Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sunday: Local Food Potluck in Bay Ridge

This Sunday, August 1, the Bay Ridge Food Co-op will celebrate its first "birthday" (in quotations because it's not exactly started yet) with a potluck picnic of local food from noon to 4 p.m. at Shore Road and 79th Street. Intended to raise awareness of this September's “New York State Locavore Challenge,” the picnic will feature a kids’ balloon toss, tug-of-war, and a kickball game, among other activities.

Attendees can bring food that uses locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible — and that can last several hours in the heat.

Recycle Plastic at the Park Slope Food Coop

Bring your clean, dry plastic to the Coop on the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the third Thursday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. and the last Sunday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Here is what’s collected:

• Numbers 1 and 6 clear plastics — mouth is wide or wider than the body, meaning not bottles. Labels okay.

• Number 5 — plastic tubs, cups and specifically marked lids and caps. Must be especially clean and dry. Discard any with paper labels, or cut the labels off.

• Plastic film and bubble wrap. One hundred percent transparent only — you must be able to see through the plastic. No colored or opaque. No paper labels. Minimal writing okay.

Be sure to arrive 15 minutes prior to collection time to allow for inspection and sorting of your plastic. Visit for the Coop’s tips on how to be a really great recycler.

It's Not Brooklyn, But...

This Saturday, July 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ocean survey vessel, the OSV BOLD, will be open to the public at Riverbank State Park in Manhattan from noon to 4:30 p.m. EPA scientists and staff will give tours of the ship and demonstrate water sampling and research efforts taking place in New Jersey’s and New York’s coastal waters.

The 224-foot-long, 43-foot-wide OSV BOLD is equipped with state-of-the-art sampling, mapping, and analytic equipment including side scan sonar, underwater video, water sampling instruments, and sediment sampling devices, which scientists use in a wide variety of ocean monitoring activities. For more information on the OSV BOLD, visit

Traveling Environmental Museum To Visit Brooklyn

The EnviroMedia Mobile, an urban nature maritime museum on wheels, will visit IKEA/Erie Basin Park on Sunday, August 15, to continue its Summer Earth Fest 2010, a series of environmental awareness, culture and maritime cultural enrichment events.

An 11-year project of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy under the direction of Ludger Balan, the museum is a way for New Yorkers to “think of our urban environment as a habitat,” Balan said.

The event on August 15, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m., will include live music, public tours of the mobile museum, refreshments and aquatic recreation activities. Attendees will have the opportunity to play in a raffle and to win an IKEA prize at each event.

On Saturday, Aug 28 the EnviroMedia Mobile will visit Canarsie Piers, Gateway National Park, where the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy, in collaboration with the National Park Service, will host the last of its annual Get On The Water NYC — Urban Rivers Tour Series, with a guided eco-cruise of the Jamaica Bay.

The eco-cruise will be held aboard a unique, giant 32- foot Indian shipping canoe that will accommodate 21 paddlers at a time. Those aboard the canoe will explore and discover the living nature and scenic vista of one of the city’s most significant, yet challenged ecosystems.

On Sunday, August 29, the EnviroMedia Mobile will then travel to Bensonhurst Park, and on Sunday September 12 it will return to IKEA/Erie Basin Park for an end of season bash and back to school celebration, featuring a special urban wildlife appreciation and education program and the popular Live! Beneath the Estuary underwater video observation station.

The museum was designed to help educate students about species native to New York’s waterways and how climate change will impact them. “The success of our environment begins with young people,” Balan said. “If they are not connecting, the stewardship will not be there.”

For more information and to register for any of the events, visit or call (347) 224-5828. 

Photo courtesy of the Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy

Monday, July 26, 2010

Con Ed Helping Out Small Businesses With Energy Efficiency Program

Small businesses may not know that there is a way to reduce the cost of their energy bills, surely higher now given this summer's unusually high temperatures. Con Edison has teamed up with energy consultants Willdan Energy Solutions to help small businesses facing these steep bills through the Con Edison Small Business Energy Efficiency Program.

“It’s a great program for small business owners,” said program manager at Con Edison Esteban Vasquez. “It gives them the opportunity to reduce their energy bill.”

Small businesses that enroll in the program get a free energy survey that will show eligible small businesses — which range “from medical offices to bodegas,” said Vasquez — where they can save money and energy. Con Ed will then provide free upgrades, such as compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs), and then pay 70 percent of installation costs for additional energy improvements, implemented by Willdan.

For the businesses they have in the program (1,700 in Brooklyn), the changes they recommend have been related to lighting and refrigeration. In many cases they have replaced exit signs with LED exit signs, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in energy usage.

Introduced in August of 2009, the program has had some difficulty getting off the ground, said Vasquez. Though Con Ed pays for 70 percent of the installation, “some people are a little skeptical… it comes off to be a little too good to be true.” So Con Ed has been working lately to increase outreach, visiting local business improvement districts, expos and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “We’re talking to as many people as we can.”

