Today four of New York City’s most respected environmental organizations – New York Restoration Project (NYRP), Solar One, Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) and Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health – launched the NYC Green Stops Partnership, a citywide campaign aimed at connecting the city’s 2 million youth and their families with the outdoors and nature.
The Green Stops Partnership was one of 30 programs endorsed by the National Forum on Children and Nature, a group of public and private leaders that formed a nationwide effort in 2007 to reconnect kids with nature. The REI Foundation, a private foundation supported by the national outdoor gear and apparel retailer Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), awarded NYRP, SSBX, Solar One and Mount Sinai a grant of $100,000 to launch this innovative program.
This summer, NYC Green Stops will encourage youth and their families to take advantage of the city’s kid-friendly parks, community gardens and outdoor events and programs. Beginning this fall, the joint initiative will also highlight the availability, accessibility and attractiveness of the city’s NYC Green Stops through an interactive web site and Green Stop-branded signage posted at parks and gardens throughout the five boroughs.
Research shows that the nation’s youth are becoming increasingly disconnected from the great outdoors. Heavily-scheduled kids now travel from school to organized activities and then indoors to watch television, play video games or spend time in front of a computer. As a result, the outdoors has become a place many kids merely visit rather than spend quality time. According to research compiled by the National Forum on Children & Nature:
In 1969, 50 percent of children in the United States walked or biked to school. In 2004, less than 13 percent did.
The area in which children are free to roam has shrunk by 89 percent in the past 20 years.
After 50 years of steady increases, per capita visits to U.S. national parks declined by 25 percent from 1987 to 2003.
Nature-based recreation as a whole has declined every year since the 1980s, for a total decline of roughly 25 percent.
A growing body of evidence suggests a decline in the health of today’s youth is linked to children’s separation from nature. Chronic health conditions – such as obesity, diabetes and depression – have reached alarming rates, affecting a growing number of kids. The NYC Green Stops Partnership aims to improve the health and quality of life for young New Yorkers by reconnecting them to nature and promoting outdoor recreation as a daily necessity.
Many natural settings exist within New York City’s “concrete jungle,” including parks, community gardens and waterfronts restored by NYRP, SBBx and Solar One. NYRP, SSBx and Solar One – along with future Green Stops partners – identify these green spaces for kids and families by introducing creative opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities such as scavenger hunts, photography, gardening and hiking, as well as unstructured time in nature. Simultaneously, the Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health will conduct research on the positive effects of these programs and green spaces on youth. Building on data they have already collected, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine will work with the Green Stops program partners to track and compare individual child health outcomes among program participants to discover how the Green Stops Partnership program can influence time spent outdoors and overall physical activity and health levels of urban children.
“It’s because of our partner REI Foundation that we’re able to jumpstart our efforts to connect New York City youth with nature,” said Drew Becher, NYRP’s Executive Director. “New York Restoration Project is proud to be collaborating with like-minded organizations like Sustainable South Bronx, Solar One and Mount Sinai in creating and measuring the outcomes of an engaging campaign that highlights the importance of spending quality time outdoors.
Examples of NYC Green Stops:
New York Restoration Project (NYRP)
NYRP is the proud owner of 55 restored community gardens throughout the five boroughs including five children’s gardens and the first Nature Explore Classroom in New York City (The Home Depot Community Garden in East Harlem)
Swindler Cove Family Day – Saturday, June 13, NYRP invites New Yorkers to discover Swindler Cove Park, a five-acre park along the Harlem River. The day includes a family challenge, arts and crafts and live animals.
NYRP Summer Camp – July and August – A six-week summer camp will introduce 30 youth to nature and green collar career opportunities.
Solar One manages Stuyvesant Cove Park, having turned a concrete plant and brownfield into a model of responsible urban living and landscaping.
Solar Love Music Festival – On June 13th, the Solar Love Music Festival will fill Solar One’s solar-powered stage with local and up-and-coming bands. The festival will be held at Solar One’s East River venue in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is completely solar-powered and environmentally friendly. The goal for Solar Love Music Festival is to inspire young New Yorkers to join the solar movement.
Solar One Family Days – May through September – Family-friendly, outdoor education programs on the subjects of renewable energy, sustainable design and the city’s fragile natural resources.
Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx)
SSBx spearheaded the creation of Hunts Point Riverside Park, the first piece of the projected South Bronx Greenway.
Annual 5K Hunts Point Hustle – June 20 – An annual road race along the Bronx River to raise awareness about the need to improve the health and environment for South Bronx residents and surrounding communities.
Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research
For the past 5 years, Mount Sinai has been conducting an NIEHS and EPA funded community-based project assessing the neighborhood level factors that influence risk for childhood obesity in a cohort of 300+ East Harlem children ages 6-8 years old.
In the fall, the partners will introduce New York City children and their families to an interactive web site that will provide maps and directions to Green Stops across the five boroughs, as well as quizzes, challenges and scavenger hunts that will inspire youth to explore the city’s kid-friendly green spaces and events.
”The REI Foundation is proud to recognize the collaboration of NYRP, Solar One, SSBx and Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health and their leadership in introducing and reconnecting today’s youth to nature,” said REI Foundation President Michael Collins. “The program helps remove barriers by highlighting recreation areas can be easily accessed within their immediate community and that families can have rewarding and memorable experiences.”
The four collaborating organizations currently serve over 30,000 children and families annually, own or operate more than 350 acres of parks, community gardens and open space, and coordinate distinctive environmental education and outreach programs.
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About the NYC Green Stops Partners:
New York Restoration Project (NYRP)
NYRP is dedicated to reclaiming and restoring New York City parks, community gardens and open space. In partnership with the City of New York, NYRP is also leading MillionTreesNYC – an initiative to plant one million new trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs by 2017. (www.nyrp.org)
Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx)
SSBx addresses land-use, energy, transportation, water & waste policy, and education to advance the environmental and economic rebirth of the South Bronx, and inspire solutions in areas like it across the nation and around the world. (www.ssbx.org)
Solar One empowers people of all ages with the vision, knowledge and resources to attain a more sustainable future through education, green arts, outreach and advocacy. (www.solar1.org)
Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health
Mount Sinai Center for Children’s Environmental Health works to protect children against environmental threats to health. (www.childenvironment.org)
About the REI Foundation
The REI Foundation was founded and supported by Recreational Equipment, Inc. in 1993. The Foundation's mission concentrates on helping to ensure that tomorrow's outdoor enthusiasts and conservation stewards reflect the diversity of America. The REI Foundation has provided grants to other organizations stemming from recommendations and collaboration with The National Forum on Children and Nature. Additional supported programs include the National Audubon Society in New York and EarthTeam Environmental Network in Berkeley, Calif.