City of Water Day – Hoboken

This past Saturday, July 12, The Human Impacts Institute Crew trekked over the Hudson River to Hoboken, New Jersey to attend City of Water Day. This year the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance held Hoboken’s first City of Water Day, along with the annual celebration on Governor’s Island. In previous years, The Human Impacts Institute attended the daylong event of Governors Island. Although there was a small turn out compared to the event on Governors Island, we were still able to spread the word about the organization and have fun while doing so.

We brought a few activities along- such as native bird and fish species cards and an inspirational white board. The pictures represent birds and fish that are native to the New York/New Jersey area. Young children as well as adults enjoyed identifying the various birds and fish. We also enjoyed hearing what people would like to see more of in New Jersey, as the answers contrasted the usual ones we get around New York City streets. Many asked if they could eat the native fish that live in the local waters. Every year the DEC comes out with a document for the NYC region that reports which and how many of each fish are safe for human consumption. This document gives detail on the popular catches in the local waterways. It is important to check on what should be kept for safe consumption and what should be thrown back in the water!

City of Water Day was a great opportunity for The Human Impacts Institute and other like minded organizations to come together in hope to use New York City’s waterways to there fullest potential. The day also promoting fun on the water with free kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and sailing lessons!

Fun facts why you should support the local fisheries!

- Local fish costs less!

- You get better quality fish with less traveling time

- Buying local fish offers a unique variety

- You are supporting local businesses

- Learn more about your region and the native species that share your home

 

View this video to learn more about native bird species in NYC!
▶ Helping the Wild Birds of New York City – YouTube

 

 

 

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The World Cup and the Environment

The advertising campaign from Paddy Power

Other than England’s failure to get through and Spain’s early knockout in the group stages, one of the more memorable things that have happened this World Cup has been Paddy Power’s Rainforest prank.  As you can see above it is a pretty simple campaign. They clearcut the Rainforest which sustains millions of organisms, houses at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, and requires decades to grow. All of this in order to support England in their, at most, monthlong campaign for a World Cup win.

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Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest

According to WWF, in the past 50 years, the Amazon has lost at least 17% of its forest cover.  The Rainforest has been here for over 55 million years and has sustained our need for oxygen and a variety of other ecosystem services. In fact, it absorbs about 20% of the atmospheric carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels!

At what point does the justification for logging outweigh the social and environmental consequences? We have to ask ourselves as consumers, is this a step in the right direction? Human-induced climate change may cause the Amazon to emit more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbs.

While this advertising campaign from Paddy Power is a hoax, it’s an amazing one that truly shines a spotlight upon a real issue that we face in our present – the degradation of our natural resources. While advertising such as this will only bring attention to the issue, a discussion surrounding this will bring solutions to the table.

This advertisement does just that and more, by putting into perspective the environmental damage that is occurring in the Amazon. The World Cup, while being a beautiful sport wherein the world unites under one banner, is also a great way of highlighting the plight the Amazon faces today. Greenpeace has estimated that in the Amazon an area the size of 122 football pitches is chopped down every 90 minutes. With the World Cup in full swing, the magnitude of this metric is becoming more salient with the general population. We should use the game not only as a beautiful way to highlight the unity of the world’s population not only in one sport, but in one goal. That goal being the future of our planet.

Written by Samir Jagdish, Environmental Services Intern 

Posted in Consumer Choice, Environmental Leadership | Leave a comment

Call to Artists for Creative Climate Awards 2014: How will you tell the story of climate change?

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Call to Artists:

2D work, short films (up to 5 min), and performance pieces that “make climate personal” for the Creative Climate Awards, NYC

Developed by:

The Human Impacts Institute (HII) NYC

Event Dates:

September 15-October 15th

Cash Prizes:

First place: $500  •  Second place: $300  •  Third Place: $200

Submissions:

Send by email to Climate@HumanImpactsInstitute.org

Final deadline:

No later than 11:30pm, Monday, August 4th

Awards Event:

Thursday, October 30th

What Are the Creative Climate Awards?

Human Impacts Institute Climate Carnival

Human Impacts Institute Climate Carnival

As an official part of Climate Week NYC and in partnership with Positive Feedback and Artbridge, theHuman Impacts Institute’sFourth Annual Creative Climate Call to Action brings together the visual arts, performance art, and film to install climate-inspired public works throughout New York City. OurCreative Climate Awards use the creative process as a tool to inspire audiences to explore the consequences of their actions, think critically about pressing issues, and to make the environment personal.  

These events are an opportunity to creatively engage tens-of-thousands of people in positive action around the challenges posed by climate change, while having your work seen by our judges—some of the top artists, curators, and international leaders in the world.

See what we’ve selected in past years to be a part of Creative Climate Awards here>>

For 2014, we welcome artists and artists’ collectives working in the following disciplines: 2D work, performance, and short film (up to 5 minutes).

