Patty Cervenka, Founder of Greenish Neighbor, tells all of us about the real life impact we can all have when we make wise environmental choices.
Patty Cervenka, Founder of Greenish Neighbor, lives in the Regency area of Cary with her husband and two teenage sons. After working in corporate marketing most of her life she took a break to focus on her kids. Since that time she has been involved in a number of fulfilling projects at schools and in the community. She has been a community volunteer, a PTA officer, a Scout leader, a Cary Green Neighborhood Project Team Leader and currently serves as a member of the Town of Cary's Environmental Advisory Board.
Patty, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us about Greenish Neighbor. Many of us may have heard the term Greenish Neighbor in the past but are not sure what it actually means. What can you tell us?
Well, Greenish Neighbor is actually based on making environmental education messaging simple for kids, families, and neighbors by showing them in real life the impact we can all have when we make wise environmental choices. I use the term “Greenish” because being successful in reducing our negative impact happens when we make small changes over time and do the best we can, when we can.
I love showing people that there are environmentally-friendly options, that nobody is perfect and that sometimes the "green-ish" solution works best. I like to focus on kids because I believe that our children are the future stewards of the planet and to see their faces as they make the connections between their choices and the environment has been an inspiration for me.
Can you give us some real life examples of things we all can do to go Greenish and help our environment?
There are so many examples of ways to lessen our impact on the environment. Here are just a few that you might find are right for you:
One easy habit to start is keeping reusable grocery bags in your vehicle and bringing these into the store with you. Eventually it becomes second nature and you won’t even need to think about it. Something as simple as this helps us reduce the potential harm to our natural environment and reduces the need for production of single-use plastics that are made from fossil fuels.
You can also educate yourself on what should go into your recycling bin. Co-mingled recycling is great but can be confusing sometimes. What can be recycled varies from town to town so search your municipality’s website to find what is acceptable recycling. Luckily the Town of Cary has launched a new mobile app called Cary Collects (available for free for download) that was designed to make recycling in Cary much easier through a Waste Wizard tool. Through this app you can search for a specific item to see if it is recyclable and get reminders of your collection schedule. From your computer, you can access this tool at https://www.townofcary.org/services-publications/garbage-recycling-yard-waste
Also, try to make a conscious effort to consider your options when making a purchase. Can you pick a packaging that is more environmentally friendly such as aluminum cans versus plastic bottles? Can you switch to reusable produce bags once you have your system down for bringing your own grocery bags? Can you find a product that is from a local source that would meet your needs? Can you repair an item that you were going to throw into the trash and ultimately into the local landfill?
Get an aluminum or stainless-steel reusable water bottle that you love and avoid purchasing single-use plastic water bottles. Take time to shop around because personal preferences may vary and the goal is to live with this purchase for a very long time.
These are really good things to know Patty. What are some things that residents may be doing that they think are correct or may have been so at one time but this is no longer the case?
Well, there are a few things that readily come to mind. The most recent major recycling change in Cary to be aware of is that aseptic containers and gabled cartons (like milk cartons) are NOT taken in the Town of Cary curbside recycling carts any longer. Put these in your regular trash cart. Additionally, the Town can no longer accept shredded paper in clear bags. This should go in your trash cart or could be used as re-purposed packing material.
It’s also very important to keep plastic grocery/shopping bags out of your recycle cart. These can cause serious problems with the operations of the facility equipment and are not curbside recyclable. If you do end up with a surplus, simply take them to your local grocery store for recycling.
If you often have more recycling than trash, and run out of room in your recycle cart, Cary is happy to switch your cart for a larger one. In Cary you can call (919) 469-4090 and there is no fee for this service.
So how did all of this get started?
I have always enjoyed sharing what I have learned about our human impact on the environment but have often found that there isn't always a simple solution to complicated issues. Then I started speaking to kids about the very easy things they can do that will have a positive impact on the environment. Soon thereafter I created Greenish Neighbor and in 2019 started offering Greenish Parties to provide a service that actually shows people what these simple choices can look like in action, in their own homes, classrooms or offices.
And what are these Greenish Parties?
Greenish Parties are our service that offers a way you can have a fantastic eco-friendly gathering while learning a lot about reducing waste in the process. Greenish Parties will deliver reusable and compostable party goods, decorations and games right to your home, office, park or classroom. And after the gathering is over, everything gets taken away and commercially composted. No waste to the landfill! Simply put - Greenish Neighbor models simple but effective waste reduction strategies in any indoor or outdoor setting through Greenish Parties.
What are some of the things that make these Greenish Parties so unique?
Greenish Parties are special because we avoid being wasteful in every way. Here are some examples:
Our deliveries are all “emissions-free” - Party supplies are delivered by electric vehicle - no fossil fuels or emissions. Our EV fleet is comprised of Nissan Leafs.
Our service results in zero to minimal waste to the landfill - Everything delivered is reusable or compostable. Reducing landfill waste is a great way to help combat climate change and lengthens the life of the landfill.
We facilitate commercial composting - All food waste and compostable service items are delivered to a commercial composting facility. Assuring that the waste cycle is completed is a Greenish Parties priority.
Why are Greenish Parties so important?
I think that the most important environmental benefit that Greenish Parties brings is what we won't be able to see right away. Sure there are tangible and measurable reductions in single-use plastics and compostable waste to the landfill, but making eco-friendly celebrations attainable to everyone is what will have a long lasting impact. Modeling these behaviors for kids shows them that a birthday party, playgroup picnic or neighborhood holiday party can be done with very little to zero landfill waste. This kind of impact could change family purchasing and waste habits for years (and hopefully generations) to come.
What are some of the challenges that you face almost daily?
When we ask people to change their habits and rituals around celebrating, it isn't always easy. Sometimes the devil is in the details and unexpected hiccups happen. Each time a situation comes up that could create contamination in a compost bin or isn't as eco-friendly as anticipated, we use it as a learning opportunity. Scaling up the business can help us improve efficiency and broaden the impact of the overarching goal of having more and more people create less waste.
Where are these Greenish Parties currently available?
Greenish Parties are currently available in Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. If you are in our EV roundtrip range, we can bring the party to you!
Patty, is there anything else you what to tell us?
Greenish Neighbor Talks and workshops are available for Public and Private School Classrooms, Homeschools, Preschools, Montessori Schools, Track Out Camps, Summer Camps, Play Groups, etc. Greenish Neighbor has been bringing simple but effective environmental messaging to youth in the Triangle for over 2 years. Hundreds of kids from preschool age to high school have learned strategies for reducing single-use plastic, food and water waste.
Also, you can be a Greenish Neighbor Sponsor and help fund our programs so that we can keep spreading the word about how to be Green-ISH. We have several levels of sponsorship: Greenish Sponsor, Green Sponsor, and Greenest Sponsor each having its own set of benefits. You can find out more about these opportunities at https://www.greenishneighbor.com/sponsorship.\
Any final words?
I believe in the future of green businesses and jobs. I want people to know that some of those opportunities might not be as obvious as solar power or electric vehicles. We need to get creative about bringing environmentalism into every type of business . . . even parties!
Patty Cervenka is the founder of Greenish Neighbor.
Please visit her website at https://www.greenishneighbor.com/
Contact Patty at: firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.greenishneighbor.com/contact
and please remember - Everybody can be Greenish.