I would like to share research and promote some ideas that, if implemented, could enhance Scarsdale’s green practices and relationship with the environment.
In my last few weeks of high school, I spent my environmental science classes working on a definitive study of how to make Scarsdale Village more green. Between talking to local businesses, the co-chair of the Scarsdale Forum Sustainability Committee and SHS’s Sustainability Committee head, I’ve observed the aspects of the environment that Scarsdale is addressing well, and the aspects to which we should try to pay more attention.
First of all, Scarsdale has made large environmental improvements that have gained momentum outside of the town. At the beginning of 2017, Scarsdale launched Westchester’s first food scrap recycling program, which essentially composts food scraps to return to earth instead of being incinerated like the rest of the food waste in the county. This program is the first of its kind in Westchester, and now about 15 towns (approximately one-third of the county) have adopted this program. I spoke with Michelle Sterling, co-chair of the Scarsdale Forum Sustainability Committee and member of the Conservation Advisory Council, who vehemently spoke about the importance of food scrap recycling. She said at this point in time, most residents have muscle memory about putting certain products in the recycling bin, and she hopes everyone eventually develops that same second nature attitude toward food scrap recycling. She also believes that this program draws more residents to this town, thus helping the economy and boosting real estate values. The town has other eco-friendly projects under way. Right now, the process of converting all 3,000 streetlights in Scarsdale to LEDs is almost complete, which not only saves energy, but saves money and provides better lighting as well. In addition, the Scarsdale Forum Sustainability Committee is pushing for a policy that would mandate organic landscaping throughout town.
Scarsdale High School is taking steps in the right direction as well. The Sustainability Committee has spearheaded composting in the cafeteria, the use of silverware, dishes and dishwashing in the Learning Commons, the decrease in plastic bags in the school’s trash receptacles, the replacement of the water coolers around school, etc. The committee is exploring a zero waste initiative and is even discussing the discontinuation of plastic bottle sales in the cafeteria.
While the town has made large environmental progress as described, some businesses in Scarsdale embrace green practices more than others. Starbucks, a leading force in eco-friendly product use, uses hot cup sleeves so that customers don’t use two cups with hot liquids. The cups themselves are made with 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber, which was the first of its kind approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Starbucks also plans on discontinuing straws in all stores by 2020.
Locally owned businesses have been slower to accommodate the environment, but are beginning to make improvements. DeCicco’s Market is switching to LED lighting, and the store recycles grease to be used by Bee-Line Buses as fuel. The store will eventually have to stop providing single-use plastic bags due to a directive in New York’s 2020 state budget. Lange’s does not use LED lighting and provides plastic utensils, although the deli plans to switch to compostable utensils, similar to those at Bango Bowls. These stores can contribute to the green effort by using only compostable utensils and bags, and refrain from giving customers bags unless the customers ask for them. In addition, the implementation of LED lights in all local businesses would be beneficial, as they are long-lasting and energy-saving products. Businesses can also encourage employees to use reusable water bottles by implementing water coolers into workspaces. They can also use green cleaning products and offices can use recycled paper products and ink cartridges.
Residents can contribute to Scarsdale’s green efforts without expending too much effort themselves. If you would like to participate in the food scrap recycling program, email firstname.lastname@example.org so that your household can receive a bin. If you would like to help the campaign for a proposed organic landscaping policy, email email@example.com to help it get passed.
Scarsdale is making great progress in improving the town’s relationship with the environment, but there is still work to be done. These small steps taken by businesses and residents could create momentum for bigger projects.
Alexandra Wilson is a Scarsdale High School senior.