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Category Archives: Activism
Fracking might come to New York next year. Is this calamitous or actually OK? I wrote a story about the controversial (to put it mildly) energy extraction practice for LearnVest. Let me know what you think in the comments!
It inspires vitriolic debate between environmentalists, businessmen and politicians. It’s a stunning scientific advance, economic savior or a looming menace, depending on who you ask. And it sounds like a curse word.
It’s fracking, a new method for extracting natural gas that has residents from New York to Colorado up in arms.
“Fracking” is the nickname for “hydraulic fracturing.” It’s a process where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped as much as 10,000 feet underground at high pressure to break up the shale rock surrounding natural gas deposits, and allow the natural gas to flow up a well to the surface.
Proponents say natural gas could be the solution to America’s energy worries, and revitalize economically depressed towns across the country. Detractors say it is poisoning groundwater and could even be the reason for a surge in earthquakes in Ohio. Even celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Mark Ruffalo have publicly opposed it.
It’s a classic case of economy versus environment. Or is it? Today we look at the facts behind the fighting and tell you what you need to know about this new and contentious technology.
A Short History of Natural Gas
It used to be that we could only get to large pockets of gas deposits underground, but there was much, much more trapped in tiny bubbles within rock far below the surface that we couldn’t reach. So expensive natural gas remained a niche product, while we turned to oil and coal for our energy needs.
Only recently–in the past 15 years–has a technique emerged that could get at these enormous reserves affordably. Once energy companies cracked the code of efficiently extracting natural gas, the fracking boom that followed dropped the price of natural gas from $15 per million British thermal units (Btu, or a way of measuring energy) at the end of 2005, to around $3.43 this week. And natural gas has been eating into coal’s territory: In 2005, half of all electricity in the U.S. was generated by coal and 17% by natural gas. Now coal accounts for only 34% of electricity generation in the U.S., and natural gas 30%.
Most of this natural gas comes from the Marcellus Shale, a giant layer of natural gas-rich rock that lies under Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Though there are other, smaller deposits elsewhere–like in Texas and Colorado–the gas rush is most keenly felt in these northeastern states.
As a sign of things to come, Senator Rockefeller from West Virginia gave a game-changing speech this summer, revoking his support for the state’s coal industry and telling West Virginians they had to “face reality.” He has now thrown his support behind natural gas.
Meanwhile, New York City mayor, businessman and billionaire Michael Bloomberg has come out in support of natural gas, saying coal is too expensive and wind and solar energy aren’t viable options. What’s the big deal?
The Benefits of the Fracking Boom
It’s no wonder energy wonks are excited about fracking. It could prove to completely transform both local economies and the U.S. economy at large, plus solve some of the most pressing problems facing the U.S.
Jobs Get Created
In December 2010, the research and consulting company IHS Global Insight predicted that natural gas extraction would support 870,000 U.S. jobs and add $118 billion to the country’s economic growth through 2016. A study released in February of this year, commissioned by an Ohio business group and conducted by an academic team, says that fracking could add more than 65,000 jobs and provide an almost $4.9 billion investment just in Ohio’s economy by 2014. And these jobs are usually centered in rural areas that desperately need them.
Having more natural gas available is a boon in itself to the economy. The rapidly falling price of natural gas could keep inflation low, since high energy prices are often a key factor in inflation.
(On the other hand, the Federal Reserve’s recent action could raise inflation.)
With increasing concern about greenhouse gas emissions, natural gas has piqued the interest of environmentalists. Burning it emits much lower carbon emissions per energy unit than coal or oil. In fact, this is one reason–the mild winter being another–why first-quarter carbon emissions in the U.S. dropped to a shocking 20-year low last winter.
If the upward swing in natural gas production continues, the U.S. could get closer to energy independence. Within the next decade, we could start exporting more energy than we import.
Property Owners Get Paid
Gas companies have rushed to obtain the rights to extract gas on private property. This entails offering small property owners–often struggling farmers and ranchers–thousands of dollars upfront with the promise of continuing royalties that could go into the tens of thousands. In 2010, for example, gas companies paid out $1.6 billion in lease payments and bonuses just to Pennsylvania property owners.
So What’s the Problem?
It sounds like a perfect solution to everything that ails us: high energy prices, a weak economy, climate change and energy dependence on the Middle East. Apply natural gas and, bam! It all gets fixed.
But (you saw this coming) there are drawbacks–serious ones. And these drawbacks have only been revealed as energy companies move aggressively to start drilling, most notably in Pennsylvania.
As observers watched what was going on in Pennsylvania, they’ve started to raise the alarms across the country. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo looked poised to approve fracking, but bowed to pressure to continue studying it before letting it loose on upstate New York. And while New York decides, small towns and municipalities–about 100 of them–have enacted moratoriums on fracking or have banned it altogether. Here’s why:
Something in the Water
Energy companies have consistently maintained that the fracking process is environmentally safe, as the water and chemicals are injected into shale far below the water table, and can’t make their way into the water supply. But there is mounting evidence that this isn’t always the case.
The 2010 movie Gasland depicted residents living near natural gas wells lighting their taps on fire because it had such high levels of methane, which can leak out of the wells as a byproduct of drilling. Residents have sued energy extraction companies for poisoned wells, but documents related to the settlements have been sealed by the courts. The EPA has waffled on whether fracking poses a threat to drinking water sources, testing and retesting wells and revising their assessments under pressure from business and political groups.
Fracking also produces enormous amounts of wastewater that is brought up to the surface, which needs to be effectively treated or safely stored, and companies haven’t always been good about doing either. According to several private E.P.A. documents obtained by The New York Times, the treatment plants to which the wastewater is hauled are not equipped to handle removing all the contaminants and radioactivity, and dumping the wastewater into the rivers is not enough to dilute it. This is especially alarming since some of those rivers feed into our water supply.
An Economic Bust
Studies on the economic effects of the natural gas boom have revealed a more nuanced situation than simple job numbers would paint.
