Archive for May, 2009

off to visit some woodland creatures

May 29, 2009

Hey trusty readers,

I’m taking some time off to rest my typing fingers (and aching wrists, woe is me!) to visit the wilds of Virginia. Heading down to Shenandoah National Park to breathe in some fresh air, and hopefully see some creatures large and small – deer, black bears, chirping birdies, wask-a-lly wabbits.

I’ll be back after the 5th of June to report our adventures.

Enjoy the week!

PS – Here are some eco facts about Shenandoah’s management.

revisiting the 3 Rs

May 29, 2009

[Furoshiki design by Candy Chang]

Maybe you’ve heard this before: “I’m green, I recycle.”
And maybe you’ve thought to yourself: “I don’t think so, fatboy.”

The third R in the magic three – reduce, reuse, recycle – is in that position for a reason. It’s the last resort of conscious consumption.

So why is it that so many place a bigger emphasis on recycling, or even worse, ignore the 3 Rs altogether? Are the other Rs not sexy enough? Do we have to disguise them like parents sneaking vegetables into their kids’ food?

Or maybe we could all just use a little refresher course on how to practice the first 2 Rs in our daily lives.

The most virtuous and oft overlooked R. Reducing is about resisting temptation. It’s about re-examining what we already have and making the best of it. The great thing about reducing is that we can save when we do it — save resources, save money, save our butts (yeah, maybe even that).

Here are some no-sweat ways to reduce:

Energy (fuel)
turn off the lights, turn down the shades when it’s hot, hypermilemore


turn off the faucet, take quicker showers, shower with a friend… more


print on both sides, increase the margins, use cloth instead of paper towels… more


say yes to reusable bags, bring your own utensils, drink from a canteen and travel mug, avoid goods with lots of packaging


mend torn clothes, reimagine your wardrobe, hang your clothes to dry, more (fabric care)


rekindle your romance with the kitchen (i.e., less takeout), buy only what you need, can and freeze in abundant months, compost the leftovers and scraps

Just buy less stuff

Need I say more?

Now here comes the fun part. Reusing is the most creative of the 3 Rs. It’s all about re-imagining everyday items as something new. Kind of like Don Quixote and the windmills. It’s an adventure waiting to happen (yes, I’m a big nerd).

Here are some fun ways to reuse:

These jars originally held honey, peanut butter, and jam. Now they’re home to beans, quinoa, and rice. Just wash and reuse. Easy peasy.

Some stores offer bulk cleaning supplies, sold by the ounce. Green Depot has a refilling station where you can take any empty spray bottle or container (even those from your pre-eco cleaning days) to fill it up with safer, non-toxic cleaners. Or you can fill those sprayers with your own cleaning concoctions (get recipes here).

Egg cartons
Plastic egg cartons are great for sorting beads and buttons when you’re crafting. They also make great paint trays.

Paper egg cartons are perfect for starting seedlings. Just fill with soil and plop in your seeds. When the sprouts are ready, cut out the individual section and transplant the whole thing into your garden.

Get more ideas for reusing egg cartons at Family Corner (via Food on the Food)

Plastic takeout containers
These also make great paint trays and craft organizers. You can even reuse them to store food (Caveat: I don’t put them in the microwave, even if they say ‘microwave safe’… I think this just means they won’t melt, not that they won’t leach chemicals into your food).

Plastic bags
There are so many great ways to reuse these scourges of society. Make plarn and knit or crochet them into something fabulous. Some more plastic bag craft ideas here.

Check out this crazy chip-bag chicken:

And if you think you’re not the creative type, you can simply reuse plastic bags as trash bags, or funnily enough, to carry things.

Are your duds starting to feel like, well, duds? Remake ’em. Books on the subject abound. Websites, too. Get ideas on Threadbanger, Wardrobe Refashion, Etsy.

Here’s one way I’ve renewed some old buttons:

(The little one on the right is me)

Yoga mats
The reuse of your old yoga mat is as limitless as your imagination. We’ve used my old PVC mat to keep our indoor veggie garden from overflowing on stuff below (it’s on a chef shelf in the office).

Here’s a tutorial on how to make yoga mat flip flops. Learn 50 more ways to reuse your yoga mat here.

Fabric on your couch wearing thin? One word: reupholster. Or do it on the cheap and make or buy slip covers.

