Archive for the ‘sustainable’ Category

how to live sustainably in nyc: part 3

November 3, 2008

Part 2 of 3 in a series, how to live sustainably in nyc.

A class I recently attended at Borough of Manhattan Community College, led by Les Judd of Green Boroughs, helps New Yorkers find simple ways to live more sustainably.

In the final class, green business owners and non-profit leaders told us about their experiences working toward sustainability. [Read part 1 and part 2] Here are the representatives from the non-profit sector.

Panel 2: Green non-profit

Paula Lukats
CSA in NYC Program Manager
Just Food

Just Food works with local farms and communities in New York City to create a just and sustainable food system. They do this through community supported agriculture (CSA) programs that help
family farms stay in business, while providing city dwellers with access to locally grown produce that’s both high quality and affordable.

Just Food also serves the community by teaching people how to prepare farm-fresh food. Through the Community Food Education (CFE) Program volunteer food educators are trained to teach workshops on subjects such as cooking skills, food storage, nutrition and wellness, and the value of eating locally grown food.


Chris Collins
Executive Director
SolarOne

A solar-powered “Green Energy, Arts, and Education Center,”
SolarOne works to educate the public — especially students in grades K-12 — about renewable energy and the urban environment around them. One of their programs, called TruLight, empowers students to be green entrepreneurs through the marketing and sales of compact fluorescent light bulbs.

To help ensure that the demand for skilled green collar workers is filled for the emerging green economy, SolarOne also provides high school students with hands-on green jobs training.

SolarTwo, the city’s first carbon-neutral or net-zero energy use building, is expected to open next year.

Miquela Craytor
Executive Director
Sustainable South Bronx

In a part of the city frequently slated for waste management facilities, where brownfields are common, and the poor often don’t have a voice to fight against the pollution that is occurring in their backyard, arose an advocate: Sustainable South Bronx. Majora Carter founded SSBx 7 years ago as a way to revitalize the South Bronx by providing environmental education and tackling issues such as land-use and waste management policies. (Majora Carter, founder, not to be confused with Miquela Craytor, executive director. Their names are so coincidentally similar!)

Miquela mentioned so many incredible projects they are working on it was hard to keep up. They provide green job training and placement in jobs like green roofing, river front restoration, and brownfield restoration through their B.E.S.T. program. As part of their solid waste and energy program they’re part of a coalition that created a zero waste campaign, which provides the city with an action plan on how to achieve it.

SSBx also teamed up with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create their own FabLab (fabrication lab), connecting community members with digital arts and technology to design and create real world solutions to environmental problems in their community.


Bob Muldoon
Associate Regional Representative NYC Field Office
Sierra Club

Bob is one of the rare staff members for a mainly volunteer organization. Most people are aware of the Sierra Club, founded by John Muir and other conservationists in 1892 as a way to preserve the natural places in the United States.

The Sierra Club has regional chapters and field offices with member-organized committees that help shape local and national environmental policy. From the very beginning, an integral part of the club has also been the organization of wilderness excursions for those with the common interest of enjoying the great outdoors.

Bob is part of a campaign to fight climate change through reduction of greenhouse gases, specifically through the reduction of coal-fired power plants. According to Bob, the Sierra Club recently helped block 50 new coal power plants.

Hope for a cleaner, greener future
Being able to hear these amazing advocates and activists talk about how they are making a difference was really inspiring. It really made me hopeful that there are people who care enough to take action in their communities to fight the big polluters, educate people about sustainability, and shape the future of our emerging green economy. I feel fortunate to have been in the presence of such motivating individuals.

how to live sustainably in nyc: part 2

October 30, 2008

Part 2 of 3 in a series, how to live sustainably in nyc.

A class I recently attended at Borough of Manhattan Community College helps New Yorkers find simple ways to live more sustainably. Led by Les Judd of Green Boroughs, the class consisted of an initial classroom session, two walking tours, and finally a panel discussion with green business leaders.

My favorite part of the class was the panel discussion. Four green business owners and four leaders of sustainability in the non-profit sector spoke about their work creating or maintaining their organizations and the challenges they face. Here’s a little taste of what the panelists had to say.

