Park Slope should be a model community for sustainability and responsible stewardship. Meaningful action on climate change and other global issues will have to be taken at the state, national, and international levels, of course, but as concerned citizens, every action we take is important as a message to others. And we can influence our elected leaders’ decisions as well.
To this end, the Civic Council focused its 2008 annual forum on sustainability. The Sustainability Committee was formed some two years later. We advocate for responsible use of natural resources in our community and promote better practices for the environment. Our goals are to provide information on sustainability issues, such as reducing energy usage and practical “green” building techniques; encourage practices that reduce waste and increase recycling; raise awareness of sustainability and carbon-footprint issues in our selection of food and other goods; and work with other groups, and provide them with publicity and assistance.
One of our largest activities is the popular Civic Sweep, held in the fall and spring. At our most recent Spring Sweep, held on April 21, our committee partnered with the Forth on Fourth Avenue Committee to emphasize the clean-up of Fourth and Fifth Avenues; we were also joined by MillionTreesNYC, for a tree-care workshop, and GrowNYC, which provided soil testing, a rain-water capture display, healthful food information, and its famous fruit bike mixer.
To help reduce use of plastic bags, we have produced a tote bag as a substitute, paid for by funds from New York Methodist Hospital, to be offered free to new members and at events for $1. We are interested in how other cities have introduced a plastic-bag fee, which reduces plastic bag use and funds municipal projects, with the intent of doing something similar in New York City.
The committee also keeps an eye on the new trees recently planted on Seventh Avenue by MillionTreesNYC, following a Civic Council request two years ago. Over the summer of 2011, we enlisted volunteers to water these new trees in times of drought. Seven merchants and one church signed up. We will accelerate our efforts this summer. Sustainability Committee members have participated in MillionTreesNYC Tree Care workshops at a 10th Street block party and in Manhattan last year.
Also, each January, the Civic Council cosponsors the local Mulchfest Christmas tree recycling program with the Prospect Park Alliance. We collect more than 1,000 trees for mulching and reuse in our tree pits and yards.
Another Sustainability initiative involves the lot at Fourth Avenue and Sackett Street. For many years now, GreenSpace, Community Board 6, and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, supported by the Civic Council, have worked to create a public garden on this long-vacant lot, which provides access to the city’s Third Water Tunnel. We hope that this garden will soon become a reality. GreenSpace envisions a native-plantings garden and a site for community events. Judy Janda, a founding member of GreenSpace and a member of the Sustainability Committee, is our liaison on this project.
The committee would also like to get the word out regarding hydrofracking, a serious environmental threat to our drinking water. Last year, the committee composed a letter for Civic Council trustees opposing the practice to send to the governor, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and elected officials. We are finalizing documents on this dangerous practice for our members and other Brooklyn Brownstone civic associations.
Our newest project involves working with the Park Slope merchants to get them to use sustainable business practices, beginning with local restaurants. By getting a number of our neighborhood restaurants certified, through the Green Restaurant Association, we can list Park Slope as a green dining designation and promote it on various websites and venues.
In the future, we hope to help promote the city’s new Bike Share Program with the Civic Council’s Livable Streets Committee, educate our community about solar voltaic panels, and help reduce energy consumption through energy audits and installation of energy-efficiency measures.
We are always seeking new members who want to get involved and help the community live more sustainable lives. Meetings are held every third Monday of the month. For more information, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: David Herman