Larchmont Rotary Presents the Annual Blum Award
Left to right: Joe Liberti, Larissa Bertini, Kate Loga, Marion Karp, Catherine Parker, Shelley Mayer, Steve Otis and Michael Gottfried.
Mamaroneck High School seniors Larissa Bertini, Kate Loga and Marion Karp, members of the Original Civic Research and Action [OCRA] group, were honored with the Larchmont Rotary’s annual Blum Award for their work to reduce plastic waste in Larchmont restaurants. A celebratory luncheon was held at Lenny’s Seafood & Steakhouse on November 4th. The award recognizes MHS students for their initiative, leadership and creative pursuit of making a difference in their local community and beyond.
Club President Lester Nathan welcomed members and guests, followed by Past-President Marion Anderson. Marian White, Club Rotary Foundation Chair, introduced the students’ faculty advisor, Dr. Joseph Liberti. He began the civic advocacy program at MHS in 2016, which students join their freshman year and then identify, structure and execute a project, over their four years. They are paired with Community Mentors and even raise funds from investors.
During their junior year, Larissa, Kate and Marion conducted a pilot project among four local restaurants according to Dr. Liberti, “created a much-needed, local case study which, depending on the students’ findings, creates additional supporting data for future advocacy and change.”
After praising the students for the time, dedication and work they had put into the project, Ms. White turned the presentation over to the students.
Larissa Bertini explained the plastic waste problem and their initial decision to interview local restaurants and determine whether it was possible to reduce or eliminate plastic waste generated through take-out orders and dining in.
While freshmen, the students were given necessary education and skills, followed by targeted research training as sophomores, then, as juniors, putting what they learned into action and lastly, pursuing legislation and raising awareness in their senior year.
Kate Loga described OCRA’s pilot project, which involved four local restaurants over a 30-day period. The students wanted to find out the effects of substituting eco-friendly products for single-use plastics, both to the businesses and as well as their customers. 98% of surveyed customers said plastics reduction is very important and 94% said their experience with eco-friendly was the same or better than with plastic.
Marion Karp explained the benefits to the restaurants. The Grange, previously doing only take-out, saw a 50% reduction in waste when they began a dine-in option and used washable plates and silverware. She also explained setting up an “Upon Request Only” policy for take-out orders, which reduced usage of utensils, napkins and condiments.
Michael Gottfried, a Community Mentor to the students along with Jenna Haefelin, had high praise for the students’ efforts, saying “They showed that it is possible to make significant change.”
In addition to their Blum Awards, the three young women received award citations from State Senator Shelley Mayer, State Assemblyman Steve Otis and County Board Legislator Catherine Parker.
President Nathan concluded the ceremony by thanking all present for attending.