Village of Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council

By Michelle Sterling  and Ron Schulhof

Over the last several years the Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) has been instrumental in launching sustainability initiatives throughout Scarsdale and Westchester County. 
Initiatives include:

  • Food scrap recycling (municipal and schools)
  • Furniture donation
  • Take it or leave it shed
  • Textile recycling
  • Designing an updated Village recycling guide
  • Updating Village Tree Code
  • LED streetlights
  • Streamlining solar application process
  • Municipal Fleet Electrification
  • Sustainability article series
  • Leaf mulch mowing education

The Scarsdale CAC is happy to share information about each of these programs.  Scarsdale is a suburban community about 30 minutes north of
New York City.  These initiatives can be scaled to larger or smaller municipalities, urban or rural settings, or even individual schools or organizations.


Municipal Food Scrap Recycling

Scarsdale CAC members collaborated with the Scarsdale Department of Public Works to bring the first municipal food scrap recycling program to Westchester County.  In January 2017 Scarsdale opened a food scrap recycling drop-off site at the Scarsdale Recycling Center.  Residents are able to bring their food scraps to the drop-off site and from there the food scraps are taken offsite to a commercial composting facility and turned into useful compost! 

Scarsdale has had great success with its food scrap recycling drop-off site – both in terms of a high resident participation rate and a clean stream of organics. As a result, in June 2018 the CAC worked with the Village to expand the program into a curbside food scrap pickup program. Residents now receive weekly curbside pickup of their food scraps as part of Scarsdale sanitation services. The change to weekly curbside pickup has greatly helped the expansion of the food scrap recycling program. Since going to curbside pickup the amount of food scraps collected each week has more than doubled. The Scarsdale curbside service is also the first municipal curbside collection program for food scrap pickup in Westchester County. Over 1,000,000 pounds of food scraps have been collected and recycled into compost!

The CAC has provided information, support and program materials to many other municipalities around Westchester and the region that have started food scrap recycling programs modeled after the Scarsdale program. There are now 21 other municipalities in Westchester that have launched similar food scrap recycling programs. Scarsdale has also helped municipalities around New York State and around the region start food scrap recycling programs. All the information and materials from Scarsdale’s program are shared with these other municipalities for their use. Scarsdale CAC members also offer their time as volunteers to help other municipalities get their programs set up and going.


Food Scrap Recycling and Recycling Expansion in the Scarsdale Schools

Village of Scarsdale residents initially became very interested in food scrap recycling in part due to the success of the Scarsdale school district food scrap recycling program that Scarsdale CAC members pioneered. The program is now in all 7 of Scarsdale’s public schools, collects thousands of pounds per month of food scraps, and is educating a generation of Scarsdale students that food scraps are a resource that can and should be recycled.

Commingled and paper recycling programs in the Scarsdale Schools were also greatly expanded. In Scarsdale Middle School alone recycling has doubled, and trash has been cut in half since they instituted their program at the middle school 2 years ago.

Scarsdale CAC members have hosted over 30 schools from within and outside of Westchester County to show them the Scarsdale Schools’ Food Scrap Recycling Program.   They have also helped many schools in and around Westchester County start their own Food Scrap Recycling and expanded recycling programs.


Expansion and upgrade of recycling bins in parks

The CAC worked with the Scarsdale Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation to install recycling bins in all 29 of Scarsdale’s parks and sports fields. The bins have appropriate lids and signage and now allow park users to easily recycle their recyclable items. The CAC also spearheaded the Parks Department installation of tennis ball recycling bins for all of Scarsdale’s public tennis courts, and partnered with a pioneering tennis ball recycling company that collects the balls for free and turns them into new tennis court surfaces. Thousands of collected tennis balls have also been donated to local schools for use on chairs.


Furniture Donation

The CAC collaborated with the Scarsdale Department of Public Works and the Westchester non-profit Furniture Sharehouse to have a furniture donation collection bin installed at the Scarsdale Recycling Center. The bin collects used furniture that goes to Furniture Sharehouse, which then distributes the items to those in need in our County. (The donation bin also has the secondary benefit of taking the furniture items out of the waste stream!)


