Honey With Urban Terroir

The bees’ home at the Javits. Beekeeping was illegal in New York until 2010 when the ban was lifted. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of bees, both environmentally and agriculturally.  So we’re suckers for happy bee stories, especially urban bees. Kudos to the New York City Board of Health for lifting the Giuliani-era ban against urban bee-keeping, not to mention the Javits Center green-roof sustainability project!

Atop a Manhattan Convention Center, a Harvest of Honey

Let us begin not with the who, which was several thousand bees and a bunch of people in anti-sting gear that looked like spacesuits, or the what, which was harvesting honey. Let us go directly to the where.

It was not a bosky setting that would bring to mind the Robert Frost poem about good fences and good neighbors, but the south roof of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s Far West Side. Here the neighbors are the unfinished towers of the Hudson Yards development. They ring what has become an urban meadow — the south roof, mostly covered by 6.75 acres of kaleidoscopic sedum. It is yellowish green. It will turn red in time for Christmas.

The bees have been in residence since spring. The first 12,000 came from California, transplanted in a three-pound container that looked like a shoe box with screens on both sides. They were placed in wooden hives, which look like stackable drawers. There were 60,000 to 80,000 by midsummer.

The accommodations are typical of urban apiaries. Liane Newton, the director of nycbeekeeping.org, who tends them, described her role as “convincing them they live in a tree trunk when they live in a file cabinet.”

Her persuasion seems to have paid off. “They made cells for closets, cells for babies, cells for storing pollen,” she reported one morning last week. “One amazing thing about bees is they have this architectural inclination.” Continue reading

The Fourth Estate Asking Questions About Sustainable Agriculture

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Wade Dooley, in Albion, Iowa, uses less fertilizer than most farmers because he grows rye and alfalfa, along with corn and soybeans. “This field [of rye] has not been fertilized at all,” he says.
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Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) and Dan Charles for doing their job, keeping the questions coming, even on topics we think we know the answers to:

Does ‘Sustainability’ Help The Environment Or Just Agriculture’s Public Image?

Brent Deppe is taking me on a tour of the farm supply business, called Key Cooperative, that he helps to manage in Grinnell, Iowa. We step though the back door of one warehouse, and our view of the sky is blocked by a gigantic round storage tank, painted white.

“This is the liquid nitrogen tank,” Deppe explains. “It’s a million-and-a-half gallon tank.” Continue reading

Kelp Farming, Whether For Food Or Fuel, Is In Our Future

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Kelp plants grow on a 30-foot-long, white PVC pole suspended in the water. If this is successful, instead of just one row, there would be a whole platform, hundreds of meters across and hundreds of meters deep, full of kelp plants. Courtesy of David Ginsburg/Wrigley Institute

Farming seaweed, using the power of the sun and the vast resources of the oceans, is a topic we expect to be featuring more of in these pages, and whether considering it as food or fuel we know the folks at the salt will be one of our primary sources delivering the goods:

The push for renewable energy in the U.S. often focuses on well-established sources of electricity: solar, wind and hydropower. Off the coast of California, a team of researchers is working on what they hope will become an energy source of the future — macroalgae, otherwise known as kelp.

The Pacific Coast is known for its vast kelp forests. It’s one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, and farming it requires no fertilizer, fresh water, pesticides, or arable land. “It can grow 2 to 3 feet per day,” says Diane Kim, one of the scientists running the kelp research project at the University of Southern California. Continue reading

Chile Finds A Better Path To Renewable Energy

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The first geothermal energy plant in South America is in Cerro Pabellón, Chile, 14,760 feet above sea level, surrounded by volcanoes. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Chile’s near catastrophe with hydroelectric energy, averted in part thanks to the efforts of friends in the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, made us wonder whether Chile’s path to a greener future would be straight and narrow. Thanks to the New York Times and Ernesto Londoño we think we have strong evidence helping us with the answer:

Chile’s Energy Transformation Is Powered by Wind, Sun and Volcanoes

CERRO PABELLÓN, Chile — It looks and functions much like an oil drilling rig. As it happens, several of the men in thick blue overalls and white helmets who operate the hulking machine once made a living pumping crude.

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A worker inspecting solar panels in the Atacama Desert in Chile, one of the driest and sunniest places on Earth. The sun is so strong there that workers must wear protective suits and slather on thick layers of sunscreen. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

With the ability to power roughly 165,000 homes, the new plant is yet another step in Chile’s clean energy transformation. This nation’s rapidly expanding clean energy grid, which includes vast solar fields and wind farms, is one of the most ambitious in a region that is decisively moving beyond fossil fuels.

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Wind turbines in the Atacama Desert and other turbines along Chile’s 2,653-mile coast contribute to power to national grid. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Latin America already has the world’s cleanest electricity, having long relied on dams to generate a large share of its energy needs, according to the World Bank.

But even beyond those big hydropower projects, investment in renewable energy in Latin America has increased 11-fold since 2004, nearly double the global rate, according to a 2016 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization. Chile, Mexico and Brazil are now among the top 10 renewable energy markets in the world.