Repaint or refinish furniture with no or low-VOC varnish and paints, like I did with this bookcase using Milk Paint:

Light bulbs
Check out this wild repurposing of incandescent light bulbs from Crafster:

Here’s the one everyone is comfortable with… until ol’ Debbie Downer (that’s me) tells it like it is. Recycling seems like the right thing to do. And, while it’s a heck of a lot better then just tossing everything in the trash, often, that’s where your good habits of recycling end up. It’s a complicated story, but the gist is that, what you put in the recycle bin doesn’t always get recycled, and even when it does, the recycling process is very resource (fuel, water) intensive. And it’s often polluting. Here’s a great article, featured on (one of my favorite sites) that sheds light on the realities of recycling:

What you Need to Know about Recycling: It’s More than Putting Stuff in Bins by Tom Kemper, CEO of Dolphin Blue

Okay, with all of those depressing facts out of the way,
here are some practical ways to recycle:


  • Look for ewaste recycling events or centers in your area using Earth911.
  • In Brooklyn, 3R Living takes ewaste, or you can bring it directly to this place, ePlanet/eWaste.


  • Bring your old clothes, fabric, furniture, toys, etcetera to Goodwill or sell it on eBay
  • In NYC, Wearable Collections, a textile recycling company, will outfit your building with a collection bin (if you’re in an apartment)
  • Also in NYC, find places to recycle your old textiles (they’ll even take old bedding, shoes, accessories, etc.) from the Council on the Environment of NYC (CENYC)
  • Or, again, check out Earth911 for textile recycling in your area

Get reacquainted with recycling rules in your area

  • For NYC recycling rules, check out NYC Wastele$$
  • Not in NYC? Find out what your town recycles at Earth911

Odds and ends

Bottle caps

Believe it or not, these are not recycled, at least not in NYC. Luckily, Aveda has come to the rescue. I just dropped off a whole bag of plastic caps (ranging from laundry detergent to shampoo bottles)

Old cosmetics containers
Cosmetics company, Origins, accepts old (cleaned out) cosmetics containers. Read about my experience with their recycling program here.

Got any other ideas on how to reduce, reuse, recycle?
Leave ’em in the comments box below!

house of organic sale

May 29, 2009

Ekovaruhuset (aka, House of Organic), purveyor of premium organic fashion is having a huge sale next week.

House of Organic is an itsy-bitsy boutique at 123 Ludlow St (just south of Rivington), but it’s jam packed with lovely organic dresses, denim, tees, and more. Details on the sale below:

We are having a massive ONE WEEK SALE next week and we want to invite you to enjoy 50% off of nearly everything in the store. All Veja Sneakers, Bergmans shirts, Fin dresses, Kuyichi jeans, Pjux shoes, Katherine Hamnett Tees, Knowledge Cotton Apparel … just about EVERYTHING (excluding designer items) will be 50% off!

Sale will last from Wednesday, June 3rd until Sunday, June 7th. Come quick to enjoy these amazing prices on our amazing organic goods!

how do you communicate with earth?

May 29, 2009

Ok, this isn’t some new-agey thing. I mean, how can you communicate with other people around the planet about the planet? Connect2Earth can help you do just that.

Connect2Earth is a collaboration of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), and Nokia that brings together people who have questions about environmental issues with the scientists who have the answers.

When you join the Connect2Earth network, you gain access to leading experts in fields like climate change, species extinction, and renewable energy. Members can also upload videos, engage in debate, enter contests, and follow live discussions of the topics that interest them most.

It’s a great way to connect with others interested in reducing their impact on the planet and express views on how to improve the outcome.

Connect2Earth is still in beta, but with a focus on younger participants, I think it’ll take off in no time.

a whole lotta stuff going on this weekend

May 28, 2009

Oh man, this is what I live for. Stuff swapping, supporting local arts, enjoying the great outdoors of the urban jungle. Unfortunately I won’t be around for the fun this weekend. Hopefully you’ll get to enjoy some of these tasty events…

Saturday May 30

“Score!” Freecycling Event
@ BKLYN Yard
11am – 6pm

Start gathering your old Twisted Sister albums, ill-advised sample sale purchases, well-intentioned gifts from grandma, those jeans that just don’t fit anymore, etc, and get ready to exchange them for new treasures.

