Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fair Trade Event

This event took place on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at Arcadia (Btwn 21 & 22 st. and 8th Ave.) and was hosted by the NYC Fair Trade Coalition.

It was a great event that united fair trade companies with consumers.

About the NYC Fair Trade Coalition: NYCFTC is an all volunteer grassroots organization educating consumers on fair trade and promoting fair trade businesses in NYC. They support and promote discussion around issues of Fair Trade with speaking engagements and events. The event also served as a kick-off for their new "Look Book," which describes the businesses in the coalition. They are currently in the process of mapping stores that sell fair trade products in NYC.  You can visit their facebook page here


About Arcadia: I have included quite a long description of the store because I found their ideas and values incredible noble and important. You can read the rest of their description on their website.  

After many years of running other people’s businesses, learning how different types of businesses functioned (or didn’t) and realizing that I would never be truly happy working for someone else, I decided to go out my own….“Simple is beautiful” was my response to the complicated, difficult, hectic lives many New Yorkers, myself included, live on a day to day basis. I look for clean lines, functionality, beautiful design, unique product, at reasonable prices that are ethically made. I aim for a broad enough selection that most people can find exactly what they need while still maintaining a sense of continuity throughout the store.

"...While the highest ethical conduct may not always pay off financially, it always pays off in far more important ways."
...I had the tag line “simple is beautiful” set in my head, but was rather lost on what to actually call the store….Thankfully, my best friend immediately suggested Arcadia, from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” which he was reading at the time. I immediately loved it; it is graphically balanced, begins with an A (important for phone and web listings), and most importantly, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of Arcadia is “a simple, pastoral way of life. Heaven on Earth”. Clearly, it was meant to be. 
Arcadia’s core values We strive to offer our customers a peaceful, pleasant shopping experience where our customers will find helpful, friendly employees who are attentive, informative and knowledgeable about the products we offer. It is important to us that everyone feels welcome and comfortable at Arcadia, regardless of their budgetary constraints or interest in purchasing anything at all. We aim to be patient, helpful, respectful and polite to everyone, and hope for the same from our customers.
Arcadia focuses as much as possible on fairly traded products made throughout the world, so that our customers’ interest in supporting indigenous populations and their cultures can be achieved. We also try to limit our impact on the environment in the following ways;
  1. We recycle as much of the packaging materials we receive from our suppliers as possible by reusing them for our own shipments, as padding for gift packaging, offering free packaging materials to customers who can use them, and paying for recycling of our own garbage. We also regularly lobby our suppliers for greener packaging solutions, referring companies to each other so they can share information on reducing their packaging. We routinely ask customers who already have shopping bags if they would like to skip a bag for their purchase at Arcadia, although we happily supply shopping bags for all purchases regardless of size.
  2. Arcadia uses 100% wind energy for electricity, through the Con Edison Green Solutions program. Our track lights are a special infrared variety that reduces their energy usage approximately 20%. We also use LED and fluorescent lighting where ever feasible. The entire façade of the store uses double paned, insulated UV glass, specifically designed to reduce heat transfer as well as noise, which reduces our need for air conditioning in the summertime and insulates us so well from the cold in winter that we rarely run the heat in the winter. Our electronic thermostat is programmed to keep the store at a mild 73 degrees all day during the summer, at 74 during the winter, shuts off automatically when the store closes at 10PM, turning on in the morning just in time for opening. Because natural gas dryers are more efficient than electric dryers, we use gas for our dryer, which along with our washer is EnergyStar rated. We also try to run our appliances with larger, therefore more efficient, loads later in the evenings when energy demand is lower.
  3. We have resisted the retail trend towards plastic coated, heavy shopping bags. While we understand that many customers reuse such bags, they are non-recyclable due to the multiple layers and materials involved. Our paper bags are made of 30% post consumer waste and are recyclable with other paper products. We offer plastic bags (saved from my grocery shopping at Gristedes) only during heavy rainstorms as needed to protect our customers’ purchases from the elements. Our gift boxes are made from 100% recycled paper and are recyclable, as are our tissue papers and heavy craft paper. The fancy gift wrap, while not made of recycled papers, are recyclable. We are currently investigating switching suppliers for our jewelry boxes to a Rhode Island based company which uses 100% recycled materials to replace our current suppliers which are based in China and are mostly non-recycled and only partly recyclable.


