State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

What To Do with NYC’s 33 Million Pounds of Daily Waste

By Deborah Sachare

composting lower e side ecology center snipTypically in New York City, each person generates four pounds of waste every day. We might not see all of this waste (because some of it is generated pre-consumer), but just think: This means over eight million people generating about 33 million pounds of waste, every day. Think of the impact that composting and recycling could have on reducing even just half of this waste.

Educating people on these issues is the mission of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a non-profit organization that works toward a more sustainable New York City. With an emphasis on composting and e-waste recycling, the center develops local community awareness and programs to go green. Think of New York City before curbside recycling. The center, founded in 1987, was one of the first organizations to offer community-based recycling and composting programs in the city. Today the center turns out four tons of food waste per week at its composting collection center at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Daniel Tainow, education director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, spoke to Columbia University students on the composting and e-waste recycling initiatives that are run by the center, as well as the internship opportunities for college students looking to become involved in sustainability. EcoBizNYC is a semester- or summer-long internship where college students are given the opportunity to act as environmental consultants for businesses in New York City. This program helps small businesses reduce their environmental impacts.

LES Ecology Center

The seminar was part of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development’s regularly scheduled speaker series for the 2014 spring semester. To see a list of upcoming speakers, visit the events section of our website. While the speaker series is hosted by the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, all undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia and affiliated schools are invited to attend.

Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding in the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through the Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the sustainable development major and concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.

To learn more about the major and special concentration in sustainable development, visit our website or contact Jessica Sotomayor, program manager, at

Deborah Sachare is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. She is a student at Barnard College and will graduate in 2014 with a degree in environmental policy.

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6 years ago

It`s very important to educate people about the problem with the tons of daily waste. It`s a great initiative to helps small businesses reduce their environmental impacts. Waste management programs can be really challenging and it takes time and effort to develop an effective program. However, it pays off with a better bottom line, a greener image, and a healthier environment.