Lower East Side Ecology Center Nurtures Sustainability in Urban Communities

by Sycamore May

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Lower East Side Ecology Center

What they do: The Lower East Side (LES) Ecology Center is a nonprofit organization committed to fostering environmental awareness and sustainability in urban communities, with a particular focus on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They strive to promote ecological responsibility through recycling initiatives, educational programs, and community engagement, working to create a greener, more resilient, and equitable city.

How they do it: The LES Ecology Center implements a range of initiatives to achieve their goals. They operate 20 food scrap drop-off sites across the city, where residents can drop-off their food scraps for composting which then turn into finished compost for  local parks, gardens and urban farming projects. They also offer electronics recycling opportunities to protect the city’s land, water and air from pollution. Additionally, the center conducts environmental education workshops and training programs, advocating for waste reduction, recycling best practices, and sustainable living choices.

Latest project/campaign: The Ecology Center’s Food Justice Program was launched in 2021 to create an educational and food-producing garden in partnership with the Henry Street Settlement. At the Food Justice Garden, participants learn about food systems and how food access impacts individual, community, and environmental health. Additionally, participants practice skills in growing and cooking food to prepare nutritious and seasonal meals. All food produced in this space is used in education workshops or shared in the local community fridges.

Major Funding: Government

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $2.4 million

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: The Ecology Center’s Food Justice Program is impacting the food systems by empowering Lower East Side youth with awareness to make healthy, sustainable consumer food choices. For example, the 2023 summer youth cohort partnered with Chefs for Impact to learn how to source local and seasonal produce from the farmers market while getting to know the vendors and farmers, and turn the ingredients into homemade meals such as pesto pasta, curries, fruit salad, corn cakes, and more!


Location: New York City, NY, USA

Core Programs:

  1. Community Composting
  2. Environmental Education
  3. Environmental Stewardship
  4. Electronics Recycling

Number of staff: 18

Number of volunteers: 900

Areas served: Primarily focuses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, while also collaborating with other neighborhoods and communities within New York City.

Year Started: 1987

Director: Christine Datz-Romero

Contact Information: info@lesecologycenter.org; (212) 477-4022

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