Happy Earth Day!

I was really HAPPY to see my social media sites full of Earth Day photos and articles of ways to help the environment and how people I know are making our planet a better place.

I took a moment to reflect on the changes I’ve made in the past year.

First, I have made an effort to make time out of my busy schedule to volunteer more often and try new things. I’ve promised to share more of these experiences on this blog but that still needs a bit more effort from me…is there such a thing as a blog without words?

Since my company does not supply us with a recycling program, I have been taking a few items that we use the most to the recycling bin in my home or Whole Foods. I make sure that all printer ink gets repackaged for UPS pick up for free recycling. I recently started a collection bin for batteries and thrilled at the enthusiasm I’ve received from co-workers to give me their old batteries for recycling!

In my own home, I have made severe changes to my diet and cooking habits. Since I had surgery I am eating healthier and avoiding certain foods. I’m adding foods to my diet according to the nutrients they contain and experementing with foods I never ate such as lentils and seeds. I’ve taken more time to research home and beauty products to reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals in my life. There are days I stand in the aisles of natural food markets perplexed and frustrated reading labels or browsing online for recipes of homemade granola or shampoo but it is worth it. I’m learning a lot and I feel much better!

A lifestyle change doesn’t happen over night. It takes time and a conscious effort every single day. I am trying. I am doing what I can. I am proud of myself. I am proud of those who do the same.

Happy Earth Day!

-Holli

One Thing That’s Green

Today I am attending the 7th Annual “One Thing That’s Green” event hosted by JetBlue Airlines and New York Restoration Project and its MillionTreesNYC initiative! This is a BIG event and I am happy to participate! 

I’ve been eager to volunteer with MillionTreesNYC. It is a citywide program with one HUGE ambitious goal: to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s all five boroughs over the next decade. They plant trees. Trees are good. 

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It’s early Saturday morning, the sun is shining – it’s supposed to be 65 deg today! I walk over to 48th Street and jump on the Q104 bus for a quick ten minute ride to the Woodside Houses, where the event is taking place. I read that 250 volunteers have signed up today to plant 100 trees in the neighborhood during this event.

I arrive at the event by 9 am. I get a wrist band, a raffle ticket, and a free JetBlue t-shirt. I wonder over to the breakfast brunch table set up with bagels and coffee from Panera Bread. There is COFFEE!!!! :) I LOVE when volunteer events supply us with coffee! I spend some time chatting with JetBlue crew members that are volunteering today. They all seem really happy to have an opportunity to give back to their community.

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I meet Susan, the Program Manager for the NYC Compost Project (see picture below). The NYC Compost Project was created by the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling, which provides compost education and outreach to NYC residents, community groups, government agencies, and nonprofits. I think that every volunteer event should have a compost and/or recycling bin on premises to constantly remind us to do the right thing. Susan gives me information on how to find compost bins around NYC and we chat for a while. If you see Susan at any event say HELLO and don’t forget to THANK her for all her hard work!

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After breakfast, a radio DJ announces that we are having a fitness workout by a celebrity trainer…I make it through the first part of the workout that involves stretching and squats. When he started doing push ups I quickly ran off pretending I needed more coffee.

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We break off into groups organized by colored flags and our wrist bands and walk over to different areas of the neighborhood. I decide to plant the big trees on the sidewalks and after a quick demonstration we move over to our first tree planting! Digging the first hole is easy until we reach a root left behind from a tree that was removed last year. We have to break out the saw and pick ax and put some sweat and muscle into removing it.

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Our first tree is in the ground – success! :)

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We move on to a grassy area to plant another tree. The time goes by really quickly. After our second tree we are ushered back to our meeting grounds for lunch and a raffle.

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It was a great volunteer event! I was really glad I had a chance to volunteer with NYRP once again and MillionTreesNYC for the first time. I’m always happy to see big companies such as JetBlue using their resources to sponsor volunteer events that make a difference. And, as always, volunteers make it all come together!

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sign up for “One Thing That’s Green” day

I just signed up for the seventh annual One Thing That’s Green on Saturday, April 19th in Highland Park hosted by JetBlue Airlines and New York Restoration Project and its MillionTreesNYC initiative! This tree-planting event is estimated to plant over 100 trees with the help of more than 250 volunteers in the garden space in New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Woodside Houses in Woodside, Queens! That is great! I can’t wait to be a part of this event. 