Panel 1: Green biz

David Kistner
CEO
Green Apple Cleaners

Green Apple is no ordinary dry cleaner. And they’re not one of those so-called “organic” cleaners either. To clean clients’ clothes they use liquid CO2 that was recaptured from processes like beer brewing. In a Consumer Reports study, CO2 dry cleaning was found to be the most effective dry cleaning method, beating out conventional, toxic perchloroethylene (PERC)-using dry cleaners.

They also skip the disposable plastic bag to cover your freshly cleaned clothes in favor of reusable garment bags.

Green Apple’s pick-up and delivery service, which is powered by biodiesel, is so far only available in Manhattan and North Jersey. David hopes to open a Brooklyn location early next year (I hope so!).

According to David, Green Apple is more than a dry cleaning operation. They do interior work for clients such as ABC Carpet & Home, they sell cleaning products, and they also have a not-for-profit educational program for school-aged children. David also consulted on the Greenopia guide.

Mark Caserta
Owner
3R Living

Mark was an environmental lobbyist and his wife, Samantha was a buyer for Fishs Eddy. So it was only natural for them to open a store like 3R Living. It’s a great resource for eco-friendly gifts and housewares, with two locations: Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Maplewood, NJ. Though the towns aren’t so near to one another, Mark said it was a fairly easy decision to open the second Maplewood store, since so many Park Slope transplants now live there.

You can also shop through their online store.


Catherine Barton
Corporate Director of Business Development
Green Depot

Green Depot is an amazing source for green building supplies. Some of the notable projects they’ve supplied include the new Brooklyn Center for Urban Environment building, the platinum LEED certified Bank of America Tower, and Entourage star Adrian Grenier’s Brooklyn townhouse.

They also work with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to create affordable, sustainable homes for New Yorkers.

According to Catherine, one of the biggest challenges with green building is the installation learning curve (I know this from experience!*). To solve this problem, Catherine works directly with builders to educate workers on how to use their materials.

*When we were having coconut palm composite (DuraPalm) flooring installed in our kitchen last year, it didn’t go so smoothly. The carpenter laid down the entire floor using traditional wood floor nailing methods. Almost every board ended up cracked or split. He had to rip up the entire floor and we had to checked every single board for damages to see which pieces were salvageable. Not fun!


Mark Ehrhardt
Co-founder
Movers, Not Shakers

Back when Mark was a stock broker, the moving business was the furthest thing from his mind. When the dot com bubble burst, a friend suggested that helping people with moves was an easy way to make a buck. So Mark started small, using rented trucks to relocate people. Now he runs the sustainable moving company, Movers not Shakers.

His trucks run on biodiesel and instead of wasteful cardboard boxes, Mark’s company uses reusable plastic ones he calls GothamBoxes.

At the end of the business year, Mark gave part of the company’s proceeds to the Prospect Park Alliance to support a New York City green space, and in a way, offset carbon. He plans on contributing to environmental organizations as a regular business practice.

Look for part 3 of how to live sustainably where I highlight the non-profit green business panelists.

Read part 1.

how to live sustainably in nyc: part 1

October 29, 2008

A class I recently attended at Borough of Manhattan Community College helps New Yorkers find simple ways to live more sustainably. Led by Les Judd of Green Boroughs, the class consisted of an initial classroom session, two walking tours, and finally a panel discussion with green business leaders.

The basics
In class 1 we talked about the basic steps to living sustainably, including shopping at the farmer’s market and community supported agriculture (CSA), plus reducing meat in our diets as ways to reduce our carbon footprint.

I learned a little something about recycling in this city — just because the plastic has a #1 on the bottom doesn’t necessarily mean it is recyclable. City recycling only processes plastic bottles with a #1; this excludes iced coffee cups, salad takeout containers, and the like.

We also discussed switching to alternative energy resources such as wind power through ConEdison Solutions.