Drilling for non-renewable energy sources like oil and natural gas are usually done in boom and bust cycles. During extraction, people move to the region and there is modest growth in jobs, many of which go to outsiders who move in, instead of people native to the area. Prices for everything from goods to rent go up, impacting the cost of living for locals and forcing them out of affordable housing. (Like in this small town in North Dakota, where landlords are evicting tenants to rent to higher-paid natural gas workers.)
Local governments and infrastructure are unprepared for the influx of population and heavy trucks that damage roads and congest traffic. And then when the extraction stops, people and jobs leave the region again. Unfortunately, natural gas wells tap out faster than expected, but there’s not enough data yet on this new industry to know how long each drilling boom lasts.
While landowners were only too happy to receive windfalls for allowing companies to set up shop on their land, many found out too late that they were getting the raw end of the deal. According to The New York Times, many drilling companies have designed leases so that they can:
- Leave waste ponds full of toxic drilling sludge on the property
- Avoid compensating owners for livestock or crop damage
- Operate generators and floodlights near their homes through the night
- Extend said lease without permission from the landowners
- And according to some property owners, subtract the cost of shipping in drilling water and shipping out gas from the royalties they pay to owners so that they get paid less than expected
Even if a landowner decides not to lease, there’s no guarantee a neighbor won’t, devaluing their property by up to 25%. All of this has led to some sticky real estate situations. In the Catskills of upstate New York, real estate prices for once-coveted properties nestled in the wilderness are depressed, as skittish buyers wait for New York State to decide if and where fracking could proceed.
Mortgage lenders are also taking a second look at gas leasing, refusing to give mortgages to those who are buying property leased for drilling, requiring land buyers to agree not to lease the land to gas companies or requiring gas companies to pay for any damage to the property. This makes it even more difficult for property owners who leased to gas companies, but are now trying to sell or refinance their mortgage.
So What’s the Solution?
The fight over fracking has often been framed as an either/or proposition: Either allow fracking and its purported economic benefits, or ban it and protect our water supply. But it might just be a matter of careful and well-enforced rules. Those calling for better regulation (which includes supporter Bloomberg) of this nascent technology are asking for:
- Disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking (which aren’t fully disclosed right now because they are considered business secrets), but contain several known carcinogens
- Tighter oversight of drillers to make sure they are using best practices to prevent contamination of groundwater
- Clear and enforced guidelines for disposal of wastewater
- Reducing the release of methane, which can leak out of wells and contribute to global warming
- Protecting local ecosystems, roads and communities from the negative impacts of drilling
Whether these tighter regulations will happen remains to be seen. But if the epic battle over fracking happening in New York right now is any indication, regulators and governors seem to be proceeding a little more carefully than before.
What Do You Think?
Do you think fracking can be safely done and benefit the economy? Or do you think the risks are too great? Let us know in the comments!
Image credit: CREDO.fracking
It’s not like parties were going to slow down in the wake of Sandy. Once the lights came back on, Manhattan shook off the water and mud like a wet dog, and went back to the business of working and partying.
But don’t call us callous. Every party promoter and business worth their profits has pledged to donate money to Hurricane Sandy relief–as long as you meet them halfway. Here are some ways you can send money to those who need it (and yes, there are lots of people who still need help) that involves a little something in it for you, too. Because we’re kind of over Red Cross here, anyway.
TONIGHT: I♥NY: Grandlife DJs for Hurricane Relief
8pm – 12am
Tonight (Saturday) is the last of three nights where SoHo and Tribeca Grand hotels will be donating all proceeds from their Hurricane Relief-inspired cocktail, the “Safe & Sound” as well as $1 from all beer, wine and cocktail purchases to a deserving charity nominated by that evening’s DJs.
Soho Grand Hotel, 310 W. Broadway, Manhattan
Tribeca Grand, 2 Avenue of the Americas, Manhattan
TONIGHT: Mister Saturday **in Berlin**
Know a friend in Berlin? (I mean, who doesn’t?) Tweet, text, email, Facebook them about tonight’s Mister Saturday Night party. Not only will they have an awesome Brooklyn-ish time, proceeds benefit the Red Hook Initiative. Find info on the Facebook invitation.
I was kind of “meh” about the original Passion Pit song, but this remix by Classixx (they always do good stuff) makes it tasty.
Sunday, November 11th, 6-7pm
For you people out there with a lot of cash to spare, the famed spin-studio SoulCycle presents SoulCycle Ride for Sandy at its Tribeca studio (which suffered severe Sandy damage) with an all-star line-up that includes Janet Fitzgerald, Laurie Cole, Sue Molnar, Kym Perfetto, Melanie Griffith, Jenny Gaither, Jolie Walsh, and Ben Turshen. SoulCycle classes are super fun, think of it like a sweaty rave, just without the drugs or alcohol. 6:00–7:00 p.m., $1,500 (front and center spot and Soul Tee included), $500, and $250 bikes, www.soulforsandy.com
Thursday, November 15th
Alignyo hosts four classes with celeb instructors like Kristin Mcgee and Tara Stiles. The event will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
Chelsea art gallery Sky Light West. 10–11 am, 12:30–1:30 pm, 5:30–6:30 pm, 7–8:30 pm, $30
Peck Street Pickle Festival
Sunday, November 11, 11am-5pm
New Amsterdam Market’s second annual Peck Slip Pickle Festival will take place this Sunday, so show your support as the Seaport neighborhood recovers from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Over 20 pickle and fermented food producers will join their regular roster of market vendors and their hours will be extended until 5:00PM.
They’ll be collecting an OPTIONAL $3 admission to raise funds for storm relief.
The Bent Spoon is sending up specially made pickle ice cream, for sale at the Z Food Farm stall, proceeds will also go to storm relief efforts. Several Seaport small businesses will be setting up tables at the market to sell inventory not damaged by the storm.