If you haven’t participated in a volunteer event this year then sign up! I will be there! I love big sponsored volunteer events. We get FREE t-shirts, training, and fun activities through-out the day. Usually breakfast, lunch, and snacks are provided to volunteers as well. It’s a fun day to get out and meet new people, gain experience, and make a positive difference in the community you live in.

See you there! :)

 

 

at Far Rockaway Beach….again

It’s supposed to be 71 deg today so I have decided to pack my beach bag and go to Far Rockaway Beach! My plan to do my laundry on a Saturday morning was not as FUN as going to the beach! :)

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I can hear the waves crashing on shore from across the street and I’m eager to get onto the sand. I take off my shoes and the sand is hot on the bottom of my feet – which feels amazing! It’s quiet out here today – just a few dog walkers and surfers again.

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I spend a few hours combing the beach looking for seashells and picking litter, stopping to watch dogs happily splashing in the ocean fetching sticks and the surfers braving the freezing water to catch a wave.

I had a few beach goers approach me today asking me what I was doing and appreciating my efforts. A dog walker ran up to me with his hands full of trash to put into the bags, eager to help. A surfer stopped to chat and thank me for cleaning up. One lady said “We all have to do our part in keeping this beach clean, I think it’s amazing that you are here today picking litter. Thank you so much for doing that.” YOU ARE WELCOME! I was so HAPPY that people noticed what I was doing and talked to me about it.

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DANGER: There may be litter on the beach that your child or dog will step on and get hurt! Please take your trash with you when you leave the beach. Thank you! :)

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I filled 9 small shopping bags with litter from the beach in two hours. I found some really large pieces of styrofoam and metal that have blown in from the construction sites.

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I wandered past Beach 90 where the boardwalk is under construction and closed off to the public. The sand is accessible and that is where I found most of the litter. I couldn’t fit all of it in my bags and there was no garbage cans for me to dispose of what I found so I had to carry all the bags back to the nearest trash bin.

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A list of SOME items I found on the beach today:

12 cigarette butts
38 plastic bags/plastic film pieces
25 plastic bottle caps
9 pieces of cloth
4 large styrofoam pieces
1 construction Danger sign
3 balloons
3 cig lighters
9 random obects
8 pieces rope/cord
1 black styrofoam piece
17 bags of chips/snacks
3 snickers bars wrapper
1 blue plastic kids sand shovel
3 large corona beer glass bottles
3 beer cans
2 tampons
7 piles of doggie poop
1 glove
10 random plastic pieces
and the list goes on…

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The bright pink balloon I found on the beach this morning – and my birthday is coming up in a few days! Is that a coincidence??

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I’m not sure why these mountain bikers are taking their bikes on the break wall rocks but I’m curious if they are doing some extreme rock jumping. Also hoping nobody gets hurt!

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If you want more motivation to get out and make a difference I found this great video last night on the Daily Ocean blog. Sara Bayles has done 365 beach cleanups in her local area with a mission to inspire others all around the world to care about our oceans and their beaches. And she is quite an INSPIRATION to me! Read all about it!

Thank you for reading my blog post. If you have any questions or comments write em down! I’d love to hear from you!

gardening in East River Park

It’s Saturday! I am volunteering with New York Cares and the New York Park and Recreation Department in East River Park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to plant daffodil and crocus bulbs in one of the many many gardens. Our many wishes came true and we have a warm sunny Spring day- finally!

I used to play tennis at the Brian Watkins Tennis Center in East River Park, but have’t been here in years! I am eager to walk down Houston Street and explore the Lower East Side of Manhattan this morning before I get to the park. The 7 train was running to Manhattan this weekend so my commute was quick and easy. I got of the F train at Houston and took my time walking down to the river. Katz’s Deli was a great place for me to visit for the first time and get a cup of coffee to go.

I continue to walk another 15 minutes to the East River Park, which runs alongside the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Drive and the East River from Montgomery Street to East 12th Street. This park is over 57 acres of waterfront property with spectacular views of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. It has bike paths, flower gardens, tennis courts, baseball courts, playgrounds, soccer fields, an amphitheater, and the Ecology Center. 

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I meet the New York Cares team leaders and fellow volunteers at the track house off the FDR and 6th. The New York City Parks gardener, Hayward, gets our supplies ready for us to start planting!