One of the Brooklyn small businesses in the program is MISS Sportswear, a clothing importer and manufacturer in Gowanus.  After their free survey, MISS Sportswear received five free CFLs, and decided to go ahead with Con Ed’s recommendations. Willdan than installed 303 energy-efficient T8 fluorescent tubes throughout their facility.

The total cost of the project was $18,785. Since Con Ed covered 70 percent of the installation cost, MISS Sportswear paid only $5,635. In less than five months, the project paid for itself with cost savings. Annually, MISS Sportswear will save an estimated $13,960 on their energy bill and over 93,080 kWh.

“To successfully run a store such as ours, lowering our utility costs is crucial to excel during a tough economic time,” said Mory Fallas, owner of MISS Sportswear. “The Con Edison Small Business Energy Efficiency Program gave us the kick start we needed.”

Children’s apparel store Kid City in the Georgetown Shopping Center in Flatlands is another participant in the program. In addition to the free survey, the store received 24 free CFLs and 175 energy-efficient T8 tubes were installed over the main sales floor and in the basement. The total installed cost was about $11,700, with Kid City paying $3,500 for the whole upgrade. The store will save an estimated 76,000 kWh each year, which represents about $11,500.

“I’m very happy,” said store manager Solomon Torguman. “I was so pleased that I recommended the program to 20 other Kid City stores in the New York and New Jersey area.”

So what’s in it for Con Edison? “Con Edison is participating in the state’s initiative to reduce energy usage,” said Vasquez. “It’s a good idea. Small business owners are a big part of everyday life.

“The great thing about this is that they’re saving money on their energy bill. Now they have the extra cash,” he continued. “There’s more than one benefit. They’re not going to save money in just one month, it’s a permanent reduction.”

To get involved in the Small Business Energy Efficiency Program, call (888) 945-5326.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chicken Keeping Workshops From NYRP, bk farmyards, Just Food

Usually, you don’t need extensive training when introducing an animal into your life. When you acquire a dog or a cat, you can play it by ear or get advice from a friend. But what about a chicken?

Most of us don’t know the first thing about keeping chickens, which is why the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), in partnership with bk farmyards and Just Food, are presenting a workshop series this summer and fall covering the topic.

Dubbed the City Chicken Institute, the series is free and open to the public, and were developed after Rachael Brody, NYRP community outreach garden coordinator, approached bk farmyards — a decentralized farming network that partners with landowners to farm on their land.

The two organizations worked together to “create this amazing, large chicken coop,” Brody said. Built in March at the Brooklyn Schenectady Avenue Community Garden in Crown Heights, it is the largest chicken coop in the city. “We want to engage more of the wider community to learn about chicken-keeping.”

The workshop series is led by bk farmyards’ farmer-in-chief Bee Ayer (below), a full-time urban farmer who keeps chickens in her backyard. The first installment, “Introduction to City Chickens,” took place on June 20.

“It covered basic anatomy, needs of chickens, a little bit of the history of chickens and how to take care of them to be healthy and happy,” said Ayer, adding that the event was a success with about 50 people in attendance.

“We had a great turnout at the first workshop,” said Brody. “People came from all over — the Bronx and Manhattan.”

The next workshop is this Sunday, July 18, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Brooklyn Schenectady Community Garden. “It’s geared towards elementary school aged children, and so we’ll be doing some creative expression work with the chickens: drawing the chickens and playing some games. They’ll all learn how to hold the chickens,” said Ayer. “There’s a lot of kids that come in [to the garden] all the time. So I wanted to have a formal time that they could come in and do something fun.”

Three workshops will follow throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. On August 15, attendees will learn how to properly integrate chickens into their gardens and how to build a chicken tractor, which is “like a small pen that the chickens go in that you put on your vegetable bed,” Ayer explained. “The chickens help the vegetable bed because they scratch it up so they prepare a nice bed for planting.”

On September 19, there will be a workshop for people who are more serious about keeping chickens, covering specific aspects of keeping chickens, including the time it takes, costs and where you can keep your birds. The last workshop will be on October 17 and will be about preparing chickens for the winter.

A Garden Full of Hens

Three years ago, Ayer was working at La Familia Verde, a coalition of community gardens in the South Bronx, and was having trouble finding a farmer who would deliver fresh eggs. She decided to start a chicken operation herself and sell the eggs. So she traveled to Costa Rica and worked on a farm to learn about chicken keeping and then came back to take classes and workshops with Just Food. Since then she has been interested in “pushing the envelope of what urban livestock can be.”

After opening the coop in March, Ayer visits every morning and evening to care for its 49 hens. There are eight different types of chickens, most of which lay every day. “There are some of them that lay [an egg] every three days and a couple of them lay one egg every two days,” explained Ayer. All in all, she gets around 36 eggs a day, which are sold through bk farmyards’ CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

“That’s how we sell most of our eggs and with the extras we just sell them to people in the neighborhood,” said Ayer. “There are a lot of people in the neighborhood who want them.”

The hens roam free around the garden during the day, a surprising sight for someone walking by on the sidewalk. “Chickens really need space. To be healthy and happy I think it’s really important for chickens to be able to run around,” says Ayer. The coop is at the back of the garden, where the chickens go to roost and nest.

