Five NYC environmentalists fighting the green fight
1. Christine Datz-Romero, 52, executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center
Datz-Romero, who co-founded the center in 1987, has pushed successful recycling and composting initiatives and education programs throughout the city.
Most recently: The renovation of East River Park is slated to be completed this year, and Datz-Romero plans to expand the center’s composting capabilities by relocating the facility to the park. Also, through e-waste recycling events, which accept broken or unwanted electronics, the center has collected a record 150 tons of electronic waste in 2011 with donations still rolling in.
Her recommendation for New Yorkers who want to start composting: “Just come to a workshop or talk to someone who has done composting, so they can learn” how.
What materials do they need? “Just the desire really. The materials they generate every day, whether it’s by drinking coffee or tea or eating a banana — they can’t think of it as garbage. It’s a natural resource, and they’re giving back to the earth by composting.” Compost can be stored in bags or bins in the freezer to contain the smell.2. Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, 34, author of “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet”
He serves as policy adviser in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Longterm Planning and Sustainability and for the PlaNYC program. He also is a regular contributor to national radio news show “The Takeaway” and a board member for the Muslim Consultative Network.
Most recently: Abdul-Matin is helping the city’s mosques become more environmentally conscious. When the Muslim holiday Ramadan arrives this summer, he will encourage people to use “Ramadan kits” that include reusable plates, eating utensils and water bottles for when they break fast at sundown instead of creating waste with disposable items.
The first step New Yorkers can take to green their lives: “Figure out how much trash you create and put out in one week, then next week reduce it, then reduce it again the next week, so it’s a little bit less and less. [Do this by] buying less stuff and recycling more.”
3. Marcel Van Ooyen, 46, executive director of non-profit environmental group GrowNYC
In encouraging more New Yorkers to buy fresh produce, many of GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets now accept food stamps and EBT cards. The program last year took in more than $500,000 in food stamp purchases -- double the 2009 amount -- and $150,000 in Health Bucks redemptions, credits distributed by the city Health Department. One $2 Health Buck coupon is given out for every $5 spent in food stamps.
Most recently: GrowNYC is promoting the citywide Grow to Learn NYC initiative, which allows public and charter schools to apply for mini-grants to build gardens. Van Ooyen’s goal is for every school to have a garden. He also is working to establishing a wholesale farmers’ market in the Bronx.
How he believes New Yorkers can reach their full green potential: “Recycling is the easiest step, but they can take it to the next level. Get a [composting] worm bin, walk or ride a bike even more, shop at farmers’ markets to support local agriculture ... weatherize your home. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”
4. Lynne Serpe, 39, co-founder of Queens-based Triple R Events: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Serpe is an activist who works with a plethora of organizations including the Two Coves Community Garden in Astoria, the Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee and the Astoria Park Alliance.
Most recently: She serves as a consultant for the Greening Libraries Initiative at Queens Library, scheduling environmental education programs, making the buildings more energy efficient and more.
How she said New Yorkers should consider in their everyday lives: “A lot of my focus has been on urban agriculture and food justice, issues like growing your own foods, community gardens, shopping locally at a farmer’s market, the compost side of things. ... We need to think about where food is coming from and then what we do with anything that’s leftover.”
5. Majora Carter, 44, president of Bronx-based economic consulting firm Majora Carter Group, LLC
Carter advocates environmental remediation in economically blighted areas such as the south Bronx to create jobs for those she calls “America’s most expensive citizens.” She founded the non-profit Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 and ran it until 2008, pioneering green-collar jobs and placement.
Most recently: The public radio series, “The Promised Land,” that Carter hosts earned a Peabody Award. She is also working on her own national brand of local- and urban-grown produce.
What she believes should be NYC’s top environmental priority: “Climate adaptation through green infrastructure. The temperature is going up no matter what we do. The time to start preparing is now. Climate adaptation jobs will grow in demand as we go forward.”