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About: Ahkun means 'thank you' in Khmer (Cambodian). We work with entrepreneurs who have received microloans to further their skills and build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. We connect them to the global marketplace---creating sustainable businesses and closing the gap between microfinance lenders and borrowers, consumers and producers.

Fair Trade Spirits

:  FAIR. announces the rise of transparent and sustainable ethics in ultra premium spirits. By associating the best French distillers to local cooperatives in the third world, FAIR. aims at bringing to the consumers the finest spirits possible produced from fair-trade ingredients. We believe in showcasing in the most transparent way all the human capital that goes into making unique ultra premium spirits.
In 2009 the Fair Trade Spirits Company launched FAIR. Quinoa, the first Quinoa-based Vodka but also the first fairtrade certified™ vodka in the world. FAIR. Quinoa has been awarded twice last year as one of the best Vodka in the world. In 2010 they completed the line with FAIR. Goji made from the legendary, sacred Goji berry fruit. FAIR. Goji is the first Goji Berry Liqueur and is fairtrade certified™. FAIR. offers the latest sources of inspiration for fresh, healthy and generous cocktails.

Global Goods
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About: Global Goods Partners is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering women, alleviating poverty and promoting social justice. We partner with community based organizations in marginalized regions of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East, creating access to the U.S. market for our partners’ handcrafted products and providing technical assistance to build sustainable livelihoods.


The models sported apparel
from multiple vendors.
About: We are a fair trade fashion company that collaborates with innovative artisans from developing countries to create unique handmade accessories and apparel.

Kono (Google Translate English Version)
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About: Kono Business is a business concept that aims to tailor marginalized women in Sierra Leone produce scarves and handbags designed by Danish designers.

Of Rags
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About: Of Rags is a fair trade fashion cooperative for sustainable community development. 40% of the profits from each sale directly support public health and education initiatives. The remaining proceeds are used to grow the company to achieve the greatest impact.

Tompkins Point Apparel
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About: TOMPKINS POINT APPAREL is a unique brand dedicated to ensuring that every person who plays a role in producing our clothing has a better life because of our business. To do this, our clothes are certified fair trade and organic and we donate 25% of our profits directly to the people who make our products. We're proud of our shirts and what they represent, and we'd love for you to take the time to learn more about us.

Via Nativa
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About: After seeing the talent and abundance of artisan crafts in Nicaragua, and understanding that it is not only an art but very much a livelihood, Alessandra Plasa and Vanesa Natale started a fair trade and environmentally friendly business. Alessandra now runs the business with a focus on sustainable wood jewelry among other accessories and works directly with artisans and women owned co-ops in Nicaragua.


Questions for Consideration
The following commentary is a combination of my own ideas and those expressed to me by other attendees of the event. 

1. How useful and reliable can third party certifiers (like Transfair) be for verifying and marketing the fair trade fashion industry?

Overall: Very helpful. 
Despite varying criteria for these certifiers, they are helpful in educating consumers about products and in starting a discussion. Jay, the owner of Arcadia, told me that third party, and even second party, certifiers are better than nothing and mean that we're moving in the right direction. We have seen these certifiers pop up in many industries, and they were also a topic for discussion at the SPN Panel on Green Consumerism and the Slow Fashion Meetup
NYC FTC is in the process of creating an online database for stores that sell fair trade products, and their own seal of approval. This event was a show case for their new "Look Book," a collaboration by the sellers of NYC FTC to raise awareness about their products. 

2. Will people be willing to spend more for fair trade products with our current mindset of extreme materialism?
Fair trade products do, sometimes, cost more than others. As described in The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard and The Trust Cost of Food by the Sierra Club, some of the products we buy are impossible cheap, meaning that the real cost is not put on us but on other countries, cultures, and the environment.

3. How [much] can pressure from social media and potential publicity from Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns help grow the Fair Trade industry?
Overal: Immensely
Social media, and the internet in general, provide a vital information source for discovering supply chains and then spreading the information about irresponsible practices.  Sustainability and fair trade practices are now being used as marketing tools by companies, and are slowly being demanded by the customer and employees.
I have found a general shift between businesses and organizations to a middle ground. Businesses are using fair trade standards to create positive change, and organizations use a business model to increase revenue. I imagine that this will now become a growing trend, in which companies move to look more at the triple bottom line. Most of the companies represented at the event have a large charitable component to them. Of Rags has a very interesting situation in which they have both company and 501c3 status to work in both sectors.