New Amsterdam Market had to temporarily evacuate their market office on Front Street and will need extra hands this Sunday to help set up and break down the Festival, plus move a few more items from their office. Click here to register for volunteer work.
New Amsterdam Market, South Street between Beekman Street & Peck Slip
Last year, Jimmy’s raised thousands of dollars for relief when Hurricane Irene came through and hurt local farmers. Now, Jimmy’s, located in the East Village, needs help getting power restored to their restaurant and bar. Help them out by buying a gift certificate to the restaurant or ticket to one (or more) of their amazing fall events. To purchase a gift certificate and see a list of available ticketed events, visit the Jimmy’s No. 43 website.
A small neighborhood restaurant in the East Village focused on locally-sourced and seasonally-oriented food, they could use some extra love! To purchase gift certificates, check out their menus, and make dinner reservations, visit their website at www.northernspyfoodco.com.
Masbia needs help feeding 600+ relocated seniors at the Park Slope Armory. For only $6 they can serve one person a freshly cooked nutritious hot dinner. Donate here. Masbia soup kitchen network is where the rubber meets the road in the fight against hunger. They feed hot, nutritious meals to hungry men, women and children. No statistics. No bureaucracy. No middleman. They deposit food in empty stomachs.
Leading up to Hurricane Sandy and in the aftermath, Citymeals-on-Wheels has been taking emergency measures to ensure New York’s homebound elderly have access to food. Given the impact on transportation and power, many of the senior centers they work with are understaffed. If you are able to volunteer for meal deliveries, they will need extra help throughout the week.Please see more information here. In addition to volunteers, they need to raise funds to replenish the depleted supplies in their warehouse. Please make a gift today to help them respond to this crisis and prepare for the coming winter months.
Now serving New York City for more than 30 years, City Harvest is the world’s first and the city’s only food rescue organization. Whether you’re part of a group or just one person, there are plenty of ways for you to help in our fight against hunger. If interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities please firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, donate to help feed children, the elderly, and all hungry New Yorkers.
Since before day one of Sandy’s assault on our city, Food Bank For New York City has continued to serve their network of charities and needy families. Sandy’s impact is so much more than damage to buildings and trees. As new supplies of water and other supplies requiring no electricity roll into their warehouse, they know that they will be able to continue to meet the needs of hunger and poverty for those who have experienced it in the past and those meeting it for the first time as a result of this disaster. To join them in the fight, please: Donate Now, Volunteer, and Donate Food.
Occupy Sandy is a coordinated relief effort to help distribute resources & volunteers to help neighborhoods and people affected by Hurricane Sandy. They are a coalition of people & organizations who are dedicated to implementing aid and establishing hubs for neighborhood resource distribution. Members of this coalition are from Occupy Wall Street,350.org, recovers.org and interoccupy.net. The task of rebuilding communities is a marathon and not a sprint. To view a list of hubs they have set up, visit http://interoccupy.net/occupysandy/ or follow them on Facebook.
Green Drinks NYC
Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012 6-9pm
Green Drinks NYC is pulling together support for fellow NY-ers during this tragic and chaotic time. Mix and mingle, raise funds and spirits post-Sandy. They are asking for a $10 suggested donation on Tuesday, and proceeds will go to the Food Bank of NYC.
On your way there, grab a warm blanket or cleaning product to donate to the Occupy Sandy Relief Effort.
Taina Cafe, 134 East 48th Street, Manhattan. $10 in advance or $20 at the door. Register Here.
Green Spaces is a hub for sustainable professionals to mingle and exchange ideas. If you want to get to know likeminded, green people like yourself, bring donations for World Cares (monetary donations and products welcome) to Green Spaces this Wednesday, and sip on some Brooklyn Brewery beer.
While new clothes (primarily socks, gloves, hats, scarves) are appreciated, the real needs are blankets, batteries, canned foods (tuna fish, etc), peanut butter, personal hygiene (feminine products, diapers, toothbrushes/paste, etc), cleaning products (towels, paper goods, tarps, etc).
RSVP to email@example.com
Lavera Non-Toxic Beauty
If you were thinking how you needed some non-toxic face lotion, this would be a great time to buy it. Lavera is giving $1 for every order placed in the month of November to Hurricane relief. By purchasing from any of their sites (loveTrueNatural.com, Lavera.com, Benecos-USA.com and TrueNatural.com) you will be helping a family in need get back on their feet.
“I Still Love NY” Tee
Chilean-born artist Sebastian Errazuriz’s wearable works were inspired by the rising storm waters that eventually overtook the Chelsea art district. All proceeds from the unisex tees benefit NYC Sandy relief efforts. Available at shopgreyarea.com, $40.
NY State of Mind Necklaces
Jewelry designing duo Dana Walden and Radika Chin’s recycled brass and sterling silver creation is a well-timed love letter to their ravaged home city. One hundred percent of proceeds goes to the American Red Cross. Available at danawaldenjewelry.com, $60.
Download the new song, “Hard Times,” by Buke and Gase, from the DIY New York band’s upcoming album (plus a satisfying B-side New Order cover) to benefit the pair’s old hood. All proceeds go to the Red Hook Initiative. Available at bukeandgase.bandcamp.com, $5
Choose Your Own Adventure!
None of this sound good? (Perhaps a bit too flip? Maybe.) Find out where you’re most needed at volunteermatch.org and http://www.nycservice.org/#s, and pick something that suits your abilities and tastes, like donating blood, going door to door to make sure all the elderly have been safely rescued from their homes, or working at a food bank to distribute fresh, hot food.
You might have heard a hullabaloo around a study that just forced media outlets to screech, “Organic isn’t worth it! It’s a giant pile of wasted money!” Oh, nuance. Actually, organic is very much worth it. In this post for LearnVest, I explain why:
Have you read the big news?
“Researchers Find That Organic Food Offers Few Extra Health Benefits Other Than Moral Superiority,” reads the blaring headline from Jezebel.
