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Boro does its part for environment

From composting waste and leftover food to purchasing goods made from discarded water bottles, there are plenty of ways borough residents can live more sustainably, environmentalists said at the Going Green in Queens 2010 conference last week.

“There’s a budding environmental movement in Queens and you can see that here,” said Sunnyside resident Dan Hendrick, communication director at the New York League of Conservation Voters. “There are local groups doing recycling in Queens, doing gardens in Queens. There are so many people making all kinds of connections here and that’s the best part.”

About 350 people attended Saturday’s daylong conference on green initiatives that was hosted by the Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces at Flushing’s Al Oerter Recreational Center. TimesLedger Newspapers was the event’s media sponsor.

More than 50 environmental groups from across Queens and the city were featured at the event, which included workshops on solar energy, composting and tree pruning. Many local groups set up tables at the event, such as the Western Queens Compost Initiative, which raised money for its organization that composts waste left behind from bike tours through western Queens, and Community Supported Agriculture groups.

“We have a huge resource that’s being untapped, and food can be turned back into a soil amendment,” said Astoria resident Stephanos Koullius, a member of the WQCI. “We can use food scraps to grow more food.”

The Flushing-based Tzu Chi company set up shop in the recreation center to sell its bags, clothing and blankets made from the polyester fibers in water bottles.

“We’re happy to be at this event because it raises awareness of how we’re harming the environment and what we can do to help,” said Tiffany Huang, a Flushing resident who works for Tzu Chi, which also has headquarters in Taiwan. “We’re trying to promote things that are environmentally friendly.”

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the event will help borough and city residents already working in the green movement to make important connections with others concerned about sustainable living.

“It’s a really great opportunity for people involved in greening to network with each other,” Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski agreed with Hendrick that there is a growing awareness of the green movement in Queens and she said hundreds of borough residents are working on local gardens on city-owned land at places like the Senior Korean Garden in Kissena Park and the Goodwill Park in Astoria.

Dan Miner, chairman of the Sierra Club’s New York City chapter and senior vice president of the Long Island City Business Development Corp., said those who participated in Saturday’s conference need to focus their efforts on promoting sustainable lifestyles to groups and individuals throughout the city.

“We need to work on explaining why we need to make fundamental changes in our lives,” said Miner, who was the keynote speaker at Going Green in Queens. “We have to make people understand how these changes can improve quality of life. As electricity and oil costs go up, we need to address how you can prepare your neighborhood for these changes and how you can make your neighborhood more sustainable and resilient.”

Rachel Amar of the group Waste Management of New York, a national recycling company, said Saturday’s event formed bonds between community members and green organizations and made it easy for people to understand how they could make changes in their own lives that make a difference.

“As an environmental service company, we strongly believe in working with good environmental groups in the community,” said Amar, who grew up in Fresh Meadows. “ It’s important for people to learn how they can be better stewards of the environment.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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