Thursday, March 31, 2011

Going Green in Queens Educates Earth's Caretakers by Howard Koplowitz >

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Yilmael Diaz (r.) shows the art of correct planting during the Going Green in Queens conference. Photo by Steven Malecki
From making their own compost to Tree Pruning 101, Queens residents learned what they can do to help the environment during Going Green in Queens at the Al Oerter Recreational Center in Flushing.

Fred Kress, the main organizer of the event, said more than 500 people attended the Saturday event.

“Last year the turnout was lower,”he said. “This year was better.”

Mark and Elizabeth Kurtz of Middle Village said they came to the event to learn more about helping the environment.

The couple said they went to the event, where TimesLedger Newspapers was the media sponsor, to learn more about composting and conserving energy.

They said they had tried making their own compost before, but the worms “got so hot [they] ended up dying. We need some tips on how to keep them alive.”

Gina Baldwin, project manager of the New York City Compost Project in Queens, which works with the Queens Botanical Garden, led a workshop on making compost, or decomposed organic matter.

The compost is rich in nutrients that is used to complement soil.

Besides helping plants grow, Baldwin said compost also helps reduce food waste — such as egg shells, food scraps and fruit peels — from going into the garbage stream.

“Compost is like nature’s recycling,” she said.

Baldwin said more than a dozen items can be used to create compost, including hedge clippings, leaves, feathers, corn cobs, hair and nails.

She said the best compost strikes a balance between green materials, such as hedge clippings, and brown materials like coffee grinds and tea bags.

Worms are added to the compost supplies so they can eat the scraps and make the waste that creates compost.

“Fortunately, the worm poop is what we want,” she said, because the waste is high in nutrients.

The event also featured more than 50 informational tables, including companies promoting wind and solar energy and a group of St. Francis Prep students who conducted a project on the ecosystem around the Fresh Meadows school.

“We kind of wanted to take the idea of answering the question, ‘What’s in your backyard?’” said senior Kevin Tong. “What many people don’t know is within the soil are little organisms like bacteria that make the soil have more nutrients.”

“We found a lot of bugs,” said senior Kara Hammond. “You never think about how much is actually around.”

Hammond said the project “was interesting because there’s a lot more than you think is there, but it’s hidden.”

Harlem resident and Oregon native Melody Ross said she went to Going Green in Queens because she is running green volunteer projects for TimeBanks NYC and wanted to network with more green partners.

Ross said she used to do composting in her backyard in Oregon and wants to find other ways to help the environment in the city.

“We’re pretty much green hippies in the northwest so I’ve tried to find green things to do in the city,” she said.