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Brklyn Grange
Thanks to the Columbia Business School Sustainability Club, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit one of the first and largest urban farms in NYC– the Brooklyn Grange, actually located in Long Island City, Queens. With a view of the Manhattan skyline, this 40,000+ sq ft (1 acre) farm exists as proof of the power of determination, as the farm required hoisting over 1 million lbs of soil to the roof of a huge warehouse. The 3 main partners are young inspiring entrepeneurs dedicated to healthy local food. Now in its 4th year, many types of greens, vegetables and seeds are raised and sold to chefs at area restaurants, so this is a successful for-profit enterprise. The soil is made up of compost for organic nutrients mixed with lightweight, porous stones, with an elaborate subsystem for drainage. The food is grown organically and air quality is monitored and found to be of better quality than at street level. The farm also boasts several chickens and two small bee hives. More on this incredible farm and its events and CSA are at: http://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/.


The 2nd national Green Festival (green festival) at the Javits Center in New York City took place last weekend, and did not disappoint. The event included hundreds of exhibitors of green products and advocacy organizations, as well as multiple educational workshops on everything from healthy food to eco-friendly vehicles. Several workshops focused on sustainable and fair trade fashion, one of my favorite subjects, bringing together some of this area’s top experts. (Stay tuned for a blogpost on one of the weekend’s highlights: an Eileen Fisher eco-fashion show!) Since last year I wrote about my favorite exhibitors, I thought I‘d continue the tradition.

1) My favorite product was ipad/Nook/Kindle covers made from recycled fleece jackets. Available from Refleece in numerous happy colors, these fun covers help keep old jackets from ending up in landfills.

2) Second favorite exhibitor was SpinGreen who are also making sure old clothing gets a second life. Spingreen expands recycling at schools by placing clothing collection bins at schools. Usable clothing is given to several charities, and stained or ripped clothing is repurposed for home insulation or car seat stuffing, again diverting waste away from landfills.

3) Call me morbid, but third, believe it or not, was the Green Burial Council, since many burial practices involve the use of toxic chemicals, and it’s not something we often think about. The council educates about environmentally sustainable funeral/cemetery/cremation options, and have set forth the World’s first standards and eco-certification program for burial grounds and burial products.

These are just a sampling of the numerous forward-thinking organizations featured at Green Festival. My main takeaway is how inspiring it is to witness the creative innovation, dedication to craft, and caring for the planet that all the participants exhibited. It gives me hope seeing so many people who care enough to make the planet’s sustainability part of their business. I hope these qualities become mainstream sooner than later.

Fabulous eco fashion event last Thursday night at Green Spaces in NYC hosted by Starre Vartan from Eco-Chick.com, one of my favorite blogs.

Eco-Chick's Sustainable Spring Fashion Party

Eco-Chick’s Sustainable Spring Fashion Party | Photo by Rose Brook

50+ people came out to support sustainably-made clothing, mostly made right in NY, by designers including Elsa and Me, Feral Childe, Study NY, Sylvia Heisel, Carrie Parry, Auralis and others.

This conscious event included vegan and organic provisions, and generous goody bags filled with organic cotton socks by Pact, all-natural hand soap by Mrs. Meyer’s, and other green schwag.

Great to see so many new designers making beautiful clothing and accessories while keeping the planet in mind.

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Reverend Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith, addresses the crowd

GreenFaith, a NJ based nonprofit, came to Temple Beth David in Commack, Long Island on 3/10/13 to enliven the community of faith’s efforts on stewardship of the earth.

Through their Ground for Hope event, over 100 people from different religious backgrounds came together to learn:

  1. How their institution can grow gardens that provide food for the needy,
  2. Opportunities to save energy & money in their buildings, and
  3. Ways to inform their communities about sustainability issues.

Inspiring and educational, it was a great opportunity for people of different faiths to meet local sustainability leaders and recognize that stewardship of our environment is a goal shared commonly by all. See Greenfaith.org.

Proud to have been a part of organizing this great event!

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Yael Aflalo, Catherine Tyc, Sass Brown, Gretchen Jones, and Raz Godelnik