4. How can the fair trade and slow fashion industries combine to increase purchase of sustainable clothing items?
Both the fair trade and slow fashion industries are working to reduce our overly consumeristic mentality and increase our appreciation of materials and where they come from. They are similar movements, although focusing on slightly different areas. They both represent ideas that are crucial to developing a sustainable culture and civilization.

5. In a time when consumers are growing further and further from the source of their purchases and where they go once they are thrown out, how can be we bring people back to look at all levels of the supply chain?
Both the slow fashion and fair trade industries are working to increase awareness of the supply chain. Websites like and third party certifiers are also working toward this end. Our current mentality of materialism is a relatively recent development but will take time to move away from. Increased awareness about where all of our things come from and go once they are disposed of will help customers "vote with their dollar" for responsible items.

6. How is the U.S. doing in relation to the rest of the world on the mission of Fair Trade? How do different cultures react to the concept?
I heard mixed opinions on this topic. Some say that the U.S. is behind the EU in terms of awareness of fair trade and the source of products. Others say we are keeping up. I believe we are behind. America's mentality has always been freedom and materialism. The freedom aspect gives many the excuse to say that they will buy which ever products please them (in a slightly entitled way often). The materialism aspect can be easily seen in the ideal of the American Dream - owning a home [and competing against our neighbors for "more stuff"]. Cultures that have more of a history of slowing down, such as Italians with their ideal of Dolce Vita, are, in my opinion, more receptive to these fair trade and slow fashion movements.

I will repeat one of my favorite quotations from the documentary "The Economics of Happiness": 
"You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet."
It is essential to keep this in mind when moving toward a more sustainable culture.

Now it's your turn to weigh in: What do you think about the questions above and the fair trade movement? Do you have any favorite fair trade stores?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Experts' Opinions on Sustainability - 2010 in Review

With this first post of EOS, we can look back on 2010 and get to know our experts a little better as well. Enjoy! And please leave any comments below.

Question Set #1: 2010 in Review
1. What was the biggest political upset of 2010?
2. What was your favorite book of 2010?
3. What was your favorite documentary of 2010?

Jeffrey Davis - Eco Snobbery Sucks

1. I'm not one of those environmentalists that gets involved in a matter of fact, I don't even vote. For me, not voting is my vote. I don't really see where one person (or group of people) lording over others has ever worked out so well for any party involved...including the environment. Bare in mind that is simply my personal political paradigm, but that's how I see it for now.
I think we'd all be much better off if we'd learn to love and respect each other, and in turn, the environment we live in. It may sound idealistic, but if we can't cling to ideals, what hope do we have to begin with, ya know?

2. I didn't read much in 2010. Well, at least not in the form of books. But of the books that I did get to read, 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need, by my friend Sam Davidson was my favorite...and not because Sam is a good friend. It's truly a great read!

3. I'm not much of a film documentary type person. I LOVE the History and Discovery channels, and watch lots of documentaries (if you want to call them that) there, but don't catch many film documentaries. I have been planning to finally see The Cove.

Brendan DeMelle - DeSmogBlog
1. Russ Feingold's loss to Ron Johnson
2. Merchants of Doubt (Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway)
3. Tie between Gasland and The Cove

Edward Hall – LightSource
1. The UK "hung parliament", quite a lot of ruckus there!

1. I refrain from speaking about politics because I believe this is beyond any one person and beyond politics in general. I believe this Sustainability, or Green movement is about a life style that affects other human beings and other life. I consider it a humanistic question. Although politics is very much part of the issue, but I feel it often clouds the real questions.

2. Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma;
Jonathan Nash’s Environmental Law and Policy; and
Dr. Colin Campbell’s The China Study.
These three books gave me the knowledge base necessary to appreciate the complexity of the Green issue, the immense knowledge gap we have about the Sustainability topic, and the invariable connections between how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we see changes, that shapes our Sustainability crisis. Of the three authors, each brings a sense of professional quality to what they can contribute to the overall Green Conversation. I see them as my teachers and their writings the lighted guideposts on my journey to changing my own behaviors. Aside from these books, I want to also mention The Economist’s Special Report on Food, the 9 Billion People Problem. The editors at The Economist really put the problem in perspective and gave the context necessary to frame my own thinks.