For someone who wants to start their own coop, Ayer says, “chickens are flock animals, you definitely need more than one. I recommend three. And then probably no more than 50 without a rooster.”

Though some people raise chickens on their roofs, she says, “I feel very strongly that chickens need to be connected to the soil… If they have a green roof it’s a little different, like Eagle Street Farm in Greenpoint. They have chickens on their roof, but it’s a green roof. Chickens are very sensitive to wind, especially during the cold months, so it’s a little hard on a roof.”

Just like any other pet, “[keeping chickens] is a lot of work and it can be really expensive. Especially if you buy organic feed.” But, Ayer says, “It’s really fun, it’s really enjoyable. I have a pretty stressful life even, as a farmer. It’s nice to be here at the beginning and the end of the day… I have chickens in my backyard as well. I love in the morning just sipping coffee and watching the chickens.”

To register for the chicken workshops, contact Rachael at or by calling (212) 333-2552. Pre-registration is required, space is limited.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Native Plant Month at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

During the month of July, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) will highlight the New York Metropolitan region’s native flora, displaying its beauty, explaining its importance, drawing attention to its plight, and providing simple ways to help in its restoration.

In 1911, the “Local Flora Section” was the first garden to open to the public at BBG. It’s now known as the Native Flora Garden. Following is a list of programs for Native Plant Month at the garden.

Curator's Tour: The Native Flora Garden with Uli Lorimer
Thursday, July 8, 5–6 p.m.
Curator Uli Lorimer will lead a tour of BBG’s 99-year-old Native Flora Garden, which represents nine local plant communities, including the distinctive kettle pond and pine barrens habitats. Get behind-the-scenes insight into this extraordinary garden and how it has evolved since 1911. Learn about the visionary work of BBG’s founders in researching and documenting native plant life, both in the Garden and the greater metropolitan area. Fee and registration required; call (718) 623-7220 or go to Registration deadline is Wednesday, July 7, but there’s limited space, so register now.

Talk: Bringing Nature Home
Thursday, July 8, 6:30 p.m.
With as many as 33,000 species imperiled in the U.S. alone, it is clear that citizens must change their approach to gardening and landscaping if they hope to share space with other living things. Ecologist and author Doug Tallamy will talk about the key role native flora must play in the restoration of our landscapes. Only by supporting a large, healthy diversity of insects that coevolved with native plants can we keep herbivores in balance and gardens aesthetically pleasing. Advance registration is recommended but seats may be available at the door. Call (718) 623-7220 or go to There will be a fee for this event.

Field Trip: Native Plants and Restored Natural Areas: A Field Trip to Staten Island
Saturday, July 10, 8:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
This day trip, led by restorationist Cindy Goulder, begins with a private guided tour of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, the NYC Parks Department’s 13-acre nursery and greenhouses on Staten Island. See how hundreds of native plant species are propagated and grown from seed and learn principles underlying native plant cultivation. The Sweetbrook Stream and Wetland Restorations help recover the ecological health and function of urban waters, thanks to the indigenous wetland and upland plant species intentionally placed to increase local plant diversity and wildlife habitat. The Salt Marsh Restorations at Old Place Creek have reestablished many acres of tidal marshes after centuries of displacement by agricultural and industrial uses. Learn how invasive plants were removed and zones of marsh and maritime woody plants reintroduced to this estuarine community. Fee and registration required; call (718) 623-7220 or go to Registration deadline is Wednesday, July 7.

Class: Great Natives for Tough Places
Sunday, July 11, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
This workshop, led by garden designer Joan McDonald and based on the BBG handbook Great Natives for Tough Places, identifies gardening challenges caused by city buildings, impermeable surfaces, rainwater runoff, construction, and other disturbances that compact and degrade soil. Students will explore solutions with five spectacular designs using unusual native plants chosen for their ability to thrive in urban environments. Students will receive a copy of Great Natives for Tough Places. Fee and registration required; call (718) 623-7220 or go to Registration deadline is Thursday, July 8.

Workshop: Gardening with Native Plants
Tuesday, July 13, 6–9 p.m.
Why are native plants important, and which ones are best for a garden? What does “native” really mean, anyway? Explore these questions with native plant authority Uli Lorimer, curator of BBG’s Native Flora Garden and learn how a garden can reflect the region’s — even a densely populated urban region’s — spectacular natural environment. Fee and registration required; call (718) 623-7220 or go to Registration deadline is Monday, July 12.

Class: Edible Native Plants in Brooklyn
Saturday, July 18, 2–5 p.m.
Wild ginger, spicebush, fiddlehead ferns, wild leeks—these are just a few of the delicious vegetables and seasonings native to the region. Unlike conventional crops, many of the northeastern edible native plants are excellent for shade gardens, and most are perennials that will feed people year after year. Learn from local food specialist Leda Meredith (and Park Slope resident) which edible native plants will thrive in a garden and how to grow, harvest, and use them. Fee and registration required; call (718) 623-7220 or go to Registration deadline is Thursday, July 15, there’s limited space, so register now.

Visit for more information about Native Plant Month