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Archive for the ‘Landscape’ Category

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Daylighting urban streams has long made sense aesthetically, but now the environmental, traffic calming, and air pollution benefits can be quantified based on new studies of the famous Cheonggyecheon running through downtown Seoul.

From the New York Times:

Cities from San Antonio to Singapore have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example.

By building green corridors around the exposed waters, cities hope to attract affluent and educated workers and residents who appreciate the feel of a natural environment in an urban setting.

Environmentalists point out other benefits. Open watercourses handle flooding rains better than buried sewers do, a big consideration as global warming leads to heavier downpours. The streams also tend to cool areas overheated by sun-baked asphalt and to nourish greenery that lures wildlife as well as pedestrians.

But four years after the stream was uncovered, city officials say, the environmental benefits can now be quantified. Data show that the ecosystem along the Cheonggyecheon (pronounced chung-gye-chun) has been greatly enriched, with the number of fish species increasing to 25 from 4. Bird species have multiplied to 36 from 6, and insect species to 192 from 15.

The recovery project, which removed three miles of elevated highway as well, also substantially cut air pollution from cars along the corridor and reduced air temperatures. Small-particle air pollution along the corridor dropped to 48 micrograms per cubic meter from 74, and summer temperatures are now often five degrees cooler than those of nearby areas, according to data cited by city officials.

And even with the loss of some vehicle lanes, traffic speeds have picked up because of related transportation changes like expanded bus service, restrictions on cars and higher parking fees.

“We’ve basically gone from a car-oriented city to a human-oriented city,” said Lee In-keun, Seoul’s assistant mayor for infrastructure, who has been invited to places as distant as Los Angeles to describe the project to other urban planners.

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Photo courtesy of Sucraseed

Photo courtesy of Sucraseed

Mowing your lawn may be able to provide you with a homegrown source of power for your home.  The Catskill Watershed Foundation started a study in central New York recently that will examine the feasability of pelletizing grass clippings into a form that can be burned in a pellet stove.  The study will look at cost effictiveness of the pellet process, as well as the heating efficiency of the stove (both indoor and outdoor) and air quality of the exhaust.

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Irrigation water can be wasted in other ways.

Automatic sprinklers can be a useful tool.  But if the systems are not managed correctly, you might find a snow-covered yard being watered while the homeowners are away on vacation.

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Water Me Not

Maybe we’re coddling our plants.  Maybe they, too, can do more with less.  Check out this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.  There might be room to reduce the amount of water that is budgeted for irrigation in the design of rainwater harvesting systems.

It wasn’t by choice that Dan Lehrer cut off the water supply to his apple trees. When the irrigation system on his organic farm in Sebastopol broke down five years ago, repairing it was too costly, so his entire orchard of Red Rome Beauty and Golden Delicious went cold turkey.

Accustomed to enjoying drip irrigation 24 hours a day for roughly five months at a time, the trees were thirsty and stressed, but began producing smaller fruit that was less waterlogged and resulted in notably richer and crisper apples. They ripened later and kept better in storage. Meanwhile, Lehrer saved a hefty chunk on his water bill and conserved thousands of gallons each season, both from his well and from the public supply – notable in this low-water area of western Sonoma County. His apples haven’t seen a drop from the tap since.

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  • NYC buses started going hybrid 4 years ago to try and reduce emissions, but they are having an even bigger payoff these days due to increased fuel prices, causing the city to exceed their budget for gasoline by 56% in April.
  • Glassmakers look at ways to reduce their energy needs as energy costs skyrocket.
  • NYC will start car-free Saturdays in August, where a series of major streets and avenues will create a car-free path from Lower Manhattan to Central Park.
  • Honda releases a mass-produced hydrogen powered car, the FCX Clarity, though they only plan to make 200 in the next three years and they cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there aren’t many filling stations.
  • Why has the tomato become infected with salmonella? Barry Esterbrook finds some possibilities, but the real answer is the FDA doesn’t know.
  • McCain infuriates environmental groups that have in the past seen him as an ally for calling for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico as part of his energy plan.  And to help out his party, Bush flips his previous opinion to say he’ll ask congress to open up the Gulf for drilling.  Another part of McCain’s policy is to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030.
  • Recycling machine brings recycling program to Tijuana, but also brings jobs to the poor who live in the dump and scavenge for a living.
  • Is Astroturf a green alternative to a grass field in California, where a lawn would require heavy maintenance and water use to survive the summer?
  • With the rise in gas prices, suburbs will start to disappear and smaller cities will rejuvenate. And those cities out west? Without AC, they’ll probably disappear as well. However, skyscrapers aren’t much more sustainable, so NYC and Chicago will shrink too as sources of natural gas get depleted.
  • Mayor Daley proposes bikes sharing the bus lanes while the city of Chicago catches up with the increased demand for bike lanes on the streets.
  • Its actually better for the environment to upgrade from a 15mph gas guzzler to a 20mph car, then it is from a 30mph sedan to a 45mph hybrid.  Because you’ll use less gas on your commute with the first one.  It would be better to rate cars in gallons per mile than miles per gallon if we are trying to preserve our oil reserves.

Image of the FCX Clarity from Honda

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  • Radiohead and their Carbon Neutral World Tour have pushed for venues to go green, including the Daydream festival in Barcelona that features an extensive recycling program and reusable cups.
  • LA Department of Public Works dropped 400,000 black plastic balls into one of their reservoirs, creating a UV reflecting cover for the reservoir. DPW hopes that this will prevent a reaction between bromide and choloride from taking place, thereby preventing the carcinogen bromate from forming.
  • Seven things you thought you could recycle, but can’t. I guess I’d better stop putting my recycling in the bin in plastic bags. (via Archinect)
  • A new washing mashine technology may be available by next year that uses 2% of the water and energy of conventional washing machines. The lack of water also reduces the need for a dryer.
  • Governors Island in NYC started their free bike share program, which will take place every Friday until October 4th. They will also be available on the weekends for a fee.
  • Trees actually modify their temperature so that no matter what the climate, their leaves are usually at an average temperature of 70o F when they are performing photosynthesis.
  • New York City gets its first LEED certified school with the expansion of Poly Prep in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
  • The US accounts for half of the golf courses in the world, which take up an area the size of Delaware. With water crises arising, golf courses will need to go green, using more drought resistant seeds and recycled water.
  • American car makers are not keeping up with demand for more fuel efficient cars in the US, despite the fact that they make fuel efficient cars for distribution in Europe that aren’t available here.
  • County buildings in the heart of coal country may switch to natural gas heating systems, since the system would save the county a significant amount of money.
  • Modern turboprop airplanes are much more fuel efficient than traditional jets, leading more major airlines to use them, especially for short hop and smaller market flights.
  • As more people turn to public transportation with rising gas costs, there is a chance to rethink the nation’s transportation system.
  • Hypermilers are drivers who try to squeeze out every last drop of gas from their car by modifying their driving techniques to improve efficiency.
  • ASCE’s annual report card on infrastructure shows that number of unsafe dams has increased 33% over the last decade.

Photo of plastic balls being dumped into Ivanhoe Reservoir by Ifran Kahn of the LA Times

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  • Delta goes green by eliminating their paper newsletter. Not so impressive, but they already have an on-board recycling program and have many options to allow customers to purchase carbon offsets. Jet Blue is going green too, attempting to do energy saving things like using one engine instead of two during taxiing, using ground power instead of engines for power at the gate, and eliminating paper tickets.
  • There is some improvement in sulfur dioxide emissions and water quality measures in China, but overall, pollution has increased over last year.
  • Climate bill dies in the Senate – we’ll have to wait until next administration for any kind of movement on the cap and trade issue.
  • Alain Robert scaled the NY Times Building in NYC as a protest against global warming for World Environment Day. He was detained by police on the 52nd floor. I was alerted to the action by swarming helicopters since our office is across town.  Another man climbed the building later that afternoon.
  • Adnam’s brewing company is creating “East Green”, a carbon neutral beer available in the UK only. Among the carbon saving features are using locally grown barley and reusing steam from the brewing process for the next batch.
  • If you have to have a lawnmower (that isn’t a push model), follow these instructions to convert it to solar powered.
  • A portion of Times Square got turned into a park on Thursday in honor of World Environment Day.
  • It is more efficient to turn off your car than to idle if you are going to be idling more than 10 seconds.
  • Guerrilla gardening greens up pockets around New York City.
  • GM is closing four of its truck and SUV plants due to rising gas prices. And they may cancel production of the Hummer.
  • Some major American corporations have been meeting regularly with environmental groups for the past couple of years to develop proposals for federal limits on carbon emissions.
  • Best Buy is testing an electronics disposal program at their stores.
  • Fiji Water is trying to green their image, despite being criticized for promoting bottled water, from Fiji at that.
  • Price does matter, and as a result, driving miles have gone down an estimated 4.3% nationally over this time last year.

Photo of a successful guerrilla gardening effort in London from The Guerrilla Gardening Homepage

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