Author Archives: City Atlas

Reflections on the People’s Climate March

Photo: Rowena Eng

Photo: Rowena Eng

A week after the People’s Climate March took over midtown Manhattan, four of the City Atlas interns who were in attendance, along with the editor, shared thoughts. How did it go, and where do we go from here?

Chiara Zaccheo:

For me, the People’s Climate March started on the subway. I remember thinking to myself that this is definitely the most people I have seen out and about on Sunday morning! Each stop we passed, more and more people got on our train car. Soon I was standing next to a tree, a polar bear, two kids dressed as bumblebees, and an abundance of homemade signs. Outside of the subway I first spotted a giant melting world ice cream cone.

What struck me about the march was the diversity of people and climate change issues represented, and the level of commitment. I started at 86th Street with family and friends. It took us four hours to move four blocks, but we, as well as our fellow marchers, stayed. We weren’t going anywhere. I think that was the most inspiring and motivational part of the march – a crowd estimated at more than 300,000 people stayed, marched, engaged in moments of silence together, and chanted in solidarity. Climate change justice is truly a unifying issue because it affects all facets of life.

The enormous crowd held a moment of silence to honor those affected by climate change. (Video by Kevin Burget)

William Wepsala:

Marching with hundreds of thousands of people was invigorating and inspiring. I definitely think the organizers achieved their goals of visibility and putting the climate back on the agenda for some, and on the agenda for the first time for others.

In recent years, it seems that commitment to climate has receded from public discourse and been a talking point of the elite. Without a large issue like the Kyoto Protocol on people’s minds, it’s easy to forget. For some, the UN’s release of the most recent IPCC Report was a momentous occasion, but for many it was just another un-clicked headline.

I think the march was valuable by reminding people that we are in the fight for the long haul, and that we’re all in it together.

Photo: Joseph Lin

Photo: Joseph Lin

Joseph Lin:

The People’s Climate March truly felt like it was for the people. A broad coalition ranging from different environmental groups to LGBTQ activists and veterans were present to ensure that climate change was a priority that intersected with immigration reform, indigenous rights, and other issues. I appreciated the emphasis of communities of color at the frontlines of environmental burdens, as reflected in the march lineup featuring racial justice organizations in the lead. Moreover, despite the march’s estimated 300,000-plus attendees, the march led an effective moment of silence that commemorated disadvantaged demographics facing disproportionate environmental consequences. The publicity campaign for the march was well organized via the website graphics and short film, making for outreach to wide audiences. Even though the march addressed the sobering reality of the Earth’s climate, marchers attended the event in droves with their energy and spirit fit for a celebration.

However, during the march, the messaging may be muddled in the myriad of social justice agendas. There was an emphasis on the visibility of those concerned with climate change, but no list of demands. There wasn’t a rally with inspiring speeches.

After the march, the aftermath shows that those dedicated to climate change must also consider the sustainability of the movement’s activism in itself. Are the clever signs and informational flyers created with recycled paper? Where will marchers discard their garbage and will it be sorted appropriately?

Photo: Chiara Zaccheo

Photo: Chiara Zaccheo

Mallorie Thomas:

I joined the cohort along 86th Street, and was immediately taken aback by the sheer numbers, people who seemed to be from all parts of the country, all marching along this avenue that I regularly walk down. Inching forward along the sidewalk, I noticed a middle-aged woman emerge from her brownstone. Dressed casually and toting her miniature Maltese, she seemed astounded, whipping her head in both directions to fully take in the scene in front of her. She quickly realized that her morning walk to take her dog out would be way more difficult this particular day because she physically could not cross the street. Shades of annoyance and frustration flashed across her face as she turned to a young man to her right, “What is this?! Why are you even here?!” The young man began to laugh, and just continued walking. 