The Selection Process

Mai Ueda leading a climate inspired meditation.

Mai Ueda leading a climate inspired meditation.

Selection of artists will be made by HII staff and an advisory committee comprised of scientists, policy makers, artists, media experts, curators, and others.  We will evaluate three main components of each submission:

  • Strength of messaging/climate connection;

  • Artistic merit and impact; and

  • Feasibility of project (in terms of permitting requirements, materials, etc.).

Submissions will also be selected based upon an artist’s work samples and written explanation of the intended message and impact of a proposed piece.

Criteria for SubmissionIMG_0898

  • All submitted pieces must address the 2014 theme of  “making climate personal” and creatively engage audiences in positive action on climate change.

  • Work/performance must be suitable for a public setting (all locations will be coordinated by HII and limited indoor settings will be available);

  • No admission fee may be charged;

  • All concepts, ideas, and artwork must be original work of artist submitting proposal;

  • Work/performance must be safe for artist and the public;

  • Artists/artist team must have a proven track record of creating work in a timely and professional manner;

  • Artist will pay for all art and personal transport fees to NYC

Submission Deadline: No later than 11:30pm EDT, Monday, August 4th and be emailed to Climate@HumanImpactsInstitute.org and must include the following:

  • Letter of interest (maximum one page) should include the following:
    • Do you have a proposed/ideal location for your piece?
    • What do you intend to convey to the public through your proposed artwork?
    • How does your concept/work address “making climate change personal”?
    • Description of your concept
    • Artist(s) name, address, phone number, website (as applicable), email address
  • Resume (maximum one page). If working with a team, include a resume for each team member.
  • Sketches, images, or video that clearly convey concept
    • Provide no more than five examples of previous work completed.
    • Title image files with number of image, artist’s first name initial, and last name.  For example, if artist’s name is Lynda Smith, her first image file is: 1LSmith.
      • JPEG format only with a maximum size of 1MB each.
      • Include an image list with a brief description (1-2 sentences) for each image and how the work supports your Climate Action proposal.
      • Please keep sound and video files to five minutes each and provide an online link to any material.
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Sustainable Construction

Walking on The High Line, one discovers a hidden gem, an urban oasis of an above ground railroad park. The High Line is an amalgamation of live music, food vendors and the visitors speaking foreign languages. This park in the sky is a great example of sustainable development; it takes an old and used space and turns it into a lively, well-trafficked atmosphere.

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Stairs on The High Line that overlook the street below.

It is imperative to find ways to sustain a population that is growing at exponential rates. The High Line exemplifies a public shared space that encompasses adaptive reuse.

The Lowline embraces a similar concept to the High Line. The Lowline is a proposed plan to use the Delancy Street Trolley Terminal that is no longer in use and turn it into a below ground park. The park will maintain a natural atmosphere with plants that thrive from the light received from skylights in the park’s underground ceiling.

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A proposed design for The Lowline.

The Lowline is a great start to allowing people to thrive underground as well as on the surface. There are similar proposed plans in Mexico City for an “Earth-scraper”. The Earth-scraper is a skyscraper underground. It will stretch almost 1,000 feet or 65 stories underground, containing floors for office use and for recreation.

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A proposed plan for Mexico City’s Earth-scraper.

 

We already understand how vital adaptive reuse is for sustainable development, but does our future lie within living under the Earth’s surface? What will our creative minds discover next? We once used to reach for the stars, now we reach for the Earth’s core.

 

 

 

 

For more information on the High Line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9o_5cbPDQoY

Written by Erica Prince, Environmental Leadership Intern.

Posted in Sustainable Development | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Ways to Reduce Your Food Waste!

foodchartFood makes up the largest percentage of waste going into municipal landfills, accounting for over 21% of total waste. This waste could be prevented, used to feed people, or composted to create a valuable soil amendment. Reducing food losses by just 15% would feed more than 25 million Americans per year — considering that 1 in 6 Americans lack a secure supply of food.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are six ways you can reduce food waste:

1.     Source Reduction – Start at the grocery store

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Reduce food waste before it happens

Source reduction is preventing food waste before it happens. Source reduction includes lowering our over-purchasing of food, planning meals ahead of time, avoiding impulse buys, and storing your food properly to reduce spoilage. This leads us to think more about questions such as: How hungry am I? Do I really need all of this on my plate and in my fridge? Become a more conscious shopper — buy exactly what you need and be realistic — for your health, your wallet, and the environment.

2.     Feeding Others

If you realize you have too much food in your pantry and won’t be able to consume everything before it goes bad, donate it! Help those who do not have enough food by donating at food pantries, food banks, and food rescue programs, which are available across the country.

3.     Feeding animals

Live close to a farm? Recover your food discards as animal feed! This will help sustain local livestock.

