Categorized | Earth Day

NYC Goes Green for Earth Day

By Jim Flood, Jessica Simeone, Michael Preston, and Kate Nocera

Click on the image to learn more about the volunteers and activities at the Green Apple Festival

On a beautiful spring day in Manhattan’s East Village, volunteers came out as part of the three-day Green Apple Festival, a yearly Earth Day event that spans 10 U.S. cities.

Mike Lytle, the head gardener at Tompkins Square Park, put teams of volunteers to work aerating, composting and mulching the park’s flowerbeds. They were there not just to work, but also to learn.

“This is what builds the Earth, this is what improves everything and makes everything easier to do,” Lytle said as he explained the role of composting in the circle of life. “I’m trying to show everyone that the soil is alive,” he added.

This year New York’s Lower East Side hosted three Green Apple Festival events, organized by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, the Lower Eastside Girls Club and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

The festival, now in its fourth year, was a little different than in previous incarnations.  This year the festival is putting a huge emphasis on volunteerism.  In the past there were street festivals going on in conjunction with the volunteer efforts.  Due to economic constraints this year that aspect of the festival was dropped from the list.  A free concert for the volunteers was added in place of the street fairs, said Lily, a communications person for the Green Apple Festival.

The Green Apple Festival is not the only one seeing the economic pinch.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg has had to make quite a few cuts to the budget, among those cuts are composting. Lytle noted that the parks still have the compost created from last Fall’s leaves, but once that runs out he’s not sure what they’ll do.

Bloomberg may be skimping on the environment in office, but his company, Bloomberg L.P., is listed as a generous supporter of International Compost Awareness Week being held this May.

Compost is just what volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were getting their hands dirty with on Saturday.   A pitchfork-wielding Annie Levy said she wanted to do her part this Earth Day and had found the Green Apple Festival and its list of opportunities online.

“I killed a lot of trees through scripts and I definitely needed to do something,” said the 29-year-old Levy, who works in the theater industry. She picked this event because of its proximity to her apartment in the financial district.

While the volunteers at Tompkins Square Park were preparing the ground for planting real flowers, members of the Lower Eastside Girls Club were creating a different kind of flower in another environmentally friendly pursuit.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

For more about the Lower East Side Girls Club and their newspaper flowers, click on the image above.

“We are teaching them how to make paper flowers,” said Lyn Pentecost. Bowls of a watery glue mixture and old newspapers rested on each table as volunteers meticulously constructed the flowers. The goal for the project is to make 300 paper flowers that will be displayed in the club’s “flower garden” before being presented to community mothers on Mother’s Day. The flowers are also sold at the club’s booth at the Essex Street Market.

The Lower East Side Ecology Center hosted a composting workshop on Friday evening. Carey Pulverman, who runs the compost education program, said that trained volunteers called the “Worm Corps” hosted the event. The group gave city dwellers a first-hand lesson in indoor composting and a tutorial for setting up and maintaining a worm bin inside their apartments.

This workshop is part of the Manhattan Compost Project, a subsidiary of the New York City Compost Project, and is offered on a continual basis.

The fourth annual Green Apple Festival included events in all five boroughs ranging from educational opportunities to gardening to arts and crafts.

Events filled up quickly with volunteers and organizations were happy for the help. Lytle welcomed the opportunity to teach the community about the life going on inside of the soil. He said there are 40,000 creatures inhabiting every square foot of soil and he happily pointed out the most interesting ones.

To see Mike talk about the park and show some interesting soil critters, watch the video below.

Mike Lytle discusses soil on Earth Day from Kate Nocera on Vimeo.

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