Friday, December 30, 2011

Energy Independence? One Village Makes It Happen

Wildpoldsried,  a village of 2,600 in Germany, produces 321% more energy than they use.  Employing a variety of methods including wind turbines and solar panels, the village is now in a position, both earth-friendly and enviable, of making money by doing the right thing.
Currently they earn $5.7 million in revenue a year by selling their extra energy back to the national grid.

They made their changes over a period of 14 years, and they did it without going into debt.  See their story and slide show here.

For more information on this village's energy transformation, see this article, or do some googling.

Wildpoldsried's experience and inspiration is now available not just online but in person.  The mayor visits other towns, giving advice on how to make changes.  Also, the village council offers energy tours and talks for people who want to visit the village to see for themselves.

Don't know about you, but I've been waiting 40 years for a story like this.  On one hand, during those decades, a number of individuals and, more recently, commercial buildings have achieved energy independence, sometimes economically.  On the other hand  we've heard way too many repetitions of lines like alternative energy is "too expensive,"  "impractical," "unreliable,"  "not scaleable," blah blah blah.  These are the turf-defending views of King CONG (Harvey Wasserman's name for the Coal Oil Nuclear natural Gas industries).

CONG needs us to believe that we must have their deep-water drilling, their hydrofracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, and nukes in order to have enough energy.

Enter Wildpoldsried.   The accomplishment of this one small village stands as a potent refutation of CONGtalk.  CONG is simply  wrong.  Energy independence is in fact possible and practical.   A group of people with good leaders decided to make a change, acted on their decision, and change happened.

It can happen in more places.  Maybe the rest of us will be inspired by the Wildpoldsried story.  Maybe there's hope for our species to sustainably inhabit this planet, after all. 

photo by jinterwas on flickr

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Creative Cleanser

It’s really easy to make your own multi-purpose cleanser—mix one part vinegar with one part water. Vinegar is known to kill germs and bacteria; although there are different estimates, the most common one is that vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses).

You can get creative by adding a few drops of one of the many essential oils sold by the coop (jasmine, juniper, etc.) The coop also sells reusable spray bottles to store your cleanser. If you share your home with others, just make sure to label the bottle so others know what is in it.

You will save a lot of money by doing this (vinegar is inexpensive!) and have an environmentally friendly cleanser. You will not have to buy and dispose of multiple plastic bottles of cleanser at the store. And it's fun to pick your own scent(s).

Write us at ecokvetch at if you have any creative cleaning recipes/ideas you want to share.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seattle Bans Plastic Bags

They did it—can we?

From the 11/29/11 NY Times:

Seattle Bans Plastic Bags, and Sets a Charge for Paper
By William Yardley

SEATTLE — The City Council here voted unanimously on Monday to ban plastic grocery bags and charge a 5-cent fee on paper bags — and this time city leaders hope the ban actually takes effect.

Three years ago, Seattle city officials became the first in the nation to approve a fee on paper and plastic bags, instituting a charge of
20 cents for each bag provided by many retail stores. The idea was to create a financial incentive to reduce pollution: the fee was supposed to prompt people to bring reusable bags with them to shop.

But before the 2008 fee took effect, the plastic-bag industry led a petition drive that forced the issue onto a citywide ballot. In August 2009, in the midst of the recession and after the industry spent $1.4 million on the campaign, Seattle voters rejected the fee.

“Twenty cents felt kind of punitive, especially for low-income folks,” said Mike O’Brien, a council member whose committee introduced the current bill.

Instead of becoming a leader on the issue, Seattle watched as other cities moved forward with bans and fees.

“There’s a competitive side to seeing who can come up with the most progressive legislation,” said Mr. O’Brien, who was a local Sierra Club leader, and a candidate for the Council, when the bag fee was on the ballot.

Now Seattle is the fourth city in the state to approve a ban, modeling its measure closely on one approved this year in Bellingham. Some larger cities, including San Francisco, Washington and Portland, Ore., have also instituted bans and fees. But plenty of places are still wrestling with the subject. In Los Angeles, the City Council has studied the issue for four years.

Arguments persist about the environmental drawbacks and benefits of each type of bag. Mr. O’Brien said one reason the Council was allowing paper bags was because the city has one of the highest rates in the nation for paper bag recycling, about 85%, while it recycles only about 13% of the 292 million plastic bags distributed in the city. Under the ban, plastic bags could still be provided for produce and bulk grocery items.


Of course we know that the answer is not paper or plastic but reusable. Reusable bags can be made sustainably out of a variety of materials, even recycled plastic, in an effort to keep that substance out of landfills and oceans. The coop carries a variety of reusable bags and we hope to expand the selection in the
near future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Last Three Workshops to Stop Hydrofracking

We are holding three last workshops to create effective letters commenting on the problems in the DEC's proposed hydrofracking regulations under which hydrofracking could occur in New York State, as early as next year.

The workshops are:
  • Friday, December 16 from 5-7 pm

  • Saturday, December 17, from 3-5 pm

  • Tuesday, January 3 from 3-5 pm
Please help publicize these last workshops by forwarding this information to others on your squad, friends, neighbors, etc. The workshops are open to everyone: coop members and non-members alike.

You don't have to stay for the whole time—just stop by for awhile and write an effective letter to the DEC. It will be mailed for you (no procrastination!)

Governor Cuomo and the DEC seem unmoved by the facts about hydrofracking. See the recent news articles "EPA Sounds Alarm on Fracking in Wyoming" and E.P.A. Links Tainted Water in Wyoming to Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas and Some Blame Hydraulic Fracturing for EarthQuake Epidemic.

Your small time commitment will make a difference—let's protect New York's drinking water and our health from hydrofracking.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mrs. Meyer's Stinks

Mrs. Meyer's

Many environmentally-aware folks have been lured into believing that Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day is a healthy product.

However, if you read the fine print (and the ingredients list) you will see the truth. If you use your nose, you will smell the truth. Mrs. Meyer's uses synthetic ingredients and fragrances.

When you see the term "fragrance" or "parfum" in the ingredients list remember that the fragrance/perfume industry is protected by trade secret laws. This means they are not required to tell you what's in their formulations.

The ingredients that are lumped into the listing fragrance or parfum could include up to 1000 different synthetic chemicals!

Our current toxic chemicals law (the Toxic Substances Control Act) is so outdated and weak that testing has been required on fewer than 2% of the 80,000 chemicals available for use in the United States. Many of these chemicals, especially when they interact, are linked to numerous health problems, like endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.

The green cleaning business is booming with new products that claim to be "effective alternatives". Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day and other greenwashed products, like Method and SimpleGreen, have a very clever (but misleading) marketing scheme.

Don't waste your hard earned cash on clever marketing. A bottle of castile soap, a box of baking soda, and bottle of vinegar is all you need to keep your home fresh and clean. If you like fragrance, use a few drops of organic essential oil.

Read more at Raganella's blog and see why Mrs. Meyer's Stinks.

This post was originally published on

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

'Tis the Season . . .

To Receive a lot of Junk Mail!!!

The average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year and about 44% ends up in landfills. Most of this mail is not made from recycled paper to begin with, so this represents the loss of a great many trees plus water and energy to produce and transport the mail.

Why not opt out of junk mail with one of the free services available, Catalogue Choice or

You should see a noticeable improvement within 6-8 weeks. Some companies print their mailing labels months in advance, so it may take a while for these to stop coming. After 16 weeks, your junk mail should be eliminated by 80 to 95%. In addition to the environmental benefits, opting out of junk mail offers protection against identity theft as junk mail provides thieves with valuable information
about you.

Start the new year right: 41 pounds of junk mail lighter!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Next Electronic Waste Recycling Day

Saturday, December 10, 2011
10:00am - 4:00pm
rain or shine
in Park Slope at P.S. 321
(7th Ave. bet. 1st & 2nd)

A list of acceptable materials can be found here. Accepted items include electronics from households, small businesses (less than 50 employees, please call ahead) and not-for-profits. Appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, or air conditioners are not accepted.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NYC Public Hearing about Hydrofracking

If you are concerned about the potential health and environmental threats of hydraulic fracture gas drilling want to tell Governor Cuomo not to allow hydrofracking in New York State, here is a chance to speak up.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will be a public hearing in New York City on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers St., New York, NY.

There will be two sessions of the hearing: 1pm and 6 p.m.

You can attend just to listen and support others, or write out a statement of your own to read. If you want to read your own statement, there will be a sign up list when you get to the hearing.

You can also submit your comments about the latest proposed regulations (SGEIS) by mail or email to the DEC until December 12. For some tips on writing an effective letter about these regulations, see this valuable resource suggesting the different topics you might want to comment on. If you can, please write to the DEC now and/or attend the hearing. If the SGEIS is accepted on December 12, gas drilling companies will start drilling.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NYC Lags Behind Other Cities in Recycling

The October 21 New York Times featured an article titled, Lunch, Landfills, and What I Tossed. Author Mireya Navarro counted up the waste she produced in a week's worth of take out lunches:
"Saving all the packaging from a week’s worth of takeout food, I ended up with three plastic yogurt containers, a paper salad box, a paper cereal bowl, two Styrofoam plates, one plastic salad-dressing container and seven plastic food containers — the rigid ones with snap-on lids. Also, five plastic cups (each with a plastic straw), a paper cup with a plastic lid, a plastic water bottle and a plain old paper cup (it held milk for my cereal). Also, one plastic fork, one plastic knife and two compostable plastic spoons, which I threw out rather than composting."

Besides the individual trying to brown bag it and otherwise cut down on waste, there is another problem--New York City is lagging behind many others in its recycling:

"A survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council this year found that more than two dozen large and medium-size cities in the United States recycle all kinds of plastic containers, while New York takes only bottles and jugs."

Environmental advocates call recycling the weak link in the city’s green agenda, even after legislation was passed last year to overhaul the 1989 recycling law that made New York a 20th-century leader, not a laggard.

How far behind is the city? A survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council this year found that more than two dozen large and medium-size cities in the United States recycle all kinds of plastic containers, while New York takes only bottles and jugs. Another study this year ... ranked New York 16th among 27 cities in its handling of waste, though it was third in overall environmental performance.

Cutting-edge green cities, like San Francisco, offer curbside collection of food scraps and compostable items at homes, restaurants and offices. And dozens of places now charge residents for their trash by weight to promote recycling and keep refuse out of landfills."

The author points out that NYC is going backwards as far as recycling, currently recycling about 15% of the waste collected by the Sanitation Department down from 23% in 2001. Environmentalists feel the issue is not getting the attention it deserves from Mayor Bloomberg and City Hall. You can google the title of the article, "Lunch, Landfills and What I Tossed" to read the entire
piece online.

Friday, November 25, 2011

There's Still Time

There's still time, though not much, to write a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) about the proposed hydrofracking regulations. The deadline is December 12.

If you're at the coop this weekend, why not stop at the workshop to help you write an effective letter to the DEC commenting on their proposed fracking regulations:

Saturday, November 26: 1-3 pm

Individual letters make a difference--the DEC is required to read every one, whereas form letters are merely counted. You can stop by any part of the workshop. Handouts will be available if you want to do your writing at home or share the information with others.

Bring friends—coop members and non-members are all welcome!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Towards Zero Waste

Boulder, Colorado visionary Eric Lombardi has a plan to help that city and others move towards zero waste. His plan includes changing America's waste management system by shifting subsidies to green approaches, reducing the amount of waste generated by producers, funding appropriate recycling facilities and, ultimately, mandating recycling by law.

Lombardi said the economics of recycling have never been better.

"The value of recyclables is out of sight. It's now $150 a ton for the basket of goods I've been recycling for the past 20 years, and everyone I know in the business is looking at their landfills and incinerators and saying ‘why am I burying and burning $150 a ton?' It doesn't make sense." Learn more.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Saturday Fracking Comment Workshop

If you're at the coop this weekend, why not stop at the workshop to help you write an effective letter to the DEC commenting on their proposed fracking regulations:

Saturday, November 19: 2-4 pm

Individual letters make a difference--the DEC is required to read every one, whereas form letters are merely counted. The deadline for submitting comments is December 12--fracking may start in early 2012 if we don't speak up.

We will help you complete a letter at the workshop and mail it for you.
Stop by at any point during the workshop sessions.

One more session will be held right after Thanksgiving:
Saturday, Nov. 26: 1–3 pm

Bring friends—coop members and non-members are welcome!

We are very, very lucky to have access to clean, drinkable tap water in New York. Let's not take it for granted and assume that this problem will go away or that someone else will take care of it. Everyone's help is needed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

If You Want to Stop Hydrofracking . . .

Write to the DEC before the December 12 deadline.

For pointers on composing an effective letter to the DEC, see this resource from the Sierra Club and/or this resource from Sourcewatch.

It needn't be perfect; it needn't be long
Use the linked resources to make your words strong

We all tend to wait, but please don't delay
If you care for clean water, please write today!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Way to Track Recycling Online

Would competitive recycling inspire more people to recycle?
A Boston company called Greenbean Recycle is trying to make the act of keeping bottles and cans out of the landfill into a fun, competitive and engaging game for students at MIT.

The company has converted a recycling machine on MIT's campus into a point tabulator of sorts. When students approach the high-tech trash can to dump in their recyclables, they punch their phone number on a touch screen. A bar-code reader in the machine counts the number of cans, bottles and the like that the person has dropped off - and then uploads that data to Greenbean's website. The hope is that even non-recyclers may be inspired to do their part and sporadic recyclers to do even more. Read more.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Tote Those Totes

It's hard to image 3.6 million pounds of plastic bags—and that NYC residents throw away that much every week. You can print Grow NYC's new poster and post it in your building or workplace to help others reduce their usage of plastic bags. There are so many nice reusable bag options today—there's no need to rely on plastic!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Hydrofracking Comment Workshops!

Slowing Down the DEC on the
Fast Track to Frack New York State

Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation are putting the Energy Industry on a fast track to frack New York State.
Why the hurry?

The NYS DEC recently issued a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) which, if accepted, will allow hydro-fracking to begin. We have until December 12 to send comments to the DEC. The Environmental Committee is organizing a series of workshops to provide guidance for writing an effective letter to The DEC commenting on
their regulations.

Individual letters make a difference--the DEC is required to read every one, whereas form letters are merely counted.

We will help you complete a letter at the workshop and mail it for you.
Stop by at any point during one of the workshop sessions:

Sunday, 11/06: 12-2 pm

Saturday, 11/19: 2-4 pm

Bring friends—coop members and non-members are welcome!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Haven't Seen Gasland Yet?

Stop by the Park Slope United Methodist Church at Sixth Ave. and 8th St. on Thursday, November 3 for

  • a screening of Gasland, followed by

  • a Panel Discussion w/ fracking experts from the Park Slope Food Coop, NY H2O, United for Action, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and Assemblyman Jim Brennan, plus

  • refreshments

Film starts at 6:30pm; panel discussion begins at 8:30pm

Find out what you can do to protect our water and our food from fracking.

Monday, October 31, 2011

If they only had solar . . .

Several co-workers, friends and relatives have been without power since Saturday’s storm, and not for the first time, as each year brings several bouts of extreme weather. If any of them had thought to install some solar panels, they would currently have lights, refrigeration, and many other electric powered conveniences.

Once solar panels are installed, the actual energy generated by it is free. After a few years, the solar panels pay for themselves. And yes, you can use the energy when it is dark—it is generated and stored during sunny days for use later on. Best of all, it is non-polluting, which cannot be said of the energy from the grid which is largely powered by coal burning power plants. So maybe it’s time for more people to go solar. Rebates and tax credits are available in some areas. Learn more about solar panels.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, Oct. 26 is Drug Take-back Day

Medicines are now found in our surface and ground water, as well as drinking water supplies. Wastewater treatment facilities do not remove most medicines.

Throwing medicines in the garbage—especially controlled substances like OxyContin and other pain relievers—is not safe because the drugs can be found and used by others.
Medicines thrown in the trash can also get into the environment.

Saturday, October 26, from 10am to 2pm
is the third annual Prescription Drug Take-back Day.

There are many drop-off locations in Brooklyn and the other boroughs of New York City. Check this site to find a drop off location near you. Check the list of accepted items if you have any questions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GMO Labelling at Park Slope Food Coop

A big victory for the Non-GMO movement is occurring at the Coop! Starting on November 16, the GMO Shelf Labeling Committee will install on-shelf labeling of Non-GMO Project certified products. For those new to the issue: we basically don't know the long term effects of products containing genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and would like food to be labelled so we can decide whether or not we want to chance eating these ingredients.

The US government and the NYS government have so far resisted requests by consumers to force manufacturers to indicate on the label whether or not the product contains GMOs. The European Union established labelling laws in 2004. Australia, Japan, Brazil, and China have mandatory labelling laws as well.

The Food Coop's GMO Shelf Labelling Committee wants to create labels inside the coop, so shoppers can have that information. Beginning November 16th, you will be seeing a 3/8 inch green dot saying "Non GMO" on the shelf label for all products that have been certified as GMO-free by the Non-GMO Project. In addition, the GMO shelf-labeling committee will be putting the Non-GMO Project logo next to the shelf label for these same products where space permits, which should be the case for about 80% of the products. Based on our initial survey, we expect to be labeling about 300 products at the Coop, including grocery products, refrigerated products and frozen products. Labeling will NOT be provided for dairy and fresh
produce items.

Labels will be updated on a bi-weekly basis by the committee to ensure that the labeling is up-to-date and accurate. To perform this work, the GMO Shelf Labelling Committee is looking to add four additional members. If you or someone you know would like to be a part of this effort and join our squad, please contact Greg Todd at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sign the Petition to Stop Hydrofracking

Please take a moment to sign the petition to ban hydrofracking in New York State and pass it on to others.

The situation is pretty serious. Leases to hydrofrack land in upstate New York could be given out in early 2012 if we don't stop it, and we haven't so far. The good news is that many environmental groups and concerned citizens are working together on this--but we need everyone's help.

Send the petition link to your Facebook and other friends, if you can. And stop by one of the Environmental Committee's letter writing workshops to generate effective comments to the current SGEIS.

The next workshop is next Saturday, October 22, from 10 to 12pm. at the Park Slope Food Coop, 792 Union St., between 6th and 7th Avenues in Brooklyn. All are welcome--members and non-members alike. Please join us!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recycling CFLs - an update

Coop member Maureen asks:
I have a bunch of the compact bulbs that the coop sells and tried to return them to Brook's appliance for safe disposal. [they are listed on the NYSERDA site as a collection site] Home Depot and Lowes also do not accept these bulbs for recycling.

Do you have any advice you would be willing to offer?

That is indeed frustrating! Both Home Depot and Lowes are also listed (in error, apparently) on as accepting compact fluorescent bulbs.

Ikea is also listed on Earth911 as a collection site, and I have personally returned bulbs there (at the Brooklyn Ikea) within the past month. Their recycling collection bins are conveniently located just inside the entrance nearest the bike rack. By the way, adjacent to that bin is a collection bin for rechargeable batteries. (Unfortunately, they discontinued the collection of alkaline batteries earlier this year, despite what you may read on Ikea's own web site.)

A bit more background:
All fluorescent, and most high intensity discharge lights contain a small amount of mercury. Many states restrict or prohibit the disposal of some or all mercury containing light bulbs in the municipal waste stream. Due to environmental concerns, all mercury-containing bulbs should be recycled!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Two E-Waste Events next Weekend!!

It can't get any more convenient than this—two
E-Waste recycling events next weekend in Park Slope!!!

Check the list of acceptable materials which includes electronics from households, small businesses (less than 50 employees, please call ahead) and not-for-profits. They do
not accept home appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, or
air conditioners.

October 15, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
8th Avenue b/w 14th & 15th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn

October 16, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
7th Avenue b/w 4th & 5th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn

See the rest of the schedule for more possibilities. To recycle other things check

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pharmaceutical Take-Back Day

The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has organized the third nautional pharmaceutical take-back day on Saturday, October 29, between 10am and 2pm in locations across the United States. The DEA website allows you to type in your zip code and find the locations nearest to you. There are numerous locations in Brooklyn and other NYC boroughs—more will be added to the database until the day of the event.

The amount of pharmaceuticals currently in use has become an environmental problem, because, like everything else, sooner or later the drugs turn into waste products. Trace elements of a wide variety of drugs including antibiotics, anti-depressants and sex hormones have been found in lakes and rivers as well as numerous municipal water supplies. In an effort to mitigate this problem, pharmaceutical take-back events have been organized to properly collect and dispose of left-over medications so they do not migrate into the environment.

This is not a reason to switch to bottled water, much of which
comes from municipal water supplies. Our drinking water is carefully monitored. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires hundreds of tests each month on municipal water supplies, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water, requires only one test per week. New York City is blessed with an exceptionally good water supply—let’s do what we can to keep it that way.

Last April's second National Prescription Drug Take-Back event garnered more than 376,593 pounds (188 tons) of unwanted or expired medications at the 5,361 take-back sites that were available in all 50 states. This is 55 percent more than the 242,000 pounds (121 tons) the public brought in during last September’s event.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To Do: Write the DEC Before December 12

We have until December 12 to comment on the Supplementary Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS)--after that hydrofrack drilling can begin in New York State, unless our comments make it clear that the proposed regulations are not sufficient. Hydrofrack drilling will endanger our water supply, the organic farms we work with upstate, the land of property owners as well as the general environment in New York State.

The SGEIS is a large, technical document (several hundred pages). If you can come to one of our upcoming workshops at the Food Coop, we will assist you in writing a letter then and there.

If you want to get started writing on your own, here is a valuable resource suggesting the different topics you might want to comment on. If you can, please write to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) now. If the SGEIS is accepted on December 12, gas drilling companies will start drilling.

image courtesy of Julian Stark

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hydrofracking Letter Writing Workshops

Slowing Down the DEC on the
Fast Track to Frack New York State

Governor Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation are putting the Energy Industry on a fast track to frack New York State.
Why the hurry?

The NYS DEC recently issued a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) which, if accepted, will allow hydro-fracking to begin. We have until December 12 to send comments to the DEC. The Environmental Committee is organizing a series of workshops to provide guidance for writing an effective letter to The DEC commenting on
their regulations.

Individual letters make a difference--the DEC is required to read every one, whereas form letters are merely counted.

We will help you complete a letter at the workshop and mail it for you.
Stop by at any point during one of the workshop sessions:

Saturday, 10/15: 1-3pm

Saturday, 10/22: 10am-2pm

Sunday, 11/06: 12-2 pm

Saturday, 11/19: 2-4 pm

Bring friends—coop members and non-members are welcome!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Use Less Plastic -- Interviews with Coop Members

"The question is not 'can you make a difference?' You already do make a difference.  It's just a matter of what kind of difference you want to make, during your life on this planet."
-- Julia Butterfly Hill
Some coop members are using less plastic these days.  Seven of them were interviewed about what they're doing, how, and why.  Thank you to Anna Amadei, David Barouh, Michael Braudy, Laura Sheinkopf, Moraima Suarez, Majo Tinoco, and Gabriel Willow for generously sharing their experiences and thoughts.
The common feature of what these members are doing in the produce and bulk aisles is simple:  they make another choice instead of taking a new plastic bag from the roll.  Either they use no bag or a cloth bag, or re-use an old plastic bag.  Beyond this shared choice, they have individually found other ways to reduce plastic use.
Some of what inspired these people to reduce their plastic use:  for Majo, "increasing awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how it affects marine life," led to action.  Anna was inspired by to begin a plastic-free year.
See the longer article in the Gazette, 9/22/11, (scroll down to p. 5), for more on how these seven negotiate the produce and bulk aisles without new plastic and why they're making changes.
Part II will range further afield:  other plastic-reducing actions of these seven, problems they've encountered, their hopes for a less-plastic future.
Meanwhile, what kind of difference do you want to make? You are needed now.
To reduce plastic use, please:
  1. Make another choice than plastic-roll bags in produce and bulk aisles.
  2. Read about and support the environmental committee's proposal to phase out plastic bag rolls.
Photo by Chris Jordan

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ecologist's Award Goes to Fight Hydrofracking

Sandra Steingraber is one of my heroes. A bladder cancer survivor at 20 years of age, she went on to get a PhD in biology and devote herself to environmental work. She writes poetry, too, and lives in upstate NY with her family. If you haven't read Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment, I highly recommend it.

We just learned that Dr. Steingraber won the Heinz Award: an unrestricted $100,000 cash prize. She has announced that she will use her award to fight hydrofracking. Read her own words about this decision.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fracking Call to Obama on Tuesday

Please join us as we partner with Josh Fox, the National Grassroots Coalition, Food and Water Watch, Credo, Democracy for America, Working Families Party, United for Action and many others this Tuesday, September 13th in calling President Obama and telling him we want hydrofracking banned. The threat to our drinking water and our health is unacceptable.

Your call does matter.

Call the White House
at 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414
between 9 am and 5 pm EDT
on September 13th.

Say, "Hello my name is _, I live in (City, State) and I want fracking banned and a sane, renewable energy policy for this country".

If the phone lines get jammed, send an email through the White House Contact page here:

We need to let President Obama know that Americans do not want fracking.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Fall Electronics Recycling Events

The Lower East Side Ecology Center is holding 17 electronic waste ("e-waste") recycling events in all five boroughs in September and October. The dates and locations of the Brooklyn are listed below along with links to flyers (PDF) for each event. Please post or distribute flyers to help us get the word about about the event. To see events from other boroughs, look here.

All events will be held rain or shine and will run 10am to 4pm (with the exception of the September 20th event which will run 11am to 7pm).

Check the list of acceptable materials . They accept electronics from households, small businesses (less than 50 employees, please call ahead) and not-for-profits. They do not accept home appliances such as microwaves, refrigerators, or air conditioners.

September 24, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
Habana Outpost, Fulton St. b/w S. Portland Ave. & S. Oxford St., Brooklyn

October 01, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
Smith Street b/w President & Union Sts., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

October 01, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
The New New York, N 11th St. b/w Kent & Wythe Aves., Williamsburg, Brooklyn

October 02, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, Furman Street b/w Old Fulton & Doughty St, Brooklyn

October 15, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
8th Avenue b/w 14th & 15th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn

October 16, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
7th Avenue b/w 4th & 5th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn

October 22, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
Restoration Plaza, Herkimer St entrance b/w New York & Brooklyn Aves, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

October 23, 2011 | 10:00am - 4:00pm Directions Flyer
PS 29 Schoolyard, Baltic St. b/w Henry & Clinton Streets, Brooklyn

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Plastic Releases Estrogenic Chemicals

Most people have heard of BPA-free plastic, but a recent study has found that nearly all plastic, even that which claims to be BPA-free, releases chemicals that have estrogenic activity (EA) and cause hormone distruption.

Their results found that:
"Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products."

They noted that:
"Chemicals having estrogenic activity (EA) reportedly cause many adverse health effects, especially at low (picomolar to nanomolar) doses in fetal and juvenile mammals."

Their conclusion indicates that the industry does have access to additives that have no detectable EA and have similar costs. If these were used by the plastics industry, we could:
"eliminate a potential health risk posed by most currently available plastic products that leach chemicals having EA into food products."

This study underscores the recommendation that pregnant women and parents of young children should avoid all plastic-based baby products. Please use tried and true materials like wood, metal, or glass and keep plastic away from baby.

Read the full article here or download the PDF.

Learn more about the Environmental Committee's research, which informs our recent recommendation to Phase Out Plastic Bag Rolls on the shopping floor.

* Originally published on Plastic Albatross.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Plastic Bag Rolls Phase Out

Please take a moment to read the Environmental Committee's "Recommendation to Phase Out Plastic Bag Rolls" in the recent Linewaiter's Gazette (August 11, 2011 - pages 6-7).

This recommendation aims to encourage members to start bringing their own bags for items like produce and bulk. It will reduce the Park Slope Food Coop's consumption of disposable plastic bags-- currently clocking in at 383 bags per hour!

You may also learn more about our recommendation and proposal here:

Please support this important effort:

Monday, August 01, 2011

No Earthquakes in New York, Please!

I've always felt a bit relieved that New York is not prone to earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes and the like. But two recent articles caused me to rethink this. Hydraulic fracture drilling for gas (hydrofracking) has caused earthquakes in locations hitherto unknown for being earthquake prone. Geologists found that over 1,000 small earthquakes occurred in central Arkansas due to this drilling process. Drilling operations there have been temporarily suspended while this is investigated. Then there was the news in June of this year that fracking operations in Blackpool, United Kingdom caused a 1.5 magnitude quake at the end of May and a 2.3 magnitude earthquake in April.

It stands to reason that using extremely high pressure to break up layers of shale rock and to release trapped oil would have repercussions. This is in addition to what we already know about the water pollution and other negative effects of the process. Please contact Governor Cuomo and make it clear that New Yorkers do not want hydrofracking in our state.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Birth Into More Serious Environmental Consciousness

Even though I've been making urban-kitchen compost for some years, from my own kitchen and a multi-user kitchen nearby, and I've been worm-herding (vermiculture/worm castings/worm compost), and using all the compost and all the castings from the worms, I've been hanging back on my own personal vow for environmental right action (my personal commitment to do anything/everything in my power to do "the right thing" to help our ailing environment).

Here's how I've changed recently. It's been a fun trip to change my life this way.way. I get to give back to the environment that has supported me all these years. I've loved doing it. It might help you to know what I've done to date, 'cause if I Here's how I've changed recently. It's been a fun trip to change my life this can do it, you certainly can too!

I was upset when someone told me they were saving all their plastic bags from shopping and from the produce section. I didn't want to save all of those annoying bags, and they make a big mess trying to save them, too. BUT, I saw the Plastic Bag Folding Technique #1 on Ecokvetch under the label Plastics, and I made my storage space under the sink an environmental dream come true: 1 bag now holds all my little triangularly folded plastic bags and I wrote "Please Take With You For No-New-Plastic-Bag-Shopping" on the outside, for my roommates to consider.

Those little muslin bags at the coop are great for a lot of dry goods by the pound, and some produce, too. And my canning jars of all different sizes are helpful for everything which needs careful, more air-tight storage. I've been using alternative shopping bags for a long time. I always use re-freezable cold packs for getting my groceries home in good shape. Does anyone use ice any more?

I consulted with various experts on environmental consciousness and was referred to all the latest on how to separate our recyclables so everything that can be recycled right now, is. I've come to understand what the city takes, what our compost can turn into rich loam soil, what plastic items PSFC takes and when to bring them to the coop, and finally what absolutely has to be trashed. Whew. And I'm still learning. I'm so grateful that PSFC is already taking #5 plastic bottle tops for recycling.
I understand that even (the billions) of plastic bottle tops people throw out are an environmental nightmare for the ocean and landfills. I hope we can collect more and different number bottle tops soon.

Considering the impact that our cleaning techniques in the apartment have, I decided that the world (and my apartment) is full of rags, and I've started using them instead of swiffers. I'm reusing the swiffer mop and just stuffing my rags into the holes formerly used for the environmentally NOT sound NOT-reusable cleaning cloths (and they were an expensive habit to keep paying for. I use water and a bit of cleaning liquid I buy at the coop and even if the rags don't stay stuffed into the holes on the swiffer mop all the time, I can still clean just as well (I think better) by using that mop to push the cleaning rag back and forth on the kitchen/bathroom floors. HA !

Long ago I started using the compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent, but I'm going to have to look up how to recycle the used ones (they have mercury content). I have a feeling the answer to that question will be readily available from someone even as this is being read. And, latest addition to this posting: is the place to tap into for finding out where to recycle in my zipcode. Thank you, readers ! I use nightlights that are darkness activated instead of turning on lights. A romantic twinkle in a dark apartment, right? I'm now recharging my batteries. Yay!

Unplugging all my appliances is the norm (so many use a current all the time to "start" them up quicker), including my cellphone charger. The computer goes OFF instead of SLEEP. Off is good.

What else? Is it over the top in addition to having a low water flush for the toilet, to only flush after a couple of liquid uses? I just put the top down. Hmmm. Too hard core? I don't mind. I don't leave the toilet unflushed when I'm going out. Does it help to know that most people in the world do not have flush toilets; only highly unsanitary privies?

And when I'm using water, well, I have to say, especially when I shower, I actually think of all the people in the world who have never had a hot running water shower. Wow. So, I'm careful about my water use. It's NOT necessarily a renewable resource the way that we are used to thinking about it.

There'll be more; I know I'll learn more. But meanwhile, can you stand hearing that I'm thankful to be stable enough financially to actually have the time and energy and resources to consider all of the above? It may seem pollyanna, but does my privilege to consider these things mean that I can't be aware that there are so many people in the world who don't have this same stability in their lives to be able to work on the environment the way I can?

I've changed so much since I've started considering recycling and reusing. And it feels good. Thanks never hurt anyone; I thank myself for doing all this and I think of all the other folks who are trying really hard as well; our efforts are thanking Mom Earth. I love to make the effort; it gives me more energy to do more, and I hope this effort is contagious !

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York: Solar City

The recent heatwave may have convinced more naysayers that global warming is real. Those of us already convinced will be glad to hear of more energy efficient options, especially on a large scale. A recent CNN article reported that two-thirds of the one million rooftops in New York City are suitable for solar power.

Right now, the city only gets a small amount of it's energy from solar. Increasing our solar energy use would not only decrease the amount of pollution our energy use generates, but reduce the stress on our energy grid, which is always a worry, especially in times of extreme heat. Consider also that once the initial installation of solar panels is made, the energy itself is free. Solar panels can be used on individual homes as well as larger buildings. Learn more about solar energy options for New York City.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why NYS Must Ban Fracking

Why NYS won't be protected if fracking takes place:

On July 8, 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Study (dSGEIS)—the proposed permitting conditions for the hydraulic fracturing of horizontal wells in New York State.

While the dSGEIS may appear at first glance to be a significant improvement over the previous document (released by the DEC in 2009), the Catskill Mountainkeeper's investigation into the text's fine print has identified massive deficiencies. These include failing to present a mitigation plan for the inevitable public health impacts associated with fracking, and a blatant disregard to adequate drinking water protections.

Additionally, this document presents the industry with a clear road map for fracking in the Catskill Park, the Delaware River Watershed, and throughout the Southern Tier of New York.

The Handling of Toxic Wastewater Still a Major Problem
The plan by the DEC to track the solid and liquid wastes that are generated in connection with fracking sounds positive until you read that they are leaving the tracking of these wastes up to gas industry operators. We’ve all seen what happens when the industry is asked to police itself. Even more upsetting is that the DEC is still not classifying some of the waste that normally qualifies as hazardous, as hazardous, meaning that fracking waste could be sent to treatment facilities that are unable to properly treat it.

Protection of Primary Aquifers is only for a Limited Time
The DEC is proposing to prohibit fracking in primary aquifers that serve as public drinking water supplies but this “prohibition” is only limited to a couple of years after which the state could “reconsider” the bans. In addition, the DEC does not lay out the conditions under which “reconsideration” would be reviewed.

Bans on Drilling in State-Owned Land Inadequate
The ban on drilling in state-owned lands looks good until you read that while the state will prohibit well pads above ground they will allow drilling under these same lands.

Cumulative Impact Requirements Incomplete
References to how an area would be affected by the cumulative impact of many, many wells is only addressed for some aspects of that cumulative impact but the DEC has failed to lay out a comprehensive, focused plan to review and analyze the consequences of a full build out.

Regional Areas of Geological Risk Not Protected
The DEC has not addressed fracking in areas of special geological risk, such as those with fault lines that are potential pathways for the upward gradient of contaminants into aquifers because they claim that contaminants can’t rise into aquifers. However, independent scientific studies have proven that upward migration of contaminants is not only possible, but also likely. The DEC based their assertion on industry studies that looked at just 5 days in the fracking process.

Open Waste Pits Not Outlawed
The DEC has sidestepped banning deplorable open waste pits because they say that the gas industry has asserted that they are unlikely to use open pits for the storage of wastewater. Instead of prohibiting open pits out right, which should be done, they have proposed a system where a lone DEC employee could grant approval without doing an individual environmental impact study.

So what’s next?
We are waiting for the dates to be released for the public hearings that the DEC will schedule to collect comments on their plan.
Getting a large turnout to these hearings is critical—we will let you know as soon as we know the dates and locations of these meetings and we urge you to plan to be there.

Note: This has been excerpted from a press release by the Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Humane Laws for Hens Ready for Votes

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reached this morning with the United Egg Producers (UEP_, which could result in a complete makeover of the U.S. egg industry and improve the treatment of the 280 million laying hens used each year in U.S. egg production. Thanks to your support over the years, through our state ballot initiatives and legislative and corporate campaigns, we now have a new pathway forward to ban barren battery cages and phase in more humane standards nationwide.

The HSUS and UEP have agreed to work together to advocate for federal legislation that would:
  • Require a moratorium at the end of 2011 on new construction of unenrichable battery cages—small, cramped, cages that nearly immobilize more than 90 percent of laying hens today—and the nationwide elimination of barren battery cages through a phase-out period;

  • Require phased in construction of new hen housing systems that provide hens nearly double the amount of space they’re currently provided;

  • Require environmental enrichments so birds can engage in important natural behaviors currently denied to them in barren cages, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas;

  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs, such as "eggs from caged hens" or "eggs from cage-free hens";

  • Prohibit forced molting through starvation—an inhumane practice that is inflicted on tens of millions of hens each year and which involves withholding all food from birds for up to two weeks in order to manipulate the laying cycle;

  • Prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses—a common problem in the industry that is harmful to both hens and egg industry workers;

  • Require standards for euthanasia of hens; and

  • Prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these above requirements.

This agreement now needs to be voted on by senators and congressman to become law. Please contact your U.S. senators and representative today and urge them to support this federal legislation to end barren battery cage confinement and provide more humane standards for laying hens.

Some of the provisions would be implemented nearly immediately after enactment, such as those relating to forced molting, ammonia, and euthanasia, and others after just a few years, including labeling and the requirement that all birds will have to have at least 67 square inches of space each. (Currently, approximately 50 million laying hens are confined to only 48 square inches each.) The bill would require that all egg producers increase space per bird in a tiered phase-in, resulting in a final number, within 15 years for nearly all producers, of at minimum, 124-144 square inches of space each, along with the other improvements noted above.

In order to protect Proposition 2 (a landmark laying hen welfare initiative passed in California in 2008 that many of you worked on), all California egg producers—with nearly 20 million laying hens—would be required to eliminate barren battery cages by 2015 (the date Prop 2 goes into effect), and provide all hens with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas. This will also apply to the sale of all eggs and egg products in California. And this agreement to pass comprehensive federal legislation on hen welfare puts a hold on planned ballot measures related to laying hen welfare in both Washington and Oregon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tips for Using Less Plastic

Last Tuesday, we looked at the work of former sea captain Mary Crowley, who is trying to remove plastic debris from the ocean, specifically from the north Atlantic gyre. Some people think the focus should be on reducing our plastic use and waste and cleaning up what is already there is futile. Captain Crowly thinks you can do both.

Mother Nature Network is featuring 19 ways to reduce plastic usage, some of which are easier for coop members than others, as we have access to a variety of options.

What else can we do at the Coop and as individuals to reduce plastic usage and waste?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Don't Let Cuomo Frack New York!

After months of study, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has released their report, and Governor Cuomo has indicated his approval of hydraulic fracture drilling in parts of New York State other than the watersheds of NYC and Syracuse. But what about all the other cities and towns, not to mention farmers and rural dwellers who rely on wells or local water supplies? What about the organic farms that supply the Park Slope Food Coop and others? Unfortunately there is no part of New York State that is not a watershed for somebody.

You can make a strong statement by calling Governor Cuomo’s office to tell him that his plan to push hydraulic fracturing in New York State puts New Yorkers at too great a risk and must be abandoned. You can reach the Governor’s office by calling (518) 474-8390 or (212) 681-4580.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Non-toxic cat litter, hold the plastic bag.

At last! The search is over. Here's a cat litter that’s non-toxic, affordable, and actually works-- and it’s not packaged in plastic.

Beth Ann’s Finest All Natural Cat Litter, which is sold in a compostable brown paper bag, is made from 100% biodegradable, non-GMO corn, from Iowa family farms.

If you'd like the Coop to carry Beth Ann's Finest All Natural Cat Litter, add a request to the product request book at the Entrance Desk.

You can also order it directly from Beth Ann or pick it up from NYC Pet on 5th Avenue.

* Originally published on Plastic Albatross.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Talking Trash

Former sea captain, Mary Crowley, was interviewed by More magazine about her mission to try to clean up ocean trash. It's really our mission too, since we inadvertantly produce trash that ends up in the ocean, including bottles, toys and even lawn chairs! Read about Mary's project and let's get some ideas about how we can limit trash on our end to preserve our oceans.

Monday, June 27, 2011

First Zero Packaging Store Opens

Americans throw away 1.4 billion pounds of waste every day, and 40% of it comes from one-time packaging.

A new store which forgoes packaging has opened in Austin, TX, warming the hearts of all zero waste advocates. Read about it or, if you're in the Austin, TX area this summer, why not visit and let us know about it. Go Austin!

Can we reduce our packaging at the Coop and in NYC in general?
Take a look at 4 Radical Solutions to Packaging Waste and see
what you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Politics of Nutrition

NYC Green Carts: Healthy Food Deserts and the Politics of Nutrition

Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 pm
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave. at 103rd St.

How do geography and income level affect New Yorkers' access to a healthy, nutritious diet?

Is the disparity in healthy options a product of the marketplace or an unintended consequence of policy or both?
  • Beth Weitzman, Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs and Professor of Health and Public Policy at New York University; with

  • Barbara Brenner, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and

  • Cathy Nonas, Director of the Physical Activity and Nutrition program, New York City Health Department, discuss access to healthy food and the health of New York City's neighborhoods.
Reservations required: 917-492-3395 or e-mail
$6 museum members; $8 seniors and students; $12 non-members
$6 when you mention Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)/COMFOOD

Monday, June 13, 2011

Warming Planet and Food Supplies

Environmental Committee member Regina Weiss has a letter to the editor in today's (6/13/11) New York Times, in response to the 6/4/11 article
A Warming Planet Struggles
to Feed Itself

To the Editor:
Your article is not a moment too soon in sounding the alarm over how rising temperatures affect agriculture. But there is a widespread misconception that more food is needed to feed a growing world population, when what we really need is to eat differently.

While the use of grain to produce meat was mentioned in the article, it bears a closer look.

Today, half of the world’s corn and 90 percent of all the soy grown are used to feed livestock — a serious misdistribution that diverts billions of pounds of grain away from people who could be eating it. In addition, the millions of acres of precious arable land used to grow animal feed leave less land — far less — available to grow the wide variety of vegetables and fruits needed for a healthy diet.

In China, the average amount of pork eaten per person rose 45 percent in just the dozen years ending in 2005. In the United States, the amount of chicken consumed rose from an average of 21 pounds to 86 pounds a year per person between 1950 and 2005, while the amount of beef eaten by the average American rose from 44 pounds to 65 pounds a year.

Put simply, more people who can afford to are simply eating too much grain-intensive meat, severely shrinking the land available to produce plant-based food for human consumption.
Regina Weiss

Monday, June 06, 2011

Say No to Food Coop GMOs

The GMO Shelf Labelling Committee is very concerned about how many Coop products contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). U.S. Manufacturers do not have to include information about GMOs on their labels—that's why the MO committee investigates and puts warning labels on our shelves. Advocates are also trying to enact more truthful labelling laws.

The amount of products we have with GMOs is staggering, and this goes against the Coop's mission statement, which says:
"Sell no products that are genetically engineered or contain products of genetic engineering, except that sales of genetically engineered products shall not be discontinued unless there is a similarly priced equivalent product that is not genetically engineered. Genetically engineered products for which there are adequate substitutes as described above shall be replaced as quickly as possible by the substitute product."
Read more of the Food Coop's environmental policy.

See the GMO committee's new brochure on their blog, urging members to speak up and say, "No!" to GMOs.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

HS Students Help Pass Pharma Waste Law

An Illinois high school teacher and his students helped pass a state-wide pharmaceutical disposal law. This ecology teacher is the director of the national Prescription Pill and Disposal Plan, which has already spread to 13 states (though not New York).

Improper disposal of meds (putting them in regular trash or flushing down the toilet) leads to a dangerous environmental imbalance. A 2000 U.S. Geological Survey found pharmaceuticals in some 80% of streams sampled in 30 states. We need a good pharmaceutical disposal law in New York. Read more about the new legislation.