinstated as a Tree City USA. As I just mentioned, there was a long lapse of 11 years when we did not receive the recognition and it is only with our Mayors endorsement and backing that we were able to reach Tree City USA status once again. This is a big accomplishment for this current administration and one that we should all be proud of.

And a huge thank you to City Engineer Ryan Coyne and his staff for their work in transforming this little patch of land into a native plant oasis. And for all their work in getting Tree Fund subsidized native street trees planted throughout Rye which encompass a bunch right here along Purchase Street including Thornless Honey Locusts, Red Maples, American Lindens and more.

Thank you to all the City Staff including Marcus Serrano, Christian Miller, Joe Fazzino, Melissa Johanessen, Kristin Wilson, Carolyn D'Andrea and others who have helped along the way with the implementation and success of the tree fund. 

Thank you to Rye Sustainability Committee City Council liaison, Sara Goddard, for her unwavering support and advocacy.

And a big thank you to all Tree Fund donors past and present, several of whom are here today.
With that, I'd like to turn things over to Mayor Cohn to read out the official Arbor Day Proclamation after which he'll sign it with this homemade quill (decorated with native grasses of course). And then we'll have a ribbon cutting to mark this wonderful tree planting and occasion.


Leaves: It’s Time to Break Up and Leave 'Em

By Amy Kesavan, Rye Sustainability Committee

Dropping temperatures have finally arrived. Warm apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes, and Halloween candy will soon allow us to indulge in this delightful time of year when the heat has finally abated and the trees give us a brilliant display of autumn beauty. Lucky for us we get well fed and have big sweaters to hide under until spring.

What you may not realize is that fall is one of the best times to prep for that beautiful healthy green lawn you’ll enjoy next summer. Why? Leaves falling off trees return important nutrients back to the soil. This no-maintenance natural system keeps soil covered and naturally fertilized. With the introduction of modern lawn care last century we interrupted this cycle, leaving soil exposed with those nutrients literally removed and hauled away. Your soil is begging you to reconsider those leaves and finally leave them! It’s time to break them up and mulch them over your lawn.

When leaves are mulched over your lawn they provide a vital - and natural - service. First, they keep small gaps covered. Your lawn lacks a sweater to hide under and it hates to be bare. Mulching leaves provides a fine layer of protection that keeps heat and moisture in your soil over the winter months.

Keeping your soil covered also contributes to weed suppression. If your soil has a fine layer of mulched leaves, those spring weed seeds have a more difficult time making contact with the soil and are unable to germinate. Your grass is dormant, but weed seeds are actively seeking a new home. As leaves break down over winter, earthworms feed on them, weaving their way up and around the soil, naturally aerating it.

Leaf Mulching Demo at Rye Nature Center

Leaf Mulching Demo at Rye Nature Center

Finally, mulched leaves return important minerals and nutrients taken by the tree from the ground, back to the ground leaving a naturally fertilized soil for your lawn to grow. Mulching your leaves over your lawn will not kill your grass; it will make it stronger. How is this achieved? There are a number of ways to work with your landscaper or mulch leaves in place yourself. The resources below will help you get started.

It’s finally time to break them up and leave them …and focus on enjoying a pumpkin latte.

Mulching With a Landscaper

Fall is the time to talk to your landscaper!

Many landscapers have leaf mulching attachments available upon request. If your landscaper does not have one, they can mow a fine layering of leaves without it. Please request they consider purchasing one. If you manage your own lawn, there are an abundance of YouTube videos available to do it yourself.

If you’re considering a new landscaper, consult Rye Sustainability’s landscaper directory for a list of suggestions. Working with a lawn care professional committed to natural landscaping practices is an important component to achieving a truly healthy yard.

Mulching Yourself

After watching Rye Sustainability’s 2017 leaf mulching demo at Rye Nature Center, Rye resident and RSC member Linda Mackay was inspired to buy a leaf mulching blower and mulch her own leaves.

Linda reports that turning the leaves into mulch was very satisfying and only took an hour. It was very easy to manage and she had lots of mulch to spread around her beds.


Healthy Yards, Healthy Pets


Healthy Yards, Healthy Pets

Rye Nature Center Director of Strategic Initiatives AJ Johnson.

Rye Nature Center Director of Strategic Initiatives AJ Johnson.

Humans and their furry friends flocked to Pet Pantry Warehouse this evening to hear about how to keep their lawns healthy and safe for their pets.

Rye Sustainability Chair Melissa Grieco kicked off the event by thanking Pet Pantry for generously hosting and providing treats for the four-legged attendees at their “Bark Bar.” Baked goods for humans were prepared by Rye Sustainability member and healthy cook extraordinaire, Jenny Hirsch.


The main event of the evening was the presentation given by Rye Nature Center Director of Strategic Initiatives AJ Johnson. AJ holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology and has several years of experience in environmental education and outreach. He spoke about the health and environmental hazards of toxic chemical lawn applications and offered practical solutions.

Some of AJ’s recommendations and tips for keeping your lawn healthy and safe for all:

  • Keep pesticides from leaching into your yard from neighbors’ yards by using plant buffers. Some good native buffers include choke berry and switch grasses.

  • Reduce lawn area with native plantings.

  • Mulch leaves, leave grass clippings to retain moisture and insulate your lawn.

  • Aerate your lawn as a natural way to get nitrogen deep into the soil.

  • Consider using native grass for your lawn. Why?

    • Less maintenance over the long run because these grasses are “meant to be here.”

    • Native grasses reduce storm run off due to their deep roots (vs sodded turf grass).

    • They act as a filtration mechanism for cleaning out toxins from the soil.

    • Requires less mowing, so less air pollution.

    • Native grasses act as a carbon sink.

    • Less expensive than sod.

    • Some suggestions: big bluestem grass, little bluestem, buffalo grass

  • Lawn burn: Tall fescue grass works well

  • Pets and Poison: AJ mentioned contacting a pet poison hotline. A recent article on pets and poison provides information on what to do and who to call.

Most importantly, remember that what’s outside can come inside. You may do your best to keep your home free of harmful toxins, but pesticides sprayed on lawns outside stick to shoes and pets and get tracked inside. A recent study about pesticides lurking in our home addresses this problem.

For more tips on how to keep your outdoor spaces pet- and human-safe, take a look at Rye Sustainability’s Takeaway Tips: Healthy Yards, Healthy Pets.

Rye Receives Tree City USA Designation

It’s official! Rye has received Tree City USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation! Rye Sustainability worked with Rye City staff to reinstate this important designation after its lapse for many years.

Rye Sustainability would like to thank City staff Christian Miller, Ryan Coyne, Melissa Johanessen, and Joe Fazzino for all their help, and a special thank you to Mayor Cohn for making the official proclamation.

Stay tuned for details about an upcoming Rye City Arbor Day, but information about Tree City USA and the importance of trees can be found on RSC's Tree Fund Page.

Want to help keep Rye a beautiful, tree-lined community? Consider a donation to the Rye Tree Fund, which helps finance the planning, purchasing and planting of street trees in Rye.

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.

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

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.

"Branching Out For Rye's" First Tree Planting

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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!



Pesticides: A Quick and Easy Primer

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

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

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

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

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

  • Take the RHYP Pledge!

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