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For the next few hours we plant daffodil and crocus bulbs in the garden and talk, laugh, and enjoy being outside. I’m really glad I signed up for this project – it was a great way to be outdoors, meet new people, and explore the LES once again, and hopefully in a few weeks we will see our flowers grow and bloom!

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As you can see, there are some daffodils already blooming around the park. The month of March was starting to get depressing because the weather just wasn’t letting winter go quite yet. I was hoping to wash and put all my gloves and hats away for the year but I still need them every day.

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After the volunteer event I decided to walk down the path along the East River and check out more of the park. The baseball field had a game in progress. I noticed the sign (pictured below) that warns players and visitors to clean up after themselves! Just to note, the entire park was really clean of trash except in the fenced off areas under the bridge.

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After the volunteer event I decided to walk down the path along the East River and check out more of the park. The baseball field had a game in progress. I noticed the sign (pictured above) that warns players and visitors to clean up after themselves! Just to note, the entire park was really clean of trash except in the fenced off areas under the bridge.

 

in need of beach therapy

It’s 42° out and I am taking the bus to Far Rockaway for some “beach therapy” this morning. I’ve spent the last few weeks at home lying on the couch recovering from surgery. The most excitement I’ve had is walking six blocks to the grocery store in less than an hour and having to rest after. I’ve been feeling frustrated by the slow recovery and overwhelmed with future decisions. I need sand and surf to help clear my thoughts!

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I take the Q53 bus from my neighborhood in Queens to Far Rockaway which is a much shorter commute than taking the A train through Manhattan. The bus ran local but a 45 minute ride to the beach at the cost of a metro card swipe is worth every minute.

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I started out at Beach 90th entrance and made my way slowly down the beach. The sun was shining but the wind was chilly so I was prepared with my wind proof gear – not planning to squish my toes in the sand today!

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One of my favorite things to do is what I call “pokin around” in the sand, finding objects to pick up or collect, such as unique seashells. I brought a few plastic bags with me just in case I found trash to pick up. I collect the plastic bags from all food deliveries at the studio and bring them home to recycle or use for my clean-ups.

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As I made my way down the beach I found a substantial amount of litter to pick up. Most of the litter seems to be plastic bottle tops or beer cans left over from beach goers. (pictured below) I also found a lipstick, rubber glove, rope, mini liquor bottles, tampons and plastic bags. I also saw ALOT of dog shit on the beach which made me really angry. I can’t believe that people don’t pick this up – if they think they are responsible enough to own a pet they need to be responsible for cleaning up after that pet. Nobody wants to walk on the beach with bare feet at any time and step in DOG SHIT! It is so disgusting! (poop not pictured below)

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I filled 4 small plastic bags with trash. Content with my clean-up I took some time to sit on the sand and enjoy the peaceful sound of the waves crashing into shore and watching the surfers hit the waves.

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I didn’t find a box of courage or happiness on the beach buried in the sand, nor did I find that suitcase of hundred dollar bills I keep asking for, but I did have a good short cry and a moment to myself to think long and hard about my choices that I need to make.

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volunteering in Chinatown

I was volunteering at Sara D. Roosevelt park today with New York Cares and the New York City Park and Recreation. The weather was great and we worked hard raking leaves along the edge of the fence.

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As you can see in the pictures there is still some snow on the ground. The weather has been quite cold the last few weeks but gave volunteers a break this Saturday morning. It felt great to get outside and work up a sweat!

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The park is in Chinatown area of New York City so there was a lot of trash around the park because of the Chinese New Year parade and celebrations held here recently.

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Thankfully I did see a small crew of workers from New York City Parks and Recreation sweeping and cleaning the trash in the park. They definitely had a lot of work to do that day.

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a winter weekend in North Fork

On Saturday morning we took a leisurely drive to North Fork, the heart of Long Island’s wine country. It was a last minute trip since the beach cleanup had been canceled earlier that day. It was rainy and foggy but warm for a winter day so we decided to find a different adventure  instead of sitting at home or running errands. We both decided that taking down the Christmas tree and packing the decorations could wait just one more week even though it is the middle of January.

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Our first stop was the Horton Point Lighthouse located high on the cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound in Southhold, NY. This lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington himself in the 1700′s. We didn’t get any pictures of the lighthouse because it was still raining and very foggy. Our adventure took us down the long rickety wooden steps to the beach. The beach was extremely rocky and slippery and dangerous so we couldn’t wander too far.