3. As for my favorite documentary is ZeitGeist: Moving Forward. Beware, the whole thing is close to three hours long, but even if you just watch the first three minutes of the video, you will be inspired!

Meris Michaels - Toward Better Health
1. The Republicans gaining more seats in Congress and entry of Tea Party members into the government.

2. Poisoned for Profit - How Toxins are Making our Children Chronically Ill by Philip & Alice Shabecoff, revised 2010 edition, describes the devastating effects of toxic chemical substances on children's health and includes advice to parents and consumers on how to advocate for a healthier environment.

3. "Solutions locales pour un désordre global", 2010 French documentary produced by Coline Serreau.  In contrast to the "global disorder" of intensive industrial agriculture, the film presents "local solutions" for a more sustainable agriculture such as direct delivery of locally-grown produce to consumers; setting up seed banks to preserve plant diversity and move away from the expensive patented GMO seed imposed by multinationals;  producing a healthier soil, free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Jessica Reeder - Love and Trash
1. In the United States: The Arizona immigration law. Obviously the issue is contentious, and it's been debated for a long, long time. This law is simply another step on a long path with a pretty clear destination: to hold back immigration to America.

I try not to buy into the political divisions in our country, but rather look at both sides of the issue. Immigration is something that every country struggles with, but over the centuries America has often prided itself on its open borders. I think this move to impede illegal immigration speaks to America's growing maturity as a nation. Personally I don't agree with the law for a number of reasons, but I find it very telling.
Internationally: The Tunisian Revolution. I know its effects were largely felt in 2011, but this revolution's impact was bigger than almost any other event in 2010. It sparked popular uprisings around the globe, something that (to my limited knowledge) has never happened before in such a way and is very much related to Internet accessibility. This is a clear sign that humanity's increased access to knowledge and communication tools will irrevocably change the relationships between governing bodies and their citizens.

2. Temple Grandin's "Animals Make Us Human." I devoured every word. It gave me so many tools for understanding not only the animals I interact with (by keeping, feeding or eating them), but myself and other humans as well. It's incredibly clearly written and has completely changed my mind on some subjects.

3. I don't really keep up with the movies, but I did attend the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January. I loved Bag It and have recommended it to lots of people. I also got a real kick out of a short called On The Trail With Miss Snail Pail.

1. In my opinion, Naheed Nenshi's victory in the mayoral race in Calgary, Alberta ranks as the biggest political upset of 2010. Nenshi trailed in the polls and languished in third place as ballots were being cast. But he ran a very clear, thoughtful, innovative (lots of social media), and sustainability-driven campaign right in the heart of the Canadian oil economy's territory and managed to emerge victorious. He highlighted errors made by previous city councils and made clear how he would address them and create a better future in ways that made sense fiscally, socially, and environmentally. His message certainly struck a chord with Calgarians.

2. My favourite book of 2010 was "Strategy for Sustainability" by Adam Werbach (ok fine, it was released in 2009). Werbach eloquently makes the case that sustainability cannot be thought of as window-dressing, reputation management, or a "nice to have", but is actually about an organization's long-term viability and survival. He provides a great approach for recognizing threats and opportunities, and then highlights the need for transparency, engagement, and networking to make meaningful progress.

3. Gasland ranks as my favourite documentary of 2010. Hydraulic fracking for natural gas is obviously very risky business, and is not being regulated with nearly an appropriate level of caution. The film is an excellent example of our reckless pursuit of a certain type of progress, our extremely short-term view of success and the consequences of the decisions we make, and a failure of governing bodies to put the wellbeing of their people before corporate interests.

