Ridgewood artist helps create new DSNY educational program

A Ridgewood artist creatively helped direct and illustrate the Sanitation Foundation and NYC Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) new Follow Your Waste interactive game to promote sustainability in schools.

Follow Your Waste is a game that shows kids ages 8 and up the journey of trash through town. The program has a prize of $1,000 to spend on sustainability programs in schools.

When playing Follow Your Waste, users learn how to sort waste and recycle, then see where it goes after it’s been collected. The game also includes facts about DSNY, the nation’s largest municipal solid waste management and sustainability agency. The game is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Haruka Aoki, a longtime resident of Ridgewood, built and designed the game with a team of other artists. Aoki said this game is a passion project for her and her teammates.

“We all came as volunteers, so we had a lot of passion for the Sanitation Department,” Aoki said. “This game really shows how to properly dispose of trash. A lot of people don’t know where the trash goes. And it’s very accessible — it’s been translated into Spanish and Chinese. I think it’s just a great educational platform .

Ridgewood resident Haruka Aoki creatively helped direct and illustrate the Department of Sanitation’s new Follow Your Waste campaign. (Photo courtesy of DSNY)

Julie Raskin, executive director of the Sanitation Foundation, said the game is important in that it shows that litter isn’t just ‘thrown away’.

“There’s no place like ‘far’, and every object thrown a way going somewhere,” Raskin said. “The Sanitation Foundation is proud to share this journey with New York’s youngest sustainability advocates and support school green teams and other projects through the Follow Your Waste award.”

The game also introduces players to the many faces behind DSNY in the “Meet the Workers” section. There are 10,000 people who remove 12,000 tonnes of waste and recycling from the streets every day.

Ridgewood resident Haruka Aoki creatively helped direct and illustrate the Department of Sanitation’s new Follow Your Waste campaign. (Photo courtesy of DSNY)

“For me personally, sanitation workers were kind of like heroes when I was a kid,” Aoki said. “Growing up in New York, sometimes if you woke up late enough you saw them or heard them. But the next day you see all that trash washed away. I felt so grateful that these sanitation workers are helping to keep our city clean.

DSNY and the Sanitation Foundation, DSNY’s official nonprofit partner, will award $1,000 in Spring 2022 to NYC K-12 public schools that participate in the new Follow Your Waste program and engage in a waste diversion project.

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