“Organic Food Hardly Healthier, Study Suggests,” was CBS’s take.
More pointedly, according to The Washington Post, “Organic Food Adds No Vitamins for Extra Cost, Research Finds.”
The reason for all the noise? A new study from Stanford, which seems to point out that organic foods aren’t more nutritious and don’t confer more health benefits than non-organic foods.
“When we began this project, we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food,” Dena Bravata, MD, MS, senior author of the paper at Stanford’s Center for Health Policy,told The New York Times. “I think we were definitely surprised.”
This is no small issue to modern gals who not only want to keep their kids healthy, but who also want the best value for their grocery dollars. Organic fruits and vegetables can cost anywhere from $.13 to $.36 more per pound than conventional produce, while organic milk retails for about $6 per gallon, compared to ordinary milk at around $3.50.
So what does this all mean? Can it really be true that buying organic food does nothing more than give us a green-colored platform from which to look down on other, non-organic ladies? We decided to dig a bit deeper.
Why Organic Costs More
For starters, “organic” food is not just fancy branding. Food is certified organic by the USDA only if it meets a long list of requirements, like being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or–in the case of meat–without routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food–from broccoli to beef–costs more because it requires more work and isn’t industrialized (read: turned into something more akin to a factory than a farm) as intensively as conventional food. For example, beef cows that aren’t raised using growth hormones take longer to mature into an edible size. You need much more organic fertilizer for an acre of plants than you would synthetic fertilizer. All these differences add up to higher prices.
Despite the premium on pesticide-free produce, the organic market has continued to grow during the recession, up 12% in the last year to $12.4 billion compared to 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association. And 78% of families report buying organic foods.
Are there millions of people (including maybe you) being duped into higher prices?
Should We Be Buying Organic?
There have been plenty of studies attempting to determine whether organic food is actually worth it–Dr. Bravata’s is just the latest one spawning all these depressing (if you’ve been toting home bags of organic food from Whole Foods) or vindicating (if you decided long ago that it was all hype) headlines.
The study essentially examined four decades of research on the topic, comprising 237 studies on fruits, vegetables and meats. As with any study, the reality is more nuanced than a pithy headline can capture. The argument boils down to why you buy organic in the first place. Is the answer better nutrition, fewer pesticides, less hormones, it’s safer for the environment, it tastes better? It could be for any or all these reasons, which Dr. Bravata acknowledged to The New York Times.
So, should you stop buying it? The answer: It depends. We took each of the main reasons you might buy organic and figured out, based on the study’s findings, whether or not it’s worth the added cost:
1. If You Buy Organic for Better Nutrition
If you were hoping that organic produce would help you run faster, jump higher and just look overall more glow-y, this study will disappoint. Researchers found that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were not more nutritious, on average, than conventional produce, and didn’t have higher levels of vitamins. There were also no health benefits to organic meats.
We say: Go conventional. Organic junk food is still junk food. And conventional fresh, healthy food is still healthy food. But wait, there’s more …
2. If You Buy Organic to Avoid Pesticides
The Stanford researchers did find that 38% of conventional produce tested in the studies contained detectible pesticide residue, compared with just 7% of organic produce. (Organic produce can still be contaminated by nearby conventional fields.) A couple of studies the researchers analyzed showed that children who ate organic produce had fewer pesticide traces in their urine.
Having said that, all the produce tested–organic or not–was under the allowed safety limits for pesticide residue. This is great news if you put your faith in the USDA, who sets those limits. However, if you believe that no pesticides is better than “safe” levels of pesticides, you might not be assuaged. Finally, this study did not include any long-term studies of the effect of pesticides on humans.
Why should you care about pesticides? A 2010 study found a close correlationbetween the amount of a certain pesticide present in children’s urine and the severity of their ADHD. The effect was seen at low levels of exposure as well; kids with any detectable level of pesticides in their urine were twice as likely as kids with undetectable levels to have symptoms of a learning disorder, and prenatal exposure to pesticides can harm children’s brain formation and lead to lower I.Q.s. However, at least one study has suggested that insecticide use in children’s homes may be more to blame than their food.
We say: Pick and choose your produce carefully. Some produce contains higher levels of pesticide than others, making it more worthwhile to pay for organic. We have a list right here of the fruits and vegetables worth your money. Also, look at where your produce is from. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and advocate for safer food, says that produce grown in the U.S. and Canada has lower level of pesticides than that from countries like Chile. Finally, make sure to wash your produce thoroughly before eating it.
3. If You Buy Organic Meat to Avoid Food-Borne Illness, Antibiotics and Hormones
The study found that organic meats weren’t any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. Coli. But when it was contaminated, organic meat was less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That means that if you pick up a food-borne illness from handling or ingesting undercooked organic meats and eggs, antibiotics will be more likely to take care of it. Public health advocates say overuse of antibiotics in farming has contributed to the spread of super-bugs in humans. There have been at least 24 outbreaks of multi-drug resistant germs in food between 2000 and 2010, though the government has just recently begun to curb the use of non-medical antibiotics on farms.
Eating meat and drinking milk raised without hormones might also be worth your while if you happen to have a daughter. A study released this August showed that girls as young as seven are hitting puberty at twice the rate of the late 1990s. The reason? It could be due to the obesity epidemic … or hormones in their environment and food.
We say: Look for both antibiotic- and hormone-free products. Many producers of conventional meat and milk offer antibiotic- and hormone-free options that cost somewhat less than full-on organic meat and milk. No matter what kind of meat you buy, always cook it thoroughly to kill bacteria and handle it carefully in the kitchen.
You might also consider buying less meat in general. Not only is it pricier than vegetarian options, Americans eat on average 1.5 times as much meat as the USDA recommends. Instead, you can get your protein needs from soy, cheese, grains, nuts, legumes and leafy greens.
4. If You Buy Organic Food to Protect The Environment
Environmental advocates for buying organic point to the millions of tons of chemical fertilizer dumped on fields during the production of conventional foods every year, or the staggering amounts of waste and toxic gases produced by industrial animal farms that threaten the health of nearby residents.
