Environmental passions spur business opportunities
A panel of environmental business owners held an open forum to discuss pertinent issues last week. From left: Chris Quartuccio, James Swinkin, Carl Cangelosi, Antonio Bellia, Marshall Brown, and Charles Bartha.

IB/Perrota

Environmental passions spur business opportunities

Story By: ANTHONY PERROTTA
4/26/2018


SAYVILLE—Local business owners and environmentalists held an open forum on Tuesday, April 17 at the Sayville Public Library to discuss how environmental passions can spur business opportunities. The event, which was sponsored by Sayville Civic Association and Sayville Citizens for Political Change, stressed the idea that these two topics, business and the environment, don’t have to be mutually exclusive. 

The event’s monitor, James Bertsch, opened the discussion by saying political discourse has become “polarized” and that individuals must often make the decision of whether they are for business or the environment. Bertsch hoped the panel could deconstruct this notion—at least for those who were in attendance.

Panelist Chris Quartuccio is a lifelong Sayville resident who founded Blue Island Oysters in 1995. His appreciation for the environment led him to create Operation Blue Earth, an organization whose mission is to raise awareness about the harmful effects that high-nitrogen fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and various lawn chemicals have on the Great South Bay.

But if given the choice between two presidential candidates (one promising to make all cars energy efficient by 2025, the other deciding to keep cars the way they currently are), Quartuccio said he would vote for the second, fearing that he and many others would be “regulated out of business.” 

This sentiment seemed to be shared by nearly everyone on the panel, which spent little time discussing what could be done on the federal level to prevent harmful chemicals from contaminating our waters, and even combat climate change. 

Panelist Marshall Brown, co-founder and president of Save the Great South Bay, says promoting “local stewardship” is the way to go. His organization (which was founded in 2012, around the time of his 35-year Sayville High School reunion) currently has 12,000 members, mostly from towns along Long Island’s South Shore. 

Brown writes for Forbes digital about building a more sustainable future and hosts Water Matters, a weekly program featuring the leading environmental advocates on Long Island. Prior to his work as an environmentalist, Brown was a teacher and entrepreneur, bringing Wi-Fi to New York City’s parks, as well as teaching at Harvard in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. 

During one of the multiple public portions of the event, one of the attendees asked about the “disconnect” between concerned citizens and their elected officials, citing Congressman Lee Zeldin’s support for offshore drilling as an example.

Panelist Carl Cangelosi responded by calling the global economy “very complex,” sticking to the point of view that the free market is still the best avenue to solving environmental matters.

Cangelosi is a longtime Sayville resident and has served as a Sayville School District trustee for the past four years. During his tenure, he served as the head of the Energy performance Contract Phase II committee. Cangelosi commended the Suffolk Student Climate Action Committee, which hopes to achieve a zero carbon emissions goal for the county by 2030. He also explained that his daughter is asthmatic and as a result, he has taken a particular interest in the air quality on Long Island, especially in Suffolk County. 

The American Lung Association recently gave Suffolk County a failing grade when it comes to air quality, ranking it among the worst air in New York State. Nassau wasn’t assessed, due to the fact that there are no air monitors within the county. Suffolk has two monitors, one in Babylon and one in Riverhead, according to reports. 

Panelist James Swinkin is a founding member of Simple Energy Solutions Inc., a “green” research and development company. He also heads Envy Media Company, a consumer packaging design and box-manufacturing firm, which services over 200 companies throughout North America. Swinkin, a Port Jefferson resident, admitted his company didn’t start off being environmentally conscious. They only became so when customers voiced their concern. “If there’s an opportunity to help create a positive impact, why not?” he said. 

Another attendee, on numerous occasions, insisted that millennials largely contribute to environmental waste. The attendee argued that since younger people “don’t shop in stores anymore,” there’s an excess of Amazon boxes. He also said he’s come across many students at his job at Stony Brook University “who are supposedly the smartest kids” around, and yet “they can’t seem to figure out where to dump their garbage.” 

Swinkin didn’t jump on the same bandwagon, but expressed his belief that the “snowflake” mentality and the lack of accountability in regards to young people contribute to the wastefulness in our society. 

When asked, after the panel discussion ended, about the guest’s arguably negative comments about millennials, one of the young attendees said she didn’t think the guest meant to “come off” the way they did. She did, however, “totally disagree” with their point of view. While she was reluctant to go into detail, she did say, “Millennials are the ones making strides.”

While they are separate issues, Swinkin commended the students in Parkland, Fla., and throughout the country, who have been participating in the national discussion pertaining to gun legislation, mass shootings and gun violence in general. “Whether you agree with them or not, you have to give it to those kids,” Swinkin said. 

Charles Bartha, senior vice president at P.W. Grosser Consulting, was also one of the panelists. Before retiring as commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Public Works, he oversaw the design and construction of Bethpage Ballpark, home of the Long Island Ducks, among numerous other projects including the refurbishing of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

Panelist Antonio Bellia pointed out how tourism is a big business on Long Island. “People come here to breath the clear air and drink the fresh water, and yet the expressway is covered in garbage,” he said. “It’s very misleading to tourists.”

Bellia hails from Sicily, and has since founded The Natural Way, a purely organic landscaping company. He says since World War II, Americans have been given this image of the ideal green lawn, which almost always requires some type of chemicals to maintain. Bellia is also the founder of Long Island Soil-Detox Initiative, a recently launched effort to educate homeowners in the use of organic alternatives within horticulture. He is also a poet. His poetry collection, “El Me Amore,” was published in 2013. 

Catherine Niggemeier was originally scheduled to participate in the panel, but was unable to attend. Niggemeier is the author of the “Plant to Plate Cookbook” and the founder of Plant to Plate Education Corporation, which offers education and employee wellness programs in plant-based nutrition.