Elsa dress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On January 17th, 2013, the Columbia Business School Sustainable Business Committee held a packed forum in Manhattan entitled, “Sustainable Fashion- Timeless or Trendy?,” discussing the sustainability of our clothing. Many audience members were shocked to hear about how toxic the production of fabric is, given the amount of pesticides and chemical dyes used. The panel included several eco-designers (hemperjeans.com; gretchenjonesnyc.com, thereformation.com) who use natural or repurposed fabrics. Also speaking were film-maker Catherine Tyc, and Sass Brown, Dean at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, and author of a beautiful book entitled “Ecofashion” and the blog Ecofashiontalk.com. Q&A centered around how to make more people aware of this issue, and the concept of transparency and labeling requirements for clothing. Several designers brought their designs, and particularly impressive was a NY-based designer who created the “Elsa” dress- simple and classic, made of organic cotton (See Elsa and Me) . Also of note was another NYC company encouraging clothing exchange, called Closet Dash. For more on this event see http://www.cbsacny.org/article.html?aid=1260.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent trip to Tulum, Mexico convinced me that there is indeed Heaven on Earth. Aside from the gorgeous beaches lined with palm trees, Tulum also possesses significant green credentials. The main road in Tulum features a string of eclectic cabana-style hotels, restaurants and yoga centers (such as Maya Tulum) along the main road, some of which are powered by small wind turbines and solar panels. My own rustic-style hotel, La Posada del Sol, was one of these, and offered organic body care products in its guest rooms. Out of several vegetarian-friendly restaurants I found, one that blew me away was Restauraure, a vegan restaurant nestled among the palm trees, where the food was made with such fresh, local ingredients you could taste the love in it. The young owners used local materials for the tables and chairs, renewable energy, and are hoping to help start an organic market next door. The connection to nature is apparent in Tulum and is reflected in the remarkable ruins and artwork of the Mayans. An incredibly beautiful, inspiring place, full of friendly people, Tulum is perfect for a rejuvenating retreat.

Eco-friendly Yoga

Mat by Jade Yoga, block by Gaiam

Organic cotton yoga strap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re practicing yoga, congratulations- you’re doing something great for your body and spirit. But is there a way to make it great for the earth too? Yes! Here are 3 ways to make your practice greener.

  • First, check into your yoga mat and see what it’s made of. It may be made with PVC (polyvynil chloride) plastic. However, the good news is that there are biodegradable mats made with natural latex, which is tapped from rubber trees. See Jadeyoga.com and Manduka.com.
  • Foam yoga blocks are likely made from plastic (often ethylene-vinyl acetate or EVA). Remember that anything plastic will not break down in the environment for hundreds of years. Look for wood blocks, or these cork blocks from greener country.com. (Gaiam also sells recycled plastic foam blocks.)
  • Finally, wear your inner bliss on the outside with organic cotton or bamboo yoga clothing which can be found from numerous retailers. I’ve even found a strap made of organic cotton!

All of these items can be purchased through Gaiam.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Grocery stores provide thin film plastic bags as a convenience for transporting fresh vegetables from store to home. These bags are usually made from LPDE (Low Density Polyethylene) plastic #4, and like large grocery bags, end up in landfills or get incinerated. Like many of us, though I’ve been pretty good about remembering to bring reusable shopping bags (even if they sometimes get forgotten in the car), I had never even thought about a reusable alternative to produce bags. So when I received this one from Environmental Working Group (EWG.org), made by Chico Bag, it was really encouraging. Though it seems to be made from virgin (nonrecycled) nylon, Chico Bag offers to recycle it for you. It’s mesh on one side and lightweight, and I’m hoping it becomes the next big trend! See these links for others like it too!

Chicobag.com

washableproducebags.com

reusablebags.com

Organic Ketchup Packets?

If you are in charge of a restaurant kitchen, or school or business cafeteria, you probably offer ketchup packets. If so, consider these, which I was pleasantly surprised to find at a local eatery in Syosset, New York called Energy Kitchen: organic ketchup packets! The difference is that the tomatoes used to create this ketchup were grown organically, meaning no synthetic pesticides, no irradiation, and no genetic modification of the plants. Common ketchup packets typically also contain high fructose corn syrup.

According to the Sept./Oct issue of Green American (GreenAmerica.org), Halloween is a $6 billion/yr industry in the U.S., so by making green choices you support green businesses, a healthy environment, and social justice for workers. How?

  • One way is by supporting organic candy companies that support fair trade. Did you know that Hershey, Cadbury and Nestle all have ties to child labor in the production of their cocoa? This is a sad side of chocolate that can be avoided by purchasing chocolate from companies such as Divine Chocolate, Green & Blacks, or Equal exchange instead. Or give out small “treasures” other than candy.
  • Also, in terms of protecting your own kids, make sure to use nontoxic face paint such as Terra Firma. A 2009 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics study found that 10 out of 10 children’s face paints tested contained at least trace levels of lead. (safecosmetics.org)
  • Consider getting rid of those plastic trick or treat baskets—the plastic will be around long after your child wants to use it anymore, so cloth sacks are better.
  • Finally, another way to be green on Halloween is to swap costumes; Sat. October 13, 2012 is National Costume Swap Day!

For more green Halloween ideas and info on costume swaps in your area, see GreenHalloween.org.

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