Thursday, May 28, 2009

Squash Seed From Thomas Jefferson Makes Its Way to Brooklyn

As it turns out, not all of Thomas Jefferson’s seeds are controversial. Saturday, one Brooklyn community gardener will take home squash seeds descended from a squash Jefferson planted in the 1800s, as part of the Vegetable Starts Seed Giveaway held by the New York Restoration Project (NYRP).

Jason Sheets, regional director of Brooklyn gardens at NYRP, had the idea for a seed giveaway and first implemented it last year. This Saturday, gardeners from the community will converge on Target Community Garden in Bed-Stuy (below) to collect some of the 2,000 heirloom vegetable seeds donated to
NYRP for the giveaway.

Heirloom seeds, Sheets said, are “seeds that have been around for years and years,” handed down for generations. They’re better in many ways than hybrid seeds you see in garden centers today, because they produce vegetables that “are better tasting, have a historical context and are open pollinated,” he explained. For a vegetable to be open pollinated means that its seeds can be harvested, as opposed to hybrid vegetables, which have sterile seeds.

“More and more people over the last 10 years have been embracing
hybrids because they have built-in disease resistance,” Sheets said. This has brought about the near extinction of many heirloom vegetable plants.

Fortunately, heirloom seeds have become popular in recent years, no doubt helped by the efforts of Amy Goldman, chair of the board of the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization dedicated to “preserving the world’s diverse but endangered heirloom seeds,” she said.

“I have devoted my life to the preservation of our vegetable heritage,” Goldman said. She donated the seeds for Saturday’s giveaway to NYRP, because she wants to educate “this new generation of farmers and gardeners.”

The selection of seeds that will be given out were determined by the gardeners themselves. Sheets said NYRP held a gardener’s gathering in March where community gardeners reserved the heirloom seeds they wanted in their garden.

In case some gardeners aren’t comfortable growing the vegetables from seeds, Sheets will have some seedlings, or vegetable starts, available. These were propagated by Landcraft Environment and will be given away Saturday.

Vegetable starts and seeds will be organic, untreated and not genetically engineered. Types will range from tomatoes, carrots, corn and herbs. Sheets said that an heirloom seed might yield a purple tomato. He hopes that in future years, he will be able to open seed giveaways to the public.

Sheets calls Goldman, an avid gardener who has published many books on the subject, the “queen of heirloom vegetables.”

“We want to get people out there gardening and growing their own food,” Goldman said. “We’re putting seeds in the hands of farmers and gardeners where they belong.”

Jefferson photo courtesy of, garden photo courtesy of the New York Restoration Project.

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Windsor Terrace Cohousing May Have Greenest Building in NYC

Eagle writer Linda Collins reports:

This week, Brooklyn Cohousing members decided unanimously — by consensus — to create their new home in Windsor Terrace as a low energy, environmentally friendly building.
“I think this is pretty big news. The decision was unanimous,” said spokesperson Alex Marshall, a founding member. “The consultants working on the project say it would be the most energy efficient building in New York City.”
The method of construction the group has adopted is called “Passive House” or, as it is known in Germany where it originated, “PassivHaus.”
According to Marshall, it involves a set of techniques resulting in a nearly air-tight building that simultaneously is supplied with clean, fresh air. Often heating and air conditioning is unnecessary beyond minimal levels, he said, and energy use can be a tenth of ... read more.

Rendering by Levenson McDavid Architects

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can You Go Without Take-Out for 3 Months?

The Brooklyn Green Team has posted their lasted eco-challenge: the No Take-Out Challenge. For three months, participants will eat no take-out, which is defined as delivery or going to a restaurant and taking your left-overs home. For more information, plus helpful tips and encouragement, click here.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Table Is Chair And Vice Versa; How BADA Can That Be?

Have you ever had guests over to your home and wanted to maximize seating, but your table was in the way? Or during a dinner party, did you ever wish you had more table space and fewer chairs? Do you need a chair and a table, but your living room doesn’t have room for both?

