Volunteer Diaries: Ani Esenyan

Every Thursday volunteers for the Human Impacts Institute engage the local community to promote a few aspects of our Ecopreneurs program. This program aims to engage and educate local businesses in sustainable business practices through our simple 12-Step program.

These outreach sessions started out as ‘Cool Biz Thursdays,’ during which volunteers approach business employees and managers to discuss simple ways to save money and reduce energy waste. The trick? Keeping the door closed while the air conditioning is on, or keeping the door open while the air conditioning is off. Easy right?

On Thursday, June 21, 2013, five HII volunteers split up along Metropolitan Avenue and Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and spent the afternoon speaking to a number of businesses regarding three of the twelve steps. While three volunteers promoted our Cool Biz pledge, Environmental Services Specialist Agathe Laure and I promoted steps ‘Green the Streets’ and ‘No Need for the Gym.’

Green the Streets reduces air and water pollution, supports urban green space, and keeps the street beautiful by encouraging businesses to adopt or request a tree in front of their establishment.

Through No Need for the Gym, HII assists businesses in requesting a bicycle rack from the City. We also provide businesses with bike maps of the City and biking rule books to give to customers. Through this step, businesses encourage customers to bike to their destinations which is a positive environmental impact!


As Agathe and I went store to store we received mixed reactions from employees and store owners. Many people were very receptive and interested in the information we had to share with them. Many thought the tree adoption process was impressive because of its simplicity. HII is partnered with MillionTreesNYC’s initiative to plant one million trees throughout New York City within the next ten years. The adoption process is simple. Go on their website and use an interactive map to find a tree in need by your home or business and simply click to adopt! Adopting a tree entails caring for that tree, whether it be watering it during hot months or collecting the litter that accumulates.

While a few lucky trees were adopted in our two-hour venture, a few bike racks were also requested. HII is partnered with Transportation Alternatives (TA), a nonprofit which promotes green methods of transportation including walking, biking and public transit. Although many businesses were on board with requesting a bike rack, they were further incentivised by TA’s program to become labeled as a Bike Friendly Business.

What was interesting to see was how many businesses were already active in greening their community without us prompting them too. One restaurant had already requested a bike rack while a bar requested two trees. Another store owner pointed out a tree that he had been caring for for the past 20 years.

The movement to green our community is on its way in Williamsburg! A number of businesses throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan have signed our Cool Biz Pledge, adopted a tree or requested a bike rack. To see which ones are participating in the Ecopreneurs 12-Step program, check out our map. If you are interested in joining us for an outreach session or one of our other volunteer opportunities take a look at our events calendar to help us make each day a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

By Ani Esenyan, Environmental Services Intern, Human Impacts Institute, 6/21/2013


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