You are currently browsing Erin Carraher’s articles.

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.


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 »

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.

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 »

Greeted by this sign during a recent office tour of the new Cooper Union building at 41 Cooper Square designed by Morphosis, a co-worker asked whether revolving doors really do save energy. Good question.

Read the rest of this entry »