The answer to these questions (and any others involving a choice between a table and a chair) is the BADA table, just launched by green design firm EcoSystems. It’s a table that transforms into a chair — a love seat or bench, more appropriately — by inserting a credit card into two slits in the side, unlocking a piece of the table that flips over to become the seat.

Made from FSC-certified wood, the BADA table also represents sustainability because it’s a way of conserving space and resources — using less, but getting more. It was previewed at BKLYN DESIGNS, where it was awarded “Best in Show” by green design blog Inhabitat.

EcoSystems has its headquarters — and manufacturing operation — based out of 33 Flatbush Ave., a building populated by start-up businesses sharing space in three different co-working initiatives: Treehouse (managed by EcoSystems), Green Spaces and MEx.

Andrew Personette (pictured above right), co-founder (along with Matt Tyson — pictured above center — and Pablo Souto) and executive director of EcoSystems, says the BADA table (below) is “a symbol of the collaboration going on at the building.” It’s based on an antique that building owner Al Attara (pictured above center) acquired 25 years ago that’s actually 125 years old, Personette said.

BADA stands for “Brooklyn Arts and Design Arena,” he noted, a name that refers to the building itself. The table, which can function as a desk, dining table or a seat, was designed so that it could “possibly be the only piece of furniture you own,” Personette said.

While the table isn’t available for purchase yet, it will be in the next few months, he explained, along with a new line of furniture, dubbed the “Snug-it!” collection. Recyclable aluminum hardware and FSC certified plywood (that has no VOCs) make up the Snug-it! line, designed to be totally user-friendly.

EcoSystems has designed several different pieces in the Snug-it! collection: a Snug-it! desk, a Snug-it! shelving unit and a Snug-it! entertainment center.

Personette said that the Snug-it! collection is about “creating an easy user experience — making it fun and simple to have something beautiful and sustainable.”

Sustainability has always been a key factor in EcoSystems’ designs. One of their previous pieces, the BAMBA chair (right), is eco-friendly from start to finish. Made from bamboo, a rapidly renewable resource, the seat, back and arms of the chair are cut from the sides and pack into each other for shipping, minimizing waste.

The chair requires no tools for assembly and the cushions are made from recyclable, organic materials. “You can recycle the hardware in regular aluminum recycling,” Personette told the Eagle. “And the rest of the chair is compostable.” EcoSystems will even pick up the product after its first life to recycle or reclaim the materials — green from start to finish.

For more information about EcoSystems, visit Also check out the sites for Inhabitat, Treehouse, MEx and Green Spaces.

All photos courtesy of EcoSystems

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Get Fresh Market and Eatery in Park Slope

Pictured here from Get Fresh Market and Restaurant in Park Slope, left to right, are Lindsay Wolff, culinary intern; server Alana Sweetwater; and Juventino Avila, chef and owner of the food market/eatery.

Get Fresh is an eco-friendly business,
“the ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible and they’re organic and sustainable as much as possible," said Wolff.

Avila said he opened Get Fresh as a market a year ago, but opened the restaurant portion in January of this year.

I met and chatted with Wolff, Sweetwater and Avila at
BAM for Brooklyn Uncorked last week. Read more about the event, held by magazine Edible Brooklyn, here.

Get Fresh is at 370 Fifth Ave. in Park Slope. Visit for more info.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A California Native Crafts Sustainable Furniture in DUMBO

Bruce Marsh (above) started building furniture years ago when he wanted, but couldn’t afford, luxury pieces. He fondly recalls the first piece of high-end wood he ever bought, from a lumberyard in Berkeley.

“Sitting on the floor was this piece of mahogany,” he said. “It was absolutely the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.”

Marsh purchased the wood shortly after and brought it home. “I put it in the middle of my living room. It became my coffee table — for about six months before I actually did anything with it,” he noted. “During that process, literally a day didn’t go by where I didn’t imagine or reconfigure that piece of wood into a hundred different things. When I finally did decide to make it into something, it became a table.”

Now, after what started out as a hobby became a business, that first table sits in Marsh’s DUMBO workshop.

