Do you ride a bike, grow native plants, recycle your kitchen waste, or try to cut back on junk mail? There are so many aspects to environmental friendliness, these days, and how handy it would be if a single local agency could help us stay up-to-date on all of them, simultaneously.
Well, fortunately, it turns out such organizations do exist. They’re called Environmental Advisory Councils, Conservation Advisory Councils or Conservation Commissions (all falling under the umbrella of CACs), and Tarrytown has a very active one – as do a number of other River Towns – offering a smorgasbord of advice to the Village Board and opportunities for community residents to help do their planet-saving bits.
Founded in 1974, the Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council (TEAC), like all such organizations, is entirely staffed by volunteers and serves at the pleasure of the Village Board and Mayor. Its current co-chairs are Rachel Tieger and Dean Gallea. “We work hand-in-hand, jointly, and are both involved in most things, but have our individual areas of expertise. I run the meetings and handle many of the organizational details, while Dean manages the website and runs the energy and conservation sub-committee,” says Tieger.
From a wealth of programs and opportunities, she defines four priority areas for TEAC: pollinator pathways, zero waste, energy and conservation, and land use. The council hopes to work more closely with the Village Planning Board to offer advice and comment on sustainability, with regard to new development.
Pollinator pathways – pesticide-free corridors of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for pollinating insects and birds – are an activity that falls under TEAC’s notably strong landscaping sub-committee, and fit in alongside initiatives like No Mow May (to give wildlife a chance to feed on spring flowers), limits on gas-powered yard equipment, the use of which pollutes the air and damages habitat, and cutting back on pesticides.
TEAC is part of an inter-village coalition – including Irvington, Hastings, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry and Sleepy Hollow – that meets quarterly and works on a united front when a broad strategy is called for. “With the leaf-blowers, the situation is chaotic as communities have different rules. Some ban all gas-powered machines, while others permit use but only at certain times. But the different start dates and bans are confusing for the landscapers and it makes sense to address issues like this in a larger way, together,” explains Tieger.
The existence of CACs is spreading locally. Elmsford is just starting one. Ardsley set theirs up about three years ago. “Every village or municipality can and should have one,” comments Tieger, “but it’s voluntary so you need dedicated and invested people to run it and some local governments may not see the need or value. TEAC’s structure and reach is not necessarily typical of a CAC, but every one in the River Towns seems to have a slightly different setup.”
Typical or not, TEAC’s website offers an impressive breadth of information and advice, from free films to advice on composting or the ban on plastic bags. Earth Day on April 22 inspired a whole month of events, including seed swaps, vine removal, bird-feeder making, planting new pollinator gardens and two huge household and clothing swap, in pursuit of its zero waste goal. At the April 10th swap, “Over 400 square feet of space was filled with clothing and household items and people could exchange and swap for a whole day,” Tieger recalls. “What was left over was donated to families and libraries.”
All these events relied on volunteers, and even though Earth Month is over, it’s not too late to lend a hand. The Riverkeeper Sweep clean-up – removing trash from the Hudson shoreline – takes place on May 7 and will require many volunteers. There are also May planting projects planned, which will need extra hands. If you’d like to find out more about TEAC or how you can get involved, check out tarrytownenvironmental.org. Photos by Suzy Allman