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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Green Inc, New York Times’s great blog about the economics of green industries, has very interesting piece on how PUR is achieving success through a new marketing campaign.  Known for their filters here in the US, they also market disinfectant powder that can be added to water.   They have been marketing it in developing countries as a way to provide clean water to underserved communities for 8 years, but started achiving great success last year when they changed their marketing strategy to a social marketing technique that stresses this as a public health need similar to handwashing or immunizations.

Image from Citypages.com
Image from Citypages.com

Water was also in the news yesterday when a coalition of bottled water companies filed a lawsuit against New York State to try and stop a new 5 cent deposit from being placed on bottled water.  The issue at hand? Water that adds sugar, such as Vitamin Water, is exempt from the deposit.  I’m all for a deposit tax on bottled water, but how the law was created that doesn’t cover all plastic drink bottles is beyond me, and seems to be suspicious as to which lobbyists were involved in the creation of this legislation.

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Alleys?

Cargo being unloaded on 39th St

Cargo being unloaded on 39th St

Growing up in New York City, I was always told that part of the reason New York City is considered to be dirtier than other cities is because there are no alleys, so the trash is never hidden.  But does the fact that there are no alleys mean that there isn’t a heirarchy established by City Planning amongst the minor streets?  Our New York office is located in a building that spans the block from 39th to 40th Street in Midtown, with the main entrance on 40th St.  The 39th St entrance is a cargo entrance, and while people can enter through this entrance, they need a swipe card so visitors must go through security on the 40th St side.  But our building isn’t the only one with cargo access on 39th.  So does the 99 cent store next door to us, as well as the public library, both of which span the block as well.  Was this a coincidence, or did City Planning purposely dictate the locations of the loading entrances to these buildings, creating a more presentable 40th St, versus a 39th St clogged with trucks and cargo trolleys throughout business hours.

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Before and after a car-free Broadway

Before and after a car-free Broadway

Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that starting Memorial Day, Broadway will turn car-free in two heavily congested sections of the avenue, through Times Square and Herald Square.  I will walk out of my way to avoid Times Square due to the pedestrian congestion on the sidewalks, so this measure might actually make me more willing to undertake that feat.

What amazes me the most is that all the reactions I’ve heard are positive, including numerous traffic specialists who say this is a win-win situation, since pedestrians will have more room on a safer road, and that cars will move more smoothly as well since Broadway cutting diagonally across major avenues causes lots of  accidents and slows traffic down significantly.

The car-free Broadway experiment will continue through the end of 2008, and if it runs positively, will be implemented permenantly at that time.

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  • Amtrak is getting record ridership as fuel costs on planes and for cars continue to rise, but it will be hard to keep up with increased demand since the infrastructure to build new cars isn’t able to ramp up quickly since its been deteriorating.
  • LEED homes are now the latest trend and bragging right from the rich and famous out in California. But their green homes probably aren’t as small as most peoples.
  • Cheap air lines have lead to dramatically increased air travel within Europe, mostly to coastal towns with a resort industry springing up near the airports. But this is causing global warming issues that will take a long time to undo.
  • Families are actually using the Xebra electric car for neighborhood errands, spending $10/month to charge the car. But it will be hard to avoid attracting notice in one of them.
  • Jim Rogers, the CEO of Duke Energy, sees himself as an environmentalist. If he can only get the other environmentalists to see his side.
  • Obama supports ethanol as a way to help national security by decreasing revenues to oil rich but hostile nations.
  • EPA may reduce the required ethanol yields to ease corn and other crop prices, as a significant amount of farm land has been harmed, destroying this years crops, along the Mississippi.
  • The state of Florida is going to buy US Sugar, with the intention of using their land to help restore the Everglades, creating the largest ecological restoration project in the country.
  • A never ending stream of plastic trash is inundating areas like northern Alaska or some islands in Hawaii. And cleanup isn’t going to solve the problems – the only way to fix the situation is to stop allowing trash into the oceans in the first place.
  • Another power strip has been developed that hooks up to your computer monitor via USB so that you can manage the power controls of each of your outlets on the strip. See how much power you’re saving as well.
  • The New York Times writes an overview of the science behind stream restoration and what has and hasn’t worked.
  • More coverage of the downswing of suburbia as a 1-hr commute each way and the cost of heating a large home start to add up.
  • The Supreme Court ruled to cut punitive damages against Exxon for the Valdez oil spill to $500 million from $5 billion, since the compensatory damages totaled ~$500 million and punitive damages are generally on the same order.
  • Zipcar has a promotion in Chicago called Low Car Diet where if you agree to forgo using a car for one month this summer, they will give you a free 1-yr membership, a transit pass and driving credit. Maybe this plan will spread to other cities?
  • California plans to ramp up programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of reaching 1990 levels in 12 years. Stipulations include utilities required to generate 1/3 of electricity from renewable resources and building high speed rail lines.
  • Hawaii has passed a law requiring all new homes to have solar water heaters, with a few exceptions based on site feasibility.
  • New York City passed a law that goes into effect on January 1st, 2009 to provide a property tax credit of up to $100,000 for homeowners who install green roofs on at least 50% of their available rooftop.
  • The Bureau of Land Management has put a freeze on building new solar energy plants on their land, which is some of the most suitable land for such projects with huge tracts of land in the desert in the southwest.
  • Bird, a mini-chain of boutiques in Brooklyn, is in the process of building a new shop. The owner has been documenting the process, which this week includes the breakdown on demolition quantities as they try for LEED certification.
  • Home Depot will start recycling CFL light bulbs at all stores. Its been in place at their Canadian stores since November of last year.

A photo of the sorted demolition piles at Bird.

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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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