Green Science: NYC/Metro Clean Water Project

Boating season is a still a few months off, but a new citizen-run water testing program will help make 2012 outings healthier and safer.

Last year’s record-breaking rainfalls caused NYC’s combined sewer system to overflow into the Hudson River and other nearby waterways, creating unsafe and unsanitary water conditions for recreational boaters.

Concerned members of the boating community felt that the City and DEP didn’t do a good enough job of monitoring and reporting on water conditions, so they joined together to create a solution.

From Nancy Brous, via the New York City Water Trail Association:

Last fall, the NYC Water Trail Association partnered with the River Project on a six-week pilot program to measure near-shore bacterial contamination at a dozen popular human-powered boat launches (the Department of Environmental Protection also monitors water quality, but at mid-channel locations far from any sewer outfalls).

This is a great citizen science project with immediate, measurable positive results that benefit tens of thousands of NYC/Metro area boaters.

Learn more, keep updated, and get involved.



Green Business: NYC Pilots First Tidal Plant

Manhattan is an island. An island bounded by tidal waters.

If you want to make it on the island itself, push and never give up.

To survive on the water requires a different strategy: go with the flow.

Recreational human-powered boaters–at least the smart ones–time their travels with the tidal advantage. At peak flow, the current can reach 5 knots per hour. That’s swift enough to bring the strongest kayaker to a standstill.

In a first-ever pilot, the East River’s power will be harnessed to generate electricity.


Verdant Gets License to Build Tidal Plant in NYC Waters

Verdant Power has been awarded a 10-year license for a tidal wave energy plant in New York City’s East River.

Verdant, which has been pushing the project forward since 2002, has tested six turbines there, which is actually a tidal strait between the New York Harbor and the Long Island Sound. The power produced by that demonstration project powered a Gristedes supermarket and a parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

This is the first time the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has awarded a tidal wave license. This “pilot” license will allow Verdant to demonstrate commercial viability, while also determining potential environmental impacts.

Go to article.

Green Politics: Army Brass Champions LEED

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. Literally.

Congress’ recently passed defense authorization bill hampers military spending for LEED Gold or Platinum certified projects. How’s that again?

Could these roadblocks for LEED construction be linked to the interests of U.S. wood producers? (Here’s the backstory.)

Luckily  for us, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment is steadfastly committed to  sound, safe, cost- and energy-efficient construction.


The federal government has been one of the biggest supporters of LEED certification in the last few years, with the General Services Administration (GSA) requiring basic LEED certification for all federal buildings starting in 2003 and then upping that requirement to LEED Gold in 2010.

The military has been on the cutting edge of green building from the beginning. The Navy adopted sustainable design principles before LEED even existed, as we reported way back in 1998. The Army embraced LEED in 2006 and recently began the much more radical work of moving all its installations to net-zero energy, water, and waste. As Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy, and the environment, put it to EBN earlier this year, “Energy security is mission critical.”

Hammack is having none of it. In a call with reporters yesterday, she reiterated the Army’s commitment to net-zero and LEED and gave an update about some of the progress that’s already been made. “We’re finding it does not cost more to design and construct to LEED” standards, Hammack said.

Read the full story.


Green Living: Marking Mid-Winter

We’re halfway there

On Feb. 2, prognosticating rodents are hauled out of hutches and held high, their gloved handlers grasping them tightly around their furry mid-sections. Assembled crowds will wait to see if the groundhog casts a shadow, thus sealing our fate for six more weeks of winter or granting us an early spring reprieve.

The modern celebration of Groundhog Day, for all its silliness, coincides with solemn faith tradition observances including the Catholic celebration of Candlemas and the Wiccan observance of Imbolc. For me, it marks the half-way point on the gardening calendar between the darkest night of the year — the Winter Solstice — and spring’s official start on the Vernal Equinox.

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonably mild temperatures, but the real story is more sunlight. Six weeks ago, on the Winter Solstice, sunset was at 4:30 p.m. Today, it is at 5:15 p.m. The midday sun appears a few degrees higher in the sky and feels warmer on my face. We’re picking up one more minute of sunlight daily. That rate will double to two minutes daily by the end of February.

A gardener friend told me about her grandmother’s traditional Groundhog Day garden walk, during which her grandmother would “wake up” the trees and plants with a gentle tap from her walking stick. When I heard this folk tradition, it made sense to me as gardener wisdom. Inspecting each plant and tree carefully gives the gardener opportunity to observe disease or damage and make plans for pruning, repairing or transplanting.

Groundhog Day also ushers in the sugaring season, when maple trees (other tree species work too) can be tapped with a spigot and the flowing sap collected with no injury to the tree. It’s nice to imagine that a hard rap could wake up a sleeping tree and make the tree’s sap drip faster. The truth is that sap flow is triggered by increased sunlight plus warmer days and cold nights. Maple sap looks and tastes like water, with only the slightest hint of sweetness. It takes about 40 gallons of collected sap boiled down to produce one gallon of syrup. I’m looking forward to helping some friends tap their maple trees this month.

Groundhog Day is a time to spot spring harbingers. There might be early-blooming hellebores, snowdrops or early crocus varieties to see in sunny wind-protected spots. Along my neighbor’s driveway, a witch hazel bush has tight, swelling buds that will unfurl into red, finger-like petals during sunny February days and curl back into a protective bud at night. If you look carefully, some maple trees already sport a red haze on their crown.

I’ll bring my garden notebook out to the yard this week and take a fresh look at each tree, bush and plant. I might even give them a rap with a stick.

Green Links: UN Global Sustainability Report

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”–Attributed to Yogi Berra

A new UN report offers a blueprint with specific recommendations for moving best practices for sustainable development into active economic policy.

This is how we get there.

The 22-member Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma. The Panel’s final report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”, contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.

Read “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”