Chile3So as Latin America embraces greener energy sources, government officials and industry executives in the region have expressed a sense of confusion, even bewilderment, with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the climate changecommitments contained in the Paris Agreement, declare an end to the “war on coal” and take aim at American environmental regulations. Continue reading

Caviar’s Alternative Harvesting Methods

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Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar markets three types of caviar, one from the wild Acadian sturgeon, and two types — green and gold — from its farmed shortnose sturgeon. Nancy Matsumoto for NPR

Thanks to Nancy Matsumoto and the folks at the salt, over at National Public Radio (USA):

To Help Keep Sturgeon Sustainable, Farm And Fishery Work Together

It’s the end of only the first week of the official Atlantic sturgeon fishing season on the St. John River in New Brunswick, Canada. But the two fishermen who supply Cornel Ceapa’s Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar company have already landed close to half of the season’s catch. Continue reading

Suddenly, Lyft

Lyft1.jpgWhen I decided to delete that app it was without hesitation. I wanted to avoid sanctimony, but the point of making a show of my resolve was a simple message, i.e. that manners matter. Even though that app had been extremely useful to me over the past year, it was not so useful that I could ignore its founder’s behavior once I finally paid attention.

So now I am paying attention, and need a new app. And where better to start looking? I liked the message of that story, for reasons akin to my boyhood preference for Bjorn Borg over John McEnroe. I believe in disruption and I believe in winning, but if one is going to develop new rules of the game, then they should definitely be better rules that lead to better behavior. Continue reading

Sustainable Village Highlight: San Juan la Laguna, Guatemala

Hi, there! I’m Mari Gray, founder of artisan-made brand Kakaw Designs, based in Guatemala. After studying International Relations and Spanish at UC Davis and then working for several non-profits in Latin America, I became disillusioned and decided to focus on sustainable development through a social enterprise, partnering with talented artisan communities in Guatemala.

I feel incredibly fortunate to work with different artisan groups in Guatemala through Kakaw Designs (pronounced <kekao> like the cacao tree), an artisan-made brand I started about four years ago.  We currently work with several different artisan groups: two weaving, one embroidery, two teams of leathersmiths, and one silversmith; all to make our designs come to life.  But it was for a good reason that we started with the weaving cooperative Corazón del Lago in San Juan la Laguna, at Lake Atitlán.

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We would never have been able to launch Kakaw Designs without this group of forward-thinking, professional weavers from this small Maya village.  The community itself is exceptional, with sustainability clearly a focus through:

  • Use of natural dyes in textile production, also using local traditional techniques such as backstrap weaving and ikat designs  <<Learn more by watching our video>>
  • Organization of weavers in cooperatives or associations, where women work together and can therefore take larger orders and offer quality control
  • Up-and-coming development of community ecotourism, especially birding

Continue reading

Sustainable Education

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To me, conservation tourism isn’t just about facilitating guest experiences in nature, but rather, it is about ensuring that guests walk away from their experience having gained a new appreciation for the systems they have interacted with. When I first spoke with Crist about spending my summer at Chan Chich, we mostly discussed working on developing a hydroponic food production system at the lodge. Not only would this system serve as a food supplier for the kitchen, but would also have an interactive educational aspect so guests could learn about the process. While this project is still a focal point of my internship, sustainability isn’t just about improving one aspect of a system, just like good conservation tourism is about having a medley of experiences.

When strengthening both the guest experience and sustainable operations at Chan Chich, it isn’t enough to just focus on what is going in to the kitchen. Rather, it is essential to focus on what is coming out of the kitchen as well.

Sustainable waste management has been important to the operations at Chan Chich for some time now. However, never before has these processes been visible to guests. While the hydroponic project is still under development, applying the project’s ideas of sustainable technology and guest education to waste management in the meantime is highly beneficial.

The result?

Continue reading

Blue Heart of the Planet

The United Nations Ocean Conference is underway to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The importance of collaboration between public and private sectors to brainstorm innovative solutions to environmental issues is becoming increasingly clear, as is the reality that states and local governments will be the stronger voices for climate activism.

The health of the planet and our oceans are interchangeable, and Sylvia Earle has been the spokesperson for that truth for decades.

Take the extra 18+ minutes to listen to her 2009 TED Prize Talk here.

 

 

 

 

The Wonders Of Trees Never Cease

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Goats climb an argan tree in Morocco to dine on its fruit. Jeremy Horner/Getty Images

At Chan Chich Lodge we are just embarking on a tree-related culinary journey, so any counterintuitive story about trees is likely to catch my attention these days.

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Thanks to Marc Silver at National Public Radio for the story about the picture above, Do Tree-Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees? It is a short read and worth every second of your attention if you are interested in arboreal foodstuff.

This image to the left, while not as amusing as the one above, shows a deer doing the same thing with less panache. That deer will spread the seeds of that wild fig far and wide in the forest, increasing food supply. Continue reading

Consumables Containing Consumables

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The design company Ecovative makes a variety of packaging materials using mycelium fungus. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

Thanks again to Stephanie Strom for a story about ecology that surprises:

Packaging Food With Food to Reduce Waste

For the environmentally conscious eater, they are among the most inconvenient truths: Too much food goes to waste. Too much packaging comes with the food. And too much of the packaging is made to last for ages.

Now there may be a single answer to all three problems: using excess food to make the packaging. Continue reading

Footprint Improvements

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Believe it or not, there is some good news out there on the carbon footprint trail. Thanks to Mathis Wackernagel, whose work I have appreciated even without posting more since 2011, and to his whole team for sharing this:

Ecological Footprint Explorer Open Data Platform Launches April 5, 2017

The US per capita Ecological Footprint dropped nearly 20% during the last eight years of available data (2005 and 2013), a total reduction that matches the entire Footprint of Germany. Continue reading

No Forestry? No Way

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A caged songbird overlooks a logging yard in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Thanks to Justine E. Hausheer for Modeling Logging’s Impacts on Biodiversity & Carbon in a Hypothetical Forest over at Cool Green Science:

Tropical forests are widely celebrated for their biodiversity and increasingly recognized for their carbon sequestration potential. But what’s less often acknowledged is halting logging entirely will make climate change worse, as wood is one of the most sustainable building materials.

So how can conservationists help nations meet the demand for wood products and protect forests, while minimizing both biodiversity loss and carbon emissions? Continue reading

Big USA Cities & Potential For Solar

980x.pngThanks to EcoWatch for this note about the Google site that helps residents of major cities in the USA think more clearly about solar as an option:

It just got a whole lot easier to decide whether or not to get solar panels for your roof. Google’s Project Sunroof site will help you locate your home, see how much sun it gets on average and what you could save if you purchased panels. Continue reading

Green Farming Productivity

Thanks to Anthropocene, for this article, which adds to today’s green food theme:

On many farms, reducing pesticides probably won’t hurt profit or yields

HEC 92 Call To Action On Sustainable Hospitality

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I already mentioned this session earlier, but I just got this snapshot in my inbox, which we took at the end of that discussion, so another quick comment. After an excellent Q&A (there is more than one CEO of a global brand visible in the audience if you know who to look for, among lots of other top industry talent and future leaders) we decided to turn the camera on everyone present, ourselves included, and our ask was simple: stand if this session has given you an idea what you will do differently starting Monday morning. Everyone stood, of course. So this snapshot, this call to action, was a way to do a reality check when the time comes…

Responsible Fish-Sourcing, 2.x

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App best choice recommendations for cod. Screenshot by NPR

Rules change. Guides get updated. Staying on top of this topic requires effort. But it is worth it. Thanks to the folks at the salt for an acknowledgement that choosing fish in a responsible manner is no easy task, even for those regularly paying attention:

This month, I ventured to ask the man behind the counter at a Whole Foods Market what kind of shrimp he was selling. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think they’re just normal shrimp.” I glanced at the sustainable seafood guide on my phone. There were 80 entries for shrimp, none of them listed “normal.”

What about the cod? Was it Atlantic or Pacific? Atlantic. How was it caught? I asked. “I’m not sure,” he said, looking doubtfully at a creamy fish slab. “With nets, I think. Not with harpoons.” Continue reading

Impossible’s Intriguing Inclination

Impossible.jpgMeatless is not even a concept yet for some, but we’re working on that. Many of us contributing on this platform have already started taking it seriously even if not totally converted–reducing meat consumption rather than going all out vegetarian, let alone vegan–for all kinds of good reasons.

We have already expressed our interest as best we can without having yet tasted one of these, but thanks to this Guardian review we are now a step closer to the impossible. We do not need to have tasted it to have high expectations and hopes to match the ambitions of the company:

Impossible Foods is on the cusp of big things. But as the company lines up its first burger chain, it still needs to show it can convert the meat-loving masses Continue reading

Baltimore Water Wheel & A Vision Of Recovery

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If Mr. Trashy has a silly ring to it, so be it. The medium is the message:

USING THE POWER OF NATURE TO KEEP OUR HARBOR CLEAN

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel, or “Mr. Trash Wheel” to locals, combines old and new technology to harness the power of water and sunlight to collect litter and debris flowing down the Jones Falls River.

The river’s current provides power to turn the water wheel, which lifts trash and debris from the water and deposits it into a dumpster barge. When there isn’t enough water current, a solar panel array provides additional power to keep the machine running. When the dumpster is full, it’s towed away by boat, and a new dumpster is put in place. Voilà!

Thank you, Mr. Trash Wheel.

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Urban Renewal We Can Relate To

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We like the sound of it:

In Denmark, Brewery’s Departure Offers a Chance to Go Green

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Copenhgn3.jpgCOPENHAGEN — Perched in his centrally located office, Laust Joen Jakobsen looks out onto a small plaza, a rooftop basketball court and a grass bed that will be lush with flowers by the summer.

Just months ago, Mr. Jakobsen, the rector of University College Copenhagen, was sitting in a suburban campus between parking lots and a residential neighborhood. “We are happier here when we look out the windows,” he said. Continue reading