You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

The furniture is finally being unwrapped at the soon-to-be-completed Plainsboro Public Library, and the wait has definitely been worth it, especially for the amorphous lounge seating pieces that are located in reading areas throughout the building. Made of natural or renewable materials like water hyacinth, liana, bamboo, rattan and recyclable polyethylene, these sculptural furniture pieces are not only beautiful, but green as well.

Especially eco-friendly are the pieces constructed with water hyacinth, which is basically a weed. Water hyacinth is an invasive water-based plant that is one of the fastest growing species known. When not controlled, it will cover lakes and ponds entirely, dramatically impacting water flow, blocking sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starving the water of oxygen, often killing fish or turtles.

Furniture maker PIE studio uses these materials to create its Eco Friendly Furniture line. Founded by a Thai architect who wanted to create ‘living space’, the studio hand crafts furniture utilizing a process of making that is inherently non-polluting and low energy.

Though not all the furniture pieces are in their final locations and most of the lights were off for servicing, below are images of some of the pieces.

So a friend of mine just called my attention to a company called FEED Projects, who, among other things, sell the snappy handbag you see above.  Now, I am UNBELIEVABLY unqualified to comment on the fashion value of most anything, but I am more interested in the less tangible characteristics of the bag.  First, the bags are made with “100% organic cotton and natural burlap” and produced only in “certified fair labor facilities,” and intended to be an alternative to paper and plastic shopping bags.  Second, sales of the bag benefit the United Nations World Food Program’s School Feeding project, which looks to combat child hunger around the world.  For more info, please go to FEED Projects.com, or check out their story on CBS Evening News tomorrow night (Wednesday, 2/24).

Even when the weather outside is frightful, you can still find fresh, local produce.

In New York in late February, apples, carrots, onions, potatoes and winter squash are available from local hot houses with celery, lettuce and mushrooms coming from nearby in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Why is eating local important? The Natural Resources Defense Council states that most produce eaten in the US travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to table. Consider the fossil fuels used to import fresh tomatoes to New Jersey, a state with ample farmland that exports tons of tomatoes every year. Researchers at Rutgers University estimated that meeting the New Jersey demand for just one year’s supply of out-of-state tomatoes used up enough fossil fuel to drive an 18-wheeler around the world 249 times.

Commonly air freighted foods and their country of origin include: asparagus (Peru),  bell peppers (Netherlands), tomatoes (Netherlands), blackberries (Chile), blueberries (Argentina), cherries (Chile), raspberries (Chile), peaches (Chile), nectarines (Chile), and papayas (Brazil).

To see what’s fresh in your state at any time of year, find a local farmer’s market or learn more about sustainable food in general, click here.

During a recent kitchen run-in with a fellow brown-bag luncher, he asked whether washing dishes by hand is more or less efficient than using a dishwasher. After a little research, it looks like unless you are able to wash and rinse a dish with less than 4.4 seconds of running water, the dishwasher will always come out on top.

Read the rest of this entry »

Could this be the next big thing in the world of energy? Tonight on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl introduced us to Bloom Energy (BE). In Sunnyvale, CA, BE is developing solid oxide regenerative fuel cells (SORFC) – renewable electrical energy generated from hydrogen and the oxygen in ambient air. These fuel cells can be powered by a variety of fuel sources increasing efficiency. Company head K.R. Sridhar is hopeful that one day all homes will be powered by a Bloom Box for about $3,000. Although the company has been secretive thus far, Michael Kanellos of greentech media has been following their project and believes that K.R.’s dream has about a 20% chance.  He sees bigger companies like GE out doing BE in the long run. But things are moving quickly for BE as companies including Google, Ebay, and even Walmart have already bought Bloom Boxes and are testing them at select facilities. They are also being backed by serious investors at venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the company responsible for discovering Netscape, Amazon, and Google. Based on the countdown at BE’s website, it seems they will making a major announcement on the 24th of February. As we wait to hear their news check out this 60 Minutes Video and catch up on the story.

Bloom Energy’s K.R. Sridhar  (CBS)

An abandoned home on Detroit’s east side

Here at B[log]KSK, we plan to spend some time discussing the preservation of items that have passed their original lifespan, with the intention of finding innovative uses for these things rather than relegating them to the trash heap.  While we originally envisioned said items to be small, everyday objects, it seemed like it’d be fun to also explore something a little more grandiose. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo by James Baigrie

From aerosol cans to zippered plastic bags, Real Simple tells you how to recycle everything.

We should mention that surplus building materials, which aren’t included on the list, can also be recycled. Build it Green NYC is one such organization whose efforts have kept 450 tons of salvaged and surplus building materials from landfills. They carry everything from panel doors to high end refrigerators to movie props at their Queens warehouse for sale at deeply discounted prices. Click here for other reuse organizations in the New York City area.

Winter in Ireland is normally a mellow affair. A scarf and a pair of wellington boots usually does the trick.
The moderate temperatures are a result of the warmer ocean water of the Gulf Stream pushing north past the North Atlantic West coast and its extension, the North Atlantic Drift.

A typical Irish winter tends to be foggy, dull and damp but still green, albeit a little jaded.

Ireland with its typical winter coat.

Ireland and the UK, January 7, 2010

My trip home this winter, however, wielded a very different picture, its winter greens were a decidedly different shade of white. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently tried a recipe for chocolate soufflé and it came out great. “The Minimalist,” Mark Bittman, never steers you wrong. But what makes this green you ask? Well the main ingredient is of course eggs, which can be found at the farmer’s market pretty much year round. I picked up a half dozen on my way home to cook, marking this chocolate indulgence with a pretty small carbon footprint. Sure they cost a little bit more, but you can see the quality in the dark yellow-orange yokes. They made for a result that was certainly well worth it. One thing to add to Mr. Bittman’s recipe, which I learned over at Vintage Irving on E 15th Street, is to crack the top of your soufflé when it’s done and pour in some melted chocolate for good measure.

Here’s Mark’s step by step recipe from the New York Times: Recipe Video

Our new in-house sustainable lecture series kicked off in January with the first “Fire” topic – a discussion of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and solar thermal technologies. Leading the discussion of the ups and downs of using these technologies (including what happens when your solar panel provider stops making panels half way through your project and how to determine the domestic hot water requirements for a convent of nuns so devoted to the tenants of sustainability that they limit showers to 2 minutes every other day), the teams from the Plainsboro Public Library and Community of the Holy Spirit Convent presented the basics of BIPV and solar thermal systems. Read the rest of this entry »