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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