The walking tours
Les took us to some great businesses in downtown Manhattan. We went to both the East and West Village locations of Birdbath Bakery and shops such as Sustainable NYC, Moo Shoes, and Organic Avenue. We also walked through community gardens like Toyota Children’s Garden, one of the green spaces saved by New York Restoration Project which was founded by Bette Midler.

Look for parts 2 and 3 of how to live sustainably where I highlight the green business panelists, including the CEO and founder of Green Apple Cleaners and the Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx.

can nyc be an exemplary eco city?

October 21, 2008

That was the question posed last night at the Open Center, in a lecture of the same name. The panelists approached sustainability from both an individual and governmental perspective.

Rohit Aggarwala
Director of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability in NYC

According to Rohit, PlaNYC started out as an economic plan. But with population projected to reach 9.1 million residents by 2030 (it’s currently over 8 million), it became clear that the focus needed to be on sustainability.

One consideration led to another: if you think about land use patterns, especially with regard to housing, you can’t ignore transportation infrastructure; when you consider transportation, air quality becomes a factor; a contributor to poor air quality is the city’s current energy resources — yet another layer; and those energy resources also pollute our waterways, so there’s water quality to think about.

Its population growth makes New York City unique among old American cities. There was no model to follow. So the mayor’s office turned to other cities around the world. For example, London was the model for congestion pricing, which is up for reconsideration. Or as one NYTimes reporter put it, Governor Paterson is “rescuing the controversial program from the brink of death.”

Read the full PlaNYC report.

Starre Vartan
One of the original green bloggers (eco chick), author of The Eco Chick Guide to Life: How to Be Fabulously Green, and managing editor for the Greenopia guide

Starre offered up 7 of her top 10 ways to live sustainably in NYC (her time was cut short).

In general, she says to consider what you do most in your daily life, and then figure out how you can make changes to reduce your impact.

[NB. I’ve paraphrased a bit]

1. Food. Support farmer’s markets and local food, as our food miles add a considerable heft to our carbon footprint.

2. Goods. Buy local. There are many great designers of furniture, clothing, and other goods right here in NYC. When you consider a simple article of clothing like a t-shirt, think about all that went into it. The cotton, grown with chemical fertilizers and treated with pesticides is grown in one country. Then it’s shipped to another place to be dyed. Then the fabric is sent somewhere else to be sewn together. The tags may be sewn on in an entirely different place. The carbon footprint of a t-shirt is astronomical! (Read about the perfect t-shirt ever made [!])

3. Transport. Keep using public transportation. Bike if you’ve got one. There are bike advocate groups you can join or support (like Recycle a Bicycle). Limit cab rides or share with a friend (or try a service like Ride Amigos).

4. Toxins. Get them out of your life. One of the simplest, easiest, and least expensive ways to do this is to swap your cleaning supplies. Toxic chemicals from cleaning products pollute our waterways and our bodies. Waste treatment facilities only filter out bio-organisms, so those cleaning biproducts are mixing together in our water. Another way to eliminate toxins is changing your beauty products.

5. Energy. Switch to clean energy through services like ConEdison Solutions, which offer wind and hydroelectric power that feeds into the grid (which unless you’re off the grid, and you’d know if you were, you’re hooked up to). It may cost a little more per month, but what you’re paying for is clean air and health. It’s really the one place you should spend a little more to help save our health and the planet.

6. Junk mail. Sign up for services that stop junk mail, like GreenDimes or DMAChoice (I know it works, ’cause I’ve used it!).

7. Office. Green your workplace. Some motivated employees may already be volunteering to help reduce the carbon footprint of their office. But many businesses still have along way to go to achieve eco-friendly status. Implement recycling, start a campaign to eliminate paper cup use (bring your own!), encourage printing on both sides. These steps will make the office more sustainable and help the bottom line!

Visit Eco chick for more green living tips.

Janna Olson
Sustainability consultant and NYC market manager & researcher at Greenopia

I was excited to see Janna there, as I’m currently taking a class with her (which I’ll write about soon). She had some technical difficulties (her Mac couldn’t communicate with the overhead projector), but Janna raised some really compelling points — many of them directed at Rohit Aggarwala.

