Sometimes, it is easy being green.
Residents at Roxbury’s Orchard Gardens Estates are making their own contributions to help the earth. In March, the estates became the first family public housing development in Boston to have an on-site recycling program.
According to Luz Maria Colon, a community organizer with the Madison Park Development Corporation, the “Orchard Gone Green” program is an example of how city government and neighborhood members can work together to improve the city, as well as a way to show young people how to be leaders in the community.
“We started working with the city’s recycling program last summer,” Colon said. “I am very proud of the youth from the estate who took the initiative to get this program off the ground.”
Urban activists have long advocated an environmental justice agenda. President Barack Obama has made green initiatives a priority in the early days of his administration, putting a spotlight on inner-city communities attempting to make their local environments more eco-friendly.
Marysabel Mejía, 15, one of Orchard Gone Green’s youth organizers, said she learned about recycling through a similar program at her school, Boston Latin Academy, and wanted to have the same program at home.
Mejía and other youth advocates led workshops designed to explain how the program works and educate residents about the importance of recycling. They have also distributed informational flyers to every household at Orchard, and plan to continue their outreach efforts throughout the year.
“Recycling is something I really feel passionate about,” she said. “Since the program started [in March], residents have also been supportive.”
In the program, recycling bins have been placed in five different locations throughout the development, with separate bins for paper and for cans and bottles. The goal is that 50 percent of Orchard’s 331 housing units will actively participate in the recycling program by the end of 2009.
According to a 2003 City Council ordinance, large apartment buildings like Orchard Garden Estates are supposed to have access to city recycling services. The development’s youth organizers worked together with Large Apartment Building Recycling Coordinator John McCarthy and Orchard Garden Estates Manager Sharon Russell to prepare the estates to be more green.
“I have to give credit to the kids for making this happen,” Russell said. “I am pleased and impressed that the residents were so open-minded to the program.”
Mejía said the work has not only put a “green spotlight” on Orchard Park Estates, but it has also given her a new sense of confidence seen both by herself and her family.
“It feels good to be making my neighborhood a better place for the future,” she said.