Archive for July, 2009

the digital diet: an experiment

July 31, 2009

When I go on vacation, I don’t check emails, I don’t go online, I barely even answer the phone. On these tech-free holidays I am able to focus, enjoy myself, relax. So I’m going to try a little experiment next week. From Monday to Friday I will not be posting anything. I will not check email. I will not go on Facebook or Twitter.

I love the computer and the internet and the way it connects people in new and interesting ways. But I want to see what it’s like to go through my regular day at home, and while working, completely disconnected from the digital realm.

I will read more. Write by hand more. Interact with people more. Breathe more.

If I need information I will ask someone for it instead of Googling it (what a concept!).

What will my days look like? Stay tuned, for the week after next (week of the 10th) I will report back about the experience… or will I? 🙂

Love you all and see you on the 10th…

oooh that smell!

July 29, 2009


[Image: Lexington, Mass. Town website]

Have you ever walked into an elevator, a subway car, or any other crowded confined space and been smacked in the face by a toxic cologne cloud?

There are times when this overpowering scent actually makes its way up into my nasal passages, down my throat, and onto my tongue. Excuse me, Stinky, I already had breakfast, I don’t want to taste your perfume bath!

I lovingly call these offenders Personal Air Polluters (PAPs). To be fair, I’ll assume they’ve dulled their precious olfactory senses so much that they’ve become “smell blind,” and as such just keep adding more and more fragrance as a result of their nasal numbness. After all, our senses can become dulled when they’re overexposed to stimuli.

So-called “good” scents like certain beauty products and cleaning solutions set off an alarm in my brain: Danger! Danger! Step away from that stink! And for good reason, these fragrances are actually bad for us.

Whether it’s the noxious fumes of cologne or perfume, the petrochemical laundry detergent emanating from clothes, or the synthetic fragrance wafting from just-shampooed hair – the deluge of synthetic fragrances in this world culminates in a harmful chemical cocktail.

get the stink out: antidotes to air pollution
Once I eliminated the culprits in my own home, I became acutely aware of these terrible odors. Here are some simple switches to help reduce your exposure to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) causing the toxic stench.

beauty regimen

  • Read labels. Avoid products containing phthalates, benzyl acetate, hydroquinone, formaldehyde, or the catch-all term “fragrance” (also: parfum). These products have been associated with neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and cancer
  • Look out for other ingredients that may induce similar health implications (eg, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and immunotoxicity) – read more
  • Some of my favorite brands:
    Suki
    Kiss My Face (Obsessively Organic line)
    John Masters Organics
    Dr. Bronner’s
    Simply Divine Botanicals

cleaning solutions

air fresheners

laundry & dry cleaning

  • For laundry: Switch to a less toxic alternative such as Ecos or Seventh Generation. Or try a laundry ball like this one from True Green (I tested it on my sweaty yoga towels – it really works!)
  • For softening: Skip the fabric softener and use 1/8 cup vinegar in the wash. The vinegar smell does not stick around, I swear
  • For scent: Add a few drops of essential oil to the wash. I use Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus – so fresh and so clean! (and also antibacterial)
  • For dry cleaning: Opt for handwash with a product like The Laundress or visit a dry cleaner using CO2 such as Green Apple Cleaners

paint & furnishings

  • No or low-VOC paints like Mythic offer high-quality coverage without the noxious fumes. Or try American Clay, a wall covering that adds beautiful texture while actually filtering the air
  • Check for formaldehyde and other off-gassing VOCs in furniture & carpeting. Stick with natural floor coverings made from wool or seagrass. Check the Sustainable Furnishings Council for brands that don’t emit VOCs

Aah, now let’s all take a breath of fresh air!

pimp my dump

July 26, 2009

What happens when a landfill retires? Find out how the city turns buried trash into public treasure — or a park that trumps Central Park in size — in this video from Thirteen’s series, The City Concealed.

The City Concealed: Freshkills Park Project from Thirteen.org on Vimeo.

nyc has 48 hours worth of food

July 24, 2009

What would happen if we were cut off from the US food supply chain? A scary prospect, but NYC has become wholly dependent on outside resources for food. But there’s a growing trend in this city – urban agriculture. Come support this movement toward food independence with an organization that’s making it all happen: BK Farmyards.


BK Farmyards Fundraiser
Saturday, August 22
3pm-12am
@ COMPOUND Brooklyn
Atlantic Avenue (btwn New York & Nostrand)

We are raising money for farming a couple sites next year, and we need your help!