We say: Go local. While not all farms represented at your local farmers’ market will be officially certified as organic (going through certification is an onerous and expensive process), everything there is almost guaranteed to be more environmentally friendly than the same foods would be at a supermarket, and you can even ask the farmer directly about his methods. Most farmers’ markets have strict standards for what they allow to be sold, including pesticide use, humane treatment of animals and how far away the food was raised.
On the other hand, foods trucked into your local grocery store from Mexico or flown in from another continent (for an average of 1,500 miles travelled) have a huge carbon footprint.
5. If You Buy Organic for the Taste
You would have a hard time denying the difference between a juicy, freshly picked berry and a larger strawberry with a flavorless, white core shipped in from Mexico. But all other things being equal, any strawberry is probably better than no strawberry at all in your diet.
We say: This is up to you. You might be more tempted to eat a fresh-picked, organic heirloom tomato over another option, but, then again, you might not notice at all.
More Green Goodies From LearnVest
Image credit: La Citta Vita/Flickr
You have to admit relaxing in one of NYC’s many beer gardens on a warm summer’s day is one of the best pleasures of living in New York. And often, when you’re doing that, you’re sipping on one of Brooklyn Brewery’s many varieties (the summer ale is a personal favorite).
But now one of your favorite local beers is under threat. Actually, all of your favorite local beers–including Sixpoint and Greenpoint–could be ruined along with your drinking water if plans to pursue fracking in upstate New York go through.
Fracking has a tendency to dump nasty, toxic chemicals in the water. And since NYC gets its water from upstate, that means what I and many others consider some of the sweetest-tasting water in the world could soon become anything but. And your beer will taste nasty too.
“You can’t brew out benzene. You can’t brew out ethylene glycol, otherwise known as antifreeze,” says Mackenzie Schoonmaker, a staff attorney at Riverkeepers, in the video.
Watch the video to learn more:
You know how hard it is to get eco-friendly fashion that doesn’t make you look like a preschool teacher who quit her job to run yoga workshops in New Hampshire. That’s why I obsessively track green fashion for you on my Pinterest page, even when that sh** gets super expensive.
Luckily for you, this Sunday the amazing LivLuna (remember LivLuna? Place of all things empowering and awesome?) will be having an Eco Fashion Sample Sale. Go, munch on organic snacks, mingle with like-minded women (like the fabulous Maria Olson Goins, pictured below), and score some fabulous fashion that will leave you with exactly zero guilt–it’s eco-friendly and cheap!
Sunday, June 10th, 11am-3pm
Virayoga, 580 Broadway, 2nd floor (between Prince and Houston), Soho
It’s time to emerge from hibernation and party like the hippie you are. If you’re in Astoria this weekend, I think this block party might be worth checking out on Saturday. The deets:
May 19, 2012! 12:00-3:00pm (rain or shine!)
In front of Build It Green!NYC’s Astoria Reuse Center (26th Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets, Astoria)
Here’s some dreamy summer music to get you in the mood:
GrowNYC’s Stop ‘N’ Swap - Clear out clutter and help reduce NYC’s waste by bringing clean, portable, reusable items to donate to a new home, or simply take home items that are useful to you. It’s all free! No furniture/large items, please.
Electronic-waste recycling with WeRecycle! – Responsibly recycle computers, monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, peripherals, (keyboards, mice, cables, etc.) televisions, VCRs, DVD players, cell phones, pagers, PDAs, phones, answering machines, game consoles, portable music players, & other personal e-devices.
Plant Sale to Benefit Western Queens Compost Initiative
Compost Tumbler Assembly Demo & Worm Bin Demo by WQCI
Chhaya CDC - Homeowners can bring their utility account numbers to sign up for a free/reduced cost energy assessment
Occupy Wall Street Screenprint Co-op – bring a t-shirt or bag to print on!
Appearances by Solar One, Green Shores, GreenHomeNYC, Two Coves Community Garden
PLUS: Both Build It Green!NYC Reuse Centers will be open for shopping and donating during the Block Party & Stop ‘N’ Swap (10am-5pm in both Astoria and Gowanus).
Be sure to stick around for the BIG!NYC & We Heart Astoria After-Party (3:00-5:00pm)!
More info at: http://www.bignyc.org/block-
It’s not quite warm enough for bikini season. But that doesn’t mean you can’t psych yourself up for beach weather with a good ol’ beach cleanup, complete with a free lunch and prizes. Hot damn!
Join Sperry Top-Sider and sustainable brand United By Blue in cleaning up Canarsie Pier Beach in Gateway National Recreation Area, Brooklyn. A mix of hard work and play, the cleanup ends in one-of-a-kind giveaways and prizes. Sperry Top-Sider and United By Blue will provide free breakfast and lunch, water, bug spray, sunscreen, bags, and gloves for volunteers. You just provide the hands.
So, let me get this straight: Exercise in spring weather, with an altruistic component, plus free breakfast and lunch, and prizes from two brands I love. Sounds like a plan.
Saturday, April 14th, 10 AM to 1 PM
Canarsie Pier, Gateway National Recreation Area, Intersection of Rockaway Pkwy and Shore Pkwy, Brooklyn
Volunteers should meet and park at the end of Canarsie Pier.
In a perfect world, we would all buy organic clothing made in Brooklyn by reformed former bankers, dyed with rainbows and blessed by a Buddhist monk.
We do not live in a perfect world.
I obsessively look for sustainable clothing that looks passable in the office or out at night. And even with my best efforts, I would say about 20% of my closet came from a “sustainable” designer or brand–40% if you include thrifted, vintage and used items. Yes, stuff is out there, but you have to work within some strict parameters and you really have to search. (You can keep track of my current favorite picks on Pinterest.)
