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Hampton Bays-Based Non-Profit Launches Summer Community Composting Program

Lindsay Aitken

ECI's first 2020 pantry donation included snap peas, garlic scapes, arugula, kale and mixed greens. (Courtesy Photo)

Hampton Bays' local non-profit the Ecological Culture Initiative (ECI) was founded in January 2016 to build an ecologically responsible town by protecting historic town landmarks and homes while actively advancing the interest of the community with sustainable ideas, solutions, and projects. The ECI educates, advocates and counsels the local government and residents to hold them accountable and to work towards making their vision a reality: a town that thrives off local produce and shops, leaves a low carbon footprint, and is comprised of individuals who love and appreciate the outdoors and all it has to offer.

Between beautiful trails, wetlands, and waterfront eateries and resorts, the town of Hampton Bays is full of nature. While Hampton Bays has so much to offer outside (and relies heavily on environmental tourism), an important piece of keeping the plants and animals alive and well in this nature-filled setting is limiting town waste. Thus, one of ECI's goals is to make Hampton Bays a Zero Waste Community through their Zero Waste Initiative. This powerful project gives local schools, business, and restaurants, the knowledge and tools to re-think their daily processes with a goal of eliminating excess food waste, single-use plastic, and packaging. Thus, their overall mission is to shift the society from one that throws things away to one that refuses what they do not need, reduces what is consumed or thrown out, reuses items, recycles, and composts the rest. A major piece of this program is ECI's Community Composting Program which prevents food waste from ending up in landfills and instead allows ECI members to turn natural garbage into nutrient-rich soil to be used in gardens. ECI's Spring Season composters diverted an astonishing 975 pounds of food scraps.

"ECI hopes to close the loop on food waste while empowering community members, schools, and local businesses. The Community Composting Program diverts food waste from the landfill and into home gardens as nutrient-rich compost," Lauren Carrozzi, ECI's Director of Zero Waste and Wellness, relayed. "Closing the loop on food waste is imperative to build healthy soil, and create resilient local food systems while fighting climate change."

So, how do you become a part of this progressive movement? First, collect food waste in your ECI compost pail and deliver it to Ground Heritage Garden's composting site once a week (they are open Tuesday through Thursday). Make sure to remove stickers, labels, and all non-organic materials. Clean out your pail, weigh, and record your scraps in the community's compost logbook at every drop-off. ECI tracks your monthly waste reduction, earning you compost to share with ECI's charity garden or for your own home. The best part? Giving back to the community means giving back to the world—your participation reduces the levels of harmful greenhouse gasses in our environment. The summer Community Composting Program began June 1, 2020 and ends August 31, 2020 with a new cycle starting in September! Being a part of this movement costs $40 and includes your 4-gallon galvanized pail.

Lauren Carrozzi, Director of Zero Waste and Wellness, and Tony Romano, Resource Director and Composter Extraordinaire. (Courtesy Photo)

The nutrient-rich soil the Ecological Culture Initiative creates through their Composting Program not only reduces climate change; it also puts food on the table for local residents in need. Through their gardening at Good Ground Heritage Garden located at the St. Joseph Villa, the ECI offers organic, locally grown vegetables to Hampton Bays food pantries. The Ecological Culture Initiative's mission is to reduce the amount of high sodium, over-processed foods in its local pantries and replace these goods with high-quality, vitamin-rich, fresh vegetables. A recent donation included 2 pounds of greens, a pint of snap peas, and 80 garlic scapes.

"The Ecological Culture Initiative is proud to offer fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables to the local food pantries of Hampton Bays," Rachel Stephens, ECI's President and Agro-Ecology Director, shared. "We are growing heirloom variety produce in the Good Ground Heritage Garden located at the St. Joseph Villa in Hampton Bays, and providing healthy, fresh food to community members in need. Often food pantries give out high sodium and over-processed foods, however it is our mission, with the help of local volunteer groups, to grow and distribute vitamin-rich, delicious, fresh vegetables and herbs to those in need."

This incredible organization is looking for donations and volunteers to help grow its initiative. Right now, they are raising funds to pay for their deer fence, irrigation system, garden beds, and tools. They appreciate and welcome time donations, as well!

For more information, visit eciny.org.

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