Shane Shirley-Smith - Environmental Booty
1. I was just thinking that the answer to the biggest upset should just simply be the approval of Obama Care.  The two advisers I referenced in the post, are no longer a part of Obama’s adviser team. As a registered Democrat who no longer automatically votes along party lines, I am appalled at what President Obama's advisers on health care are planning to do with our lives. Are you? Part of living a green lifestyle is about not only keeping an eye on the future health of our planet, but also looking out for the future health of each and every one of us. Obama's health care plan is certainly turning me in the color you turn before you puke.
You can check out the rest of Shane's blog post on the topic here:
2.  Farmer Jane - Women Changing the Way We Eat by Temra Costa
Not only do I love Temra Costa's book because of the 30 stories of inspiring women changing the way we eat, I also love it because it was a transformative read. I asked Temra Costa why she wroteFarmer Jane and she said, "Because women's stories need to be told. Also, I wrote it to educate and inspire action and change in our food system." 
There are so many great tips on how a woman (or a man) can find easy ways to provide her family with healthy, whole, local and sustainable foods, that I came away from reading the book with a feeling that I can and should feed my family better foods through knowing my farmer, protecting my local farmer's way of life and supporting locally sourced food production.
Each of the books chapters focuses on the areas of change that women are leveraging to bring greater sustainability back to our plates. Every chapter features profiles of women and ends with "Recipes for Action" which give actionable steps to help us follow through with the concepts discussed - ideas for how you as a farmer, eater or an owner/employee of a food business can join in.
We can "vote with our fork", as Temra says and truly change the future of not only agriculture, but our future generations as well.
3. Garbage Dreams - PBS Independent Lens Series by Mai Iskander
Believe me when I tell you, Garbage Dreams by Mai Iskander, part of the PBS Independent Lens Series, should definitely be a part of your PBS education.

For those of us living in a country such as the United States, you will see firsthand just how really far behind we are in our efforts to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. If you have children, this is a must see as it will solidify in their minds, just how much of a difference young people can really make, and what a significant impact can be made with their knowledge and resulting power.
The movie was filmed over four years in Cairo and follows three teenage boys who are “Zaballeen” which is Arabic for “garbage people”. The Zaballeen have collected Cairo’s garbage for decades in a way that is far ahead of any of our modern green initiatives. They recycle an almost unbelievable 80% of the garbage they collect while lifting themselves out of poverty and creating a solution to one of the world’s most pressing crisis. When the Zaballeen community is suddenly faced with the globalization of its trade, each of the teenage boys is forced to make choices which will impact their future and the survival of the community.

Bonnie Lane Weber – Grass-Roots Organization
1. Trite at this point but it is the success of the Tea Party because they now have a lot of power. Also, not political, but the fact that Bernie Madoff was the only "banker" that wound up in jail.

2. A Better Way of Dying by Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick. Population control is a very important environmental issue. Acceptance of dying is an important part of population problem and will help save our resources. We should not be keeping people alive many of whom do not even know they are alive. We must do paperwork to prevent our being kept alive longer than we prefer.

3. Gasland not because it is a prize documentary as a film but because it is a prize education tool. It has made many people around the country aware of the dangers of hydrofracking. It is a very important part for NY State being able to get such attention to the issue that maybe it can be stopped or at the very least made safer.

Now it's your turn:
What was the biggest political upset in 2010?
What was your favorite book of 2010?
What was your favorite documentary of 2010?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Follow the Experts on Twitter

Jeffrey Davis - @EcoSnobberySux @JSDavis82
Edward Hall - @TedwardHall
Jin Kong - @rethinki3
Jessica Reeder - @JessicaReeder
Shane Shirley-Smith - @EnviroBooty
Brendan Seale - @BSeale
Sara Allan - @TheGreen_Blog

Fun Fact: Combined, we have a total following of 18,451!

Meet the Experts

The first question set of Experts' Opinions on Sustainability will be published tomorrow! Here is your first chance to get to know the experts.

Jeffrey Davis - Eco Snobbery Sucks
Jeffrey Davis is a blogger, writer, speaker, personal trainer, and web designer. In January 2007 he helped kick-start (and remains senior editor of) The Fun Times Guide to Living Green. In addition to being an avid Twitterer, he is the Green Tech and Green Business editor and writes for Mother Nature Network. He has also had work appear on He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Eco-Snobbery-Sucks.

