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Making a Difference through Collective Action

Our Think Zero LLC team tries to make as much a positive difference as we can in the way we lead our lives--from what we choose to buy (and not buy), to what we choose to eat (and not eat), to how we choose to dispose of our waste.

But there’s a limit to how much we, as individuals, can accomplish.

Recognizing this, we’ve joined organizations to push for larger, more systemic change through our democratic process. For example, Think Zero Co-Founder Sarah Currie-Halpern is the former chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, and Co-Founder Ushma Pandya is a current member. In addition, Sarah is a Board Member of the Sanitation Foundation (formerly Foundation for NY's Strongest) and Earth Day Initiative, and on the Board of Trustees of the College of the Atlantic, one of the leading sustainability-focused colleges. Ushma is on the board of the NYC chapter of New York League of Conservation Voters and was on the Board of Sustainable South Bronx.

As a team, we’ve dedicated many hours to the #SaveOurCompost coalition, which has successfully fought to restore some of the public funding for composting.

If you’re looking to join an organization to create more systemic change in our government, here are a few places to start, highlighting NYC, NY state, and federal organizations.

And if you’re short on time and/or money, but looking to do one single thing to have a positive effect on the environment? Please vote with the environment in mind.

Local: NYC

If you’re interested in waste issues… join NYC’s Solid Waste Advisory Boards.

  • What? Solid Waste Advisory Boards (SWAB) are volunteer citizens’ advisory boards dedicated to helping NYC achieve its zero waste goals. SWABs deal with all types of waste issues: trash, recycle, organics, repair, reuse, and more. It works closely with the Borough Presidents and other elected officials to advise them on policy issues.

  • Where? Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. A group is also starting a SWAB in the Bronx.

  • When? Meetings occur monthly and are open to the public.

  • How? Anyone can join the meetings or subcommittees. You can also apply to become a member.

If you’re interested in local neighborhood issues… join NYC’s Community Boards.

  • What? Community boards are local representative bodies. They deal with land use, zoning issues, make recommendations for the city’s budget, advocate for their neighborhood, and address community concerns.

  • Where? There are 59 community boards throughout NYC.

  • When? Meetings occur monthly and are open to the public.

  • How? Find your local Community Board here (it’s a clunky website, unfortunately. Enter your address, go to the panel, and click the community district website). Anyone can join the meetings. You can also apply to become a member.

State: NY & Otherwise

If you’re interested in climate change political advocacy… join the League of Conservation Voters.

  • What? League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a nonprofit that influences policy, holds politicians accountable, and wins elections.

  • Where? LCV has a national branch and local state chapters (e.g. New York’s has a very active chapter).

  • How? There are many ways to be involved: contact your representatives about specific issues using LCV pre-made letters, volunteer, intern, donate, join their emerging leaders program, or read their publications.

Federal: US

If you’re interested in stopping plastic pollution… support the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.

  • What? Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act is a proposed federal law that would require plastic producers to take responsibility for collecting and recycling materials and require manufacturers to use minimum recycled content.

  • Where? There are numerous federal nonprofits advocating for this change, including the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, and Beyond Plastics.

  • When? The legislation was introduced in February 2020, but needs more support for it to become law.

  • How? Support this federal act by posting on social media, contacting your state’s elected officials (Senators and House of Representatives), and getting involved with one of the nonprofits working on this legislation.

If you’re interested in increasing environmental voter turnout… join the Environmental Voter Project.

  • What? The Environmental Voter Project (EVP) is laser-focused on turning environmentalists who rarely or never vote into super-voters.

  • Where? EVP is active in local, state, and federal elections.

  • How? Sign the Environmental Voter Pledge, volunteer, attend events & trainings, register to vote, and donate.

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