One of the concepts Janna discussed was distributed energy generation, specifically solar empowerment zones — a term coined by City Councilmember and Infrastructure Task Force co-chair Daniel Garodnick [OnEarth]. Essentially, buildings in areas of the city that have been identified as suitable for photovoltaic solar panel installation (“low-density areas that have buildings with large rooftops to create a synergy for an entire neighborhood to become solar-powered,” according to Garodnick) would be given incentive to invest in solar. This method makes solar more cost-effective through sharing of maintenance responsibility, tax incentives, and the potential for a consolidated connection to the grid within the zone.

Janna also talked about the usefulness and importance of the Greenopia guide. While helping consumers living in cities like New York find green businesses, the guide helps green businesses — some of which might have a limited marketing budget — get the attention they deserve. She also stressed that living green should not be a chore, it can and should be a fun endeavor.

Read an interview with Janna [alldaybuffet].

Sign up for an upcoming eco event at the Open Center:

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint, and Still Have a Great Life

with Colin Beavan (No Impact Man) and Janna Olson
Friday, January 16 2009, 7:00pm – 10:00pm

cooper-hewitt people’s design award

October 21, 2008

Really good design should be more than just functional, and more than just sustainable (that of course is key!). It needs to look good, too.

Cooper-Hewitt, as part of The National Design Awards, is letting you be the judge of what’s good design in their annual People’s Design Award show. There are many eco-friendly designs to vote for, from gDiapers to the Green Map System (which I’ve mentioned before). But if you want to get your two cents in, ya gotta act fast. Judging ends today at 6:00pm (you can also vote on facebook).

Winners will be revealed on their site on Thursday, the 23rd at 10:00pm (there’s also an after party if you’re interested).

Bonus!
Get free admission to Cooper-Hewitt all week long in honor of National Design Week (through October 25th).

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, a subsidiary of the Smithsonian Institution, is the only museum in the US that focuses solely on design.

3 books i want to read now

October 3, 2008

Two topics are on everyone’s mind right now: the economy and energy. These 3 books offer insights into their critical link, offering solutions on how America can rise above while simultaneously saving the planet.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems
by Van Jones

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins

tracing the backstory of stuff

September 29, 2008

When we buy something new we usually know only a few elements of its backstory. We know where it is was “made” and where we are buying it. We might even know a little bit about what it’s made from by the label. But the origin and impact of the materials and the process of making the product is mostly a mystery to us.


[Image: brianinsanfran]

There are few examples of transparency in the manufacturing of goods. Patagonia stands out as one company with a policy of openness. And while they are by today’s standards a shining example of sustainability, they are not without their flaws. They bare all in the Footprint Chronicles, where the user can trace the backstory of a Patagonia product. The good and bad aspects of production are highlighted, as well as where the company thinks they need to improve. There’s even an opportunity for you to let them know what you think about their efforts.

Read more about Becoming Better Backstory Detectives at WorldChanging.

You can get Patagonia products at Amazon, REI, and Patagonia.

green art supplies

September 24, 2008


What kid doesn’t like to draw, color, paint, create? Wouldn’t it be great to know that the art supplies your kid is using are not only non-toxic, but also have a low impact on the planet?

Green Art by Loew Cornell is a line of earth friendly art supplies, designed with kids in mind. The product ingredients include recycled and reclaimed materials, organic fabrics, and paint that’s free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — all packaged with less waste.

They even have an easel and a lap desk made from reclaimed wood.

On the Loew Cornell site, they have a bunch of eco-friendly art projects, like leaf prints, stick frames, and rock paintings. They have ready-to-create art kits, too, including a birdhouse, recycled plastic bead jewelry, and sun catchers.

You can get Green Art supplies at Michaels.

