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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Green Machine given more room to grow

By Sarina Trangle
Posted
MARISOL DÍAZ/THE RIVERDALE PRESS
Stephen Ritz creator of the Green Bronx Machine, trims an Oregano plant in his Hunts Point school on Nov. 26.

Things are looking up for Stephen Ritz and his urban farming initiative. 

It was only last winter that the special education teacher at Discovery High School in the Bronx had his big concept crammed into a classroom too small to support it.

A year later, it seems he’s found plenty of room to grow his so-called Green Bronx Machine, which includes using Green Living Technologies to create verdant walls and roofs in the unlikeliest of places. 

A week after packing up his equipment at Discovery High School, the Riverdale resident said he acquired a new home for the greening initiative at Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation in Harlem.

Soon students were again learning to construct the walls and maintain them as fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants grew. Students sold or donated produce to Path of Love, which feeds the hungry. High school students were offered gigs installing the technology everywhere from Vermont to NBC’s city studio.

Over the last year, the Green Bronx Machine has branched out to more than 20 schools, senior centers and community centers, Mr. Ritz said. In August, Mr. Ritz started at Hyde Leadership Charter School in Hunts Point as dean of students and director of community partnerships. And now he’s taking the idea national.

Two months ago, Mr. Ritz received non-profit certification for the program he came up with three years ago, which teaches students how to build green roofs and walls to hold produce and maintain the systems as the plants grow.

He’s crafting a pilot program to bring Green Bronx Machine to public schools throughout the city and he also has a new title of Green Apple Ambassador for the US Green Building Council that will help him to spread his philosophy nationwide. 

Mr. Ritz said his organization began fielding inquiries from as far as Dubai.

At Hyde Leadership Charter School, kindergartners learn how seeds sprout and students delve into the chemistry and physics of agriculture, he said. 

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