MeanRed Productions is teaming up with FreeNYC, Newmindspace and RefugeNYC (the same folks who brought you the Wall Street Pillow Fight) to transform the waterfront venue, BKLYN Yard, into an open-air free boutique.

Over hundreds of records, clothes, household items, and regretful “impulse buys” will find new homes. This one-day event celebrates the joys of finding treasure in some one else’s trash.


  • Enjoy delicious sweets from the Treats Truck
  • All leftover stuff goes to Rock and Wrap It Up – an anti-poverty “think tank” that distributes donations to worth non-profits throughout the city

Full details here.

Sunday May 31

Brooklyn Bike Jumble
@ JJ Byrne Park & Old Stone House
10am – 2pm

On May 31st, JJ Byrne Park and the Old Stone House will host the 1st Brooklyn Bicycle Jumble, New York’s only outdoor bicycle flea market and celebration of New York City bike culture.

At this one-day-only-event, private, non-professional vendors will be on hand to sell bicycles, bicycle components, and clothing to the public. If you’re looking for kid’s bikes, cruisers, BMX, mountain, racers, fixed gears, or any wheeled, pedal-powered machine, or any part for one, come to the Brooklyn Bicycle Jumble.

Click here to send us an email.

[via Brooklyn Based]

All weekend: Friday May 29 to Sunday May 31

Local Produce
You won’t find locally grown veggies here – more like fresh food for the creative spirit. Park Slope’s own creativity and performance art haven, Spoke the Hub, is putting on one heck of a weekend full of dance, music, stilt walking, hula hooping, you name it. Activities for kids and adults. Let the good times roll. Full details here.

And coming soon, every Sunday in June

Summer Streets
Vanderbilt Ave in Prospect Heights
(this is my ‘hood!)

[Not my shot. Image via Brownstoner]

During four consecutive Sundays in June, three blocks of Vanderbilt Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic and transformed into a temporary pedestrian plaza.

Summer Streets on Vanderbilt is designed to encourage the community to come together to shop, stroll and socialize. There will be music, art and gardening, face painting, sun and trees, eating and relaxing, biking and performances, people watching – and whatever else you might like to do. Plus a few surprises.

This temporary, experimental street closure, organized by the Vanderbilt Avenue Merchants District and the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council in cooperation with the NYC DOT, is a smaller version of the successful Summer Streets program that ran along Park Avenue in Manhattan last August and is part of the city’s efforts to create a healthier, more livable and sustainable city as envisioned by the PlanNYC initiative.

How can you help?
You can help by: setting up and clean up on any of the days of the event; distributing flyers and postcards; supervising activities in the “kids zone”; arranging musicians and performers; making a donation to help cover expenses and spreading the word to friends and neighbors. See our contact here.

What if you want to perform?
We welcome musicians, acrobats, visual artists, etc. We’d appreciate it if you could contact us in advance – especially if you are interested in using our sound system and stage. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to bring out your acoustic guitar, juggling balls or hula-hoops.

Can you sell merchandise or promote your business?
No. This is different than a street fair; we will not have outside vendors.

[Streetsblog via Brownstoner]

time to evolve

May 27, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I feel a transformation coming. Like a great awakening, individuals, policy makers, and companies are changing their attitudes and actions to create a greener, more sustainable future.

Are you ready?

This Sunday, May 31, the evolution begins…

Evolver Town Hall

Economic recession, energy crisis, global warming — OK, so what are we going to do about it?

Join a city-wide gathering of innovating individuals, groups, and nonprofits who are transforming today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities. Discover how we New Yorkers can re-imagine our beloved Big Apple, making it resilient, thriving, funky, healthy, and green. The event features workshops, panels, music, art, food, info tables, and more. Speakers will specifically address how YOU can make a direct impact in their area of expertise. Topics include: renewable energy and efficiency, green jobs, food justice, conscious health and living, locally supported agriculture, climate change, DIY art, rooftop and community gardens, media activism, resilient neighborhoods and communities, local/alternative currency, and more. Each person will come away with the ideas, information, connections, and contacts they need for getting involved within the community. Be a part of the local solution. This event will celebrate the launch of, a social network for conscious collaboration, and mark the beginning of their off-line community, Evolver NYC. This is the first in a series of events to bring New York’s diverse tribes of transformation together to enact meaningful change.