Bruce Marsh Designs was established in 2006. At the same time, Marsh founded Moderntots, an “online retailer of modern design products for children.” But a year ago Marsh sold Moderntots to his business partner and “that’s when I really truly started getting serious about this business,” he added. “Now I’m totally in this.”

Marsh’s line of hardwood furniture is handcrafted and made-to-order. He’s designed tables, chairs, beds, bookshelves, even sushi plates. At this month’s BKLYN DESIGNS show, Marsh debuted a day bed made from rope strung across a wood frame (pictured above).

He characterizes his aesthetic as modern with Asian and Scandinavian influences. “I believe strongly in the beauty of the woods,” he explained. “I don’t need to carve intricate things into them to show somebody how beautiful they really are — simplicity is my goal.”

And with all his designs, Marsh keeps the environment in mind.

“I grew up in California. The California attitude to recycling is very different than the East Coast. We were doing it as kids, years ago,” he said. “I do this business with a very strong, eco/green mentality.”

The many factors that characterize his business as sustainable include rags instead of paper towels, water-based adhesives, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) or water-based finishes, no stains or veneers, and all stainless steel hardware.

More importantly, Marsh said all of the wood he uses is certified and comes from managed forests. Two months ago he stopped using imported wood. “There are so many beautiful woods in North America, why are we wasting all this fuel and emitting so much carbon into the air to ship these things halfway around the world?”

Instead, his woods come from within a 250-mile radius around his workshop, and he only orders as much as he needs. “I order exactly the amount of wood I need for the week’s projects that are beginning,” he explained.

Marsh’s designs are also long lasting. “Several pieces from the beginning of when I started making furniture — that are 10 or 12 years old — only show signs of normal wear, no signs of falling apart or degradation,” he said. “I have no idea how long they will last I’m not old enough to find out.”

Luxury Items With A Personal Touch
Since Marsh runs a small business (he only has two employees), he’s able to get to know some of his clients. “I pretty much meet every single one of my customers,” he said. “If you call for customer service, that’s me. It’s very personal, there’s a sense of flexibility and camaraderie and friendship.”

Many clients send Marsh pictures of his pieces in their homes, and occasionally, he delivers the furniture in person, which he likes because he gets to see the homes himself.

The idea of community and friendship is one of the reasons why Marsh loves Brooklyn. “My Brooklyn is DUMBO,” he says. Not only does he have his workshop there, he has also lived in the neighborhood. “It’s a small town, everybody knows everybody.”

As a photographer, Marsh loves DUMBO for another reason. “My absolute favorite thing is the view when you’re down by Brooklyn Bridge Park,” he says. “One of the best views of New York City, it’s absolutely gorgeous.”

Photo by Don Evans

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Bottled Water Companies Against Bottle Deposits

The New York Times reported that a coalition of bottled water companies have filed suit against and expanded bottle deposit law scheduled to take effect next month. The law will impose a deposit fee on bottled water sold in New York State and is meant to encourage New Yorkers to recycle the water bottles now thrown away each year. Read the story here.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green Roofs: Expensive and Time Consuming

The New York Times has a story about green roofs, citing Chicago's mayor Richard M. Daleym, who wants to make his city the “most environmentally friendly city in the world.” One of the ways he's accomplishing this goal is through green roofs. New York has some, but hasn't made them a priority like Chicago, because of the expense. See the full story here.

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‘Green in BKLYN’ a One-Stop Shop For Eco-Friendly Needs

Elissa Olin (pictured left with Iam Beck, who she refers to as her “lovely assistant, inventory manager and tech support”), a Brooklyn resident who lives on the border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, wanted to have a greener home, but discovered that it wasn’t so easy, because there weren’t any local places for her to shop.

“We were trying to live even greener in our home, and it was very inconvenient,” she said. “It was difficult to find the products we needed. We had to travel outside of our neighborhood to do it.”

Around this time, Olin also reflected on her many careers — she is an actor, has worked in catering, and has done technical writing, editing and voiceovers, among many other things — and felt that she needed a change. “[My job] wasn’t serving what was my next purpose, which was to do something in the community, to do something for the earth, to do something to improve the neighborhood,” she said.