I just love trendy, fun items. I want red jeans! I went a shirt with a peter pan collar! I really want a neon cross body purse. The typical New York girl who isn’t making $200,000 a year would head to one of many “fast fashion” stores to pick out some trendy things. But you’re reading this, so I’m assuming you don’t want to knowingly saddle yourself with bad karma, and bad debt.
Good news, readers. It’s not all bad in the world of cheap, trendy clothing.
Behold, your guide to each and every one of the cheap stores you frequent the most, as sourced from my research for a story on LearnVest:
The Good: AA has plenty of organic clothing, and has some sustainable initiatives beyond the norm, like recycling and donating extra materials, installing solar panels on its factory in L.A., subsidizing public transportation for employees and providing a bike share. All its clothing is manufactured exclusively in the U.S., and it provides health insurance, English classes and meals for its workers.
The Bad: The CEO had been accused in several lawsuits of harassing female employees. Plus, I have heard rumors (unconfirmed) that female employees are impolitely nudged into doing those lewd advertisements you see around town.
My Conclusion: Very eco-friendly as far as fast fashion goes. I personally will continue shop there for basics, but you need to make the decision for yourself.
The Meh: No eco-friendly items (no surprise there). It has energy-efficiency initiatives in stores and offices, and has reduced the packaging and shipping energy it uses. It claims that it’s working on more initiatives. AT has principles and guidelines for suppliers, conducts third party unannounced audits and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates the relationship.
My Conclusion: Not impressed. It isn’t terrible, but as I’m not super pumped about Ann Taylor in the first place, why not just head somewhere else? The only reason why I would go there is that they have petite sizes, which is key for my 5’2″ frame.
The Good: The Green Room section of the website features eco-friendly and fair trade clothing and accessories. The company is carbon neutral, and reduced its carbon footprint by cutting air freight from 75% to 10% of goods.
It is also part of the Ethical Trade Initiative association of companies (a European group of trade unions and organizations that work to improve global working conditions). ASOS has code of conduct, has independent audits of suppliers and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates relationship.
My Conclusion: Yes, yes, yes! While sometimes I have trouble figuring out exactly what makes everything in their Green Room green, and some of the things are terrifyingly expensive, I feel confident that this company is going in the right direction, and have no qualms giving them my money. Plus their stuff is some of the cutest out there, hands down.
The Bad: CR, besides having trash-tastic clothing, has no eco-friendly items and doesn’t even pretend to have sustainable practices. While it has guidelines for suppliers, it hasn’t exactly started any independent audits yet.
My Conclusion: Stay far, far away.
The Bad: No eco-friendly items or sustainable practices.
The Meh: Has standards for suppliers; conducts independent audits.
My Conclusion: I wasn’t that pumped about Express anymore anyway. So this is just another reason to forget about them.
Gap Inc. Including Banana Republic and Old Nayv
The Good: Gap is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and is working on more initiatives. It has a code of vendor conduct, makes unannounced visits to suppliers and works with noncompliant suppliers to improve or terminates the relationship.
The Meh: No eco-friendly items.
My Conclusion: Gap hasn’t done anything egregious, and there is really no eco-friendly equivalent to the staples at both Gap and Banana Republic for work-worthy wear. So I would say shop and hope that Gap follows through on its promises.
The Bad: No eco-friendly items or sustainable practices. A 2002 lawsuit alleged sweatshop conditions, and it’s currently being sued again for labor practices. F21 was also accused of using child labor in Uzbekistan along with Urban Outfitters and Aeropostale by the International Labor Rights Forum. Finally, Forever 21 has a long history of copying small-time designers’ work and passing it off as their own, having been sued several times.
My Conclusion: Sad to say, since F21 has been coming out with some lovely, trendy and affordable pieces lately, but I would go elsewhere. Sorry! (Meanwhile, I will guiltily wear the neon pink lace bra I bought in January until it wears out. And then never go back. I promise!)
The Good: This British expat pioneered affordable sustainability with the Conscious Collection (which I LOVE), is the #1 user of organic cotton worldwide (organic cotton is blended in with the conventional cotton in many items); and is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
If you’re a fan of companies that actively try to bring women into the decision-making process, you could do worse than H&M, which has women in 71% of management positions, and goes 50-50 on the board of directors.
The Bad: Was found out for destroying wearable clothing in 2009, but has since stopped that practice.
The Meh: Has a code of conduct with independent audits, works with noncompliant suppliers but has no stated policy on termination for non-compliant suppliers.
My Conclusion: Go for it! You want something trendy and cheap that you can feel good about? March your butt into H&M and snap it up. Love, love love.
The Good: Just a few eco-friendly items. Reduced energy use at stores and offices, reduced gas use in shipping, increased recycling and is working on more initiatives.
The Mixed: Accused in 2007 of using slave labor by newspaper investigation; published Code of Conduct in 2009; conducts independent evaluations.
My Conclusion: I love Top Shop’s stuff, I really do. But I just can’t quite get behind them yet. They say they have eco-friendly items, but as of right now, it’s just one brand of jeans. Show me a little more, Top Shop, and I’m allll yours.
Urban Outfitters, Including Free People and Anthropologie
The Bad: Oh boy, this one is a doozy. UO has no eco-friendly items or sustainable practices. It has no labor guidelines, and was accused of using child labor in Uzbekistan along with Forever 21 and Aeropostale by International Labor Rights Forum. Urban Outfitters has zero female board members out of six. Shall I keep going? Okay, Urban Outfitters has even stolen the design and ad copy off an Etsy jewelry designer. Ouch.
What makes it worse, is that Free People and Anthropologie have such a global, peace-loving vibe. Yup, it’s all a sham.
My Conclusion: You know what? Anthropologie’s stuff doesn’t look good on real people anyway. And Urban Outfitters is overpriced. So I’m just going to wave goodbye to this whole company, and good riddance.
The Bad: It has no eco-friendly items, and has paid only lip service to sustainability by reducing paper and energy use and increasing recycling. I don’t think that makes up for the number of catalogues it sends out.
It does have sourcing standards with independent audits, but those audits must not be working well, because it is currently being inspected by U.S. investigators for using child labor.
Oh, and Victoria’s Secret’s heavy-handed photoshopping is just out of control. Give me a break, please.
My Conclusion: Do I need to say it? I’m just so over this brand. Its stuff is trashy, overpriced and conventional. And there are so many pretty little boutiques around the city that do it better.
The Good: A few eco-friendly items. Has improved energy efficiency and has a couple sustainably-built stores, including a LEED-certified one.
The Bad: Has a code of conduct with inspections, but was accused last fall of using slave labor by a Brazilian TV report. Zara responded saying it would “strengthen supervision.” I wonder how that is going?
My Conclusion: Whatever, Zara. You’ve lost me.
If you’re looking for an easy way to communicate to your honey (or your mom, or bestie, whoever wants to brighten your upcoming Tuesday) that you would prefer a Valentine’s Day gift with good energy, then I’ve got your solution: Just share with them this post!
And if you’re searching for a good way to show the conscious consumer in your life how much you care, just think about how, “I got you these Fair Trade roses from Ecuador” sounds so much better than, “I ordered these roses from FTP.”
Fair Trade USA has put together a very helpful post on traditional Valentine’s Day gifts … with a loving twist. Read on for their guidelines, and for how to enter to win a yummy, dark chocolate, Fair Trade bar!
Americans will buy more than 189 million stems of roses this Valentine’s Day, the majority of which will travel all the way from Ecuador and Colombia before they’re sold to doting beaus. You can make sure that your long-stemmed symbols of love positively impact the lives of farm workers (many of whom are women) by looking for bouquets bearing the Fair Trade Certified logo.
Fair Trade Certified roses can be found in-store at Whole Foods Market. Just look for the big, beautiful blossoms and vivid colors with the green Whole Trade Guarantee sticker in the floral department. Before you hand over these special roses, make sure to read up on the farm they came from to add a sweet story to the gift.
If you are sending flowers to loved ones, you can order online from One World Flowers and schedule the delivery of beautiful Ecuadorian roses. In addition to traditional red and pink roses, you can select themed bouquets like “Helping Haiti” and “Honoring Japan” that support much-needed relief efforts in those countries. Remember to order early: Fair Trade Certified roses tend to sell out during this season. Use the coupon code FairTrade5 to get $5 off your order.
Share the Love: Show your love for Fair Trade Certified roses by asking your local florist to carry them. You can also use this photo as your Facebook timeline cover picture (Ladies: this works well as a subtle hint to your Valentine who might otherwise make the mistake of getting you non-certified roses).
Read more about Fair Trade Certified roses.
Even though Americans spend $16 billion a year on decadent cocoa products, cocoa farmers face tremendous instability. Fair Trade certification ensures that cocoa farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers, and provides access to affordable credit. Fair Trade also strictly prohibits slave and child labor. This Valentine’s Day, support a better life for cocoa farmers by sharing your favorite Fair Trade Certified confection with your friends and family. There are plenty of delicious options to help you achieve this goal, including Sweet Earth Chocolates Classic Red Velvet Box, Sjaak’s dark chocolate with raspberry bar, ChocoDream Spreads, Kopali Chocolate Covered Cacao Nibs, TCHO “My Heart’s Desire” Adigard 12-Bar Sampler, Alter Eco Dark Velvet Chocolate and sweetriot riotous riotBar gift set.
If an Alter Eco dark chocolate quinoa bar sounds like something you would like (um, obviously), you can enter to win one of five bars! Just tweet at me (CleanHippieNY) and tell me you prefer Fair Trade Valentine’s Day gifts. The first five readers to tweet will get a sweet gift in the mail.
Read more about Fair Trade Certified cocoa.
Share the Love: Help change the cocoa industry for the better by asking large chocolate manufacturers to go Fair Trade. Many companies have comment submission forms on their websites, making this an easy action to take. It is also important to thank companies for their delicious Fair Trade Certified offerings–do this with a handwritten card, e-mail or post on Facebook!
Coffee & Tea
Start the day off right by brewing a hot pot of Fair Trade Certified coffee or tea for your special someone. When it comes to coffee, look for a special blend with a good story, like Weaver’s Astral Blend (supports Breast Cancer Research – use code 1201FT for free shipping in February on orders over $45), Grounds for Change Cafe Famenino Peru (promotes women’s empowerment) or Green Mountain Coffee Golden French Toast (it’s just fun!). If you prefer tea, there are plenty of Valentine-approved blends available like the Rishi Tea Pu-erh Gift Set, Choice Organic Tea Rooibos Chai, Art of Tea Vanilla Berry Truffle or Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Pomegranate Rose.
Share the Love: Did your loved one enjoy your Fair Trade Certified Valentine’s Day brew? Take the time to thank the company that made it with a shout out on Facebook or Twitter.
Nothing completes a Valentine’s Day dinner like a freshly-prepared dessert. With so many high-quality Fair Trade Certified ingredients available (chocolate, sugar, honey, coffee, etc.), it’s easy to create your own Fair Trade Certified delicacy. Take a lesson from Top Chef Just Desserts contestant Malika Ameen and try her Chocolate Mousse Cake with Vanilla Cardamom Swirl, or browse through Wholesome Sweeteners’ tantalizing Valentine’s Day recipes. Chocolate Hazelnut Waffles with Frangelico Brown Butter Syrup, anyone?
Not much of a baker? Don’t worry; there are options for you, too! The bakery at Sam’s Club now carries a variety of freshly-prepared treats made with Fair Trade Certified sugar, including banana nut bread and pound cake.
And thanks to Just Sweets Desserts, you can order online and send elegant Fair Trade Certified treats to loved ones. Nothing says “I love you” like the delivery of a box of Fairest Chocolate Chip Cookies on your doorstep.
Share the Love: Host a Fair Trade dessert party. Ask friends to bring their favorite dessert, made with as many Fair Trade Certified ingredients as possible. Judge the desserts based on taste and number of Fair Trade ingredients used.
Wine & Spirits
Add a little color to your Valentine’s Day table with red and pink drinks. You can order Heritage Link One World Shiraz online or pick up a bottle of Cantora at Whole Foods Market (it’s a Top 10 wine!). In addition to wine, Valentine’s Day is a great time to try one of the FAIR. Spirits. You can blend FAIR. Quinoa with FAIR. Goji to make a beautiful, pink Gogipolitan. If you can’t find these spirits locally, you can order them online from JugShop.com, 67Wine, Marketview Liqueur or Cask.
Share the Love: Make sure to ask for Fair Trade Certified beverages at your favorite restaurants and bars. Suggest that they contact Fair Trade USA for more information and product recommendations.
Unmentionables (and other items of Fair Trade Certified clothing)
While the month of February brings with it an abundance of gifts geared toward the special women in our lives, it can also bring a sense of panic to those seeking the perfect gift for the perfect man. Well fear no more, this Valentine’s Day show him you care with something a little more…well, outside the box. Good & Fair’s Fair Trade Certified boxers, made with 100% Organic Poplin cotton, last infinitely longer than a box of chocolates, and they are lightweight and comfortable to boot! Aside from the boxers, consider a scarf from Maggie’s Organics, the prAna Soul Tee, or a Classic Polo from by Tompkins Point Apparel. Fair Trade Certified apparel and linens support the livelihoods of cotton farmers with better prices and also benefits factory workers with a community development premium for schools, medical clinics, scholarships and more.
Share the Love: Spread the word about Fair Trade Certified apparel and linens by sharing this link: http://www.ecouterre.com/first-fair-trade-certified-clothing-arrives-in-the-us. You can also make a donation to Fair Trade USA to support the expansion of our apparel and linens program. Our expansion initiatives are 100% funded by philanthropic contributions like yours.
Read more about Fair Trade Certified apparel and linens.
Gifts of Fairness
Does your sweetheart have everything or want nothing? You can give a unique paperless, package-less gift that changes the world – a Gift of Fairness. This Valentine’s Day, your donation to Fair Trade USA can come the form of a symbolic gift such as a Fair Wage for a Woman or a Micro Loan for a Grandmother. Fair Trade provides women with decent income and economic opportunities in 70 countries worldwide. Designate someone special to receive your new Gift of Fairness and personalize an e-card for them. Hint: this is a wonderful last-minute gift!
Share the Love: Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that depends on donations to expand the benefits of Fair Trade to farmers and workers in new geographic locations and product categories every year. Encourage your friends and family to consider making a donation in support of Fair Trade this Valentine’s Day by sharing this link: http://www.fairtradeusa.org/donate.
If an Alter Eco dark chocolate quinoa bar sounds like something you would like (um, obviously), you can enter to win one of five bars! Just follow me at CleanHippieNY and tweet @ me telling me you prefer Fair Trade Valentine’s Day gifts. The first five readers to tweet will get a sweet gift in the mail.
This post originally appeared on LearnVest.com.
I ate food out of a dumpster.
And so are increasing numbers of educated, employed and perfectly sane people.
The movement is called freeganism, and its adherents use unconventional methods to get things for free. Although some are frowned upon, like digging through the trash, freegans also grow their own food and forage in the park for edible greens and berries.
Those who’ve joined the movement live off of free things for a variety of reasons: preserving the environment, protesting capitalism or just filling their pantries when times are tight. And they share the desire to protest the wastefulness of our food system.
Food, Food Everywhere …
Americans throw out an astounding 27% of available food, about a pound of food per day for each American.
This is because 1) stores feel pressured to keep shelves perfectly stocked at all times; 2) they throw out food with merely cosmetic blemishes; and 3) expiration dates demand that food gets chucked regardless of whether it has actually gone bad. For example, American bakeries keep shelves full all day long for purely aesthetic reasons; at closing time, whole shelves of bagels go directly in the trash.
What Being a Freegan Means
Freeganism started in the mid 1990s and has since spread across the U.S. … and the world. Because freegans tend to be anti-establishment, there are no official numbers on how many exist, but groups meet up periodically for discussion and dumpster diving.
For the most part, stores and restaurant managers ignore freegans, who strive not to bother anyone or make a mess. And there’s no legal gray area: Once trash gets put out on the sidewalk, it’s no longer the property of a store and is available for anyone bold enough to walk away with it—or cook it up for their own ends.
Of course, one of my first questions to a freegan was about food safety. One woman, a freegan since 2003, told me she’s never gotten food poisoning. It’s very uncommon, she said, because freegans take extra precautions in washing and cooking food. Plus, many are also vegans (hence the wordplay), so they don’t eat much meat …
To find out whether a person could actually get a balanced diet from dumpsters—or if the whole thing is just insane—I attended a freegan trash tour, run on a biweekly basis by freegans in Manhattan who want to highlight how much waste consumers and businesses really produce, and, in the process, bring more people over to their side.
And then, the next night, they kindly invited me over for a freegan feast—to taste the results of our foraging.
Here’s how the events unfolded.
Foraging for My Food
Monday, 9:30 p.m.: I meet up with the group outside a large grocery store. Since, by now, most food establishments have put out their garbage for collection the next day, the freegan pickings are plentiful at night. Some attendees are hardcore freegans, and some are curious tourists. They range from college students to one man who looks like he’s in his seventies. Nobody (besides a fellow reporter) is dressed really nicely, but nobody looks homeless either. Overall, the crowd looks smart, sane, open-minded … a lot like people you might pass on a hiking trip.
Before we take off, our leader explains freegan etiquette: always retie all the bags and leave the trash pile cleaner than you found it (to prevent being banned from a store in the future). Also, share what you find with the group. Certain foods come in quantities that are more than you can handle, and while you might not want a bruised apple, someone else in the group might …