Herb Community Garden Leads the Way in Food Composting

Herb Community Garden has become the new home of a “food scrap” drop off site where East Harlem residents can dispose of their organic rubbish like eggshells, nutshells, bread, and fruits and vegetables. NYRP’s Community Engagement Team recently spoke to Derina Man, a garden composter, at the site to gain more insight into the initiative.

Q: Do you believe having the Herb garden as a drop-off site will encourage more residents to compost their food scraps especially if their building doesn’t have curbside organics collection?

A: Yes - the Herb Garden site provides flexibility with 24/7 drop-off and is located fairly centrally in East Harlem. There is definitely still a barrier for folks to take the extra step to sort and bring their food scraps somewhere, but I do think that making information on where to compost publicly available in the neighborhood will lower barriers and bring out folks who weren't aware before.

This is highly anecdotal but we've continued to have a pretty high volume of compost showing up at the Herb Garden despite the cooling weather (folks generally don't come out as much as it cools). We've also noticed that the quality of compost has improved - there is less garbage and things are coming already chopped. I can't attribute this to DSNY directly, but I think it's a good thing!

Q: Why do you think it is important for the garden to be a DSNY drop-off site?

A: Before the Herb Garden and the Pleasant Village garden were added to DSNY this month, there were no compost drop off sites listed North of East 99th and East of Lexington Avenue - it was very hard to find environmentally friendly options in East Harlem. Having us listed gives East Harlem the option to make more ecologically friendly choices that other communities have ample access to but we've been missed. I don't expect that curbside pick-up is coming to this area any time soon so this serves in its place.

Q: Can you talk a little about your experience composting at the Herb garden and any other garden you are part of?

A: I first became engaged in the garden when I was looking for a place to drop off my own compost. When I found out about the Herb Garden, I began going regularly and started helping out to make sure that the option remained available. Working with the compost team at the Herb Garden has really enriched my experience living in this community. I absolutely love working with the incredibly dedicated and diverse group of volunteers who come in all year round to process compost. Bunny Sheffield's enthusiasm for composting and the community is infectious and I need to give her a big kudos in that regard. It's also a great way to meet others in the neighborhood and welcome them to the Herb Garden.

As a side note, my day job is working on international climate policy. It's super high level, wonky, and I can expect to see results in the 20 to 50-year time horizon. Composting is the opposite - it's so gratifying to do something with my hands and see tangible results in just a matter of weeks!

Q: Please feel free to add anything you like.

A: Thank you for all the hard work that you [Juan], Jon, and others at NYRP do to support green space and green activities in this community!


Story by Juan Rodriguez