Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eco-Awareness at Last Weekend's DUMBO Art Festival

This past weekend saw the 13th annual D.U.M.B.O Art Under the Bridge Festival, a neighborhood-wide event where art appears indoors and out. Eagle writer Mary Frost attended the festivities and reported on some of its eco-conscious works. Below are some green highlights from her piece, which you can read in its entirety here.

The Experience of Green (above) is a gallery-sized installation by
Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen, which will be at DUMBO Arts Center (DAC) through November 29. It represents old growth trees made from massive amounts of red kraft paper. “If you stare at it long enough, you see green,” said Breda Kennedy, DAC executive director. “The artists’ intent is to heighten awareness of the environment.”

At Smack Mellon, Ellen Driscoll’s awe-inspiring work FASTFORWARDFOSSIL: Part 2, which will run until November 8, (above) comments on oil and water consumption. The sculptural installation comprises 2600 #2 water bottles transformed into a 28- foot, time-spanning landscape.

Waste Management (above), a street installation made of discarded cardboard cartons by Ian Trask, “grafts material waste and unused urban space, emphasizing the accumulated magnitude of what we throw away,” according to the artist’s explanation.
Photos by Mary Frost

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Bloomberg's Trip to the Greenmarket

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is seeking election to a third term this November, stopped by the weekly farmer’s market at Grand Army Plaza last Saturday to chat with constituents, and to buy some grapes. Perhaps also because his eating habits were recently scrutinized in a New York Times feature?

Photos by Mike Plotz

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Green Brooklyn Fair a 'Huge Success'

To explore a sustainable future for New York City, green experts and novices alike flocked to Brooklyn Borough Hall last Thursday for the “Green Brooklyn … Green City” Fair hosted by the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC).

Brooklyn was the perfect place to hold the celebration, according to Borough President Marty Markowitz, who referred to it as “the ‘green’ republic of Brooklyn,” saying, “Brooklyn is really leading the way forward for a greener New York City.” Markowitz cited his own office as an example: it’s the first borough president’s office in the city to install bike racks and to use hybrid cars.

Participants could shop and tour the Borough Hall Greenmarket and visit 40 exhibits in Columbus Park. Encouraged to make the exhibits as minimal waste as possible, exhibitors brought interactive elements to their booths instead of paper giveaways. Petri Plumbing and Heating had a dual flush toilet on display, while Brooklyn-based Green Depot had some of its products on display.

There were booths focused on green design as well. From the Source, a Greenpoint design firm, uses “reclaimed and sustainably harvested woods” to create furniture, said designer Kristin Riccio. At another exhibit, Kris Drury, a representative from the Pratt Design Incubator, explained that her organization supports Pratt’s entrepreneurial alumni in starting sustainable businesses. The Incubator is currently assisting a startup called SMIT to develop and launch a new solar/wind-powered “ivy” technology.

Artist Derick Melander was at another exhibit with a group of volunteers folding and stacking clothes for an on-site art demonstration. He told the Eagle that around 40 volunteers enlisted, and at the end of the day, the sculpture of folded clothes was around six feet tall. “It definitely had a big visual impact and got the message across,” Melander said.

Workshops on Climate, Business and Food

Three workshops took place in the Ceremonial Courtroom at Borough Hall throughout the day. The first, “The State of the Climate,” was moderated by CENYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen. Panelists were Dr. Radley Horton, Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Hugh Hough of The Climate Project and president of Green Team USA; and Dr. William Solecki, professor of Urban Environmental Change at Hunter College and director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities.

The three speakers touched on the alarming state of the current climate, rising global temperatures, and increasing occurrences of extreme weather events. Even a summer like this one, which didn’t see as many high temperatures as in previous years (the hottest year on record was 2005, said Hough), is still consistent with climate change, explained Horton.

The second workshop of the day, “Green Your Business,” was moderated by Christina Salvi, recycling outreach coordinator, at the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education at CEYNC. Presenters were Vanessa Knight, director of the Sustainable Business Network of New York City; Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and Jim Holiber, general manager of Green Depot.

Knight presented a portion of Brooklyn’s wealth of innovative green businesses and said that to succeed in the green market means “running a business with people, planet and profit in mind.” Holiber spoke about Green Depot and how the business listened to its customers and evolved its product line.