How you can help us build more farms:
1. VOLUNTEER to help the day of the event.
2. DONATE FOR AUCTION. We are looking for local restaurants who want to donate a meal coupon to be auctioned off at the event. These restaurants will be featured in all promotional fliers. We are also looking for local artists who would want to donate work for a silent auction. Artists determine base price and what percentage they would like to donate to BK Farmyards.
3. PERFORM. Would your band like to play? Would you like to make balloon animals for the kids?
4. OTHER IDEAS? You tell me.

Please pass the word on: this will be an all-day party for all ages. We will auction off our produce with cooking demonstrations. There will be trampolines and food…great combination!

bk farmyards is a Brooklyn based decentralized farming network providing local food to reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and offering local jobs to boost the economy. We are seeking partnerships with developers willing to temporarily transform their idle land to farmyard; homeowners who want to eat from their own yard; and city agencies holding under-utilized land. Our strategy is to stay nimble, growing food between the cracks of urban development. bk farmyards mission is to bring communities together around the dinner table: our organization’s educational agenda includes eating seasonally, how to grow food locally, how to store and prepare food, species biodiversity, and food democracy.

simplify, simplify

July 23, 2009

My mantra for the year. I’ve been decluttering, refocusing, letting go of bad habits and saying hello to new (good) ones. Part of living in a sustainable way is making sure the ol’ noggin’ can sustain all that’s thrown at it as well.

And who do I have to thank? Well, yours truly, of course. But I couldn’t have done it without my loved ones, and a few dear strangers that I know mostly through books and blogs. Here’s a list of those who get me through the day in one piece:

Thich Nhat Hanh

It doesn’t matter which book you start with, all of this Vietnamese Buddhist monk’s writings are simply stated and sure to calm the mind and spirit. Not one iota of religious dogma. I’m psyched to be hearing him speak at the Beacon Theatre this October.

Patanjali & Sri Swami Satchidananda

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – this is what yoga is all about. I read a sutra or two before I go to sleep at night.

Gail Blanke

I was skeptical of this one, especially since the title is telling me to ‘throw out’ things. I don’t take kindly to that sort of message. But inside this little gem are some practical (and somewhat ecological) tips on letting go of the stuff that clutters your physical and mental space. Right on, Gail.

Elephant Journal

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled upon the elephant, but I’m ever-so-glad I did. I caught them just as they were shutting down print ops to launch their all-online version. I knew as soon as I opened the first page and saw what kind of ads they were running (yoga, healthy food, eco stuff) it was my kind of magazine. Here’s a little story: I was in a cafe in Sydney, Australia last year, reading one of the ol’ paper & ink issues of the mag and a young lady (another American) sitting at the table next to me asked where I got it. I told her I subscribed. She told me she contributed, and was just so surprised to see someone in Oz reading the humble magazine from Boulder, Colorado. Small world.

Bikram

I’m not really talking about the man, here, more about the method. Not sure how I feel about all of his principles (the proprietary ones), but this 90-minute, hot & sweaty, 26-posture “open-eyed moving meditation” has sure gotten me through some tough days. I’d say it’s at least 95% mental, and it ain’t so bad for the bod, either.

Think Simple Now

Through a sparse and thoughtfully written blog, Tina Su, et al, help others do just as the title suggests: Think Simple – Now. I used to be skeptical of self-help stuff like this, but some little voice started telling me that it can actually help to be open-minded and take a serving of helpful advice once in awhile. It’s good to listen to those little voices sometimes.

Zen Habits

Nope, this isn’t a blog about monk’s robes. It’s another well-thought-out and simply stated blog that reminds me to keep it simple, and do it with a smile.

Lots of Tweeters
Twitter can be a distraction, but it’s also been an amazing resource for connecting with some new friends and like-minded individuals. Here are a few (off the top of my head) who remind me to simplify:
@HappyLotus
@unitedyogis
@thedeeperwell

And here are a couple of tools that don’t hurt:

My zafu & zabuton (meditation cushions)

Made in Vermont by Samadhi Cushions

Meditation candles

100% Beeswax & essential oils by Big Dipper Wax Works

Who keeps you sane?

grow your knowledge in an east village garden

July 23, 2009

Come learn about the latest in sustainable design in a quaint little garden in the East Village. Brought to you by the New York Restoration Project.

Series on Sustainable Design in East Village Garden!
Toyota Children’s Learning Garden
603 E 11th St between avenues B & C

Join us in the Toyota Children’s Learning Garden for a 4 part discussion series highlighting techniques to green our limited urban space. Whether you’re working in a garden, apartment, business, or home, come and learn from New York City’s leaders in sustainable design.
__

The discussions and workshops will take place every other Thursday, July 30th-September 24th, in the garden from 7:00-8:00pm. We will also highlight the area’s environmentally conscious restaurants and businesses at the presentations. Following the discussions we invite everyone to join us for hors d’oeuvre and giveaways in the garden generously donated by Sustainable NYC, Angelica’s Kitchen, Quintessence, Hummus Place, Spino, and more.