St. Marks Church in the Bowery
Corner of 10th Street at 2nd Avenue

1:30-5:30p; $5

what the @#$% are they putting in our food?

May 27, 2009

and what are you gonna do about it?

Join the members of New York State Against Genetic Engineering (NYSAGE) on

THURSDAY, MAY 28, 2009
Sixth Street Community Center
638 East 6th Street (Between Avenues B & C)

to organize for SAFE FOOD LOBBY DAY in Albany June 10, 2009.

The meeting will begin with a panel discussion with Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumer Union, Greg Todd of the Park Slope Food Coop and Rob Schmidt of SOS Food. The panel will provide an update on the latest science around GE foods and crops, the recently released food labeling study by Park Slope Food Coop and a summary of the recent trip to Albany by six NYSAGE members who met with the staffs of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. Following this we will discuss plans and logistics for the upcoming Safe Food Lobby Day scheduled for Wednesday, June 10.

Bring a dish or drink to share if you can. We hope you can join us!

Howard Brandstein and Annette Averette

Learn more about genetically engineered or genetically modified foods, from:

events for memorial day weekend and beyond

May 21, 2009

No plans yet this Memorial Day weekend? Here are a few eco-minded events for the holiday and beyond.

Saturday, May 23

Flatbush Supper Club Compost Potluck
Get your hands dirty digging in compost and enjoy a lovely (vegetarian or vegan) potluck meal with some new friends. The fun begins at 3pm.

The Flatbush Supper Club – an ongoing series of community-led potluck meals and environmental discussions – is sponsored by Sustainable Flatbush, GreenEdge Collaborative NYC, and Educating Tomorrow.

Hosted by collaborators just like you, these small potlucks are intended for neighbors to get to know neighbors while sharing their skills, ideas and interests in urban sustainability.

RSVP and get the full details at GreenEdge NYC.

Saturday, May 23 or Sunday, May 24

Crawfish Boil to benefit the
Make It Right Foundation
@ SolarONE
(2420 FDR Service Road East @ 22nd Street)
Help yourself to some tasty crawfish while helping the Make It Right Foundation rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans using environmentally sound designs and materials. Make It Right is working with the heavy-hitting cradle-to-cradle architecture firm of William McDonough + Partners.

The feast includes 4 crawfish pours (4-5lbs of crawfish per person) along with corn on the cob, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, sausage and spices served with unlimited beer and New Orleans Hurricanes!

The good times roll from 4 to 8pm.

Get tickets here.

Sunday, May 24

What Will it Take to Create a New World?
The Awakening the Dreamer Initiative
@ Park Slope Food Coop
(782 Union St btwn 6th and 7th, Brooklyn)
Upstairs in the Community Room

This workshop connects the dots between environmental sustainability, social justice and personal fulfillment, and zooms out to ask, How did we get here? Experience a new sense of hope grounded in action, understanding the future of our planet as not inevitable, but creatable through the global movement of many acting on behalf of our world.

Combining reflection, video and dialogue, this is an experience you will remember! Please plan to attend from start to finish.

RSVP here

Monday, May 25

On the Horizon: Vertical Axis Wind Turbine Potential in New York City
@ SolarONE
(2420 FDR Service Road East @ 22nd Street)

Anyone who has visited the top of a Manhattan high-rise knows that our city enjoys a wealth of wind power potential. However, it is only recently that technological designs have emerged that can efficiently, cost effectively and silently convert that potential into electrical power for city buildings.

Russell Tencer is the CEO of AeroCity, a Hudson Valley based start-up that manufactures and markets vertical axis wind turbines. In this discussion Mr. Tencer will survey the technology’s potential and readiness in the New York City area, and review case studies of current and upcoming projects.

