In the Summer of 2011, the Human Impacts Institute (Hii) is launching our partnership with Asian Americans For Equality in the Go Green Western Queens! Summer Youth Leadership Program as a part of ourExperiential Education Programs. The Human Impacts Institute is providing environmental consulting services to guide the project’s outreach and educational components. We are working with AAFE to develop workshops, connect with local partners, and develop an effective strategy for engaging local community members.
Local youth selected to participate in the program will meet with AAFE Queens twice-weekly from mid-July to late August for a series of workshops in environmental education and community outreach, focusing on the neighborhoods of Woodside, Sunnyside, and Astoria. The program aims to involve the diverse immigrant populations of these neighborhoods in sustainability initiatives that they may have been left out of in the past because of language barriers and lack of outreach.
At the Human Impacts Institute, we are developing workshops in cooperation with AAFEand other partners concerning What Does It Mean to Be Green?, Responsible Cooking Oil Recycling, Reducing Indoor Air Pollution, Sustainable Business Solutions, and Creative Environmental Engagement. Other workshops will focus on community greening, the three R’s, composting, rooftop gardening, and energy efficiency, all with an emphasis on community development.
Hii will also lead tree stewardship days with the youth to engage the community in caring for their natural environment. For outreach components, Hii will be partnering with local artists’ such as Eve Mosher (of the HighWater Line) and her Insert Here project, as well as developing a project blog for students to journal about their learning experience during the program.
Human Impacts Institute representatives will train participating youth to educate local businesses about responsible cooking oil recycling and how it saves money, while protecting the environment. Unaware of the impact on our waterways, many restaurants pour their used cooking oil straight down their sink drains or into storm drains that feed into the city’s sewer system. The grease creates clogs that are not only expensive to repair, but also increase the frequency of combined sewer overflows, (the release of raw sewage into our waterways during heavy rains).
As part of their outreach, the youth will encourage local business owners to take advantage of free cooking oil collection services offered in the area. Because the used cooking oil will be processed into biodiesel, a valuable commodity, business owners are not only contributing to waste prevention, but they are also promoting non-petroleum, local fuel sources. Participating business owners have the added incentive of writing off their cooking oil ‘donation’ as a tax deduction when working with one of Hii’s partner recyclers,RWA Resource Recovery since they are a NYS non-profit organization.
Go Green Western Queens! is one of fifteen Greening Western Queens projects supported by the North Star Fund in response to the 2006 blackouts.
By Peter Tzannes, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Intern