Green with progress
Celebrating Earth Day together
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Earth Day isn’t just about tree-hugging.
It is also about books, iPads, and even theater.
At the Go Green Earth Day celebration at the YM & YWHA of Wash
ington Heights and Inwood on Nagle Avenue this past Sun., April 21st, Word Up Book Shop, an uptown recycling collective, a theater group, and a future Miss Fix-it gathered to help educate the community on how to go green.
It was the center’s fourth annual Earth Day event.
“It’s a way we can communicate to the community how important it is to protect the environment,” said Deborah Katznelson, the Y’s Chief Social Services Officer.
The disparate cast of participants all shared one common message: waste not.
That is at least one of the goals of Sandra Goldmark and her husband Michael Banta, who are opening a local pop-up repair shop in June.
Aside from other odds and ends, the couple will also try to tackle broken electronics, which can be among some of the more challenging items to repair.
“The best that we can say is that we’re going to try. We’ve had successes and failures, but we’re going to encourage people to bring them,” said Goldmark, who was tabling to raise awareness for the repair shop.
Among those items that had been saved, Goldmark reported, were an iPod and a phone.
In the event that the couple is unable to fix electronics, Goldmark said they should be disposed of responsibly at an e-waste drop off site, rather than just throwing them away.
“That sort of waste and culture of disposability is what we’re trying to address,” said Goldmark.
According to a 2010 report on electronic waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2.4 million tons of e-waste was disposed of that year.
That’s 142,000 computers and 416,000 mobile devices every day.
The fact that some of the most popular electronics devices, including the iPhone, only have a year warranty doesn’t do the environment much good, either.
These products mostly end up in the landfill, and leave behind hazardous chemicals, like mercury, that can get into the water supply.
Volunteers from Word Up showed that recycling isn’t limited to plastic and metal: words, too, can be recycled.
The shop’s book ambassadors were giving away second-hand books that day.
“Instead of throwing them away, we are recycling them,” said volunteer Hawa Tunakara.
Recycled reads and borrowed books are the best way to go for the eco-conscience. Print, even when it is purchased new, is better for the environment than an e-reader, she argued.
“If we are all using e-readers, where are all these books going to go?” she asked. “And after you get rid of your e-reader, what is going to happen to it?”
Not only do e-readers consume electricity, a lot of resources are required to produce them.
For example, as has been noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 70 pounds of water have been used to make just one chip weighing less than an ounce, and
between 500 to 1,000 different chemicals are used to produce the circuit board.
According to the Council, it takes more than 500 pounds of fossil fuels, nearly 50 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one desktop computer.
And according to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), only 20 percent of computers were recycled in 2007.
The good news is that starting in 2015, electronic waste will no longer be accepted for disposal by New YorkState; electronic waste will be recycled.
Cynthia Doty, a member of the Morningside Heights/West Harlem Sanitation Coalition, explained that when e-waste is recycled, reusable parts are taken.
“[And] anything that’s hazardous is sent to a designated hazardous waste spot.”
“We don’t know where they put it,” added Joan Levine, another member of the coalition.
For those seeking a dramatic interpretation of how being good to the eco-system is good for all, there was even a special presentation, one for all ages.
The Open Tent Theater Company, a local theater group, performed a theatrical rendition of The Giving Tree—the Shel Silverstein favorite that personalizes the effects of environmental rapine.
The props used by the theater group were made by children, who used material salvaged from a landfill-bound destiny.
The children were invited to come on stage and perform with the actors.
Eva Rosario said she knew her daughter, Melanie, 10, would contribute to maintaining a more sustainable environment in their home after learning how to recycle.
“It’s good for the children to understand how to help our planet,” said Rosario.