Environmental problems are significantly worse than when Tim Purtell was a summer kid on Shelter Island.
But he suspects peoples’ awareness has improved in recent years and that gives him hope for a reversal when it comes to saving his beloved Shelter Island.
Mr. Purtell is chairman of the town’s Green Options Advisory Committee whose members not so many years ago thought that sounding the alarm about the need to take action to protect the environment was falling on deaf ears.
Perhaps because of worsening conditions, perhaps because there have been others here focusing on aspects of environmental threats, the half dozen members of the Green Options Advisory Committee remain committed to focusing attention on what everyone can contribute to ensuring the Island’s future, he said.
The committee has organized its fifth annual “Green Living Expo” to run this year concurrently with the Fire Department’s Country Fair this Saturday, August 23.
The reason for rescheduling the Green Expo to August from its traditional May date is to open it to the many summer residents whose understanding of the environmental challenges is vital to improving the situation, Mr. Purtell said.
Combining it with the Fire Department’s Country Fair is also a way to attract newcomers to the environmental event, Mr. Purtell said.
The Expo will take place at the Youth Center at the American Legion Post 281 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and, weather permitting, some of the vendors will be stationed outside the grounds, he said.
“On a local level, we can do things that would make a difference,” Mr. Purtell said. “If everybody in a community our size did something, it would change things.”
One insight he has is that industry seems to be moving faster than government to respond to the needs, apparently getting the message that past negative practices that hurt the environment can’t be sustained and are bad for business.
One example where government has to step up is improving septic systems, Mr. Purtell said, noting that this is extremely costly. New York State and Suffolk County “need to get with the program” and find funding to help homeowners, many of whom wouldn’t have the resources to install new systems on their own, he said.
Town Engineer John Cronin will be on hand at the Expo to talk about upgrading septic systems and the work currently being undertaken here to identify where the old systems are.
New to this year’s Expo is Sarah Shepherd of the “Hippy Hive Honey Bee Cooperative,” a 15-member group formed on the North Fork to raise awareness of the disappearance of honeybees and their vital role in pollination to secure the nation’s food supply.
Everyone may not jump on board to become a beekeeper, but Ms. Shepherd will share advice residents can use to protect bees, such as growing more native plants in their yards, Mr. Purtell said.
That’s a message others at the Green Expo will be spreading as they talk about the importance of choosing more native plantings in place of so-called “invasives” to protect the insect population, he said. There are plants that will attract bees and butterflies to your yard; Ms. Shepherd will be able to tell you what they are.
The Peconic Estuary Program and Group for the East End, leaders in the effort to improve waterways and protect the environment, will be here Saturday for the first time. Another newcomer is Long Island Green Homes, an organization dedicated to letting homeowners know what they can do to make their living spaces more energy efficient.
Retired veterinarian Bill Zitek will attend to speak about Mashomack Preserve’s Bluebird Program.
Members of the town’s Water Advisory and Irrigation committees will field questions and discuss the fragile aquifer that must be protected if residents and visitors to the Island are to have a sufficient supply of good water.
The WAC has long been a guardian of the Island’s water supply, on occasion recommending emergency measures to be implemented during hot, dry summers when overuse of water results in salted wells, particularly in low-lying peninsula areas.
The Irrigation Committee has just wrapped up an 11-month study into questions surrounding the use of automatic irrigation systems and what needs to be done to upgrade them. Members will explain the committee’s recommendations that now fall to the Town Board to consider in deciding what changes it might make about water use on the Island.
Perennial participants from the Garden Club of Shelter Island, Friends of Trees, Vine Busters, members of the Community Preservation Fund and representatives of Sylvester Manor will be back. Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons will be here again with advice about protecting the species.
Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr., who works closely with many groups to improve the environment, will be on hand with “Shred Away,” the company that shreds and recycles those old papers and materials you’ve been storing in your basement and attic. The shredder can handle papers, loose-leaf and spiral notebooks, paper clips, staples and similar items, but if you’re dumping books, hard covers must be removed to avoid giving the shredder digestive problems.
Not only is shredding good for the environment — according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a ton of shredded paper, thanks to recycling, saves 17 trees — but it’s a means of protecting yourself from identity theft.
Jackie Black will be sharing the environmental and health benefits of turning to pedal power as she promotes bike riding around Shelter Island, and Don D’Amato will dispense information on the “Great Peconic Race,” a kayak race around Shelter Island scheduled for September.
“I really urge people to come and learn about how they can preserve and protect Shelter Island,” Mr. Purtell said.
The Green Expo will be at the Youth Center at the American Legion Post between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.