July 30, 2009: Sarah Siegel, of Michael Van Valkenburg Associates: designer of the Toyota Children’s Learning Garden. She will give a short garden tour and speak about urban garden design, specifically the shad tolerant planting palette and sustainable technologies in this garden.

August 13, 2009: Chris Collins, Executive Director Solar1, will discuss benefits of renewable energy, the work of Solar1, and how to feasibly incorporate such technologies in your everyday life.

August 27, 2009: GreenItYourself Green Roof Workshop: Lori Gibbs and Atom Cianfarani, believe that living a healthy and environmentally responsible lifestyle should be accessible to everyone! They will teach about green roofing and prove tips and techniques for gardening in small spaces.

September 10, 2009: Marni Horowitz, CEO and founder Alive Structures, will speak about green wall installation and other techniques to make sue of our abundantly available vertical space. She will also discuss ecological gardening practices which mimic natural ecosystems that increase abundance, beauty, and biodiversity.

Space is limited, to RSVP and for more information about New York Restoration Project please contact Rachael Brody, 212-333-2552 or rbrody@nyrp.org

is the gowanus canal really sponge worthy?

July 22, 2009


The Gowanus Canal Issues, dlandstudio

Most New Yorkers, especially Brooklynites, know the beloved Gowanus Canal is teeming with nasty things: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), petroleum, raw sewage, and even gonorrhea. Since the late 1800s, the canal has been an unregulated dumping grounds for industry along its banks.

The canal is finally getting the attention it needs. Whether it ends up being an EPA Superfund site, or – if Bloomie get’s his way – the city cleans it up without the Feds, there is one organization ensuring the clean up and beautification happens – The Gowanus Canal Conservancy.

The Conservancy is working on, among other things, a Sponge Park that will make the Gowanus an inviting place for a leisurely stroll or sit, instead of the putrid, toxified wasteland it currently is. The “sponge” in this case are plants that filter out the nasties (sewage, heavy metals, petrol) that seep into the canal – water which eventually flushes out into the East River and the Atlantic beyond. A tall order indeed, but I’m optimistic that it’ll happen. All government agencies are on board and $300,000 was recently earmarked to help fund the park.

You can help out by donating or by volunteering for on one of their Clean & Green days. There’s one this Saturday, July 25. Sign up via email:
volunteer@gowanuscanalconservancy.org
(include your name, phone number and dates you’d like to participate).

farm to table guest post

July 21, 2009

On Sunday, I visited Rooftop Farms, an amazing (as the name suggests) rooftop farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Read all about it in this guest post I did on Farm to Table, sustainable food blog and reality show.

brooklyn food coalition general meeting

July 21, 2009

Do you like food? Do you like food that’s healthful and sustainably produced? Want to get involved in shaping the way food is produced and distributed locally?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, come to the first
Brooklyn Food Coalition General Meeting!

What: Brooklyn Food Coalition General Meeting
Why: To approve the mission and structure of the Coalition and the convening of neighborhood groups
When: WEDNESDAY, JULY 22nd from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society
53 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Get the full details here.

why i’m a treehugger

July 20, 2009

Loving a giant cedar, Glacier National Park

Trees are ridiculously important to the continuation of the human species.

This is what trees do for us:
  • Provide us with oxygen to breathe
  • Filter pollutants from the air
  • Filter pollutants from water
  • Create much-needed shade
  • Cool the planet
  • Provide habitat for birds, bugs, squirrels, monkeys, and many other creatures
  • Create nutrients needed for mushrooms to grow (yum!)
  • Improve our mood
  • Increase property value
  • Some even provide food (fruit and nuts)
Yet, what do we do in return?
  • Chop ’em down.
In the short history of the US, we’ve destroyed over 95% of old growth forest. Much of this is to create paper. Paper to write on, to wipe our noses with, to wipe our derrieres with. In this clip, David de Rothschild explores this phenomenon:


So what can you do about it?
  • Reduce your paper use. Tips on how here and here
  • If you do buy paper products, be sure they have high post-consumer recycled content and that they are not chlorine bleached
  • Hug a tree once in a while, it really does feel good!
One last note on tree appreciation. William McDonough said in his TED talk,
Imagine this design assignment – design something that…
Sequesters carbon,
Fixes nitrogen,
Distills water,
Accrues solar energy as fuel,
Makes complex sugars and food,
Creates microclimates,
Changes colors with the seasons,
and Self-replicates.

Why don’t we knock that down and write on it.

If we all stopped to think of trees this way, perhaps there would be more of them around to help us enjoy life as we know it on this planet.

Check out William McDonough’s full TED talk, with lots of other important ideas: