Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Denmark Converts Trash to Energy

HORSHOLM, Denmark — The lawyers and engineers who dwell in an elegant enclave here are at peace with the hulking neighbor just over the back fence: a vast energy plant that burns thousands of tons of household garbage and industrial waste, round the clock.

A plant in Horsholm, Denmark, uses new technology to convert trash into energy more cleanly. The Vestforbraending plant in Copenhagen, the largest of the 29 waste-to-energy plants in Denmark. Their use has reduced the country's energy costs. Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity. Dozens of filters catch pollutants, from mercury to dioxin, that would have emerged from its smokestack only a decade ago.

Could this be a solution for United States trash, much of which is buried in landfills? Read the rest of Elizabeth Rosenthal's 4/12/10 NYT article to learn more.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

New York City Updates Recycling Program

Thanks to an Earth Day initiative by City Council, New York City is facing its first major recycling overhaul in two decades.

The new legislation, announced by Christine Quinn on April 11, will make the following changes to the current recycling program:

  • Add #5 plastic - used in such ubiquitous products as yogurt cups and takeout containers - to the Department of Sanitation's recycling mandate, keeping roughly 8,000 tons of plastic out of landfills each year

  • Create a tiered system of fines for landlords of buildings that violate recycling laws, with lower fines for small property owners and higher fines for landlords of large residential complexes and commercial properties

  • Install 700 new public recycling bins over the next ten years, bringing the total number of public recycling bins in New York City to 1,000

  • Provide permanent drop-off points for recyclable clothing and textiles

  • Require the Department of Sanitation to have household hazardous waste collection events yearly in each borough (above and beyond the existing Self-Help Special Waste Drop-Off Sites)

  • Establish a pilot program for the return of unused household paint to manufacturers and/or retailers by consumers
Unfortunately, we may have to wait for the full benefits of the law to kick in. Recycling #5 plastics, for instance, requires a new recycling facility which will not be completed until 2012. In the meantime, you can still drop off your clean, dry #5 plastic containers at the Coop during scheduled recycling events.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Musical Play for Children about Recycling

Pistachio, a Brooklyn Girl Made from Trash: a musical play about recycling for children 3 and up.

Saturdays April 24 and May 1 at 3pm
Still Hip, 283 Grand Avenue Clinton Hill Brooklyn
Admission: Free
Still Hip 283 Grand Ave. Clinton Hill Brooklyn
for information 718-623-8538 or email

Pistachio, a Brooklyn girl made from trash is a musical play that invites the audience each week to sing and dance along with colorful puppets made from recycled materials. In this three part series Pistachio, a girl made from good recycled trash, protects the community and the world from bad garbage. Each week a new episode of adventure is presented outdoors free of charge.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Video for Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day!.

Looking for a quiet way to celebrate at home?  Watch a short video online, The Story of Stuff.  If you've seen it before, it's just as good the second time.

Or send the link to someone you care about who might not have seen it.

The 20-minute video weaves the story  of our difficult relationship with all the stuff in our lives together with such other important stories as the one about the destruction of the environment, the one about ignoring the lives and rights of indigenous peoples, and the one about undermining the health of the people who manufacture toxic products.

For me, a recent second viewing of the video proved well worth the small investment of time.   The site, I also discovered, has a resource list including readings on topics covered in the video and tips on taking action.

Photo from FlyingSinger at flickr

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Radioactive Gas Drilling Waste in NY!

A controversial decision by the Chemung County Legislature in upstate NY may lead to an increase in the amount of radioactive natural gas drilling waste their landfill accepts from Pennsylvania. The landfill already receives up to 2,000 tons per week.

Among residents' concern is the possible contamination of the Chemung River, which is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Despite protests from residents and environmental groups, the county voted 11-3 to approve the modifications to its agreement with Casella Waste Systems.

Among residents' concerns are possible health and environmental impacts to the towns of Ashland, Southport and Chemung. Although Casella Waste says it conducts frequent testing of the groundwater for contamination and insists the amount of radiation is not harmful, the results of an independent study to check for runoff will not be out for 2 weeks. The Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes plans on taking legal action against the county to stop it from importing natural gas waste. For more on the landfill controversy, check out articles from the Binghamton Press and the Elmira Star-Gazette.

***Please sign the petition to ban hydrofracture drilling in New York State (and ask others to sign as well!) We must protect the watershed that supplies water to NYC/NYS.***
photo courtesy of Nadine Kaplan

Friday, April 16, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day!

The Environmental Committee will be tabling outside the Coop along with members of the Safe Food Committee and Genetically Modified Organisms Shelf Labeling Squad. We will also be joined by master composters from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden demonstrating worm bin composting.

Sunday, April 18
9am – 3pm

in front of the Park Slope Food Coop
  • Stop by and talk to committee members

  • Pick up some of our great handouts

  • Bring your old batteries—we’ll be collecting them for recycling (spent alkaline batteries size AAA through D & nine-volts only)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hydrofracking Symposium

The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design presents:
Hydro-Fracking for Natural Gas:
How this technology threatens our water, our health, our landscapes and our energy future

Thursday, April 15, 6:30pm
Cooper Union, The Great Hall
7 East 7th Street, b/w 3rd and 4th Aves, NYC 10003
Free and open to the public

Professor Kevin Bone, director of The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design, will moderate the evening's dialogue featuring:
  • Dr. Theo Colborn, public health expert and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange one of the country's leading experts on the impacts of the toxic chemicals used in fracking fluid.

  • Dr. Michel Boufadel, director of the Temple University Department of Environmental Engineering, will review the costs and benefits of gas drilling and the extent to which the reality matches up.

  • Mr. Albert Appleton, Adjunct Associate Professor at Cooper Union, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and a globally known expert on water resources protection and the economics of sustainability, will speak about the political debate and its implications for the future of American energy policy and efforts to address global warming.

    The public will have an opportunity to participate and address concerns during the Q&A portion.

***You can still sign the petition to ban hydrofracture drilling in New York State (and ask others to sign as well!)

photo by David Shankbone

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Building Sustainable Communities:
The EPA Agenda

When: Wed., 4/14/10, 8:30am-10:00am (Breakfast at 8:30, program begins at 9:00)

The Puck Building, Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue, 2nd Fl.,
295 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012-9604
Free and open to the public.

A conversation with Judith A. Enck, Administrator of Region 2 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Maria Damon, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU.

EPA Region 2 covers the incredibly diverse territory of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven federally-recognized Indian Nations, home to a total of more than 31 million people. The Administrator will discuss her agency's efforts to promote healthy communities and ecosystems throughout the region, and touch on implications for transportation systems.

Image courtesy of EPA Region 2

Monday, April 12, 2010

START Re-Using Fabric Bags...

The Environmental Committee has designed and mounted new signs in the produce and bulk aisles as a way of reminding members about the PSFC's Environmental Policy, which aims to "achieve environmentally sound packaging."

Fabric bags and other biodegradable containers are great re-usable alternatives to the plastic produce and bulk bags provided by the PSFC and other food stores.

PSFC members banned plastic T-Shirt bags at checkout. Now it is time to take the next step and kick the plastic bag addiction in the bulk and produce aisles.

For Earth Day, take the Plastic-Free Pledge and transition to a healthy, re-usable alternative!

Reasons to RE-USE:
  • PSFC members currently spend over $30,000 on plastic produce and bulk bags annually.
  • PSFC members use 3.5 million plastic produce and bulk bags each year.
  • Plastic contains toxic additives that leach into our food, soil, water, and air.
  • Plastic never biodegrades.
  • Plastic recycling is inefficient and ineffective. Less than 2% of disposable plastic waste is recycled and even it will end up in the ocean or landfill eventually.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Environmental Films!

Split Estate will show at along with Josh Fox's Gasland --documentary prize winner at 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

April 14, 2010
6:00PM to 10:00PM
Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Ave., NYC

The Story: Can you imagine being able to light your tap water on fire? This is just one of the many shocking results due to the natural gas drilling boom which has swept the United States. The Halliburton-developed drilling technology called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has unlocked a "Saudi Arabia of natural gas" just beneath us. But is fracking safe? Part verite travelogue, part expose, part mystery, part bluegrass banjo meltdown, part showdown. Josh Fox encounters EPA whistleblowers, congressmen, world recognized scientists, and some of the most inspiring and heart-wrenching stories of ordinary Americans fighting against fossil fuel giants for environmental justice.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Your Bank & the Environment

Ruining Lives, Wrecking the Earth, Increasing Climate Change:
Is Your Bank Part of the Problem?

Here's some information you might be able to use:
I just learned that both my own bank, and a second large bank whose stock is in my IRA, invest in dirty energy projects including developing Canadian tar sands for oil and removing Appalachian mountain tops for coal. Unacceptable: I oppose these projects and support organizations that fight them. I do not want my money destroying mountains and wilderness.

How do you learn what your money's been doing while you weren't looking? Visit BankTrack, a website on which you can learn how various major banks use their customers' and investors' money: go to "banks," select the bank you want to know about, then look at "practice." BankTrack is a network of organizations and individual who track the operations of the financial sector and its effect on people and the planet. Their vision of helping "contribute to a private financial sector accountable to society at large, whose operations contribute to creating healthy and just societies and preserve the ecological well being of the planet" led them to study and report on bank activity.

If you're unhappy with the company your money's been keeping, you do have options. Vote your dollars another way -- e.g., by becoming an activist investor or bank customer, or selling your investment or changing banks. Notice that the banks listed on BankTrack are major world banks? A credit union or a smaller local bank might be a better bet for keeping your money from harming the environment.

For more information see Rainforest Action Network, Peacework, Banksecrets, and Fair Finance Watch.

Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Free Film Screening in Park Slope

Free film screening & discussion.

Location: Park Slope United Methodist Church
6th Ave. and 8th St., Brooklyn, NY

Pot Luck dinner at 7PM

Friday, April 9 at 8pm - Coal Country reveals the truth about modern coal mining. The story is told by the people directly involved, both working miners and activists who are battling the coal companies in Appalachia. Tensions are high. It’s a “new civil war,” as families and communities are deeply split over mountaintop removal mining (MTR). (86 min)

Monday, April 05, 2010

NY Denies Indian Point a Water Permit

In a major victory for environmental advocates, NY State has ruled that outmoded cooling technology at the Indian Point nuclear power plant kills so many Hudson River fish, consumes and contaminates so much water, that it violates the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The plant takes in enormous volumes of river water — 2.5 billion gallons a day, or more than twice the average daily water consumption of all of New York City — and use it to create steam for turbines and to cool the reactors. The water is then pumped back into the Hudson, 20 or 30 degrees hotter.

Sucking so much water causes plankton, eggs and larvae to be drawn into the plant’s machinery, or entrained, and the water pressure also causes fish to be trapped, or impinged, against intake screens, the state said.

The power plant’s water-intake system kills nearly a billion aquatic organisms a year, including the shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species. Additionally, radioactive material has polluted the Hudson after leaking into the groundwater.

Read more about this in the Sunday, April 4 New York Times.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

New DEC Plan to Protect Aquatic Life

The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced an a new plan to reduce the number of fish, fish eggs and larvae regularly destroyed when large quantities of water are withdrawn from rivers to cool steam electric plants.

New York ranks an estimated third in the nation in the use of "once through" cooling technology. This cooling method annually kills over 17 billion fish in all life stages when they are impinged or entrained by screens designed to prevent debris from entering power plants, according to the DEC's Aquatic Habitat Protection figures.

To remedy this problem, the DEC plans to require plants to use closed-cycle cooling technology, in which water can be recycled and reused, slashing the impacts on aquatic life by over 90 percent.

According to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis, "By requiring modern recycling technology, New York's marine resources will be afforded greater protection, including many marine fish species that are vital to the state's commercial and recreational fishing industries but are being harmed by water intakes."

The regulatory basis for the DEC's plan is that closed cycle cooling fulfills the "best technology available" (BTA) requirements under the federal Clean Water Act, which requires power plants to employ the best technology available to minimize environmental impacts.

The proposed policy, open to public comment through May 9, 2010, would apply to facilities that withdraw 20 million or more gallons of water per day unless an operator can demonstrate that closed cycle cooling cannot physically be implemented at its plant. In such a case, the DEC would require the use of alternate technologies that protect aquatic life to the same degree as closed cycle cooling.

The public is invited to comment on this draft policy through May 9, 2010, by sending comments to: NYSDEC Bureau of Habitat, BTA Policy Comments, 625 Broadway 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4756; or by email to After careful review and consideration of comments received, a final policy will be issued.

Excerpted from an article by NY League of Conservation Voters

Friday, April 02, 2010

Panel Discussion: Gas Drilling in NY Watershed

Saturday April 3rd,

Pratt U.,
Higgins Hall Auditorium

61 St. James Pl.
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Free and Open to the Public

NYC, including Bloomberg and the Department of Environmental Protection have taken a stand against natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region part of which is located in NYC’s Watershed, urging Albany to do the same. Many people think that if it dangerous for some part of the state, it should be banned throughout.

A panel of professionals, activists, concerned citizens and community groups, including members from Shaleshock, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and the Office of Environmental Coordination will discuss the facts and risks inherent to natural gas drilling and explain how it would effect NYC city citizens- in terms of health, safety, water quality and resulting future economic obligations. This event will work in conjunction with the NYPIRG event on April 1st.

Read more about Sustainable Pratt

Photo by Rob Friedman