Banning single-use plastic bags and foam containers were Patchogue’s first steps to becoming a “greener” community, but village officials say they won’t stop there.
Starting July 1, Patchogue businesses can apply to join the Village of Patchogue Green Business program, a project incentivizing owners to implement greener practices, including using nondisposable utensils and straws, officials say.
“We’re trying to bring awareness to everything that we do,” said Kaetlyn Jackson, park planner at Fire Island National Park, who helped coordinate the program. “You might not think about the cleaning products you use or the way you dispose of your trash, [but] it’s all connected and it’s all affecting the environment.”
Patchogue has passed multiple laws in favor of environmental efforts in recent years. The village in 2016 banned single-use plastic bags, and two years later they passed a ban on plastic-foam containers that will go into effect Sept. 4. Both of these initiatives have met with little resistance, even from people who criticized them at the start, said David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses will be encouraged to install energy-efficient lights, train their employees in sustainable practices, have a proper recycling system, reduce energy loss and use non-disposable containers, village Trustee Joseph Keyes said.
In return, businesses will be recognized on the village’s website and highlighted through special decals distributed by program officials.
The proposal will hopefully offset marketing and energy costs for businesses, Kennedy said.
“My take on this program was to give businesses a positive benefit to do these kinds of things, instead of just banning everything,” said Nick Rosenberg, an environmental manager at Blue Point Brewery and a member of the village’s Protecting the Environment in Patchogue (PEP) Committee. He also helped coordinate the program.
To apply, businesses have to fill out an online survey, which is assessed by a committee that determines acceptance into the program.
Rosenberg hopes that businesses that have already started green initiatives, such as Blue Point Brewery, will lead the effort. The brewery’s initiatives include a charitable line of beers that helps fundraise for organizations restoring bay ecosystems, beach cleanups and recycling campaigns.
The project is modeled after the New York Green Business program, an initiative launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2017. There are currently 15 businesses taking part in the NYGB program, including Xerox Corporation, Delaware North Companies and Anheuser-Busch LLC, according to the program’s website.
“We welcome communities like the village of Patchogue to support our efforts and recognize businesses working to advance the goals of sustainability,” Erica Ringewald, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an email.
Keyes said he wanted other Long Island municipalities to hear about the program and to consider implementing a similar project. Over time, he wants to implement it in residences as well.
One of the potential deterrents to the program’s growth is the time and staff commitment needed to fill out the application, Jackson said.
“I think it is a good program, even if it’s challenging to get businesses involved,” Jackson said. “Hopefully it’ll spark conversation.”
Acceptance into the program is determined on a point-based system, officials say. Businesses can increase their points by adopting more of the initiatives detailed in the program guidelines.
Some guidelines are:
- Have a complete recycling program
- Reduce plastic straw use
- Install energy-efficient lights
- Install energy-efficient appliances
- Keep maintenance records on refrigeration
- Sustainability communications training for employees
- Reduce energy consumption