Kimball talked about the green goings-on at the Navy Yard, most notably the most recent project, the adaptive reuse of buildings to create a Green Manufacturing Center and an exhibition and visitors’ center.

“The most green thing you can do is an adaptive reuse of an historic structure,” Kimball said.
“Local vs. Organic: And Why We Care” was the last workshop of the day, moderated by Michael Hurwitz, director of the Greenmarket Program at CENYC. Speakers were Anna Lappe, noted environmentalist and bestselling author; Justone Bossert of Red Jacket Orchards; and Dr. Dickson Despommier, professor of Environmental Health Science at Columbia University.

“We absolutely need to support our local farms,” said Lappe. “Without doing that we will have no farms left.” Farmer Bossert agreed, while Despommier took it further, explaining that we don’t have enough land to farm on. “We farm [land] the size of South America,” he said, explaining that with new technologies, we can build vertical farms, like greenhouses, that allow us to grow any kind of food anywhere.

This was the fifth year for the fair, the first for CENYC as its host. “Looking out at the crowds, it was easy to see Green Brooklyn ... Green City was a huge success,” said Van Ooyen. “For some participants it was a chance to make new connections, share ideas, and expand their knowledge base of environmental issues. For others, it was their first discovery of simple ways to help improve the environment.”

Photo: Derick Melander (center in the blue shorts) stands with a group of his volunteers as they take a break from folding recycled clothes at the “Green Brooklyn … Green City” fair last Thursday. Melander was conducting an on-site sculpture demonstration with the clothes. At the end of the day, the stacked, folded clothes were six feet tall.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Green Brooklyn … Green City at Brooklyn Borough Hall This Thursday

This Thursday, New Yorkers will converge yet again at Brooklyn Borough Hall for another fair, this time a green one. It’s the fifth annual Green Brooklyn … Green City fair and symposium, where attendees will visit workshops and exhibits to learn about how New York City is creating a sustainable future.

Hosted by the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), the fair is free and will run from noon until 6 p.m., with opening remarks at 11:30 a.m.

Three workshops are scheduled throughout the day, to take place in the Court Room at Borough Hall. From noon – 1 p.m. is “The State of the Climate” workshop, where the science of climate change and its impacts on a local and global scale will be discussed. Presenters at this workshop are Dr. Radley Horton, Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Hugh Hough of The Climate Project and president of Green Team USA; and Dr. William Solecki, professor of Urban Environmental Change at Hunter College and director of the CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities.

The second workshop of the day, “Green Your Business,” from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., will focus on new innovations in green buildings, ways to make operations more green from the ground up, and resources needed to minimize the impact of a business. Presenters will be Vanessa Knight, director of the Sustainable Business Network of New York City; Andrew Kimball, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard; and Jim Holiber, general manager of Green Depot.

“Local vs. Organic: And Why We Care” will be the last workshop of the day, running from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Discussing how we grow and get our food will be Michael Hurwitz, director of the Greenmarket Program at CENYC; Anna Lappe, noted environmentalist and bestselling author; and Justone Bossert of Red Jacket Orchards.

The Borough Hall Greenmarket will be running as usual on Thursday, so attendees to the Green Brooklyn fair will be able to purchase fresh local produce and baked goods.

CENYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE) will be on hand doing on-site recycling by hand, and Brooklyn-based clothing recycling company Wearable Collections will also be there accepting donations of old clothes.

Clothes collected by Wearable Collections will be given to artist Derick Melander, who will be conducting a daylong sculpture demonstration. Aided by 20 volunteers, he will carefully sort, fold and stack recycled clothes into an art piece, to be completed by the end of the fair.

Non-profit organization Bags for the People — which provides a sustainable alternative to plastic bags — will be sewing cloth bags live at the Green Brooklyn fair, giving them out for free.

Over 30 exhibitors will be at the fair, including the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Greenbridge/The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Pratt Center for Sustainable Design/Pratt Design Incubator, the Prospect Park Alliance Volunteer Corps, and Green Depot.

This is the first year CENYC has hosted the fair — the now-closed Center for the Urban Environment (CUE) having hosted it the previous four years. CENYC spokesperson Amanda Gentile (who actually used to work at CUE) said that this year the fair will be “more interactive and less paper-focused” than in previous years. For example, a green plumber will be bringing in a dual flush toilet for attendees to see.

“We’re trying to make this as close to zero waste as possible,” said Gentile.

“The 5th Annual Green Brooklyn … Green City conference is a great opportunity to connect city residents with the tools they need to take direct action to improve the environment,” said CENYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen.

“CENYC is known for being a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of organization between our work in community gardens, Greenmarket farmers markets, service learning programs for youth, and grassroots recycling outreach,” he continued. “What better way to dig in than to bring together residents, government agencies, nonprofits and green businesses to learn and partner around green initiatives across the city?”

This event is sponsored by Waste Management, TD Bank, Green Mountain Energy, National Grid, and the Village Voice.

Markowitz Joins Bette Midler to Open Community Garden in Bed-Stuy

On Thursday, September 17, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project (NYRP) for the opening of Brooklyn’s new and refurbished Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Garden. The Garden was designed by renowned New York landscape architect Ken Smith and underwritten by long-time NYRP supporter, Dr. Leslie Johnson.

“I know that as long as this garden is running strong, the grass will always be greener in Bed-Stuy,” said BP Markowitz. “If I may paraphrase one of Ms. Midler’s wellknown songs: ‘Love, it is a flower, and Brooklyn its only seed.'”

In photo (left to right): Drew Becker, NYRP executive director; George Walker, resident; Marcus Calcador, community gardener; Dr. Leslie Johnson; Father Mark Hummel; Ken Smith, architect; Bette Midler, NYRP founder; BP Markowitz.

Photo by Kathryn Kirk

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Green Theme for Upcoming Third Ave. Festival in Bay Ridge

The Third Avenue Festival, a Bay Ridge tradition in its 36th year, will have an eco-spin this year. It's the first "Green" Festival, and it will take place on Sunday, October 4, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. along Third Avenue in Bay Ridge from 69th Street to 95th Street.

Vendors will be encouraged to enter green displays and attractions into a contest, and I'll be there as one of the judges.

Attractions already lined up are solar-powered hot tubs, thanks to Super-Roofer’s Bill Boshell, and solar-run cellphones, as well as energy-generating bicycles outside Mike Kaspar’s Tri & Runs at 81st Street.
The Green Pioneer Award will be announced at the 16th Annual Pioneers Champagne Cocktail Reception at the Café Remy on October 26.

Robert Redford in Brooklyn At BAM

Robert Redford was at BAM this past Sunday to speak about his career in film as well as his environmental activism. And while he didn't have enough time to talk about the environment, you can read my story about it anyway, because, well, isn't he awesome?

And since this
is an eco blog, check out Redford's own environmental blogging at the Huffington Post.

Credit: BAM/Elena Olivio

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Solar-Powered Film Series Starts Thursday

This Thursday evening, solar advocacy group Solar One and social network GreenEdge Collaborative NYC will pair up for the second year in a row to deliver an eco-themed solar-powered film series, putting a local spin on global issues.
The six-film series will be shown over six nights: Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week and next. Film topics range from the World Water Crisis to electric cars. Each film will be paired with a relevant segment from Brooklyn filmmaker Michelle Vey’s From Elegance to Earthworms, a documentary about New York-based environmental groups.
Screenings will be followed by one or two guest speakers and a question and answer session. The speakers are from local environmental groups and businesses, said Judy Harper, New York City chapter director of GreenEdge. “The movies are about big issues,” she explained. “We want to bring them back to the local area.”
Doors will open each night (figuratively, since the screenings are outside) at 7 p.m. with the films starting at 7:45. The projector and audio will be powered by a solar system on the roof of Solar One, at 23rd Street and FDR Drive in Manhattan, where the screenings will take place. Chris Neidl, outreach and advocacy coordinator at Solar One, said that the solar power is collected and stored in a battery bank, allowing it to be used after dark.
Though the film series will be shown in Manhattan, the event has a strong Brooklyn influence. GreenEdge Collaborative NYC was founded in 2006 by then-Park Slope resident Carolyn Gilles. She wanted to connect businesses and residents who live sustainably. Since then, GreenEdge has expanded to include a Kentucky chapter, and a San Francisco chapter is in the works. Gilles has relocated to Kentucky — “I moved five weeks ago and I miss [Brooklyn] dearly,” she said — but GreenEdge still has a strong connection to Brooklyn.
“We’re very much born and bred in Brooklyn,” said Harper. “It’s where we have built the most support.”
In a nod to these Brooklyn roots, several of the guest speakers are from Brooklyn organizations. For Thursday night’s film, Addicted to Plastic, a documentary about solutions to plastic pollution, speakers will be Vey and also Amanda Gentile, a co-founder of the Brooklyn Green Team. On Sept. 18, The Garden, about a community garden in Los Angeles, will be shown, followed by speakers Juventino Avila, co-owner and Chef of Get Fresh Table and Market in Brooklyn, and Stacey Murphy, founder of BK Farmyards. Gilles said the films were chosen to emphasize current topics in environmentalism and she hopes attendees will gain something from the screenings. “I hope that they walk away inspired to take action and make changes in their daily lives.”
Neidl — who happens to be a Brooklyn resident — hopes to “build the reputation and understanding of solar power” through the film series, demonstrating “the message and the medium” at the same time.
The series should also be a good time. Previous years have seen as many as 400 people in attendance, said Neidl, noting that though this is the second year GreenEdge has been a partner, it’s the fifth year Solar One has hosted film screenings.
“It’s a fun way to learn about the environment and what’s happening currently,” said Gilles.

Screenings for the Solar-Powered Film Series will be on September 10, 11, 12 and 17, 18 and 19. The event is free. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eat-In on Labor Day in Brooklyn

No plans on Labor Day? Join Slow Food USA — an organization dedicated to promoting good, clean and fair food — for its National Eat-In day on Monday, Sept 7, in conjunction with its Time for Lunch Campaign. An Eat-In is a potluck that takes place in public and gathers people to support a cause, in this case to get real food into schools.

Not Eating Out in New York has a list of some Eat-Ins, several of which are in Brooklyn:

• Prospect Heights, at the schoolyard of PS 9 Teunis G. Bergen School (80 Underhill Avenue on St. Mark’s Avenue), from 12 – 3 p.m.

• Williamsburg, at Bridget (20 Broadway between Dunham Pl. and Kent Ave), from 12 – 3 p.m.

• Gowanus, at The Bell House (149 Seventh Street), from 3 – 7 p.m., a
local-themed Eat-In hosted by the Ladies Who Lunch.
• Park Slope, a kid-friendly Eat-In, at 6/15 Green Community Garden (Sixth Avenue and 15th Street), from 3 – 5 p.m.

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New Brooklyn Green Team Eco-Challenge

For the next three months, the Brooklyn Green Team challenges you to choose a room in your home, the one you think uses the most energy, an unplug all the appliances that aren't in use. Computers, cell-phone chargers, and other electronics continue to use power even when you turn them off. Nationally, this creates the annual emissions equivalent to 17 power plants.

Help lower these emissions, and sign up for the challenge by emailing brooklyngreen@gmail.com and writing "(Insert Your Name) Unplugged." Visit the Green Team's blog for information, resources and encouragement.

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Creating Sculpture Out of Old Clothes

New Yorkers send 386 million pounds of textile waste to landfills annually, according to a study conducted by the Department of Sanitation. At the “Green Brooklyn... Green City” fair and symposium, held by the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC), this alarming fact will be visualized through a day-long sculpture demonstration conducted by artist Derick Melander.

Melander, with a group of volunteers, will carefully fold and stack 3,615 pounds of recycled clothing into a five- by seven-foot cube over the course of the conference, which runs from noon until 6 p.m. “It will be a race against the clock,” he said.

The figure 3,615 — calculated by CENYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (OROE) and Brooklyn-based clothing recycling company Wearable Collections — represents the pounds of textile waste New Yorkers create every five minutes, Melander explained. He noted that textile waste comes from the residential waste stream: clothing textiles, non-clothing textiles (towels, carpets, furniture cushions), sneakers and leather goods. It does not include textile waste from the industrial/commercial waste stream.

