Free Reusable Bags and Citi Bike Passes for #CarFreeNYC at Earth Day Kickoff by Council Member Ben Kallos with 100+ Residents

New York, NY — Yesterday, over 150 residents prepared for the passage of a Single-use Bag Reduction Law and for the launch of Car Free Day by picking up free reusable bags and Citi Bike Day Passes at an Earth Day Kickoff by Council Member Ben Kallos.
“Each of us can do a little to do a lot to save our planet, especially in a city of 8.4 million,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Earth Day is a chance to focus on saving our planet, one bag or one trip at a time. Government must provide residents with what they need so they can minimize harm to our environment.”
The Earth Day Kickoff focused on reducing waste and carbon emissions as well as improving access to healthy food and green spaces. Residents learned to reduce waste by implementing electronic recycling and composting in their buildings or bringing compost to green markets. Citizens Committee presented on single-use bag reduction to divert as many of the nine billion single-use bags that end up in the city’s waste stream by using a 5 cent disincentive in favor of reusable bags which they distributed for free. In order to reduce our city’s carbon footprint, residents were offered low fare MetroCards as well as learn to ride, bike safety, and a free City Bike Day Pass ahead of Car Free Day. Residents also learned where to get fresh farm-to-table produce at weekly green markets or fresh food boxes or how to adopt planters around the neighborhood.
“#CarFreeNYC is about taking more careful consideration when it comes to transportation in our great city,” said Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez who has called for a “Car-Free Earth Day,” encouraging New Yorkers to go one day without cars to get the word out that New Yorkers are serious about helping the environment by reducing greenhouse gasses. “I am so pleased to have the support of so many great partners in this initiative and I thank Council Member Kallos for encouraging his constituents to leave their cars parked on Earth Day as a way to celebrate sustainability. Nearly a quarter of all of New York City’s emissions come from vehicles. If we can lower our reliance on this inefficient means of travel, we’ll do wonders for our future generations.”
Each year New Yorkers throw out over nine billion single-use plastic bags paying millions for their disposal in landfills. Introduction 209-A, introduced by Council Members Brad Lander and Margaret Chin, and co-sponsored by Kallos, would require retail and grocery stores to reduce the distribution of single-use plastic bags with five cent fee in favor of switching to reusable bags which were distributed for free to all attendees last night.
“New York City must seize this moment to get 9 billion plastic bags out of our trees, parks, playgrounds, storm drains, beaches, oceans, and landfills,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “In city after city, a small fee has been overwhelmingly successful in getting people to bring their own reusable bags when they shop -- across lines of race, ethnicity, age, income and neighborhood -- and generated a 60% to 90% drop in plastic bag waste. We’re thrilled that a majority of City Council Members have signed onto the amended bill, and to see reusable bag give away events like this happening across the City. Thank you to Council Member Kallos for hosting the Earth Day Forum and helping get reusable bags to New Yorkers.”  
"As the threats of human-induced climate change become more dangerous, we must change our habits to protect our planet,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Small changes in our everyday behavior will go a long way in reducing our consumption and waste, which is why I introduced a bill to incentivize recycling in NYCHA residences. This Earth Day, we must come together as New Yorkers to ensure we have a thriving environment for generations to come."

“The purpose of Earth Day is to inspire awareness and action – and events like this one help inspire both in neighborhoods,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I’m pleased to cosponsor this event, and thank my colleague Council Member Kallos for helping Upper East Side residents find ways to green our city in their everyday lives.”
"Nothing is more important than protecting the health of our planet, our families and our communities. Earth Day is a great way to focus awareness on sustainability issues in order to create a cleaner, healthier New York. I applaud Council Member Kallos for his commitment to working on ways to protect our precious environment," said Senator José M. Serrano
“This Car-Free Earth Day, we invite New Yorkers to ‘Go Green by Going Blue’,” said Jay Walder, President & CEO of Motivate,Citi Bike’s parent company. “Whether you’ve never been on a Citi Bike or you ride every day, Earth Day is a perfect time to strap on a helmet, get on a blue bike and gear up for the spring season.  There are more reasons than ever to ride Citi Bike; this Earth Day we hope you give it a try.”
“In 2008, the African country of Rwanda eliminated plastic bags in order to help promote eco-tourism and a cleaner, greener environment than its neighbors. That practical law helped the country save funds that would have been needed to pay government employees to clean up disposable bag waste. So, in order to get New Yorkers to break their disposable bag habit, Citizens Committee coordinated 26 reusable bag giveaways. To date, nearly 6,000 large reusable grocery tote bags have been distributed to working class New Yorkers who’ve promised to shop without taking one plastic or paper bag… forever! Bill 209 is the type of progressive and common sense legislation New Yorkers will always be proud about. And we are finally catching up with Rwanda,” said Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City
"Cycling is a zero-emissions activity. We offer free bike education programs throughout the five boroughs, whereby we teach kids and adults how to ride a bike, and how to do so safely and confidently in the city. In 2015 alone, we taught bike safety skills to 17,000 New Yorkers. We are excited to both partner with Council Member Kallos and participate in this Earth Day Kickoff event!"  Ken Podziba, President, Bike New York
The Earth Day Kickoff included:
  • Citizens Committee for New York City presented on the Single-use Bag Reduction legislation and distributed reusable bags.
  • CitiBike offered memberships and provided free day passes.
  • The Department of Sanitation presented on electronic recycling and composting and registered constituents to receive the services in their buildings.
  • GrowNYC shared information on their various programs that support local farms, including Greenmarkets, composting, and Fresh Food Boxes offered locally in Council District 5.    
  • Upper Green Side presented on the Bicycle Island Garden program they operate in partnership with Council Member Kallos, which allows volunteers to beautify bicycle islands in the neighborhood.
  • Department of Transportation provided free bike lights and bells to ensure the safety of recreational and commercial cyclists, as well as pedestrians.
  • Bike New York offered free bike safety classes, and reusable water bottles.
  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority encouraged the use of public transportation by assisting seniors with applications for reduced-fare MetroCards.
The forum was co-sponsored by Public Advocate Tish James, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, Senators Liz Krueger and Jose Serrano, Assembly Members Rebecca Seawright and Dan Quart. 
“Thank you to the government agencies, non-profits and residents for coming out tonight as we kickoff Earth Day as we work together to save our planet,” concluded Council Member Ben Kallos.