Kick It in Sustainable Style.

November 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

The holiday season is upon us! Though Black Friday might be over, there’s still plenty of time until the holidays themselves, and more than likely, also plenty of presents still left to buy. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you about a brand-new, completely sustainable gift.

I discovered this product while watching a favorite TV show of mine, Shark Tank. There have been plenty of “sustainable” products pitched on the show. Some got funded, including an eco-friendly toy box. Some – like a line of products made from recycled chopsticks and a mail-order printer-ink refill service – did not.

However, on an episode I recently watched, perhaps the most appealing – and easily the most sustainable – product was proposed AND funded. I present to you: ReKixx – completely recyclable shoes.

These shoes are made to be 100% recyclable. The “canvas” is a special polyresin blend, and the “rubber” soles are another polyresin blend. To recycle them, all you have to do is mail them back to the producer – and you even get a discount on a new pair for recycling. They’re pretty fashionable too. Check ’em out:

ReKixx are finally hitting the market in time for the holiday season, and would make a great, sustainable gift for your eco-conscious loved ones. I know I wouldn’t mind a pair!

(Note: I am not in any way affiliated with or contracted by ReKixx. I just think they’re awesome.)

Environmental Video of the Week (7/1 -7/7/12) DOUBLE FEATURE

July 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

This week I’m excited to present you with not one, but two insanely awesome environmental videos. Both come from the amazing series, “The Story of Stuff” on YouTube.

The first video is a unique take on the anti-bottled water campaign. Not only does the video cover the dangerous effects of the bottled water industry, it delves into how and why it got to be the way it is, and provides plausible solutions for the problem.

The second video explains something that even I find very difficult to understand, the Cap and Trade system:

 

 

Environmental Video of the Week (6/24 – 6/30/12)

July 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

So, I know this is coming a little late, but this is a video you have to see.

Ever have trouble defining sustainability? I have. Well, this video will clarify things for you almost perfectly.

Check it out:

Environmental Video of the Week (6/17 – 6/23/12)

June 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

For the second time this week, I’m proud to introduce a new weekly series, the Environmental Video of the Week! Each week, I’ll post and review a video related to the environment or sustainability that I found particularly moving, informative, or in this week’s case, just plain fun.

Check it out. This week’s video is “A Beginner’s Guide to Giving a Damn (About Climate Change)” from Live Earth.

So why do I like this video? Well, let’s start with the obvious. It’s just fun! With it’s adorable cartoon-cutout animals, bright colors, humorous dialogue, and hilarious sound effects, it’s hard not to enjoy this video. The video is accessible to people of all ages, intelligences, races, beliefs, etc – making it an all around useful tool for introducing environmental conservation to anyone.

One of the things that particularly struck me about the video is its message. The video exists to promote the same thing I do – to provide small, simple ways to make a huge impact on our environment – in a good way, of course! This message is exactly what the world needs, and for that, I chose to feature this video as my first Video of the Week.

Top 7 Inventions to watch for in 2012

June 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

A friend of mine just forwarded me this article. To no surprise, all seven of these inventions involved sustainability and the environment. Check it out!

Here it is: Top 7 Inventions to watch for in 2012 | MYOO.

NYC High Line Exemplifies Urban Greening

June 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

In 2009, New York City history was made. A brand new, incredibly unique, and highly integrated linear park opened between the Chelsea and Meatpacking districts of the West Side of Manhattan. The High Line Park, which originally encompassed an elevated stretch from Gansevoort Street up to 20th Street, and currently extending to 30th Street, is not unique in being an elevated park – the Promenade Plantee in Paris is perhaps the most famous example – but is perhaps the first to be built on, around, and incorporating an old elevated train line known as – wait for it – the High Line.
I could easily bore you right here with an over-researched and under-enthused depiction of the history of the High Line and how it came to be a park, detailing all of the different staged ad listing each and every piece of legislation needed to put this thing together, but I’d rather skip to what I think we all would consider the good part – lets talk about the park.
The first thing that hits you, no matter where you ascend to the park, is the color. The park is unbelievably green. Everywhere you look, leafy plants and bushes elicit the feel of a riverside walk, and at one point a photomural of the Hudson River accentuates that point further, as do a variety of unexpected glimpses out over the real river itself.

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Raised above the bustling streets of Midtown Manhattan, only the slightest hint of the chaos below can be made out, in the form of a soothing, rustling breeze. As you walk along the park, and look past the greenery, there’s much more to be noticed. Depending on your point in the park, you may find yourself standing on top of the old rails of the elevated train. At other points along the greenway, you may actually find the old rails, wooden rests and all, being used as a pseudo-planter for the lushness around you.

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In addition to the sheer sustainable brilliance of converting the old tracks to this beautiful park, many more sustainable features can be found across the part. One of them is literally right under your nose – and your feet. The section around 16th Street, stretching a few blocks, is made of wood rather than the shining metal of many of the other sections. This wood is not just any wood – its actually certified sustainable Ipe, with which the benches throughout the entire park are made.
Last, but certainly not least, there’s the matter of economics. In the few short years since the park opened, it has played a huge part in the revitalization of the neighborhood around it. The real estate boom that has occurred around the park is just one more thing to add to the list of reasons how environmental protection and sustainable environmental planning and development spur many other significant benefits.

Birthright 2012: Israel Goes Green: Where’s the Water?

May 27, 2012 § 5 Comments

Miss me? Well, after surviving finals week, I trekked over the Atlantic to the land of my forefathers, the State of Israel. As a country filled with over 5,000 years of history, there was much to learn, a ton of places to explore, and many, many adventures to be had. However, there’s much more to Israel than its historical, political, and religious significance (though these shouldn’t be ignored). Israel is the number one nation in the world for startup greentech and cleantech, and is a leader in the world of sustainability.

History of Sustainability in Israel: I’m Thirsty

Israel may have been known as the biblical Land of Milk and Honey, but while it may overflow with these liquids, there’s one it seriously lacks – water. As with many other nations in the Middle East, Israel is mostly arid land, and a good portion of the country, which is roughly the size of New Jersey, is covered by the Negev Desert. This lack of water has been a major issue throughout history, but each of the peoples, kingdoms, empires, and countries who have controlled the land have had their own unique and successful ways of solving the problem.

One of the earliest governing bodies of Israel following the Jewish diaspora were a group of Hellenistic Greeks, led by the builder of much of ancient Israel, King Herod. To bring water to those who needed it, Herod started, and the Romans finished, a series of aqueducts along the coast, much like this one in Caesaria:

Caesaria Aqueduct

Aqueduct in Caesaria, Israel

As power changed hands in the final century BCE, the Romans continued to expand their power over Israel, now known as Judea, and with that power came more and more aqueducts. Water began to play an even more significant role, as the Romans used more water than any civilization up to this point. In addition to irrigation for farming and drinking water, the Romans needed water for their vast palaces, theaters, hippodromes and gardens. One thing that they didn’t seem the squander water on, however, were their public toilets.  These toilets, like the one below, were meeting places for the important people of the land. However, Roman toilets were technically extremely sustainable – no flushing means almost no water used, and there was no waste of paper as they used reusable brushes in place of toilet paper. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest reverting to these toilets. I may love the environment, but I’m sanitary).

Ancient Roman Toilet (With some friends)

As the Middle Ages dawned, Roman power fell and Muslim power reigned over Israel, the Crusades began, with the intention of regaining the Holy Land. Like in Europe, the Crusader knights built fortresses with walls and moats – but with a twist for the Middle East. Their moats? They were dry. Basically, they were super deep pits, with smooth, unscalable walls, just like this one in Caesaria:

Crusader moat in Caesaria

Crusader fortresses, as with any other stronghold in Israel or the Middle East in general, needed to be built to survive siege. This didn’t just mean that they needed to be strong enough to withstand the battle, but they needed to be able to store massive amounts of water in order to stay alive during sieges which could last months. To solve this problems, these fortresses were built with giant cisterns like the one below.

Cistern from the top of a Crusader fortress in Tzfat

Exploring the cistern in Tzfat

Following the Crusader period, power continued to change hands once again. Eventually, under the Ottomans and the British Mandate of Palestine, Zionists began settling the countryside. Like with all other periods of time, water became a major issue. These new towns were differently organized than in the past. Instead of aqueducts and cisterns, water towers were built. The water tower below is one of the most famous in Israel, having been built with money donated by the famous Baron Edmund de Rothschild, one of the biggest philanthropic donators to Zionism.

“Benjamin’s Pool,” the water tower in Zichron Ya’akov

Israeli Sustainability Today: Water, Water Everywhere

With such a vast and colorful history of water conservation, it’s no wonder that Israel is the way it is now. As previously mentioned, Israel is the number one country in the world for cleantech and greentech startup investments, and has created some of the most important technologies in water conservation.

Israel is credited with the invention of what is potentially the most important water conservation technologies in our modern world: Drip Irrigation. One of the most important improvements in the system was made by Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu in Israel, and involved the use of plastics in the system. The Blass system uses larger and longer openings to disperse the water, using velocity to their advantage.

Tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the Negev

Drip irrigation changed farming forever, especially in the Middle East. The south of Israel, which is covered by the Negev desert, has now begun to be a booming agricultural site, growing most of the nation’s produce, and has become a hotspot for Thai immigrants to come work the fields. I actually shouldn’t say fields, because most of this agriculture is grown alternatively – in netted greenhouses, in tracked rows raised above the ground, and in a whole bunch of other ways. This way, farmers get the advantages of the Negev’s climate – the heat and air are good for many crops – while being able to directly control the water intake of each plant. In the system shown below, water is slowly released into the soil in the hanging trays, then trickles down to the bottom and drips down the slightly angled rows to a collection tube, which collects the water and recycles it to water the plants again.

Strawberries being grown above ground in the Negev

With farming, water isn’t the only concern. Many farms, just like the one I was fortunate enough to visit, are also concerned with producing organic, GMO-free, pesticide- and chemical-free produce as well. Much of the produce is grown netted in, and Israeli companies are credited with the invention of a specifically bred insect that eats the bugs and parasites that threaten farms around the world.

One invention, while not invented by an Israeli, has taken Israel by storm: the Dual Flush Toilet. Invented by Australian inventor Bruce Thompson in 1980, this toilet works more like an airplane toilet than a traditional toilet, using gravity rather than a siphon to remove waste. The toilet has two flushing options – more or less water – activated by two different levers or buttons, to be used for two different bathroom situations (I don’t think I need to explain which is which). The toilet is effective – there’s an average of 67% water use savings when used correctly  a majority of the time. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but it’ll pay off in the end. In Israel, a nation where water is scarce, the extra cash upfront is worth it, and it’s actually uncommon NOT to see a dual flush toilet everywhere you go.

Conclusion

My 9th grade Global History teacher once told me (and every student she’s ever had): Geography is Destiny. Three simple words, exemplified by Israel better than perhaps any other nation in the world. A state seriously lacking in water, it has found ways throughout history to fix this problem. In modern times, it’s no wonder Israel is at the top of the sustainability game – it has to be.

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