Wearable Collections is donating the clothes for Melander’s sculpture. Through a partnership with CENYC, Wearable Collections has a presence at several greenmarkets throughout the city. Over its five-year life span, the organization has diverted over one million pounds of New York City’s textile waste from landfills, said founder Adam Baruchowitz.

The sculpture will be made up of four stacks of clothes, with only the weight of the clothes and lateral supports keeping the structure intact, said Melander. Clothing will be divided by color into four categories: blues, warm colors, cool colors, and blacks and grays. “There’s no gluing or sewing and no treatment other than Febreze every once and a while.”

He will set up a large folding table for volunteers, using a template that indicates the dimensions of the fold, which vary depending on the garment. A sweater dictates a smaller size than a cotton shirt, because when stacked it will compress and become wider.

Folded garments will then be passed on to volunteers who, overseen by Melander, will build the sculpture. “It will be Ford Motor car assembly line-style,” he said.

Volunteers (which are still needed) can fold for part of the day or the whole six hours. Those who stay for the duration will receive a free watercolor painting by Melander, he said.

He previously collaborated with CENYC through OROE for a fundraiser to which he donated two small artworks. But Melander has been constructing clothing sculptures for more than seven years.

Having “no natural affinity for clothing,” Melander says the material found him while he was working with found vintage suitcases. “I thought they needed to be up on a pedestal,” he explained. Not wanting to put them on plain white pedestals, he decided to construct bases out of piles of clothes.

“Working with all that clothing, I started to get interested in clothes,” Melander said. He would sometimes find notes in pockets or be able to detect the lingering smell of someone’s cologne on the garments he has used.

“Clothing has this natural connection to the people who wore it,” he said. “I’m making artwork that’s like a collective portrait... it’s a symbolic gesture where I’m compressing the space between people.”

And since the clothes in his sculptures are not attached, just stacked, they can be taken apart and recycled into new pieces.

“I’m eco-conscious as a person,” he said. “It’s part of who I am and naturally ends up having a place in my artwork as well.”

Melander’s demonstration will send a clear message, illustrating how much clothing is sent to landfills. “It’s important that people understand the magnitude of the issue,” Baruchowitz said. “It’s important for people to see it.”

“Green Brooklyn... Green City,” at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 24, will run from noon to 6 p.m. with opening remarks at 11:30 a.m. To volunteer for the fair, e-mail cshann@cenyc.org. To volunteer for Derick Melander’s sculpture demonstration, e-mail the artist at derick.melander@mindspring.com.

The work in the top photo, called Compression, is constructed of 800 pounds of carefully folded, second hand clothing, crisscrossed around a central spine, and is from the collection of Farshid Assassi. Bottom photo is called The Ocean is the Underlying Basis for Every Wave, 1,859 pounds
of folded clothing. Photos courtesy of Derick Melander.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

'Robert Redford: Artist & Activist' at BAM

From Sept. 8-16, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will present "Robert Redford: Artist & Activist," a 16-film tribute to Robert Redford's 50-year film career. Some of the films to be shown are The Candidate (1972), Downhill Racer (1969), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Quiz Show (1994), The Sting (1973), All the President's Men (1976), A River Runs Through It (1992) and Jeremiah Johnson (1972). Out of Africa (1984), The Natural (1985), The Electric Horseman (1979) and The Way We Were (1973) are part of a special event on Sunday, Sept. 13, called "Redford: Film & Conversation," at which the award-winning actor/director (pictured here with BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins) will participate in a panel discussion about his career as well as his role as a leading environmental and social change activist. For more information, visit www.bam.org.

Photo by Elena Olivio

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Brooklyn Botanic Garden Photo Contest

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is calling all photographers (amateur and otherwise) for its seasonal photo contest and asking visitors to focus on themselves. Dubbed "Me @ BBG!" the contest will document the diverse community of people who visit the garden. Photos are submitted by posting them on the Me @ BBG! Flickr group, and one will be chosen as the photo of the week for the next three weeks. Winners will receive a $20 gift certificate to the garden shops. For more information, to post photos and to view past week's winners, visit www.bbg.org.

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