Environmental Ambassadors Help Neighbors Recycle
Since 2016, a small program has been thinking big. Environmental Ambassadors, an initiative run by non-profit GrowNYC, trains NYCHA residents to become environmental leaders who support efforts to make recycling accessible to all. With funding from the NYC Department of Sanitation, GrowNYC’s zero waste program staff has trained more than 156 residents interested in lending a hand.
“One third of the waste produced by NYCHA residents can be recycled. With 1 in 14 New Yorkers living at NYCHA, the potential environmental, social, and economic benefits of recycling should not be overlooked,” said David Hurd, Director of Zero Waste Programs at GrowNYC. “To most, NYCHA is a community where they live and work, but as a whole it is a sizeable city unto itself.”
By participating in the Environmental Ambassadors initiative, NYCHA residents receive training to teach neighbors how and why to recycle, as well as effective outreach strategies to raise awareness and participation in the program with friendly face-to-face interactions. Once they have completed 12 or more hours of recycling outreach, they are certified as Environmental Ambassadors. In addition to certificates, they receive incentives such as gift bags, raffle prizes, Visa gift cards, and work experience to build their resumés.
Loris Green saw it as another way to stay involved in her community. A 46-year resident of Brownsville Houses, Ms. Green has served as Resident Association President and is currently the Resident Patrol Supervisor and a Community Emergency Response Team member. Besides being involved at NYCHA, she attends church, enjoys reading, and loves chatting with her neighbors.
“Before attending GrowNYC’s workshops, I had heard about the general idea of recycling, but didn't know what it really entailed,” Ms. Green said. “I left with a fuller understanding and loved the outreach work. I tabled outside of the buildings, knocked on doors, and presented at the senior center. A lot of neighbors said thank you for sharing the recycling information I learned through the program.” Ms. Green’s favorite part? A visit to Sims Municipal Recycling in Brooklyn to see what happens to all the material New Yorkers recycle. “I’m proud of myself for receiving my Environmental Ambassadors certificate, and I continue putting the information to use in my community,” she said.
For Vivian Jack, being an Environmental Ambassador is a way to stay active. At 75, this retired textile and airport employee enjoys sewing, gardening, cooking, baking, and being involved at the senior center. “It’s important to try new things, whether it’s exploring the city on the East River Ferry or learning new information to share with others.” Ms. Jack thinks neighbors could improve their behavior to clean up the community: “Even when people do not care what I have to say I will say it anyway—I know many people are listening.”
Ms. Jack is happy to be able to share her recycling knowledge and looks forward to teaching people something new. She also relishes the opportunity to meet more neighbors and help improve her community in the process. “I’m going to continue spreading the word about recycling,” she says, “because why not?"
“Vivian Jack and Loris Green are true environmental leaders,” said Mr. Hurd. “Big change like this will take the hard work of neighbors helping neighbors, and individuals taking steps to make their communities cleaner and greener through recycling is invaluable. People are what make NYC the great city that it is, and with people like Vivian and Loris involved, it’s sure to be a sustainable city as well.”
Interested in becoming an Environmental Ambassador? This program is open to NYCHA residents 18 years of age and older. Check out the upcoming workshop schedule below. You must sign up for both Workshop A and B to complete the program, but you do not need to attend both workshops at the same location.
For more information and to sign up, visit www.grownyc.org/nycharecycles.