FREE AND OPEN TO ALL. Space can be limited, RSVP by calling 212.505.6050 or by e-mail to

Tuesday, May 26

Help Build Biking into NYC’s Social Green Map!
@ Open Green Map
(220A East 4th St. in Manhattan’s East Village)
4 to 7pm

We’re inviting cyclists and ‘non-smoking lane’ advocates citywide to Green Map’s global office to contribute their fav bike sites, routes and resources to the Open Green Map. Open to exploration, comments and contributions anytime at, you can help build in the bike sites and lanes in person at this special Bike Month event.

my weekend in pictures

May 18, 2009


The bluebell hyacinths were in full bloom at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Chris Roddick, Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s chief arborist, teaches us how to plant companions for street trees in the Trees NY Citizen Pruner course. This clematis will climb the trunk – but care needs to be taken to prevent it from encroaching on the canopy (it’ll deprive the leaves of light and hide potential damage to the tree).

Mulching is a group effort.

A fellow student uses the pole saw to prune an oak tree. Don’t try this without your Citizen Pruner certificate!

You may have to squint, but the leader branches (those at the top) are co-dominant stems, which could be a problem for this tree in the future.

These brilliant azaleas were at the end of their bloom.


After brunch, I brought some friends to Green Depot to check out their cleaning product refill station.

An edible green wall caught my eye when walking passed Valcucine.

Strawberries ripe for the picking. Hmmm… I want to try this at home.

My friend Jane had to drop off her bike for repairs and this beauty was outside: the electric hybrid Ultramotor A2B bike.

Same friend Jane lives in The Solaire. I asked for a tour of the building’s green roof.

A rooftop oasis awaits…

Green roofs provide habitat for birds and butterflies…

They keep buildings cool in summer and insulated in winter…

They prevent storm water run-off and heat island effect

And there just so darn inviting. If it were a nicer day I don’t think I would’ve wanted to leave.

Another green building, The Verdesian across the way.

And for the green dwelling trifecta, The TriBeCa Green.

The park they all share below. It’s much more intriguing when you’re down there (sorry I missed that photo op).

Back on terra firma, a sign for the latest car-sharing service, Mint, caught my eye. (Move over zipcar, now there’s something fresher…)

NYC is slowly becoming more bike-friendly. Sans bicycle, I rode the subway home.

milliontrees nyc announces volunteer opps

May 15, 2009

[Tree and me]
Just the other day as I stared out my apartment window, I thought about how lovely it was that the trees back there have grown closer our building. The lush green branches and perching birds were a great comfort to me, considering we have no outdoor space in our place. This morning I awoke to the sound of chainsaws. Half the tree is gone. I just hope they made a clean cut at the branch collar so the tree will “heal” properly (tomorrow I have my field day with the Trees NY Citizen Pruner course). 
If you appreciate trees and wildlife as much as I do, maybe you’ll be compelled to help the city take care of our little bits of green habitat. MillionTrees NYC just announced their upcoming schedule of events. Maybe I’ll see you at one of them…

Natural Resources Group: Forest Stewardship Days: Citywide
This spring take part in the restoration of forests in natural areas in NYC. We will be removing invasive weeds, watering and mulching. Volunteers will learn the history and ecology of the sites and help ensure the future of the forest!

Registration is currently open to volunteer with MillionTreesNYC in our reforestation areas!
  • Saturday, May 30, 2009, 9:00am-2:00pm: Ocean Breeze, Staten Island Kissena Corridor Park, Queens
  • Saturday, June 20, 2009, 9:00am-2:00pm: Pelham Bay Park, Bronx Canarsie Park, Brooklyn Idlewild Park, Queens Clove Lakes Park, Staten Island Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island Randall’s Island, Manhattan

Sign up at
Children under 16 must be accompanied by a guardian. Not recommended for children under age 12.
Contact Ellen Arnstein with questions

Conference House Park, Staten Island: Forest Stewardship Volunteering
Looking for interesting and meaningful activities in the great outdoors? Experience nature, learn plant and animal species and volunteer at Conference House Park. Activities will include planting, invasive plant removal, and tree-care activities.

  • Saturday, May 16th, 2:00-5:00pm 
  • Wednesday, May 20th, 9:00am-12:00pm 
  • Saturday, May 30th, 2:00-5:00pm 
  • Saturday, June 27th, 2:00-5:00pm 
  • Wednesday, July 8th, 5:00-7:30pm 
  • Sunday, July 26th, 9:00am-12:00pm 
  • Monday, July 27th, 9:00am-12:00pm

Stewardship events begin at the Conference House Park Visitors’ Center. For questions, directions, and to RSVP, contact Cheri or 718-390-8021.