Sierra Club stories from the front lines

Club Cleans Up at National Puerto Rican Parade

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On June 7-8, Sierra Club volunteers and staff participated in a weekend of Puerto Rican pride in New York City. On Saturday, the 116th Street Festival in East Harlem, below, kicked off the weekend's festivities with a celebration of Puerto Rican culture attended by hundreds of thousands. That's Puerto Rico Sierra Club volunteer leader Estrella Perez, talking to local residents about recycling.

116th-Street-Festival

The following day, more than 80,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue from 44th St. to 86th St. in the annual National Puerto Rican Day parade, below. First held in 1958, the parade now attracts nearly two million spectators, making it not only one of the largest parades in New York, but one of the largest outdoor events in the U.S.

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This year, 50 volunteers from the Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter teamed up with local volunteers from GrowNYC to recover 350 pounds of recycling material along the parade route before, during, and after the event. Activists with the global civic organization Avaaz marched alongside the recycling brigade, handing out literature encouraging people to get involved in decision-making on climate disruption, environmental justice, poverty, and a range of other issues.

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Sierra Club volunteers collected more than 100 bags of glass, metal, and plastic, which were then separated for recycling. Once volunteers' bags were full, they weighed the bags prior to placing them curbside for collection by DSNY (the New York City Department of Sanitation).

Adriana-Gonzalez"Two leaders from our 'sustainability team' carried hand-held scales and noted the weight of each bag as it was filled, and parade staff passed out gloves and hand sanitizer, helped volunteers weigh the full bags, and provided them with new empty ones," says Puerto Rico-based Sierra Club staffer Adriana Gonzalez, at left, the Club's lead orgnizer for the weekend's events.

Sustainability team volunteers worked from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. the day of the parade, with a 45-minute check-in, breakfast, and a training session before walking to the parade entrance.

"Spectators and fellow marchers were very happy to see recycling so prominent in this year's parade," Gonzalez says. "The volunteers were well-trained, they interacted a lot with the spectators, and their efforts left people with an impression of a clean, well-planned event. I heard many people thanking our volunteers."

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Above and below, sustainability team volunteers and spectators along the parade route.

Recycling-at-parade

The 116th Street Festival, below, held every year on the Saturday before the National Puerto Rican Day parade, is the largest Latin street festival in New York City. It began nearly 30 years ago as a one-block party, and has now grown into a 20-block celebration that stretches along 116th St. from Lexington to Second Ave., and along Third Avenue from 106th to 121st Streets.

116th-Street-Festival

This year's festival featured music, food, stand-up comedy, arts & crafts made by Puerto Rican artisans, a bicycle stunt show, and information booths like the one set up jointly by members of the Puerto Rico Sierra Club and GrowNYC.

"As part of the Sierra Club's Zero Waste Campaign in Puerto Rico, we partnered with GrowNYC to incorporate recycling efforts into Puerto Rico-related cultural events in New York City," says Gonzalez. "The goal this year was to bring our efforts to the Puerto Rican community in New York and gather recycling material in Sunday's big parade."

116th-Street-Festival

"At the 116th St. Festival we were able to educate hundreds of people about New York's recycling rules & regulations and the Sierra Club's work in Puerto Rico, and we also recruited volunteers to help in the parade recycling effort," Gonzalez says. "This year's Puerto Rican Day festivities in New York were red, white, and blue, and green all over!"

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