Leaders, business owners share how they’re making a difference this Earth Day

Local News

The 51st anniversary of Earth Day, commemorated Thursday, had a powerful message — humans cannot put of till tomorrow what needs to be done today, and every person must do their part to save the planet.

The theme for this year: “Restore Our Earth.”

President Joe Biden opened a global climate summit Thursday with a bold pledge, saying the United States will cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, by 2030. Those coal and petroleum fumes cause global warming. 

“Scientists tell us this is the decisive decade,” said Biden. “This is the decade, we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”

But the president says we cannot do it alone. During the virtual summit, he urged the leaders of 40 nations to follow suit. 

“No nation can solve this crisis on our own,” said Biden. “All of us, and particularly those of us who represent the world’s largest economies, we have to step up.”

Others are already doing their part. 

Lauren DeSteno is executive corporate chef for Altamarea Group. 

“Working in the restaurant industry for so long, you know a natural byproduct of what we do is waste, you can’t ignore it,” said DeSteno. “We felt the need to be responsible for our part.”

DeSteno launched a Zero Waste Initiative for midtown restaurants Ai Fiori and Marea last fall, and since then, an incredible 85% of their waste has been diverted. 

“With the help of FoodPrint Group, based in Brooklyn, they really helped us to develop a program and a system that works within the confines of our restaurants to let us manage not only better recycling but composting all of our organics,” said DeSteno. “By reducing our waste and increasing recycling and doing our compost, our organic recycling, we’ve dramatically decreased our carbon footprint.”

If you look around the kitchen at Ai Fiori, there is a place for everything. Green bins for composting and blue for recycling. They only order the provisions they need and try to not let any food good to waste. The goal — to try to send as little as possible to the landfills.

“For instance, we sell a lot of oysters at Marea and we’ve diverted 25,000 pounds of oyster shells from landfills by sending them to the Billion Oyster Project, and they use them to build oyster reefs to repopulate New York City waterways.”

On this Earth Day, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy established a Climate Change Resiliency Strategy for New Jersey that includes prioritizing renewable energy and regenerative agriculture.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced all city buses will be electric by the year 2040 and curbside composting returns in October.

DSNY collects more than 12,000 tons of garbage and recyclables daily. The price tag to send our trash to landfills in other parts of the country hovers at $400 million a year. 

Chef Lauren DeSteno said we can all do our part to save the environment.

“Start small. Just pick something that’s easy and manageable and then just try to grow from there,” said DeSteno. “It seems a lot more daunting to many people than it needs to be, if we all just recognize all of our steps no matter how small they are, they will add up to something really great, then we can have a part in saving it.”

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