Edward Hall - LightSource
Edward Hall is the Next Gen 2011 artist of the year, TEDxGotham speaker, and co-founder/CEO of LightSource. LightSource's vision is to "innovate the process by which we innovate." They do this by "transparently-engaging", "recursively-focusing",and "holistically-uniting" the core tools, practices and approaches that help people lead fulfilled and sustainable lives. Through the LightSource vision they built LightSource Co.; the openly-developed structure to support LightSourcing sustainable, creative, and practical collaboration. LightSource Co. Is a holistic, evolving, and open company that develops methods of LightSourcing positive human capabilities - focusing on sustainable, creative, and practical collaborations. They are building technical, social, and legal structures to support such collaborations. Their major collaborations are with 

Jin Kong - The Green Elephant
Jin was born in Lanzhou, a city of the Silk Road. He moved to Beijing at age five, then to Cincinnati at age eleven. After college, he served a tour in Iraq as a combat medic. Upon his honorable discharge from the US Army, he sought to continue his oath to protect and defend this great nation. He founded iCube to further his dreams of becoming a social entrepreneur.
Jin is a certified: Six Sigma Black Belt, PADI Rescue SCUBA Diver, Emergency Medical Tech (EMT). He is currently an evening law student at IU - Law in Indy. He and his fiancee, Lauren, with the help of their friends from around the world, launched The Green Elephant hoping to help make the world a little more sustainable. Jin is the founder, current publisher and editor of The Green Elephant.

Meris Michaels - Towards Better Health
Meris Michaels is creator and editor of two blogs focused on health and sustainability, Towards Better Health and Mieux Prevenir. She is an American currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and is a regular contributor to Geneva's main newspaper on topics of health and the environment. 

Jessica Reeder - Love and Trash
Jessica Reeder, also known as The Hun, is a blogger, DIYer, gardener, artist, and sustainability advocate. In 2008 she quit her job, got rid of most of her possessions, and backpacked across the United States to meet and work alongside farmers, sustainable builders and bike-wielding anarchists. When she returned from her two-year journey, Jessica founded LoveandTrash.comwith a cadre of compatriots. Love and Trash's mission is to provide positive inspiration and ideas for people who want to change their lives in even the smallest of ways. Love and Trashies believe that every action is a step to creating a better world, and that there's no right way to create change.

Shane Shirley-Smith - Environmental Booty
"I have a B.A. in Communications from MSU and my professional background is in business development, social media and medical sales. I have been married for almost 20 years and have three daughter ages 5, 10 and 14. After the birth of my first daughter, I found fulfillment in raising my family & volunteering. I was settled in life's daily routine. Then I experienced a life-threatening health crisis due to a reaction to aspartame. During my journey to wellness, I began searching for ways to provide myself and my family with safe consumables and began spreading the word to others. Through my website,, I offer consumer information, products and creative partnerships for a greener life and world. My goal is to help consumers and companies become aware of how their choices impact our health and the health of our environment. By providing a forum for open dialogue with consumers and suppliers, I believe that we are all creating a greener tomorrow."

Brendan specializes in strategic planning for sustainability, project management, communications design and delivery, group process facilitation, and learning design. He draws from each of these areas to lead organizations and groups to enact positive change toward a sustainable future. He has delivered customized lectures, workshops and short courses in Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands, and has led sustainability planning processes for a variety of organizations.
Brendan earned a Masters degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (MSLS) fromBlekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, authoring his thesis on educational design for the development of an interconnected worldview. He also holds a Combined Honours Bachelors degree in Communication Studies and Multimedia from McMaster University in Canada, where he specialized in culture change studies. Brendan has previously worked in corporate communications at a multinational mining company, and founded and operated a communications consultancy.

Bonnie Lane Webber - Grass-Roots Organization
Bonnie received her Masters in Nutrition from Columbia Teachers College in 1978. After graduating, she did nutrition counseling and ran a school lunch program, cooking food "from scratch" with as many ingredients as possible bought from local farmers' markets. During this time, she wrote "Bonnie's Nutrition Basics." 
In the late '80s Bonnie accepted the challenge of the NYC Department of Sanitation to design and carry out an experimental source separation recycling program in her upper eastside neighborhood. That experience led her to being part of the team writing NYC's Recycling Local Law 19. She helped initiate the law as one of the Sanitation Department's Community Educators on Manhattan's Upper East Side and was a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board for many years.
13 years ago, Bonnie created and has since directed Grass-Roots, a neighborhood environmental education group hosting prominent guest speakers monthly and publishing a newsletter. Under Bonnie's leadership, Grass-Roots established the first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on the Upper East Side in the Carnegie Hill/Yorkville neighborhood.
Recently Bonnie combined her food and environment passions in co-producing a 15 minute animated video entitled The True Cost of Food.  
In addition to leading and participating the above programs, Bonnie also serves as co-chair of the Northeast Energy Conservation Committee, which is in the process of establishing joint initiatives between the Sierra Club and Habitat for Humanity to create housing that is completely energy self-sufficient.