Take it or Leave it Shed

The CAC collaborated with the Scarsdale Department of Public Works to create an area in the Scarsdale Recycling Center where residents can bring used but still useable household items for other residents to take and use. An old bus shelter that was destined for the trash was repurposed as the “shed” for the items! The area has been extremely well-received by the community and is another example of how the CAC has brought the “reuse” portion of “reduce, reuse, recycle” into their community.


Textile Recycling

The CAC collaborated with the Scarsdale Department of Public Works and Village Administration to have Scarsdale contract with a textile recycling company that installed a bin which collects all of Scarsdale’s textiles for reuse and recycling. Since it was installed several years ago approximately 15 tons per year of textiles have been collected for reuse and recycling (and kept out of the waste stream).


Designing an updated Village recycling guide

The CAC updated the Village of Scarsdale Recycling Guide to make it more user friendly for residents. The guide is picture-based and includes items available for curbside recycling and items accepted at the Scarsdale recycling center. There is also a detailed section of other common items and how to dispose of them on the backside. Scarsdale has given this guide as a template to other Westchester municipalities

Updating Village Tree Code

The CAC worked with the Village Board to update the Village Tree Code in order to preserve Scarsdale’s tree canopy and provide data on the number and types of trees being removed and which are replaced. The updated code also enhanced the requirement for replacement trees when large healthy trees are removed. The amendments passed in 2019 and Scarsdale’s beautiful and environmentally beneficial tree canopy will now be preserved and maintained for future generations.


LED Streetlight Conversion

Members of the CAC serve on the Scarsdale LED Streetlight Committee which was established to extensively research LED streetlights that aesthetically fit in a residential setting, reduce energy use and provide a financial payback. Given the residential setting of the community, finding lights that were aesthetically pleasing were just as important as the energy savings. The committee researched options from around the world and worked with streetlight manufacturers to create lights that met both energy saving and aesthetics requirements. The lights have been installed for several years and have received very positive feedback from the community. Scarsdale has provided tours of the lights to other municipalities and state agencies in order to help them with their LED streetlight conversions.


Streamlining solar application process

The CAC worked with the Board of Architectural Review (BAR), Village Management, and the Building Department to update the Village Code which allow for most solar installations to go through a streamlined Building Department permitting process without the need for BAR approval. This streamlined process allows residents to more easily install solar panels on their homes, helping Scarsdale move off of fossil fuels and on to renewable energy.


Municipal Fleet Electrification

The CAC worked with the Village Board, Department of Public Works, and Village Management on the purchase of Scarsdale’s first electric vehicle in 2019. An EV charger was also installed in the Village Hall parking lot to accommodate future Village EV fleet purchases. This adds to Scarsdale’s efforts to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Sustainability Article Series

The CAC publishes articles throughout the year on various topics such as leaf mulch-mowing, promoting pollinators in residential landscapes, sustainable landscaping, smart rain sensor controllers and recycling education. The articles can be read here.


Leaf Mulch Mowing Educational

The CAC has conducted a series of educational initiatives to promote on-site mulching of leaves and grass clippings. On-site leaf mulching is the practice of finely shredding leaves by mowing over them and leaving them on the lawn where they then dissipate into the soil. Mulching of grass clippings (“grasscycling”) is simply leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing. Through these educational initiatives, residents and landscapers in Scarsdale have been encouraged to mulch on-site instead of disposing of their leaves and grass clippings. Mulching on-site is friendlier to the environment, should be neither harder nor more costly to a homeowner than traditional landscape care and has the potential for significant cost savings to our Village. The educational initiatives have included live mulch-mowing demonstrations in public spaces for both landscapers and residents, distribution of online and written information promoting mulch-mulching and grasscycling, articles in local newspapers, flyers on electronic boards in both the library and Village Hall, and holding a live educational discussion panel on the benefits of mulch mowing and grasscycling.

If you are interested in starting any of these programs in your community please email Scarsdale CAC Chair Michelle Sterling and prior Chair Ron Schulhof and they will share their information and expertise with you and help you get started.


Michelle Sterling, Chair


Ron Schulhof, former Chair

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