18 September 2008

brooklyn green event recap, part 3: the film

This is part 3 of my recap of Green Brooklyn 2008 (scroll down for parts 1 and 2).
There was a small turnout for this screening, but I think it had an impact on everyone there.

King Corn

Everyone should see this movie. For real. I read a lot of stuff about commodity corn in The Omnivore's Dilemma. But seeing it on the screen, hearing the farmers talk about how they are producing "crap" (and not giving a damn), seeing a small town in Iowa transform from being centered around family farms to industrialized agriculture -- it's frightening stuff. It gets bigger and bigger, a monoculture that's not even edible by humans without being highly processed, that's mostly feed for animals in factory farms.

The main goal and outcome of this agricultural giant: drastically reduce food prices for consumers by flooding the market with corn (thanks in great part to Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture in the 1970s). What it's helped create: pollution, sick animals in confined feed operations, and an obesity and diabetes epidemic. It's a moral, economic, and environmental issue worthy of everyone's attention.

Ah, what am I going on about -- just watch the movie!

Oh and...
I think we can all make conscious decisions to change the landscape for the better. Choose foods and drinks without high fructose corn syrup, eat grass-fed and humanely raised beef (or go vegetarian), support your local farmers by visiting farmer's markets. It may cost a little more now, but what you're paying for is a healthy future for yourself and for future generations.

Related posts
What the HCFS?!!!
My own private omnivore's dilemma

green brooklyn event recap, part 2: panel discussions

This is part 2 of my recap of Green Brooklyn 2008 (scroll down for part 1). I attended part of two different panel discussions, one on green investing and the other on solar panel installation.

Panel Discussions

The Real Greenbacks: Investing to Make a Difference


I have to admit, my eyes glaze over when a prospectus is put in front of me. Financial talk goes in one ear and out the other. Which is why I had to attend this discussion. I've been thinking a lot about where our investments are going -- to major polluters and irresponsible corporations (oil companies, big agrobiz, tobacco, &c.). I'd love to invest responsibly, with my conscience, I just need some education.

Sustainable investing goes beyond socially responsible investing (SRI), which traditionally excludes the worst public offenders from the equation. Sustainable investing rewards those public companies with sustainable practices and principles. SRI, according to Lily Scott from Veris Wealth Partners, also apparently rewards investors with a greater return on investment than the S&P 500 (11.67% vs 10.2%). It makes sense if you think about it -- sustainable company = sustainable growth = sustainable return (it's not math, but it makes sense to me!).


Solar Your Building

I don't own a house, so I can't do my own solar installation. But our building has a nice big sunny roof -- an ideal place for solar panels. I'm not sure if the initial investment would be worth it for a large residential co-op building; the space available for panels and the building's usage may not justify the cost of the panels. I'd like to see our building at least pursue it, the problem is the bump in maintenance costs wouldn't be seen as favorable since most tenants, while they're owners, are probably not in it for the long-haul -- depending on how many panels there are, it could take up to 20 years to make up for the initial costs. There are goverment incentives available now, but many are reaching the end of their term.

While there are many factors to consider when pursuing solar photovoltaics (direct sunlight, a sturdy roof, slanted platforms for a flat roof), at least for Ken Schles, the Brooklyn Homeowner, it seems worth it. He's had some struggles, specifically with Con Edison (they don't know what they're doing when it comes to the whole solar thing, according to him), but overall, he seems to be enjoying the benefits of solar -- a reduced carbon footprint, net energy gains, and a new perspective on energy consumption.

If solar photovoltaics aren't appropriate (usually due to shade), then solar thermal might be a good option for off-setting fossil fuel use. Solar thermal provides the heat for your hot water heater (a big consumer: 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home). It collects energy both directly and passively, through sunlight and ambient heat -- especially effective in warmer climates and in the summer.


green brooklyn event recap part 1: exhibitors

Some of the exhibitors (and some innocent bystanders) at Green Brooklyn 2008

Held at Brooklyn Borough Hall and in Cadman Plaza fittingly among the greenmarket, Green Brooklyn 2008 was packed with great exhibitors and informative sustainability events -- all free to the public. Here's a recap of some of the things I saw (part 1):


Blacksmith Institute

This non-profit group helps communities in developing nations overcome pollution and its effects. Jen, a representative of the Institute, told me about their list of the top 10 worst polluted places in the world, which is continually being reassessed. According to their site:

The World Heath Organization, in conjunction with the World Bank, estimates that 20 percent of deaths in the developing world are directly attributed to environmental factors from pollution.
Here's their list of the top 10 worse polluted places:You can support the Blacksmith Institute by donating here.

Brooklyn-based vegan skin care line CeleBritAy is the creation of Liz Santiago, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with. She had some products on hand to sample, sell, and smell -- and the scents were naturally delicious. Sesame oil- and cocoa butter- or almond-based body creams are enhanced with bergamot, raspberry, lavendar, rose/peppermint, or arabian musk (or unscented if you prefer). They contain only natural emollients and essential oils -- no petroleum, synthetic fragrance, or chemical stabilizers. You can treat yourself to these creams or her other bath and spa products at celebritayny.com.

GreenHome NYC
According to their site, GreenHome NYC's mission is "to facilitate the adoption of sustainable building methods and materials by owners of small residential and commercial buildings in New York City." They had a wide array of products for green building and renovation on hand for participants to look at, including recycled denim insulation, PaperStone, and sorghum plywood. GreenHome holds a green building forum on the third Wednesday of each month. Learn more here.

Wearable Collections
386 million pounds of textiles end up in the NYC waste stream every year, reports Wearable Collections on their site. And they seem to have a sensible solution: clothing recycling pick up at residential buildings throughout the city. So far, they've kept 350,000 pounds of textiles out of landfills. You can request a bin for your building here.

Sims Metal Management
Sims is the world's largest recycling company with recycling operations all over the globe, and several facilities in the NY Metro area. They're opening a new metal recycling facility in an industrial part of Sunset Park, Brooklyn at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. A representative from Sims told me that this waterfront location would reduce truck traffic by limiting the distance needed for Department of Sanitation trucks to travel from collection to drop-off. It also allows for easier access to carrier barges. Read their environmental policy statement here.

Eat Well Guide
With this non-profit program, you can find Good Food near you -- food that's local, sustainable, and organic. There are thousands of listings of farms, markets, restaurants, and other good food producers.

The Eat Well Guide was developed by Sustainable Table to educate consumers about the problems of factory farming and to provide them with access to sustainable food options. Watch The Meatrix and learn the truth about where food comes from.

Kiwi Magazine
This family-oriented publication provides parents with information on how to raise children in the healthiest way possible. Their magazine shows parents how to practice a healthy and sustainable lifestyle in light of their busy schedules. I was happy to learn they have a free online version of their magazine.

I spoke with Stephanie of Garbage of Eden Designs at the RePlayGround table about her cool plastic bag jewelry. She's got great earrings and bangles for sale on Etsy -- 10% of their sale goes to various non-profit organizations (including Added Value Farm). You can read an interview with her at Indie Fixx.

Read about my earlier post about RePlayGround here.

Exhibitors I missed:
  • Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
    I'd love to visit their farm in Pocantico Hills, about 30 miles north of NYC. Their restaurant in the city, Blue Hill, has incredible farm-fresh food and at the farm they have tours, a farmer's market, and a restaurant. I think Autumn would be a great time to visit (harvest, fall foliage, &c.)
  • Added Value Farm
    This Red Hook, Brooklyn-based farm has a harvest festival coming up on Saturday, October 18 -- and with food from local restaurants, live music and performances, a pumpkin patch, and farm tours, I plan on being there

Exhibitor I meant to give a piece of my mind:
Bettencourt Green Building Supplies -- when we were renovating our kitchen last year, they didn't show up for an appointment we made and didn't answer my numerous calls when I tried to reschedule. (Grrr! Okay, enough griping.)

new free rice games

I just donated 11,000 grains of rice testing out my Italian language skills. Yep, they added some new games to the mix at freerice.com. Now, in addition to the original free rice vocabulary game, you can test your knowledge of art, science, foreign language, geography, and math. It beats clicking away at Solitaire or Bejeweled because you're actually helping feed hungry people through the UN World Food Program, thanks to the websites sponsors.

As of yesterday, 43,809,979,770 grains of rice have been donated thanks to bored office workers everywhere. Try it out!

Help end world hunger

[Free Rice via Make]