A determined group of volunteers, wearing gloves and armed with garbage bags, converged on Freeport’s Brookside Preserve on Nov. 25 to improve the park’s environmental health, one piece of litter at a time.
The Green Army, a community club, orchestrated the event, which drew an estimated dozen volunteers, including Nassau County Legislator Debra Mulé and the Friends of Brookside Reserve.
Mark Meyer, the founder of the Green Army, spearheaded the cleanup. The club, which is committed to promoting green initiatives, has a history of organizing similar efforts not only in Freeport, but also in East Rockaway and Lindenhurst. The Brookside Preserve gathering was the Army’s third annual collaboration with Mulé.
“An event like this offers a close connection to the earth and soil,” Meyer said, “and it serves as a community gathering, fostering interactions among neighbors.”
Meyer sees the club as a force championing eco-friendly causes and combating plastic pollution. His goals include the creation of cleaner parks and a reduction in plastic litter on the streets. Beyond his volunteer work, Meyer runs an e-commerce platform selling secondhand goods, driven by his focus on the excessive amount of single-use plastics in circulation.
“I dream of a community organization that’s a force for good, supporting green initiatives and preserving nature’s forests,” Meyer said. “It’s been a pleasure working with people in the parks department and village officials. I believe we can preserve parks more effectively, and hope to see fewer plastics on the streets.”
The Green Army hopes to expand its influence across Long Island. Looking ahead, Meyer said he hoped for increased funding and collaboration with other organizations, including the Boy Scouts and political figures, and more community engagement, at events like holiday parades. Recognizing the limitations of volunteer efforts in addressing the proliferation of plastic waste, he envisions leveraging partnerships to make more of an impact.
Once a symbol of convenience, single-use plastic has evolved into an environmental adversary. Its non-biodegradable nature ensures that it lasts for hundreds of years, enlarging landfills, harming natural habitats and wildlife, and releasing harmful chemicals into the ecosystem.
Mulé expressed her appreciation to Meyer’s group and the other volunteers. “With Thanksgiving and its spirit of gratitude at the forefront, we thought it would be a great time to host an event that gave everyone a chance to make a positive impact in the community,” she said. “I’m thankful for the Friends of Brookside Preserve, the Green Army, and everyone who rolled up their sleeves this weekend to beautify one of Freeport’s most cherished natural treasures.”
Meyer noted the Army’s increased focus on regular cleanups to combat litter, and particularly trash entering the coastal river system. He explained that much of the debris comes from improperly disposed garbage that is carried by wind into storm drains, ultimately reaching rivers and streams.
He announced plans for an Earth Day event in 2024, scheduled for April 22 at the preserve, with the intention of attracting as many community members and elected leaders as possible for a large-scale cleanup. Meyer said he anticipated collaborating with Nassau County to secure resources including nets and other apparatus to collect the trash.
Last month’s cleanup yielded substantial results. Meyer estimated that the volunteers collected 25 to 30 bags of refuse, including everything from car tires to a Barbie Power Wheels, weighing a combined 1,000 pounds or so.
He emphasized the importance of community involvement in these initiatives, saying that they give residents a chance to connect with their neighbors, witness the impact of pollution firsthand, and recognize the urgency of moving away from single-use plastics. Meyer underscored the need for collective efforts to address the environmental challenges posed by waste, and suggested that those who missed the event stay tuned for news about future cleanups.
In the meantime, he advised community members to minimize the use of single-use plastics, and to recycle and carpool to reduce their environmental impact throughout the year.
“I believe that I’ve found my purpose, and I’m willing to devote a significant portion of my life to preserving the environment,” Meyer said. “It doesn’t matter how we achieve it or which organization we’re associated with. I’m excited to witness the continuation of this mission.”