We did find some small pieces of trash on the beach to pick up quickly but it was relatively cleaner than we had expected. We hadn’t planned to clean the beach that day anyways and the rain prevented us from staying too long.

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Why did the wild turkeys cross the road? I don’t know but we had to chase them into a yard because the road was windy and cars were speeding by and we didn’t want to take a chance they wouldn’t get to the other side.

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Since it is winter time, most of the vineyards close early so we are off to find a wine tasting event soon. There are 52 vineyards on Long Island with 26 wineries open to the public. You can find more information on the official website of the Long Island Wine Council at www.liwines.com. We stopped at a Bedell Cellar and Winery which closed at 7 pm and had a nice atmosphere and a diverse menu.

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Bedell Cellars Winery is a fully sustainable vineyard in Cutchogue, NY area. We chose the Estate Flight tasting off the menu pricing at $15, which includes five wines. It was nice to relax by the toasty fireplace. The staff at Bedell Cellars were friendly and informative and Jack gave us a private tour in the back where the “magic happens.” We both learned a lot about wine making, how the grapes are grown in the sandy rocky soil and when they are harvested.  We also had a chance to taste the wine that was served at the last Presidential inauguration dinner. It was a great experience!

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On the crisp winter afternoon the sleeping vines showed their raw beauty of stark browns and reds contrasting with the white snow and pale green grass. Visiting a vineyard in winter seems unintentional but the area is quiet and lazy with fewer visitors. I enjoyed the quieter time of the countryside because it was a nice escape from the busy city life for a weekend.

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Sunday morning didn’t start off well with a dead car battery and a few hours to fix the issue but eventually we got back on the road to enjoy the clear skies and visit a few places we missed during the fog from the previous day.

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Did you know that agriculture is Long Island’s largest industry? We drove past many farmstands that sell their fresh vegetables and fruit, cut firewood for $5, and even homemade pies during the season.  There isn’t many restaurants or farmstands open in the winter time so be prepared with snacks or a picnic lunch.

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Our last destination was to Orient Point, which is literally the end of the road. The next stop is to jump a ferry boat to Shelter Island or Plum Island from the marina or sail to the coast of Connecticut. The sign below is before the ferry for visitors getting off their boat. Welcome to New York!

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The drive on Main Road to Orient Beach State Park gives you beautiful views of the small towns like East Marion, rocky beaches, horse farms, and seafood restaurants. At one point the road narrows and there is only water on both sides. We saw flocks of geese feeding in the shallow water, white-tailed deer running through the tall reeds, and an abandoned boat on the shore.

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The beach at Orient Point near the marina was quite beautiful with a far away view of a lighthouse and a perfect spot to have a picnic and watch the ferry dock.

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Apparently this beach is a shell collectors paradise because most of the beaches are covered in seashells and we had heard that there were rare yellow ones that could be found on only one beach in the area and we found some here!

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We had a great time exploring the north side of Long Island over the weekend. I can’t wait to go visit again in the summer!

Canceled Cleanup

I had signed up for my first coastal cleanup with an organization for this past Saturday, January 11, 2014 at Rockaway Community Park by Beach 58th Street. The clean-up was organized by NAV, Natural Areas Volunteers (NAV) supports the restoration and protection of New York City’s forest and wetlands through volunteerism and training. I found the volunteer event on the official website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation volunteer page.

Saturday was cold, rainy, and extremely foggy so the event was unfortunately canceled.  I would go out in any weather so it’s always disappointing when a volunteer event is canceled for me but it is imperative that the volunteers safety is the main concern for any organization. Safety should be a concern for you as a volunteer as well. Keep in mind that ANYTHING you do for others or your surrounding environment makes a difference so if  volunteer event is postponed or canceled just go out and pick up some trash in your neighborhood or make your neighbor cookies and still feel good about yourself.

Happy New Year 2014

New Year’s Eve is a chance to celebrate, to anticipate wonderful things can happen in the new year. Take a moment to truly reflect on what you have accomplished before you make resolutions of change. Recognize this opportunity to make a commitment to become better in our career, relationships, and passions. The last few months of a few difficult times and hard work have brought unexpected rewards and given me more courage and strength to pursue my goals, the support and encouragement I’ve received has been astounding from friends, family, and fellow volunteers. I am so very GRATEFUL! No matter how you celebrate tonight, be SAFE out there. I wish a HAPPY, healthy, and wonderful NEW YEAR 2014 to all my friends and family!

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