Experts' Opinions on Sustainability

In the blogging process, I have found that the biggest issue is not something specific, but rather that there are so many experts working in isolation and competition instead of collaboration.  My first project to help environmental bloggers and readers connect is Experts' Opinions on Sustainability.  
This project was inspired by the McLaughlin Group Discussions started this year by gymnastics blogger Blythe Lawrence of The Examiner (her blog, 
Gymnastics Examiner). Thoughtful and knowledgeable bloggers from around the world were chosen to occasionally answer relevant questions. The bloggers then posted their results at a predetermined time. This simultaneous action helped bring together the entire gymnastics community to discuss one important question – it stimulated a discussion. And that is the goal of the project: to create an informed, multidimensional discussion among environmentalists.

I will moderate questions on topics of sustainability ranging from innovation to corporate social responsibility, public health, over-population, pollution, energy, politics, and resource depletion.

If you have questions you would like to propose or are an environmental blogger who would like to participate in the project please email me:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Green Home NYC Forum: Sustainable Storm-Water Management

This Meetup took place on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 from 6:30-8:00 at the Toto showroom at 25 Mercer St. (btwn Canal and Grand) and was hosted by Green Home NYC.

You can view this page for more information on the speakers.

Jack Coogan - Building Scale Solutions: OCV Architects
Coogan is the RA and Principle at OCV Architects and spoke mainly about one specific project in the Bronx. The building consists of 18 units and his company reduced construction costs enough to install a rainwater collection tank. Calculating using NY's average annual rainfall of 49.7 inches, the roof's area of 2850 square feet, and a 95% capture rate (for a total capture of 80,000 gallons), they figured that each apartment could flush their toilet 9 1/3 times per day just on the grey water collected. After completing the project, however, they found that each unit actually flushes their toilet 25.5 times per day! So, the grey water mixes with fresh water to make up for the difference. With 1 cent per gallon water costs, and 1.3 gallons per flush, Coogan calculates an $800 per year savings (it is worth noting that the system cost $18,000 to install - 12 year pay back). 

Susannah C. Drake AIA, ASLA - Rising Currents: A New Urban Ground
Drake spoke of a project she worked on with Stephan Cassell and Adam Yarinsky on the infrastructure issues that will result from sea level rise (climate change) in NY Harbor. They were one of five teams to participate in the challenge to create a solution to projected sea level rise of 6 ft (plus 18 feet for a storm surge). Each team was assigned one spot on the NY Harbor, her team focusing on the 500 acres that comprise lower Manhattan.  Their calculations revealed that 21% of lower Manhattan will be covered in 100 years, with 68% susceptible to the storm serge.
We currently dump 500 million gallons of sewage water into the harbor each week! Their plan consists of permeable street beds with water proof vaults for cables and other lines. The tip of Manhattan would become an urban estuary (close to a swamp) and the east side would become a salt marsh with an urbanester and a sunken forest.
You can read more about the project and view photos at the dlandstudio website and on the MOMA page.

Tatiana More - Stormwater: Waste or Resource
More spoke about CSO, or Combined Sewage Overflow. She also shared a theme I have found particularly relevant in my recent blogging and exploration of the sustainability field - that there are "Silos of information, but no conduits." 
According to More, the MTA uses 2.6 Billion gallons of potable water per year! The water filtration system was built on a plot of land with a high water table which had to be subsequently drained and then refilled - a huge waste! These two examples show some the inefficient manor in which things are done in NYC.
Her program, the NYCSWCD, works in consort with the SWIM coalition and measures soil moisture saturation, evapotranspiration rates, and does pollution analysis of their water absorption projects to find the most efficient solution for a specific area. She gave some details on specific projects they have done recently.

Thomas O'Connor - Stormwater Solutions REsearch: EPA Office of Research and Development
O'Connor works in the water supply and water resources division of the Urban Watershed Management Branch of the EPA. He works on management of wet-weather flows and the aging water infrastructure. The New Jersey office of R&D is 20 acres on which models are tested for optimization.
He spoke specifically of two projects they have recently worked on - one for semipermeable parking lots, and the other for green spaces which are meant to absorb extra water.
Sustain is an online decision optimization engine used by his office. 