Moments like this make me realize that the issue of climate change, and specifically the march (an event that was well advertised) may be visible only to people in a certain sphere. But while climate change can affect certain communities more than others (taking into consideration geography and vulnerability), it is an issue that will, and has, affected everyone. Moving forward, as the issue of climate change and policy continue to be discussed, I hope that all demographics of New York City are inspired and encouraged to get involved. It is now our challenge to find ways to make this topic, which for many can feel like an issue only scientists engage with, a social issue so current unengaged parties can realize its relevance and the opportunities for action.

Richard Reiss:

There was great diversity to the crowd, except for two groups that I wish were evident. The two groups I’m thinking of are crucial to the future of New York City, and in fact to the planet as a whole.

Can we imagine the cultural conditions that might permit a dialogue between New York and Oklahoma?
For over 25 years the world has known exactly what the problem is, and most of the solutions, but until our divided politics in the US are resolved, there is little chance of moving forward. And I’m not even sure this makes everyone in the world unhappy, because as a result, we can all essentially hide behind the electorate of Oklahoma (and the other red states), and continue to run our lives and economies without any effort at checking emissions — which in the short term, is much, much easier. Since Oklahoma won’t let us govern ourselves, we don’t have to change. Because of Oklahoma, the New York Times doesn’t even have to change the ideas in its Travel Section, though the Science Section knows that flying damages the place you’re flying to.

How could a march in New York City change this dynamic? Can we imagine the cultural conditions that might permit a dialogue between New York and Oklahoma yielding a solution in the time we have left to hold to the 2°C target?

The march I saw showed a great expansion of involvement, particularly from groups not usually represented and directly at risk; indigenous people, workers, low income families near the shore. Leaders from the Pacific Island states, canaries in the coal mine for climate change, marched, and of course, Ban Ki-moon.

But to me, it looked like a high turnout from a small sec­tion of our soci­ety. I’d like to see marches in Okla­homa, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida — they all have rea­sons to be lead­ing on this issue. And if we know those states might be able to solve the polit­i­cal prob­lem, is it worth focus­ing on what forces, entreaties, oppor­tu­ni­ties might make that hap­pen?

The fact that Americans can’t talk to each other is at the top of the world’s problems.
Might fig­ur­ing out how to reach across the political divide be the sin­gle most press­ing issue in the his­tory of New York City, with success being the greatest benefit to the world? Hypothetically, if New York City opened up a channel of communication by issuing bonds that built new models of nuclear power plants across the South, replacing coal, would that be an effective use of the city’s money? Would that be wiser than a new round of levees in thirty years? (And if you don’t think a new round of levees would be in the cards otherwise, you may not be paying close enough attention. To paraphrase climate scientist Kevin Anderson: we’re ‘adapting’ for only 2°C, but we’re cutting emissions for about a 4°C target. Or above. And to understand why we need the South to have vast amounts of cheap, clean power, it’s because we next need to talk them into driving electric pick-up trucks.)

The fact that Americans can’t talk to each other is near the top, if not at the top, of the world’s problems, whether we recognize it or not. New Yorkers David Koch (Park Avenue) and Rupert Murdoch (Flat Iron) are successful at influencing affairs in Oklahoma, and that should really be a spur for other motivated groups in New York to do a better job.

The second group I have in mind: if even 40% of our hyper-wealthy, some of whom who had the march on their doorstep, felt the same way as the marchers, perhaps almost the same impact could be achieved.

The wealthy have reasons to engage too. The vulnerability of the poor is known, but without rapid and profound emission cuts, the destructive effects of climate change will reach everyone, or their offspring. As the Smithsonian Institution puts it in their new statement on climate change, “The situation is becoming critical for wild species and for the preservation of human civilization.” Translation: without rapid intervention, at some point will be hard for anyone on Planet Earth to be rich. This last idea is beginning to register.

For many recent arrivals, New York is a place you come to get rich, not to march.
Another way to look at the above questions, from the perspective of someone at the march: why exactly are we doing these absent groups work for them? This is not an issue that involves an isolated, vulnerable community, or a fragile species. This involves everyone, as though our entire human society is trapped together in a burning building. If there were a way to shift this problem away from the boundaries of identity politics, that would be a step forward.

Lastly, I’m not sure how many people in the march really understand the scope of change. Because we’ve left the energy transition so late, it won’t be smooth. To stay within the 2°C target, or even close to it, will be quite a bump. Here’s how Eduardo Porter, economic writer in the New York Times, opened a column in July:

Here’s what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change.

Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. In fact, by midcentury more than half of the American economy will run on electricity. Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal’s footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply.

350.org and Avaaz did a great job getting the march organized and into the record books, but they keep the message focused on external enemies (ie., the fossil fuel industry), and conspicuously avoided a clear description of what a “350” lifestyle might be like. More accurately, a “450” lifestyle —since we’re likely to cross that mark even if we have rapid engagement. Saul Griffith has sketched it out, as Erin Wong has noted in previous City Atlas posts.

And there’s the brunt of the challenge. For many college-educated New Yorkers — especially the ones not at the march — New York over the past couple of decades has been a place to come to get rich. The city is very much shaped for that purpose, as you can see from the price of real estate. Wall Street is the lopsided economic engine of the city, with only 5% of the jobs, but 22% of the payroll. The financial industry has boomed in proportion to the otherwise sluggish US economy: 2.5% of GDP in 1948, and triple that, 7.7%, now.

Naomi Klein is doing her best to talk us out of consumerism, but the New York that currently exists is virtually a religion of materialist ideals; New Yorkers are friendly to books, but beyond the precinct of the march, given the substance of her message about ‘changing everything,’ it’s as though she’s teleported to a Mayan temple in 800AD, telling the inhabitants they are doing it all wrong. I’d like to believe that she can get the elites and working classes of New York to adopt entirely new values, but materialism is the foundation of many smart, gifted people’s lives and identities. People work 80 – 100 hour weeks, relentlessly out-competing their peers for a slice of consumer glamour they can call their own.

I’m describing all of the above to put a climate march in New York City in perspective. I think the more limited aims of constructing dialogue with red states about energy, and better engaging the ultra wealthy, are more achievable than Klein’s idea of remaking society top-to-bottom. But what’s realistic? We’re outside the realm of realism in every direction. An “all of the above” strategy probably makes the most sense.

And, maybe there is a tremor in the system. Maybe people are re-thinking their plans, and Klein and her book are part of a larger picture. Messages will only get louder. One might think of Jerry Seinfeld as a kind of anti-Klein – he kept his show moral-free – and yet here he is, a week ago…after the march passed his old neighborhood…accepting an award for advertising with one of the most unusual acceptance speeches ever. Who can describe materialism better than a man who made a show about nothing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A local guide to FringeNYC

Tickets are now on sale for the 18th annual New York International Fringe Festival. It is the largest multi-arts festival in North America and will take place August 8-24 in more than 20 venues across the city. With shows from over 200 companies appearing at FringeNYC, the entire program guide is intimidating. Here, we suggest a few shows that are relevant to what we care about at City Atlas: New York and its future.

The Flood, written and directed by Daniel McCabe, focuses on four friends gathered in an East Village apartment as Hurricane Sandy rages outside. The play is set on the night of Con Ed explosion, but there’s a dangerous storm inside the apartment too. The weather sets off an emotional tempest for the friends. In this work, “modern female strength collides with classic male stoicism in a city that insists upon both.” Tickets here.

The HVAC Plays (Or, Adventures in Living Without Basic Necessities, Like Heat and Air Conditioning), written by Laura Pittenger, features “6 exasperated city-dwellers. 3 crappy apartments. 1 absentee landlord.” This work explores what happens when there is no central air, and might be good to see if you want to think about what New York will be like when it’s even hotter. According to this show, when hot and cold collide it leads to outrageous acts. Attend to “discover the temperature of the human condition”! Tickets here

Skyline, a musical by Maureen FitzGerald, is set in 1962 when urban renewal threatens Manhattan. Historic, stunning Pennsylvania Station is going to be demolished. In this new work, the “the architect Paul Silver struggles to save both the doomed landmark, and his own soul.” This show’s subject remains relevant as New Yorkers continually fight to preserve and define the culture and landmarks of their city. Tickets here.

In Dust Can’t Kill Me, an original folk musical written by Elliah Heifetz and Abigail Carney, a prophet visits a ragtag group of migrants with a promise to deliver them into paradise. Propelled by drought and desperation, two sisters, two brothers, a folk singer, and a gun-toting outlaw set off into the desert in search of this promised land. Set during the Dust Bowl, the show also serves as a fable of environmental destruction, and could offer a lesson or two on how to limit it today. Tickets here.

In Teddy’s Doll House, written by Kathleen Kaan, it’s 1985 and Alphabet City is changing. The beauty salon owned by Teddy’s family is struggling to make it. This look at past changes to New York, which Teddy confronts with his own look back, might provide a blueprint for crafting the future we want for our city. Tickets here.

How would you design the future NYC?

In the third of our TEDxCity2.0 videos, from an event hosted by City Atlas and the sus­tain­able cof­fee bar COFFEED, Eric Sanderson introduces Mannahatta 2409.

Dr. Sanderson is a Senior Conservation Ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the creator of the interactive project Welikia.org about the natural history of New York City (including the landscape of Manhattan, originally called Mannahatta). Here he describes the ideas that led to his new project about the future of New York, Mannahatta2409.org, a design platform on which you will be able to create and share your future vision for the city. Every feature you add or change shows up on an ecological dashboard: will you be able to make a city perform as well as a forest?

 

MAS Summit 2013 looks at full scope of the city’s future

Design study for a new Penn Station (Courtesy SHoP Architects)

Design study for a new Penn Station (Courtesy SHoP Architects)

What comes to mind when you think about the coming years in New York City? Resilience? Livability? Community? More new tools for a sharing economy?

In late October, Municipal Art Society held their annual Summit for New York City, exploring the complex challenges that face our city, and cities around the globe, and the leadership and innovation that can drive us forward.

We’ve put together some of the ideas that we found to be the most interesting and exciting from the conference, but should you like to watch it all, video can be found here….

Economics, development, and entrepreneurship

The first day of the summit explored development in New York City with talks ranging from the global place of the city, to the entrepreneurs that are changing the way we earn money.

The Global Perspective

When Greg Clark, a man who has made a name for himself as an advisor to international cities, compared New York with other leading cities around the globe, several interesting themes emerged. According to the measures of McKinsey Global Institute New York remains at the top internationally, but on a closer look we see that while the city excels in diversity, business and fashion, it struggles with cost of living, sustainability, and quality of life.

MAS Summit (via MAS)

MAS Summit (via MAS)

Clark argues that the problems the city faces have stemmed from its success. He is a strong optimist with great faith in the future of the city, but believes that in order to remain a global urban leader, New York needs to focus on securing funding for long-term priorities. His recommendations for the future include focusing on regional connectivity, affordability and educational attainment.

Penn Station

On a local note, the iconic landmark of Penn Station needs to be redeveloped to meet the needs of a growing population and Madison Square Garden (MSQ) may soon need to find a new home. The discussion comes at a unique time with mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and the federal government both showing interest. However, one of the largest obstacles to building a new station remains – funding. As Marvin Markus from Goldman Sachs stated, “rational users can’t afford to pay it.”

On the development side, Midtown West was discussed by many of the large real estate players in the city. Throughout the day ideas were explored as to possible designs for the new station, where MSQ could be relocated, and the role of the High Line and other open spaces in complementing these new developments.

Technology, entrepreneurship & the sharing economy 

Outside of the large-scale development projects, entrepreneurs are transforming our city, one person at a time. Airbnb took the sharing economy to a new level when they launched their online marketplace, allowing people in places around the globe to rent out rooms or their entire apartment, home, or even castle to visitors and tourists. Molly Turner, Airbnb’s Director of Public Policy, looks at their model as a tool to maximize the efficiency of existing resources – instead of staying at a hotel and visiting only tourist destinations travelers can opt to stay in a home that requires little to no additional resources (to build or maintain) and encourages travel in the neighborhoods where natives eat, work and play. Another great benefit comes in times of hardship and disaster. After Hurricane Sandy over 1,400 homes were opened up (for free) to house displaced people.

This type of technology and innovation is driving our future. Etsy, a site most of us know of as an online marketplace for buying and selling hand-crafted products, can also be seen as a hub for entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment. Of the 19,000 sellers in NYC almost all are women and sole-proprietors, and many use the site to supplement or provide all of their income. Althea Erickson, the Director of Policy for Etsy, expressed excitement about the possibilities of expanding this model.

The Nature of Cities

On Friday afternoon, the summit’s focus shifted to urban ecology and the myriad of natural resources that exist within our city that many New Yorkers are unaware of, as well as the far-away resources that keep our city running and which we often take for granted.

Brooklyn Bridge Forest 

Brooklyn Bridge Forest photo courtesy of Pilot Project's website

Brooklyn Bridge Forest. Photo courtesy of Pilot Projects’ website.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, built from stone, steel, and the wooden pedestrian deck. Scott Francisco from Pilot Projects explained that as the wooden walkway ages and needs to be replaced, it creates an opportunity to link this architectural landmark to rainforest conservation.

In partnership with the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala the goal is to replace the walkway slat by slat on an as-needed basis, ensuring time to engage the best practices of sustainable forestry. This presentation made us think critically about the role that source forests across the globe continue to have in the infrastructure of our city.

Post-Sandy Rebuilding

We’ve talked about development, entrepreneurship and sustainable resources, but this all lies within the context of a post Hurricane Sandy NYC. Eric Klinenberg, an NYU professor and a leader of Post-Hurricane Sandy research, sees this as “a unique and extraordinary moment to change the way we relate to the environment.” Klinenberg, as a part of the Rebuild by Design team is researching the region to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on different communities throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Next steps? Rebuild by Design is unveiling their initial ideas, reaching out to the public, and identifying stakeholders and potential funders who can help to carry out their innovative ideas for creating more resilient communities in NYC and the surrounding region. You can explore the projects and add your feedback here, and City Atlas will have more on the Rebuild by Design initiative in coming weeks.

Also happening now and through November 23rd, the Talking Transition project, with a tent on Canal Street and 6th Avenue as well as outreach teams now roaming the city, is providing an innovative public-facing summit on ideas for the next mayoral administration. (Follow the project on Twitter.)

Contributors: Jocelyn Dupre, Nicholas MacDonald and Pamela Soto

 

Hurricane Sandy city relief effort: volunteer opportunities

Rockaway Beach, Friday 11/2/12 Photo: Sam Brand

 

The clean up from Hurricane Sandy has just started; if you’d like to help, here are connections:

A continuously updated list of requests for help from organizations around the city.

http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/sandy-volunteer-update-for-sat-113-sun-114/

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Another list of volunteer opportunities:
http://www.timeout.com/newyork/own-this-city-blog/how-to-help-in-new-york-city-after-hurricane-sandy

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By neighborhood (list under construction):

Staten Island was hard hit:
http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/11/how_you_can_help_staten_island.html

http://gothamist.com/2012/11/02/runners_everyone_heres_how_to_help.php

Red Hook was hard hit:
https://www.facebook.com/RedHookInitiative

There’s a crowdsourced geography tool that you can use to help FEMA identify areas in need in of relief:

http://www.geographictravels.com/2012/11/be-hurricane-sandy-disaster-response.html

 

Broadway: 1000 Steps

Artist Mary Miss has embarked on a project to use the length of Broadway as a space for installations that can engage the public in the city’s plans for the future.  In this video from ArtsFwd.org, prepared for the Rockefeller Foundation, Mary Miss describes the background and goals of this ambitious public art initiative:

 

 

As described on the artist’s website:

“Broadway: 1000 Steps is a precedent project for the City as Living Laboratory: Sustainability Made Tangible Through the Arts (CaLL) initiative.  CaLL conceives of the city as a laboratory where artists collaborate with scientists and policy makers and others to add experiential impact to research and planning.  The installations initiated through “Broadway: 1000 Steps will articulate the city’s long-term sustainability goals, such as those in PlaNYC, making them tangible and comprehensible to city residents. By directly engaging pedestrians, these encounters bridge the gap between the daily choices made by individuals and the large-scale goals of governmental plans.  This project is inherently collaborative and builds upon existing civic and scientific institutional efforts and resources, enabling NYC to make long-term policy solutions visible now. ”

Broadway: 1000 Steps is a recipient of a 2011 Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund award. To follow the progress of the project and learn more, see the project website at broadway1000steps.com.

 

Six Urbanist Themes for the New Year

Charles R. Wolfe, the Seattle attorney and founder of myurbanist who wrote the article on Diocletian’s Palace and its lesson on adaptive reuse (also referenced by City Atlas here) has compiled a list of “Six Urbanist Themes” to look out for in 2012.

These universal themes range from the importance of using social media in getting the public engaged in urban planning  to “additional ways to conceive of urban opportunity” – for example, the important role of street corners as centers of city life.

Check out the full article on The Atlantic Cities

 

Adaptive Reuse in Split

Charles R. Wolfe, an environmental lawyer based in Seattle has written an article on the benefits of adaptive reuse of landmarks in urban redevelopment. According to him, “to reinvent cities, we need to know where we have been and where we are going.” Focusing on the town of Split, Croatia, Wolfe examines the questions “How did our predecessors handle these issues in simpler times, when reuse was a practical necessity? What can we learn form those stories?”

He uses Split as an example due to its strong record of converting and reusing important historical landmarks. A former mausoleum is now used as a cathedral, and the Emperor’s apartments are now the “structural framework of a residential area.” As a result, there is a clear intersection of past and present in the city.

The argument behind this fascinating story is to encourage the practice of sustainable reuse in our own cities today – to emphasize the idea that both public and private spaces can hold many purposes over time. There are many positive aspects of the practice of sustainable reuse, and we should be aware of them.

Read more on The Atlantic Cities

 

Professor M.R. Wolfe sketch courtesy of Charles R. Wolfe.

All along Broadway citizens, artists, community groups and scientists collaborate on ideas for the urban ecosystem

 

 

Broadway: 1000 Steps

ONGOING thru 2013

Twenty “hubs” dispersed along the length of Broadway will serve as sites for collaboration between MMStudio, research scientists and other experts, municipal policy makers, and local community groups. Installations that are small in scale but which aggregate to reveal the vast network of systems vital to a sustainable city, are designed to make sustainability tangible to citizens at street level and catalyze future projects by artists and environmental designers. The sense of incremental transformation—of many individual instances working together to create a powerful cumulative effect—is the overarching idea for the project and the basis of its title “1000 Steps”. The central message to be communicated – generated out of a year-long collaboration with a prestigious scientific and community advisory board – is that nature is everywhere and in action at all times, that the city is an urban ecosystem, that an innumerable number of small decisions over time have shaped the environment to be the one we inhabit today, and that our decisions (behavioral choices) impact the future of all of nature.

To ensure the quality of information being communicated, Mary Miss Studio has formed partnerships with senior personnel at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science, Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at the Earth Institute of Columbia University, The Institute for Sustainable Cities at CUNY, the Wallerstein Collaborative for Environmental Education at NYU, and with the writer Tony Hiss. The partners have met monthly to develop learning goals, shape the information gathering framework that informs the deployment of art markings, and curate the specific information that will be included at each hub. In order to secure municipal partnerships, permits, and permissions, there is an ongoing dialogue with the Department of Planning, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation, Department of Buildings, Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

Request a Street Tree : New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Request a Street Tree : New York City Department of Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation plants street trees, free-of-charge, on sidewalks in front of homes, apartment buildings, and businesses in all five boroughs.

Use our new forestry service request system to submit a street tree request, and we’ll route your submission to the appropriate Parks Department division and provide you with a tracking number and details about how your request will be addressed.

