29 October 2008

how to live sustainably in nyc: part 1

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.

thoreau, climatologist

[Photo: Image design by C. Davis and C. Willis.
Photographs depicting those groups in decline
courtesy of K. Cerrudo, A. Miller-Rushing,
J. Novak, T. Barnes, and C. Rushworth.]

Unbeknownst to him, Henry David Thoreau was a climatologist. His recordings of plant flowering patterns from 1851 to 1858 are helping modern climate scientists determine plant abundance and decline in New England. They can then, in turn, link those patterns to climate change.

One of the things they've discovered is that flowers are blooming seven days earlier now than in Thoreau's time. And they could only find 7 of the 21 species of orchids Thoreau recorded. An excerpt:

Henry David Thoreau endorsed civil disobedience, opposed slavery and lived for two years in a hut in the woods here, an experience he described in “Walden.” Now he turns out to have another line in his résumé: climate researcher. He did not realize it, of course.

Thoreau died in 1862, when the industrial revolution was just beginning to pump climate-changing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In 1851, when he started recording when and where plants flowered in Concord, he was making notes for a book on the seasons.

Now, though, researchers at Boston University and Harvard are using those notes to discern patterns of plant abundance and decline in Concord — and by extension, New England — and to link those patterns to changing climate.
Read the rest.

[New York Times]