[via tiny Décor]

fin, finito, bye bye fishies

September 22, 2008

The oceans are being depleted of their onetime abundance. Overfishing is something we can all help stop if we want to save fish from extinction. There is a sobering article in GOOD magazine about the imminent global collapse of fishing. It is a must-read for anyone who eats fish. Some eye-opening highlights:

The end of fishing = global food (and economic) crisis

The demise of commercial fishing is beyond the limits of even our darkest environmental imaginations. And yet the evidence of the ocean’s diminishment is everywhere. Leaving aside the legitimate concerns of conservationists, the possibility of a broad fish collapse is harrowing for other reasons. At a time when we are mired in a global food crisis, nearly 1.5 billion people depend upon the sea as a source of food or income. The destabilizing effect of such a collapse would be tremendous, bringing communities and countries into conflict over a resource we once considered boundless. It is fair to say that the endgame has begun.

Government support for an unsustainable industry

Many experts think that governments have been too kind to the fishing industry. The European Union, China, Japan, and the United States spend as much as $20 billion a year to subsidize a $90 billion industry. The number of industrial-sized fishing boats in the world, which the U.N. estimates at 1.3 million, will have to be reduced by more than a third to reach sustainable levels of fishing (and some conservation organizations put the number at closer to half).

Overfishing isn’t the only problem, but it’s the easiest to fix

We have imperiled what is perhaps the last wilderness on earth, for the simplest reason: We believed it was so vast it couldn’t be harmed. The signs of our folly are now too numerous to ignore. Massive, swirling gyres of plastic have formed in the North Pacific, as have toxic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and dozens more places. Coastal pollution and construction is destroying critical wetland habitats worldwide. And the ocean itself is warming, a development that will have consequences we can hardly imagine. Amid these challenges, overfishing represents the most immediate threat and possibly the easiest problem to remedy.

We are all responsible

Because of our role as consumers, we’re no less culpable than fishermen for the state of the oceans. Global seafood consumption has doubled since 1973 and, just as its health benefits are becoming known, it seems clear that we will have to eat less fish, and that the fish we do eat will have to be smaller and lower on the food chain, where the effects of fishing are less pernicious. A cod caught by a bottom trawler carries with it a different set of environmental implications than a cod caught by a hook and line—and we ought to recognize and pay for the difference. And we would do well to contemplate, too, why it is that we become indignant at the thought of a world without wolves or elephants, yet stand idly by as bluefin tuna, for instance, are hunted into obsolescence. This animal, as grand as any we know, can live for 30 years, weigh as much as 1,200 pounds, and cross thousands of miles of ocean in a single year.

Please read the whole article.

You can do something!

  1. Follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide. They have a free downloadable (or mail order) pocket guide you can take with you to restaurants.

    –Some common fish to avoid: Atlantic halibut, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, flounder, sole, monkfish, Chilean sea bass, trawl-caught haddock, skate*

  2. Tell your favorite restaurant or fishmonger to offer sustainable seafood
  3. Help the Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service make the right decision about shaping new commercial fishing regulations

*I realize this may be hard for many people to do, but if we don’t change our actions now, these species will be fished into extinction. There are many viable (and delicious) alternatives, including: Arctic char, Pacific halibut, longline-caught Pacific cod, striped bass, tilapia, mackerel, U.S. Atlantic pole-caught Mahi Mahi, trap-caught lobster, plus farmed oysters, clams, mussels and more!

heavy stuff about what we eat

September 21, 2008


I just read a great post from Think Simple Now about the health, ethical, and environmental implications of our animal-based diet (including dairy products).

When I became a vegetarian, my main motive was for health, but as I dug deeper into what was happening in animal agriculture, the truth was heart breaking. I was in distress after learning about it, and thinking about it still makes me sad.

About 10 billion land animals are killed each year for food in the US, according to the USDA; this includes 35 million cattle, 100 million pigs, 300 million turkeys, and 9.5 billion chickens. That is more than 1 million animals killed every hour. Animal agriculture is a $100 billion a year industry, with even more powerful lobbying interest than the oil and pharmaceutical lobbies (exposed by Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation).

At such a scale and with efforts to drive down cost, how do you think animals are treated? The answer: the most time efficient way possible to minimize cost. With that in mind, animals are skinned alive, limps ripped out of them, beaks or testicles chopped off without pain relief.

Read the whole story.