Questions for Consideration:
  1. How can we encourage CSR like that being practiced at Toto to come from all companies?
  2. How can we get people to understand the resources their using when they don't see where they come from and where their waste goes?
  3. Do we need to completely redevelop our infrastructure? 
  4. What can we do about diverting more of NYC's sewage from the ocean?
  5. How can we communicate the level of urgency to the people who just don't care?

About GreenHomeNYC:
"The Green Building Forum is held on the third Wednesday of each month (except December) at 6:30 PM and features presentations by green building practitioners followed by discussion. The events are always free and open to the general public."

About Toto:
"TOTO is the world’s largest plumbing products manufacturer. We offer a complete line of commercial and decorative plumbing fixtures and fittings, faucets, accessories, shower and flush valves, as well as lavatories, toilets, Air Baths and urinals. More than 1,500 TOTO engineers and their colleagues are committed to achieving the seamless integration of performance, conservation, technology, and innovation.
For over 90 years, we have been producing superbly designed, high performance lifestyle enhancing plumbing products for residential bathrooms and commercial restrooms. While we understand our customers want products that have great design, we concentrate on creating a more enjoyable bathroom experience through products that infuse sophisticated style with substance, optimize water conservation and provide consistent, exceptional performance.
For example, TOTO embraced water and energy conservation years before government mandates. Through our constantly evolving manufacturing practices and advanced technology, we consistently lead the way in plumbing fixture efficiency and sustainability. Advanced innovations such as our EcoPower® fittings and valves, and our highly active participation in and support of the United States Green Build Council (USGBC), have made TOTO a world leader in plumbing products that have helped to advance society and help protect its future at the same time.
Our state-of-the-art plant in Morrow, Georgia is a testament to conservation and quality control. For example, we recycle the water we use as well as thoroughly treating it before returning it to the county. From our molding process to the final changes, our products are constructed and fine-tuned with computer precision and relentless attention to detail. Our pursuit of excellence pushes us beyond industry standards and drives us to maintain our reputation as one of the most decorated plumbing manufacturers in the world.
After nearly a century of experience, we are committed to maintaining the perfect balance of form, function and design. TOTO is Luxury in Balance."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slow Fashion Meetup

The Slow Fashion is not a Trend: It's a Movement Meetup took place on Monday, March 21 from 7-8 p.m. at 132 Crosby Street.

About Louis Sagar, creator of the Slow Fashion Meetup Group: "I am co-producing a major ECO FASHION WEEK runway event during New York Fashion Week in September 2011. Slow Fashion is the couture end of the broader ECO FASHION and sustainability trends. We are working with major global sponsors, along with the CFDA, and want to begin building a network here in New York. We are interested in building a network of designers, stylists, sources, and workshops. This meet-up is to inform, exchange ideas, and offer advice on the opportunities in this important movement."

Sagar started by giving a definition of Slow Fashion:
Fashion is made up of fast fashion - the throw away, cheap clothes that are mass produced - and slow fashion - pieces that are an investment, take time and good quality materials to make, and will become vintage in the future. Slow fashion requires a preservation of the artisan tradition and derives its name for the Slow Food movement of Italy. It counts on the appreciation of the luxury in life. 

The goal of the Meetup group is to create a call to action - something tangible such as a curriculum or conference - and to figure out how big the movement is. 

It was the second meeting of the group (unfortunately I was unable to make it to the first event). Last time the group talked about potentially splitting into task forces examining best practices, standards and guidelines, and education. 

We agreed that luxury needs to be redefined, because as strange as it sounds, luxury has an image problem. Also, in order for this movement to really catch on, materialism will have to be redefined or morph from the more is more mentality to less is more. This is where the slow fashion movement really connects to the rest of the sustainability movement.  First of all, in order for people to value their pieces, they need to know more about the supply chain - where it all comes from and goes. Also, the entire more is more concept needs to be changed for us to even consider a sustainable civilization. As said in The Economics of Happiness, "You can't have infinite growth on a finite planet." 

We discussed the potential for third party certifiers to help in this transformation process, but there are setbacks with this method as well. 

This promises to be a very interesting meetup and I can't wait to continue the discussion. If you have any comments please leave them below!

The following is a list of links to things mentioned in the discussion: