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Local Teen Helps Tackle Recycling at Historic Farm

Summer project helps historic farm get quite a bit more earth-friendly.

Photo courtesy Old Field Farm
Photo courtesy Old Field Farm
Written by Christine Sampson.

The historic Old Field Farm in Setauket is now a lot greener thanks to an East Northport teen and some of his friends.

Jonathan Kim, 15, from East Northport, was among four volunteers who pitched in via the STATE program – meaning "Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment" – which is based at Avalon Park in Stony Brook. The group's other volunteers for this project are Michelle Viera, 15, from Smithtown, Diana Apoznanski, 15, from Nesconset, and Samantha Post, 18, from East Setauket.

Kim and his fellow volunteers created four recycling bins – placing what they call "recycling ponies" over repurposed 55-gallon drums at strategic locations on the farm – and stood by them during the farm's horse shows to educate people on the importance of recycling. The recycling ponies are wooden horse heads that they built with the help of architect Andrew Thomas; people use them by placing their recyclables into the ponies' mouths. The teens said people seemed to have fun doing so.

Kim said he was shocked to see how quickly their efforts paid off.

"I have learned that most people are willing to recycle, if there are people – us – wanting them to recycle," he said. "Otherwise, they will not do it. They know that recycling is a good idea and that they should do it more often, but, it is just an inconvenience for most people."

Sally Lynch, president of the not-for-profit Old Field Farm, called the teens' project significant, saying the number of bottles being recycled has gone up over the course of the summer.

"It's been such a nice experience. We've gotten a real sense of the little things you've got to consider when you're trying to change people's recycling behavior," Lynch said. "We were deeply concerned ... The water bottle disposal was a huge problem at the farm. Many of them were getting discarded with a lot of the general waste. We needed to come up with a plan where we could collect and separate the water bottles to make sure they were recycled."

She added: "I'm confident in our progress because of the careful attention they've given to the whole process."

The foursome also worked with Lynch to create signage, bridles for the recycling ponies, show announcements and raffle incentives to encourage people to recycle.

They each said they learned a lot about the importance of recycling through this project.

"I have learned that quite a few people are confused about what to recycle," Post said. "This is why I am happy to think of new ways to educate people on making this a 'greener world.'"

Apoznanski said she had fun decorating the ponies, and was excited to create a public address announcement to encourage people to use them.

"In order to get people to recycle, you really need to get their attention," she said. "... I love this experience on the farm because I feel like I am part of something very important and it is helping the environment."

Viera said the project was a fun way to make a difference.

"I hope that more people will help to keep the Earth clean and the farm," she said, "so that we can reuse and reduce the amount of harmful materials we use because together, we can change the world and make it cleaner and brighter."

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