9 Tips for Tenants Who Want to Be Green

10 Tips for Tenants (we only counted 9, but it’s still a good list)

  1. Live in NYC. Dense, urban living is the most sustainable, resource and energy efficient, and environmentally responsible way to organize modern society. Hard to believe? Consider this: ever drive to work? live in a space with more than 1000 ft2 per person? It’s true that NYC buildings can be horribly energy inefficient (and there are a lot of low cost, easy things to do about it), but density by far makes up for it, so that on a per-capita basis, NYC is the most energy and resource efficient places in the country.
  2. Understand your energy usage. Dig out those old utility bills and familiarize yourself with how much energy you use each month. Develop an understanding of which appliances use the most energy, which can easily be replaced with Energy Star-labeled models (www.energystar.gov), and which you can turn off when you’re not at home or not using it. (Our energy guinea pig spent a month unplugging his “Ghost Loads” — all the stuff that’s plugged in and use energy when turned “off” like your VCR, TV, stereo, etc. — and cut his monthly energy bill by 30%! His comment was: How many flashing clocks do I really need anyway?”)
  3. Use non-toxic materials and products. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If it’s poisonous, carcinogenic, triggers asthma, or wreaks havoc on your nervous system, you probably don’t want it in your building. And yet most of the products we use to build and maintain our buildings – including paints, cleaners, insulation, cabinetry, and carpets – are portable Superfund sites, making their way Trojan Horse-like, into our common and living spaces. Fortunately, keeping the toxins out is a relatively easy thing to do. Here you can find more info and tips on how to do it.
  4. Use high quality, energy efficiency compact fluorescent lighting and Energy Star appliances. Just because it saves energy doesn’t mean fluoresecent lighting looks good. Know what to look for when shopping for fluorescent lighting. See the following article:Understanding Lighting: The Good, The Bad, and the Environmental.
  5. Use materials and products with post-consumer recycled content.Search for products that state the percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Paper is a biggie. So are plastic and paper packaging (essentially, anything you can recycle should be made from recycled materials to keep the cycle going). And if you’re buying wood, tiles, countertops, carpet, or insulation there are options recycled and resource minimizing options for these as well.
  6. Increase your comfort and reduce your energy consumption by controlling the the indoor temperature. If you have a radiator, and control the heat in your apartment by getting up and adjusting the valves all winter long, or even worse, opening the windows, then having just the right temperature is probably a rare event. The same goes for cooling with AC — turning it off and on is a pretty crude way to control temperature. Erratic temperature is not only uncomfortable, but it wastes lots of energy, especially if the radiator’s kicking out heat or the AC’s keeping things nice and cool when nobody’s home. You can control the temperature in your living space by installing low cost, easy to use, thermostats and automatic radiator controls, simultaneously saving energy and increasing comfort.
  7. Switch to Green Power. Two utility companies now offer “green power,” — electricity made from in-state wind and small, low impact hydro (no dams) — for utility customers in New York City. That means that city residents now have a low-cost, no-hassle renewable energy option. It costs a few bucks more a month, but that money helps grow the local renewable energy industry. The two companies are 1st Rochdale Cooperative (http://www.1strochdalenyc.net/cleanerElectricity.html), and Consolodated Edison Solutions (a subsidiary of the namesake parent: http://www.conedsolutions.com/Residential/GreenPowerMain.htm.Read more about green power options for New York City.Or, see thetestimonial of a recent Green Power switchee.
  8. Reuse and Recycle. Every building in New York City is required by law to recycle. Check with your super or building management to find out how your building recycles. Get information on what and how to recycle, along with composting and waste prevention tips, atwww.nyc.gov/recycle.
  9. Support Community Gardens.New York needs more greenspace and vegetation. It filters the air and the noise, reduces the summer heat, and cleans the water.

Community Supported Agriculture – a guide by Just Food

WHAT IS CSA? | Just Food

CSA allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown locally by regional farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly or bi-weekly, from June until October or November, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood.