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Category Archives: Sustainability
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
I can be very specific about what I’m looking for, which doesn’t let itself well to green fashion, especially when it comes to bags.
I have canvas bags, I have not-green-at-all leather purses, an upcycled shoulder purse from The Sway that I adore, and I have a vegan, faux leather Cornelia Guest bag that is already losing rivets despite its $150 price tag.
But what I really want is a big, work-appropriate bag that can store my laptop and hits the sweet spot between super-green, well-made and “hot damn!” You know, the kind of bag you imagine your 35-year-old-editor self carrying on her way to meet a celebrity for an interview.
Actually, I found a few. roztayger.com has a carefully “curated collection” of beautiful and functional bags that murmur, “I’m holding a few contracts that will be revealed in the Wall Street Journal tomorrow. Just wait … ”
Not all are eco-friendly. But there are some that are hand-made, vegetable dyed and lined with organic cotton. Sounds good to me. My faves follow (in New Yorker black, bien sur):
Midnight Flea Bag
Fleabags strives to create products that are as green as possible while maintaining high quality and covetable design. They are made with organic and vintage materials, vegetable-tanned and re-purposed leathers, and USA-made parts. All silkscreens use water-based ink. They are fabricated in they NYC area, in Limited Edition, by hand, in small production runs.
Tote Bag by Bonastre
Handcrafted in Spain and designed by Parisian based designer Fernando Bonastre, this environmentally friendly bag is handcrafted using natural, non-treated cattle hides in accordance with ancient vegetable processes (based on oak bark and olive oil finishing, versus the commonly used but highly contaminating chromium tanning).
Large Vene Purse by Samuji
This oversized clutch is made of Italian leather and lined in organic cotton. Samuji is a women’s clothing and accessories line designed by the namesake creative studio based in Helsinki, Finland. It was founded in 2009 by Samu-Jussi Koski, the former creative director of Marimekko textile house. The Samuji accessories collection featured at roztayger is permanent and timeless and not based on seasonal fluctuations. Samuji’s ambition is to produce timeless and sustainable design that serves a purpose yet tells a story. All items are crafted from premium quality materials from European and Japanese suppliers and produced in Europe by carefully selected manufacturers who insist on the highest quality and ethicality.
I’ve been listening to this (admittedly a couple years old) mix on repeat. So good. Listen:
Rivet Book Bag by Frrry
The Rivet Book bag in the “rivet” series by Frrry is made of Italian veggie dyed leather and is designed and assembled in the Netherlands.
Last week, if you had looked closely, you would have thought I was being a huge hypocrite.
I was at my desk, eating lunch. Slung over my chair was a new, black, ladylike, vegan coat by Vaute Couture. On my feet were black, microsuede, platform booties by Crie de Coeur. And I was eating a chicken salad.
What could account for this odd sartorial/culinary dissonance? Am I a poser, buying vegan just to say I buy vegan while I contribute to the murder of poor little caged chickens with my choice of lunch?
Actually, there is a method to this madness. The chicken salad in question was from the Whole Foods prepared food bar–organic, hormone-free and humanely raised. And the outerwear and shoes in question are more than just vegan.
You see, I have no problem with eating meat as long as I know where it comes from. This is for the usual liberal guilt reasons (I happen to like my Chesapeake bay free of mounds of nitrate-rich chicken poop, thanks) but also out of concern for my own health. More than 3,000 people die each year from food poisoning, and I myself came down with a mild bout after succumbing to the siren call of Perdue chicken fingers at a Yankees game last year. Still, as long as I get my meat–pork, chicken, duck and the occasional hamburger–from a local farm, I feel OK about it. And I’m especially OK with eggs and yogurt from the Greenmarket.
So why go to the trouble and expense of buying vegan products? They’re not even going in my mouth!
Well, when it comes to beauty products, many are vegan as a sort of checkmark in a long line of conscious requirements of the modern consumer: No testing on animals–check. Organic–check. Paraben-free–check. Container made from post-consumer recycled content–check. Vegan/free of animal products–check. So I really just end up with vegan face lotion and deodorant.
But when it comes to clothing, something I’ve found to be almost universally true is that if someone takes the time to ensure their clothing and/or accessories are vegan, they’ve also taken the time to ensure their products are also sustainably and ethically made. Take, for example, these brands:
- EcoCloset shoes are vegan, plus eco-friendly, non-toxic and made in an ethical, sweatshop-free factory in China.
- Beyond Skin shoes are vegan, plus handmade in Spain.
- Olsen Haus shoes are vegan, plus fair trade and sustainably made.
- Elizabeth Detroit shoes are vegan, plus made from recycled plastic in the United States.
- Neuaura shoes are vegan, plus are made in a sustainable factory in Brazil.
- Pansy Maiden bags and accessories are vegan, plus made the U.S. of sustainable materials.
- Matt and Nat bags and accessories are vegan, plus use sustainable and upcycled materials.
- Reveal bags and accessories are vegan, plus made with sustainable materials.
- Vaute Couture outerwear is vegan, plus made in New York.
- Crie de Coeur shoes and accessories are vegan, plus made with sustainable materials.
See what I mean? Yes, I still have plenty of leather in my closet, especially the vegetable-tanned kind. But no, I don’t think it’s weird to pull money out of a vegan wallet to pay for Long Island duck breast. Do you?
Summer is definitely over. The dreary gray skies, ho-hum rain and chilly air leave no doubt.
But Friday and Saturday we were granted one last golden-hued reprieve from the inevitable, as all over the city New Yorkers snuck out of their offices to dubiously sniff the fresh air, crowded onto rooftops to dance and drink, and wandered through food festivals.
Well, at least, that was my weekend. As I took in the New York skyline from a Williamsburg rooftop, tasted Brooklyn-made food and bounced to a DJ while chatting with an architect/designer/art therapist from Porto Rico/Russia/France that I thought, “If I ever leave New York, I will be truly depressed.” The confluence of cultures, ideas and truly unique (I mean that in the literal sense–like there is nothing else to rival it) ways to have fun makes for glittering nights and sensory-rich days, where there’s always something new and fresh right around the corner, if only you have the energy and curiosity to keep going.
A big component of the weekend was the Smorgasburg food festival. It’s been around for since last summer, but I had never made it out there before. Odd, right? Fortunately for me and my roommate E, it’s not just a summer thing. It continues every Saturday, rain or shine, until November 18.
Friends of mine are obsessed with this song, combination of infectious beat and great lyrics that everyone can sing along to. It’s all cocktail party chatter until this hits, and everyone sprints to the dance floor. Give it a minute to drop into the good part.
Smorgasburg is quintessential New York: a smash of cultures, crawling with people from all over the world in every type of dress, good music laid over top, with interpretations and reinventions of classic food, the Williamsburg bridge and Empire State building within eyeshot.
Try arepas that look nothing like an arepas you would find in South America: quinoa flour flat bread piled with organic italian chorizo. Or chili lime mini cupcakes. Vegan salted corn ice cream. (That was a bust. But I tried it.) Jasmine green kombucha tea. Gourmet grilled cheese. Seriously, whatever you want, jazzed up and remixed into something interesting and–most of the time–better than you’ve ever had.
I suggest making room for it in your busy weekend schedule at least twice. Because, with more than 75 vendors, there are way too many good food options and not enough space in your stomach, even if you fasted all morning in preparation like I did. It also makes for fabulous people watching.
You like food and cute animal photos? Good. Here’s some for you:
Smorgasbar is a special area set up just for drinking local beers, Brooklyn wine and cocktails from Brooklyn-distilled liquor.
Cute dogs were everywhere.
Don’t ask me why you would put a dog in a stroller …
Or why you would bring your cat. “Kitty just loves artisinal pickles!”
This salted corn vegan ice cream topped with spiced popcorn was as disgusting as it sounds. Good thing Smorgasburg has composting bins. I felt not quite as guilty when I tossed it. In retrospect, I should have gone with the dark chocolate chai flavor.
Good beats are a must for any Williamsburg event.
If you really want to try as many different things as possible, share everything amongst friends.
Oysters served with ish horseradish–the best horseradish I’ve EVER tasted.
I just loved this guy’s look. “Casual dapper” plus “Totally dateable.”
There’s plenty of organic, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options for the healthy/picky set Brooklyn is known for.
Chili lime cupcakes to the left, and caramel chai flavor in the center.
While some places–like Anarchy in a Jar–accept credit cards, you should definitely bring cash.
That may look like beer, but it’s actually mint kombucha tea.
Would you eat beef jerky if you knew it was made in Brooklyn? If so, there was (count ‘em) two jerkey purveyors there.
Columbian refreshments at the arepas shack.
You don’t normally see someone dressed so nicely in Brooklyn, but she’s rocking that red blazer.
Wooden utensils, paper plates and compostable cups made it even greener.
As vendors started to disassemble their tents and the temperature dropped, we wandered to east Williamsburg and stopped by a friend’s roof, where I took this sunset picture featuring the Freedom Tower.
Lately I’ve been speculatively wondering, as hopeful New Yorkers are wont to do: If I were to buy a place, where would I buy it?
West Village? Way too expensive, even for my fantasy life. Union Square? Too many crazy homeless people, though the Greenmarket is right there. Park Slope? Too many babies. Greenpoint? Ugh, the G train, save me.
But Bushwick? Don’t look horrified yet. The thing is, Bushwick is on its way. The artists are there, and if the history of SoHo is any indication, Burberry is only forty years behind. The parties are also there, and apparently, now, a sustainable fitness studio?
Green Fitness Studio, at 323 Varet Street, is the kind of gym where I would love to spend my time watching sustainable guys flex their muscles. It’s got bamboo floors; recycled rubber flooring in the workout area; remanufactured and self-powered gym equipment (a.k.a. no plugs/electricity required); CFL bulbs; heat-mirrored glass for better energy use; towels laundered with eco-friendly detergent; a local, organic, sustainable juice bar; and a living roof and infrared sauna in the works, according to its website. And it’s been there since at least 2010! How is that possible? I probably haven’t heard about it because it’s in Bushwick.
Loving this track right now. It evokes a sort of dancing-on-a-rooftop-club luxury. Don’t mind the big busty girl–I have no control over her.
So when I saw a mention in New York Mag’s Approval Matrix (oh, you wily, un-clickable, old-school matrix) saying a green fitness studio in Bushwick wants a liquor license, I was like, “Hey, these people sound cool.” So I did some Googling, and saw this:
… the venue has already begun renting it roof to promoters, such as Black Market NYC, that possess their own liquor permit.
I looked a little closer and realized, hey, I think I’ve been there! For a party anyway.
Somebody, please check this place out for the actual healthful living part, and tell me how it is. I might soon buy up one of those bombed-out townhomes in Bushwick and make it my own if this trend of Bushwick awesomeness continues.
Hahahahah. No seriously, maybe.
P.S. I brought my good friend C out to Bushwick for a party to celebrate her last Saturday night in NYC, and all she and her friend could talk about was the “Crackcident” episode of “Girls”, and even though one of them wanted to bum a smoke from a guy in front of us, she refused to out of fear that it was actually crack. “There is no crack here,” I told her. To which she replied. “That was based on a TRUE STORY!” This made me realize that my poor mother, who watches “Girls”, probably thinks I might accidentally smoke crack. I would like to point out that there is no crack at these Bushwick parties, OK? Very interesting characters who will back you into a corner talking about who-knows-what? Yes. Weed? Of course. Hipsters? Duh. But crack? No. At least, I really hope not …
I am obsessed with purging.
No, I don’t mean I’m bulimic, but thank you for your concern.
Actually, I love purging stuff. I have since I was a five years old, when my mom discovered if she casually said, “Wow, that cabinet is so disorganized!” within earshot, I would chirp, “I’ll clean it!” and immediately start emptying its contents so I could put it back together in neat little rows.
When I’m feeling unhappy or bored or out of control, a good clean-out always lifts my spirits. Doesn’t matter what: jewelry box, clothing closet, box of ribbons, seeing everything neatly folded and knowing that I’ve banished some meaningless clutter from my life makes me feel good. I don’t mind, this must be the most productive addiction ever, without tipping into full-blown OCD land.
I’ve even considered, out loud, signing up for Task Rabbit just for the pleasure of getting to clean out other people’s stuff. I don’t really need the money. OK, my addiction to designer green clothing can get expensive. But really, I just like purging!
So believe me when I say I’ve got getting rid of stuff down to an art. And when you combine fifteen practice rounds of purging in the last three years alone, with an obsession with all things sustainable, you know that nothing is going in the dumpster.
Oh, how I wish there was a fourth recycling bin called, “Shit other people could use.” But there is not. So behold: Where to take every single thing you could possible get rid of, and avoid the dumpster completely:
(Oh, and a note: I don’t sell on eBay. Yeah, I know, you can make so much money. But I find the whole process of communicating with buyers and taking stuff to the post office annoying. Therefore I’m not an expert and can’t speak to that, and will stick to NYC-centric solutions here.)
1. Preppy and Designer Clothing
I remember clearly the day I first went shopping in SoHo, and I chose to wear a lavender Milly sundress. It quickly became clear that I was I was wearing the wrong exact thing. I was so mortified that I marched into an edgy boutique and chose the nuclear option: “I’m completely lost. What should I wear?” I walked away with a lot of stuff, including my favorite leather jacket that I still wear. And I realized then that I needed to purge my closet of fifteen sundresses, three pastel polos, two khakis, one quilted jacket, three sunhats and one Ralph Lauren braid knit sweater. Bye bye Virginia, hello, Manhattan.
What to know: Call and make an appointment ahead of time. Bring as many items as possible at once. They don’t want hangers, so iron/steam everything and then carefully fold it into a bag right before you leave the apartment. Once you’re there, a haughty shop keeper will look through everything. She will give you the option of coming back later, but I’ve found it’s best to be there so you can call out helpful tidbits like, “That’s real rabbit fur!” and “I got that one from a designer boutique in Paris. It’s one of a kind.”
Once she decides what she wants, she’ll write it all down and give you a date when you should come back and pick up whatever didn’t sell and the payment for what did. If you have a higher-end item that doesn’t start with Lily and end with Pulitzer, you can also consider some of the high-end consignment shops downtown, like INA or What Goes Around Comes Around.
The payoff: Cash, one to three months later. And you’ll get good money for nice items.
The drawback: You have to make an appointment ahead of time, you have to remember to go back to collect your cash, and they take a hefty commission–up to 50% of the selling price.
2. Wearable but Un-Fancy Clothing
What to know: You don’t need an appointment, just an hour or two free. The clerks will rummage through your items, decide how much everything is worth, and then give you cash or store credit on the spot. If you take cash, you’ll get a lower value than store credit. If you don’t feel like dealing with whatever they don’t take, they will kindly donate it for you.
The payoff: Immediate cash.
The drawback: Lower prices, especially for designer or more uptown-girl items ($20 for a Brooks Brothers Coat? Yes, that happened.), and the sinking feeling of realizing the clothing they don’t take isn’t even cool enough to sell for $5.
3. Wearable but Worthless Clothing and Accessories
If you’re not going to one of the above consignment stores and have clothing that you can’t imagine anyone paying more than $3 for, take it to Salvation Army or Goodwill.
What to know: It takes only two minutes to fling a bag of what-was-I-thinking clothing and accessories into a pile in the back.
The payoff: Good karma and jobs for the those who need them.
The drawback: They are usually not open before or after work or on Sundays and discourage you from leaving stuff at the front door. I’ve done it anyway, because I have better things to do then wait around for the privilege of giving my stuff away. (Are you listening Goodwill and Salvation Army? Get a drop off bin.)
4. Unwearable Clothing
Paint and sweat-stained wife beaters, shredded sweaters, unmatched socks and anything else made of cloth that no one would even take for free will find a home at the textile collections held by Greenmarket, where it is sent to textile recycling programs. You can also drop off wearable clothing–it will be donated.
What to know: Just stuff your bag of grody old clothing in the hamper in front of the textile table while you’re picking up organic apples. Find a list of Greenmarkets that collect textiles here.
The payoff: Good karma and the knowledge that you’re doing your part to reduce the 5.7% of NYC’s waste stream that is clothing.
The drawback: As you might know, farmer’s markets don’t keep the most convenient hours or locations ever.
5. Home Goods That Still Have Value
Got a printer that still prints or an IKEA table that can still support dancing on top? Sell it on Craigslist.
What to know: Bring all your writing skillz, because you need to be a salesman. Put your item’s condition in the title, along with how much you would like for it (You can choose to add OBO, which means “Or Best Offer.”) Include a cute story of why you’re getting rid of said item, to inspire confidence that you’re not purging because of bedbugs. Include pictures of the item, preferably taken with natural light coming through the window with a real digital camera–Instagram is not cute when it comes to the condition of your couch.
The payoff: Cash.
The drawbacks: People will haggle with you no matter what price you set, and you will feel dumb that you ever paid full price. (Next time you are totally using Craigslist to buy your furniture, right?) People will flake out at the last second when you actually blocked out a perfectly beautiful Saturday afternoon for them to come get the stupid IKEA shelf.
6. Random Stuff That No One Would Pay For
Half a roll of carpet tape? Plastic cups from old Broadway shows? Broken computer tower? I’ve not only gotten rid of these things, but had people show up to take them off my hands. It’s called Freecycle.
What to know: You’ll need a Yahoo account so you can join the Freecycle group. When you are offering, make the subject line, “OFFER: Item, neighborhood.” So for example, “OFFER: Zebra print shower curtain, Lower East Side.” It helps to ask them to prove they are not spammers by requesting a haiku on the merits of shower curtains, or asking their favorite flavor of cupcake. If not, you might get emails like, “I’ll take it. Thanks.” That is most likely spam. Plus, people love composing haikus. I’ve gotten haikus from people who don’t even want my stuff.
If you have a whole lot of random crap, tell people you’re more likely to give it to them if they take the whole lot. Let them figure out what to do with the carpet tape, it is no longer your problem.
The payoff: Warm fuzzies from knowing the hot Norwegian dude is enjoying your ex-boyfriend’s artwork more than you ever would, and an apartment free of random crap.
The drawback: Again, people will flake out at the last minute, though I find this happens more rarely than with Craigslist. Also, some people are a little bit crazy. I suggest avoiding anyone with bad spelling or who likes to format their emails in pink, cursive font.
PS. In case you’re wondering, that is a CD rack in the picture. Seriously, people will take anything.
6. Broken Electronics
So you can’t sell your printer on Craiglist because it doesn’t work. No big deal. That’s what e-waste events are for.
No before you get lazy and decide to just chuck your stuff in the trashcan, I would like to take this moment to point out how ridiculously bad for our water supply that is. I’ll let the NRDC do the talking:
Some of the materials in personal electronics, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, are hazardous and can release dangerous toxins into our air and water when burned or deposited in landfills improperly. And throwing away metal components, like the copper, gold, silver and palladium in cell phones and other electronics, leads to needless mining for new metals.
What to know: The Lower East Side Ecology Center, bless their hearts, holds a couple e-waste events every weekend. Chances are there will be one convenient to you in the next month or so. See a schedule on their website.
The payoff: Knowing you haven’t poisoned some 7-year-old in a developing country with your old smart phone.
The drawback: You’ll have to plan a couple weeks in advance, and it’s not fun schlepping a printer or other heavy electronics across town.
I ran this story last year, but wanted to repost it in honor of everyone’s favorite sporting event involving white skirts and extremely hot men that is happening this week. Enjoy!
As a New York sports-goer, you’ve probably been continually exasperated by the waste you see at sporting events. Yankee games leave behind masses of crushed cups and greasy fry baskets. Everything is served in disposable and/or plastic containers. The food consists of processed junk, including Perdue chicken nuggets which–when I made the mistake of deciding to just go ahead and eat some–gave me food poisoning. And of course there’s the kind of energy required to light and power a stadium of that size. It feels like a betrayal just attending a sports match. Should I give up and skip all sports events together?
Not so fast. Tennis seems to have bucked this trend. I was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at what the US Open is doing to green the tournament this Thursday, and after touring the facilities, meeting some of the people making this possible, and even watching a little bit of excellent tennis from Nadal, I’m happy to report that you can attend today’s–or next year’s–matches with a mind free of green cares. Allow me to present to you the green Dos and Dont’s of your trip to the US Open in Flushing, Queens, New York:
Do Give Bina a High Five if You See Her
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A environmental engineer consultant, Bina Indelicato is the one heading up the US Open Green Initiatives. From getting to know all the chefs working around the stadium, to lecturing dishwashers on the importance of recycling containers, to coordinating a bajillion different vendors, to inventing new ways to green an intense two-week event, Bina has her hands full. But she's been tackling this initiative with gusto since she came on in 2008, and the results are amazing. She's also had the support of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and GreenSlam.
As I write this, I’m trying to figure out how to position my laptop so that it doesn’t burn my already tender legs. I’m red from my hairline down my chest, around my bikini line and down the front of my legs. I’m damp all over because this cottage lacks air conditioning, even though I’m in nothing but a bikini. I’m trying to type in between chewing on a strawberry popsicle. Yes, I’m on vacation, and it feels so good.
Living lightly is never far from my mind, but it has weighed especially heavy on me while I’ve been here at Macatawa Bay in Michigan, right off of Lake Michigan. Evidence abounds of global warming. The lake is low this year because of pitiful snowfall this winter, leading to a pitiful snowpack and a pitiful amount of freshwater running down the rivers to the Great Lakes.
Crazy A, who’s hosting me and other friends here, says when she was young jeans and a sweater were standard, even in the summer. Now the sun is high and hot in the washed out sky. It feels like we’re at the Outer Banks, instead of at a latitude of 42 degrees. Yesterday it was exactly 100 degrees, excluding the humidity. That’s only near record highs, but it still doesn’t feel right.
We talk about all this and tsk tsk climate deniers, but it doesn’t stop us or the residents of Macatawa from frolicking on the waters, and I’m not talking about in canoes. On the Fourth of July we took her motor boat to watch fireworks, which is the best way to watch them. You’re on your own boat, away from the crowds, and the fireworks are practically on top of you.
And Thursday the four of us dropped Crazy A’s motorboat in the water and took it to pump $200 worth of fuel inside of it. That boat is thirsty, but $200 seemed like a lot. ”Why is it so expensive?” I asked the typically hot guy who was pumping it for us (All guys who do these summer resort jobs are tan, muscled and so great to look at). “We have to pay a lot in insurance to pump it over the water like this. Spilling it would cause a lot of environmental damage–more than spilling it on the ground. Then they can just scoop out that ground that is effected,” he told me. “But here it’s just in the water.”
So do I feel awesome about using this much gas cruising around in a small boat? No. But seriously, what am I going to do, say no? Yeah, just imagine that: “Sorry guys, I’m going to stay at the cabin since I don’t believe in using gas.” I might as well have just not come. When it’s 100 degrees outside, the best way to stay cool is to get out on the water with a breeze, only a step away from jumping in. And if my friends go, I am going.
We motored the boat slowly out the channel, past Big Red lighthouse (and also past a boat called “Moisture Missile,” seriously? You named your boat that??) and once we were into the waters of Lake Michigan, gunned it, flying over the waters along the coast until we found a spot where no one could see us but the sun, dropped anchor, stripped down to our bikini bottoms and dove into the clear, agate waters.
In between swims, we drank Summer Shandies, a local lemonade flavored beer, and lounged on the deck reading. I tried to position myself strategically, since the front of my body is so burned.
Non-Toxic Sunscreen: Effective or Just Annoying?
Before I left New York, I bought the least toxic sunscreen out there according to Good Guide: Badger Sport. A drawback is that it has the consistency of a soft clay, and leaves my skin white. So my friends have been calling it my “geisha paint” and “hippie clay.” I wouldn’t mind if it was effective–I’m now proud when it comes to protecting my skin. But despite never seeming to come off (it’s still in the crease of my elbow 24 hours after I put it on) I’ve been getting burned.
I might switch back to regular sunscreen today and see if I’m getting burned because I’m using nontoxic sunscreen, or because I’m am a super-white chick who hasn’t been in the sun for a year.
The Dune From Hell
After some time bobbing on the waves, Crazy A kicked the boat into gear again and we sidled up to an almost empty beach. It’s so far from any roads that it is almost only accessible by boat and very in shape people who are crazy enough to walk all the way down the beach. “So only rich people can get here?” I asked. “Well, even poor people have boats here, so no,” Crazy A told me. “Some people don’t even have cars in their driveways, just boats. They just tow their boats to the dock themselves.”
Our plan for this beach was to climb the dune that rises steeply up from the water. Crazy A has been doing this since she was a kid, and said it’s hard, but fun. You gotta get your exercise somehow, right? She threw four Shandies in her backpack cooler to drink at the top and we waded to the beach.
That dune was hot. Painfully hot. Our leisurely climb turned into a series of suicides, as we scampered as fast as we could until our feet couldn’t stand it anymore, then stopped and buried them in the sand to gain some measure of relief. Then, once we had caught our breath, we would scamper again. One friend gave up a third of the way up, and would show us her blisters later. But we kept going. We were going to reach the top, godamnit.
When we finally got there, we collapsed in the shade of a bush and pulled out our lemonade beers to drink. But A.D. had made the mistake of putting sunscreen on her face before leaving the boat. “Ow, ow, ow ow, that really hurts you guys,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “Don’t rub it,” Crazy A told her. “That will make it worse. Why don’t you pour some of the beer on your face to wash it off?” A.D. did so, and cried. “Holy shit! Worst advice ever!” and took off back down the hill to the fresh lake water with huge bounds. We watched her go. “That dune sucked,” I said to Crazy A. “Was it always this hot?”
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“No way, man,” she said. “I’ve climbed that so many times and it’s never been like that.” We finished our beers and ran back down the dune to the lake to cool off. We climbed on the boat, made sure A.D.’s eyes were now OK, and broke into our stash of snacks from the Holland farmers market: hard goat cheeses, white fish spread on fresh bread, kettle corn, dried fruit, raspberries and cherries. (I’ve also been eating a nut butter for breakfast I got at the market called pepita. It’s got flax, pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, plus cinnamon and allspice. It’s very sweet and yummy and includes all your omega-3s, but it is three times the price of almond butter.)
Air Conditioning Optional
As guilty as I feel about the fun I’m having on Crazy A’s motorboat, I think I might be evening out my global warming karma by staying in this cottage without air conditioning. Sounds awful, right? Except this hundred-year old cottage is so well shaded by trees and the dune behind it that it never gets over 80 inside. And when you’re at the beach and all you’re wearing is a bikini and a pair of Soffe shorts all day, it doesn’t matter if you get a little sweaty.
Fun With Alternative Energy
Yesterday we WASPed out and decided to go sailing instead. We’ve been joking that there should be a .gif of my reaction when I found out Crazy A has an account at the Macatawa Bay Yacht club. I was holding my purse at her car as everyone walked away empty handed. “How will we pay for our drinks?” I asked. “[Crazy A] has an account at the yacht club,” A.D. said. I dropped my purse in the car, slammed the door, wiped my hands and marched off toward the club. Hello free rum runners!
But drinks would be for later. This time we went straight the boat parking lot (I’m sure there’s a better name for it, but that’s what it is) and Crazy A set about getting a little sailboat ready, rigging it up, tying knots and hooking things up with the mastery of an old hand. Neither A.D., K or I knew how to sail (I went to sailing camp about 16 years ago and that’s it) so Anna basically gave us a lesson.
It was a perfect day for sailing: a light breeze, and not too many motorboats creating wakes since it was a weekday. No, you can’t lounge on a sailboat–unless it’s one of those huge pleasure cruise ones that comes with a crew–but it’s a great kind of fun. When you’re skipping over the water, leaning back to balance the boat with a rope in hand keeping the jib taught, it’s a fabulous feeling. And no gas required.
I’m a big fan of EcoSalon, so I was honored to be able to contribute this story to their blog:
Last year I decide to “green” my birth control.
My decision stemmed from a combination of concerns—OK, guilt—related to how I was keeping myself baby-free. Some environmental drawbacks of birth control are obvious: I cringed every time I tossed an empty blister pack and its handy plastic case in the trash (my pharmacy isn’t into the idea of giving me just the blister pack so I can reuse the case-I’ve asked).
But that wasn’t my main concern. I had read in Scientific American that every time I peed, I was flushing synthetic estrogen down the pipes, to a water treatment plant that does not treat for hormones, and out into the waterways where it was doing disturbing things to the reproductive parts of fish.
It turns out that the main culprit in the cancer-causing levels of estrogen in our water is our agricultural system, but at the time, I wanted to do right by my aquatic friends and other people who would eventually be drinking water with the estrogen that passed through my body. (Nice image, right?)
And there were other, more selfish reasons I wanted to discontinue my use of hormones.
To read the rest, head over to EcoSalon.