So in March of 2008, she had the idea to open a green home goods store in Clinton Hill. A whirlwind year followed in which Olin took a business plan writing class, won the Brooklyn Public Library’s “PowerUP!: Your Business Starts Here” Business Plan Competition, scouted out locations, found one on Myrtle Avenue, renovated it and opened her store, Green in BKLYN, on Earth Day (April 22). “I felt like the universe basically pushed and kicked my butt down the road,” she said.

When stocking the store, Olin looked to her own life. “I started with the products that I loved, knew, used, needed, wanted, that I couldn’t get without traveling to another part of the city.”

And for Olin, “green” means her products are “healthy alternatives. They’re hypoallergenic, they’re energy savers, they save money and they’re earth friendly.”

You can find almost everything at Green in BKLYN: Bamboo dishware, eco-friendly cleaning products, natural soaps, organic nail polish, flushable baby diapers, organic cotton sheets and recycled paper products, to name a few.

The store itself is green too. There’s low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint on the walls and furnishings and fixtures that were either reclaimed or are made of recycled wood. She also has recycling bins, collecting paper, glass and cans, and Olin will soon expand the recycling to include batteries and crayons.

Despite the economy, Olin’s first month in business has been a success: she’s reordered almost all the products at least once. “We’ve been doing just fine — kind of great,” she said.

You don’t have to be green to shop at Green in BKLYN. “I never wanted to tell people what to do, I don’t feel like a store should dictate to anybody anything. What it offers is a convenient way to do what you choose to do,” Olin said. “If you don’t want to go green, anything in here is a green product and you’re still going to make a difference.”

The bottom line is that Olin wanted to provide a “one-stop shop where people could get what they needed for their home. We’ve got it here in Clinton Hill now, and hopefully there will be more stores in other neighborhoods too.”

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reclaim Our Waterfront Parks on Saturday's 'It's My Park Day'

Join thousands of New Yorkers in caring for and celebrating New York City parks on It’s My Park Day this Saturday, May 16, starting at 9:30 a.m.

This spring, It’s My Park Day will focus on community members working to “Reclaim our Waterfront Parks,” with shore clean-ups, free paddling and rowing, and other fun water-based activities at sites throughout the city. Here are a few highlighted projects – both on and off the waterfront – out of the over 150 projects and events happening on the day.

Coffey Park (Parkhouse, near Dwight Street, between Verona Street and King Street.)

— 9:30am – 10:30am: Kick-off the day with a doggie training session, information table and dog registration. Event coordinated by Red Hook Dog.

— 10am – 2pm: Volunteers are needed for spreading wood chips around tree pits. Activities include arts and crafts workshop, Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy presents a Maritime Museum, living dinosaurs of urban estuary, educational tree tours. Project and event coordinated by Coffey Park Gardeners and Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy.

— 12pm – 4pm :“Drawing Together” Family drawing workshop hosted by Kentler International Drawing Space.

Valentino Pier (Coffey Street and Ferris Street)

— 12pm -5pm: Volunteers needed for a beach clean-up. Activities include free yoga and kayaking. Professional artists will be at the park to encourage self expression through art and music lessons. Project and events coordinated by Red Hook Boaters.

Kaiser Park (West 31st Street and Neptune Avenue)

— 12pm – 5pm: Volunteers needed for general clean-up. Followed by a talent show, cookie decorating, face painting, clowns, and an FDNY fire safety smokehouse. Plus, informational tabling by the NYPD, NYC Community Emergency Response Team, NYC Department of Sanitation, New York Public Library, and more. Project and events coordinated by the Friends of Kaiser Park and GreenApple Corps.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hundreds of Trees To Be Planted In Red Hook This Weekend

At this point, there’s a lot of talk about what everyone should be cutting back on or eliminating from their lives to reduce their impact on the environment. But there’s at least one thing we always need more of: trees.
It’s estimated that one mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two human beings (
Trees are not only good for reducing carbon emissions, they also provide shade to buildings. This reduces the need for air conditioning in the summer, curbing energy consumption.
Sounds good, right? But how do you plant trees if you don’t have a yard? Or, if you have a yard, where should you go to get trees? MillionTreesNYC has the answers for you.
An initiative started by Mayor Bloomberg as part of his PlaNYC program, with the New York Parks Department and the New York Restoration Project, MillionTreesNYC has an ambitious (if not obvious) goal: to plant one million trees in New York City in the next decade.
Drew Becher, executive director of the New York Restoration Project — which was founded in 1995 by Bette Midler — said that Midler proposed the MillionTrees idea to Mayor Bloomberg in the fall of 2006 to increase the tree canopy of the city.
So far, more than 200,000 trees have been planted in the city since MillionTrees was first implemented. And this weekend, Brooklynites have an opportunity to participate in a public tree planting — American Express “Make a Difference” Community Volunteer Day — at Red Hook Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., community members who have signed up as individuals or in groups will work toward planting the 300 trees procured from tree farms within a 180-mile radius of the city, said Becher. “Anyone can do it, it’s open to the public,” he noted, saying that many volunteers bring their children to help out.
Working in groups of three to five, volunteers first dig holes for the trees. “You can dig up a lot of interesting stuff,” Becher said. They plant and water the trees, then clean up the trash in the surrounding area. “At the end, the space looks really nice.
“It’s a great community thing,” Becher continued, noting that volunteers who don’t know each other often work together to plant the same tree.
“All of our public tree plantings have been incredible,” Becher said. “It’s a great day, doing something great for the environment.”
To get involved in this Saturday’s tree planting — or any other upcoming plantings, Becher said there will be about 10 this spring — visit
Plant Your Own
Can’t make it to a public tree planting? MillionTrees has another option for you. Its Tree Coupon Program was launched in April and continues through spring planting season.
Anyone interested can log on to the MillionTrees web site and download a coupon (or just click here) for 20 dollars off the purchase of a tree — a one-inch caliper or larger — at participating nurseries throughout the city.
The five participating nurseries in Brooklyn are the Chelsea Garden Center, Red Hook at 444 Van Brunt St.; Dragonetti Brothers at 1875 Ralph Ave.; the Gowanus Nursery at 45 Summit St.; Kings County Nurseries at 625 New York Ave. and Liberty Sunset Garden at 204-207 Dyke St.
“If you’re going to plant a tree anyway, why not get 20 bucks off?” asked Becher, who said that everyone who does plant a tree should visit the MillionTrees web site to register it and count it in the city’s goal of one million trees.
“If you plant a tree and then go see it 10 years later, it’s humbling,” Becher said. “Especially in these times, giving back to your community is a good thing.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sustainable Designs At BKLYN DESIGNS

The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is presenting its seventh annual BKLYN DESIGNS show this weekend, with tours and exhibits spread out over three days. Among the exhibits was one at St. Ann’s Warehouse, where designers presented their new creations, many of them sustainable.
Here are some highlights:
Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf of Uhuru Design (pictured above with event organizer Karen Auster) launched their new furniture designs: a stitched table, standard chairs and metal stoolens (actual name). Their creations are made using sustainable materials. “For these particular chairs, we got the backs from old chair factories,” Horvath said.
Representatives from sustainable design firm Ecosystems showcased two of their new items: a table that can convert to a chair and a line of hardware that can be used to put many different types of furniture together. “We’re excited about our new table and hardware systems,” said Innovation Director Matt Tyson. “We love it here [at Bklyn Designs].”
Marc Vecchiarelli, of VEXELL, displayed the company’s GREEN ON GREEN line of outdoor furniture, made of eco-friendly materials. The top of the table, for instance, is made with “water permeable design” materials, he said. “Instead of metal grates, you put this down and it filters all the water and debris. It’s an all natural type product.”
Design firm From the Source has locations in Indonesia and the United States, creating furniture from reclaimed, vintage, salvaged or plantation-grown hardwoods. “We work with about 50 different villages [on the island of Java],” said Design Director Penny Emmet. “There’s so much beauty in the grain and color of the wood that we’re working with.”
Hugh Hayden designed a chair made completely of tennis balls that would have been thrown out had he not reclaimed them. “It’s made from tennis balls from Columbia University tennis center. A lot of these private tennis clubs or universities prefer to use very fresh or bouncy tennis balls.” he explained. “It’s giving them a second life.”
Design students from Pratt were also at St. Ann’s Warehouse, some showing their kitchen creations. Dana de Vega created a set of salt and pepper mills with boiler drain valves used as handles. “Thinking of boiler drain valves, they’re just things that exist,” she said. “It’s to create a new look; they’re very industrial looking.” Joe Kent, another Pratt student designed a cutting board. “When you’re carving a piece of meat, it actually controls the runoff,” he said.
Bruce Marsh, of DUMBO-based brucemarsh designs, showed a bed made by strips of rope connected to a wood frame. “It conforms to your body,” he said. “I had seen a piece of rope like this in a marina, I thought it was so beautiful and soft.”
Photo by Don Evans

Greenway Cleanup This Weekend

Join the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI) in cleaning up the Columbia Street section of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. The cleanups are held in cooperation with the Columbia Waterfront Neighborhood Association, in order to keep the newest section of the Greenway free of trash and other debris. Tools, trash bags, work gloves will be provided.

Meet at BGI’s office, 145 Columbia Street between Kane and Degraw (Ring the doorbell on left-hand side of residential entrance). RSVP to

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DUMBO-Based Dynomighty Produces Recyclable Wallets, Goes Viral on YouTube

Here’s the situation: you need a new wallet, but it’s the recession. You don’t want to spend too much on it and you want it to last. What would you think of one that’s water resistant, tear resistant, lighter than water and expandable? Oh, and did I mention it’s only 15 dollars?

Impossible? Not for DUMBO-based company Dynomighty Design. They’ve been making the “mighty wallet” since 2005. Designed by Dynomighty founder Terrence Kelleman (pictured above left, with Tim Knock), the wallets are constructed from a single sheet of Tyvek (the same material as Express Mail envelopes) that is folded and glued in two places.

Kelleman didn’t start out designing wallets. A fine arts major, he worked at the MoMA and was inspired to create jewelry out of magnets. He sold his first bracelet at the MoMA design store in 2002 and has since expanded his jewelry line to include more bracelets, necklaces and rings.

He expanded his product line because “I had been fascinated by Tyvek,” he said. “I’d seen it used in some creative ways but not really as a robust product itself... it’s such a thin material, its eco-friendly, recyclable, super-strong, lightweight and super thin.”

So he began folding an express mail envelope, which took about a week, he said. “I was using my creative processes, which is diving head in and not letting go until I find a solution,” Kelleman explained. “The first wallet was more or less an accident.”

Since that time the wallet has been redesigned. “There’s no stitching, it’s folded and glued in two points on the inside,” Kelleman said. “It gives the wallet a lot of flexibility, so you can start out with a wallet that’s thin, but if you fill it with a lot of materials it can be as big as you need.”

One is made to look like an express mail envelope, one looked like a folded up piece of notebook paper, one looks like a folded up subway map and another has the first 3,000 digits of pi printed on it, which Kelleman calls “geek chic.”

Along with the wallets, Dynomighty also produces Tyvek luggage tags and totes.

... But How Do You Recycle It?

A common misconception of the mighty wallet is that it’s made of recycled materials, said Tim Knock, Dynomighty director of sales and marketing. It is actually the wallet that’s recyclable, he clarified.

“Most people don’t know it’s recyclable, or if they do they don’t know how to recycle it,” explained Kelleman. “One of our initiatives this summer is to focus on increasing awareness not only here in New York... to corporations who receive express mail envelopes, to say, ‘We are now a receiving center [for Tyvek].’

Dynomighty sends the used Tyvek back to the DuPont, the company that manufactures the material.

“We started it for our own products,” he added. “Our new initiative is to start doing more outreach.”

The goal for Kelleman is to eventually make the mighty wallets out of recycled Tyvek, possibly scraps and pieces left over. Those scraps would then be “reprocessed and turned into other product... giving it a second life,” he said.

Viral Marketing in a Down Economy

What’s unique about Dynomighty, Kelleman said, is that they have never taken a loan and don’t have investors. This means no advertising, so he has found creative ways to get the word out about his products.

When Kelleman made the first magnetic bracelet, he posted a video of it on YouTube. He made it himself, with his digital video camera, and as of today it has garnered two million hits, said Knock.

Since then Kelleman has posted many more videos of his products on YouTube, introducing them to viewers or showing viewers how they work.

“I’ve actually made a video on YouTube where I’ve showed people how to take their old express mail envelopes and convert them into wallets,” Kelleman said. “To demonstrate how strong these wallets are, we actually put two holes through the bottom and the top of one — Tim [Knock] hung from it in our warehouse... and it didn’t break. It’s on YouTube.”

And it’s not only Kelleman who is posting videos about mighty wallets; there are others from people who have purchased a mighty wallet. He saw one that’s “a nine-minute long video about someone receiving his mighty wallet and saying goodbye to his old wallet.”

The viral phenomenon that is the mighty wallet happens on other web sites, too. Knock said that someone posted about their wallet on the kidrobot web site (a store in SoHo), and “next thing you know, there’s two and a half to three pages of blogging about the mighty wallet. On another company’s website.”

Knock said that this summer, Dynomighty is looking to hire an intern to blog and tweet about the products and the company, allowing them to stay in touch with their customer.

“It’s not being corporate and behind the scenes, this is an item that’s a respectable price,” he explained. “People are realizing that. What can you buy for 15 dollars anymore?”

In this economy, Kelleman says his use of viral marketing coupled with the lack of investors has made Dynomighty strong. In fact, they’ve grown in the past year.

“It’s made us a lot better as a company — more resilient, more frugal, smarter about all of our decisions,” he said. “We’re not a big company. Every time we need to make a decision, we pull all our resources together.”

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clean & Green the Gowanus Canal

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy sent word to the Eagle about its new volunteer program, "Clean & Green," to clean up the banks of the Gowanus Canal. It kicks off Saturday, May 30 from 11 a.m. — 2 p.m. and will continue once a month through October. Volunteers are needed! Tasks vary based on need at the different sites but will include: picking up trash and debris, weeding and/or planting. To register, email volunteer@gowanuscanalconservancyorg or call at (718) 541-4378. Sponsors for the program are also needed, for information, call Lauren Collins at (718) 541-4378.

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Cell Phone Towers: Hazardous To Health?

Eagle writer Harold Egeln wrote a story about the decision of Community Board 10 (which covers Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights) to support opponents of cell phone towers being placed in neighborhoods throughout the city. According to his report, Cell Phone Tower Opponents Celebrate as City Council Acts, "the board voted to back a call for stronger federal action to curb cellular antennae and support stronger rules on telecommunication towers placements." This rule is a response to concerns raised by protestors that cell phone towers pose health risks.

But do they? The American Cancer Socity (ACS) posted an extensive report on its web site about cell phone towers. Included is information on what they are, how they work, and whether or not they do cause cancer. Click here for the full report. The gist of it is that cell phone towers are unlikely to cause cancer (or other health issues), there is no evidence so far that they do, but the technology is so new that not enough time has passed to obtain much conclusive evidence.

Also in the report is a list of organizations to contact for further information.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Slope Shop 3r Living Sells Eco-Friendly Products

Back before ‘green’ was on everybody’s lips and in everybody’s lives, the movement had to start somewhere.

Five years ago, Samantha Delman-Caserta (left) and her husband, Mark Caserta, decided to go into business together. They opened a mom-and-pop shop on Fifth Ave. in Park Slope and started selling eco-friendly products.

“We lived in the neighborhood. I had worked in retail
for a long time, he was working in eco-politics in New York City,” she recalled. “We kind of married again.”

At the time, the types of goods Delman-Caserta was looking to stock in the store weren’t widely available; she had to search, ask questions and do research. “There was a decent amount already available but no one was really talking about it.

“You would find [these products] in little sections, because people thought they were cute or they had beautiful aesthetics, but no one was telling you why they were good for you, or why it was good to have them, or why it might be that it costs a little bit more,” she explained. “We decided that the need
was really there.”

So she contacted suppliers and manufacturers to acquire products that matched several requirements. “Everything in the store has to fit the 3 ‘r’s’ [reduce, reuse, recycle],” Delman-Caserta said. All the products in the store are either manufactured with all natural or organic ingredients, made using recycled materials or made in a way that reduces waste to the environment.

But 3r’s stock also has to fit into two other categories. “We’re not an eco-luxury store,” Delman-Caserta said, asserting that everything she sells has to be affordable. “We’re really about the affordable and then we’re about aesthetics I needed to be able to work these things in my life as well.”

Upon venturing into 3r Living, customers are presented with a wide variety of merchandise, including reusable water bottles, bamboo kitchen utensils, reusable shopping bags, wallets and jewelry made from recycled materials, cleaning supplies, organic cotton sheets and books.

When Delman-Caserta and her husband first began planning for the store, it was important for them to actually have a location, and not just be online.

“Opening a brick and mortar was something that we felt we had to do,” she said. There was a pretty wide range of availa
bility online, but she wanted people to be able to “come in and touch and feel and see and test and become familiar with [the products] and feel comfortable incorporating them into their lives.”

Now, with two locations (one in New Jersey) and a web store, Delman-Caserta is more than happy to share the stage with the many businesses that have joined the green trend.

“It’s our pleasure to have other people out there doing it with us. It makes people more aware, it keeps us foraging ahead and trying to find the new and the better and the different.” But she is quick to say that quality should stay high.

“We don’t want companies to come into the market and lower the standards,” she said. “That was our biggest fear — that they would force manufacturers to lower standards.”

Living Green

As part of 3r Living’s philosophy, Delman-Caserta and her husband set up a community recycling center (left) when they first opened the store, to collect batteries, small electronics and CDs to send out to recycling centers.

“The community recycling center is opened during our business hours seven days a week,” she said. “New York City doesn’t provide a program for [recycling these types of items] and they don’t provide education.”

The electricity in the storefront on Fifth Ave. is also completely wind-powered, and the paint on the walls is low-VOC.

Delman-Caserta, her husband and their three-year-old son, live eco-friendly at home. They use reusable shopping bags, have wind-powered electricity and furnish their house with antiques. Their son even uses a reusable water bottle.

“We try as best as we can to live as minimally as possible, because that’s the best thing you can do for the environment,” she said.

Shopping Locally, Buying Less
3r Living, despite the popular opinion about the resiliency of green businesses, hasn’t been immune to the current economic climate. And even though she does want people to shop at her store, Delman-Caserta doesn’t want her customers to spend what they don’t have.

“We’re not asking you to come out and spend money that’s going to put you in jeopardy,” she said. “What we’re saying is, if you’re going to go out and buy, think about what you’re buying and think about where you’re buying it and what it does for you. Buying from a major retailer, the money doesn’t come directly back to your community.

“Buying from a brick and mortar or a mom and pop shop in your neighborhood, I believe it’s close to 50 percent of the money that you spend stays within your community, if not more,” she noted.

“A lot of small businesses are just not going to be able to make it through the long haul. We just have to count on our neighborhood and hope that they all understand that shopping locally really does make a difference,” Delman-Caserta continued. “Even if it’s ten dollars it makes a difference.”

But, she said, “We’re not all about buying. We also hope that sometimes when people come in we inspire them to go home and see the different things that they already have in their home. Whether it’s finding a better use for them, using them differently, or just using them.”

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Bring Your Old Electronics to the Heights

The Brooklyn Heights Association, First Presbyterian Church, First Unitarian Church, Grace Church Brooklyn Heights and Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims are sponsoring an E-Waste Recycling event on May 16 and 17, according to the Brooklyn Heights Blog.

Collection will be in the chapel of the First Unitarian Church on Pierrepont St. between Clinton St. and Monroe Place, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 16 and noon to 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17.

Among the items you can bring to recycle are: computers, air conditioners, TVs, batteries and cell phones. For more information, click here.

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