4.     Industrial Uses

You should not be disposing of fats, oils, and grease in your garbage. According to the EPA, they can “clog pipes and pumps both in the public sewer lines as well as in wastewater treatment facilities. Liquid fats and solid meat products can be used as raw materials in the rendering industry, which converts them into animal food, cosmetics, soap, and other products. Many companies will provide storage barrels and free pick-up service.”

5.     Composting – DIY

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All about composting here!

Composting has become a very popular way to reduce food waste lately. It is simple, easy, and you can measure the difference you’re making! Simply set aside your food scraps and drop them off at a local farmers market, or have your own composting at home.

6.     Anaerobic digestion

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Anaerobic Digestion is a natural biological process.

Anae-what? Anaerobic digestion is an industrial process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material. Food can be digested at specific facilities. “If 50 percent of the food waste generated each year in the U.S. was anaerobically digested, enough electricity would be generated to power 2.5 million homes for a year.” Food can be digested at specific facilities. Learn more visit the EPA’s page!

I hope you are feeling inspired and excited to reduce your food waste! Here are some more ideas to become an expert at food waste reduction.

Written by Claire Bouillon, Environmental Services Intern.

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Tree Care Tuesdays With HII!

Our Tree Care Tuesdays are volunteer opportunities encouraging engagement from people of all ages and backgrounds. The goal of Tree Care Tuesdays is to beautify NYC neighborhoods, create community relationships, promote green space, mitigate air pollution, and prevent stormwater runoff.

Tree beds that HII and volunteers tended!

Tree beds that HII and volunteers tended!

Here are some reasons why tree care is important

  • Trees help replenish the supply of O2 in the air
  • Trees help cycle nutrients in the soil and bolster the soil integrity
  • Slow storm water runoff through their extensive root system
  • Act as carbon sinks, reducing atmospheric CO2 levels
  • Give us shade
  • Act as windbreaks
  • Trees increase our quality of life by bringing natural elements and wildlife habitats into urban settings, creating an aesthetically pleasing environment.
Volunteers at Tree Care Tuesday!

Volunteers at Tree Care Tuesday!

 This month the HII crew worked around PS132 The Conselyea School and the tree beds around that area. We helped remove trash, debris and other materials around the tree beds to allow the trees to have optimal growth. Furthermore we provide mulch to the treebeds to give them a better growth medium.  Our tree care sessions involve a range of volunteers from the community and beyond alongside HII crew for the clean-up, aeration and mulching of the tree beds. Come out and spend some quality time with the community and mother nature while making a difference!

Written by Samir Jagdish, Environmental Services Intern

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Behind the scenes – the UN Economic and Social Council

On June 2nd, the United Nations hosted the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This forum discusses global economic and social progress, while looking to future issues and needs to be met. More specifically, this assembly discussed the post-2015 actions regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in regards to youth empowerment.

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United Nations Headquarters

As stated Secretary-General by Ban Ki-Moon,  “Youth are leaders of tomorrow, but I know that the youth are also leaders today.” He urged today’s youth to “raise your voices, loud and clear. Show your leadership. Raise your voices, challenge your ministers, your politicians…this is your world. You need to be part of decision making. You are the future. Get involved.”

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UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon

Globally, one in five people are considered to be youth. In African countries, 50% of the population is under the age of 19, having significant implications. However, they are often oversimplified, marginalized, excluded and silenced. On the contrary, as discussed at the ECOSOC, this demographic should be considered as an opportunity to contribute to economic growth, development and stability.

 As stated by a UN representative, “development should not be happening for youth, but rather by youth; they are the development.”

This platform led to many different but linked discussion topics, including health, education, women, and the economic development vs. sustainability debate. How can we think about sustainability, when one million jobs a month need to be created? How do we think about scale and sustainability, while not forgetting that these are the lives of individuals? How do we think global & local? However, environmental degradation is an amplifier of social, economic, and environmental problems, whereby a mismanagement of resources creates a positive feedback loop.

Watching these questions evolve, I started to wonder if we can resolve these global issues through discussion. Although they can easily be criticized, fostering conversations are a first step to action. Many of the solutions the assembly came to involved education as the most powerful tool to change the world. Young people need to actively participate, engage in a meaningful way to disrupt the current paradigm.

Written by Claire Bouillon, Environmental Services Intern.

Posted in Business and Environment, Environmental Leadership, Environmental Policy, Gender and Environment | Leave a comment

Human Impacts Institute Helping Out The Billion Oyster Project

This past Saturday the Human Impacts Institute (HII) collaborated with the Billion Oysters Project at the East River State Park to let the public know about our little friends in the water that have a huge impact – oysters!

The HII crew

The HII crew

Just a few facts on the oysters of New York – The eastern oyster or American oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is the only species of oyster found along the U.S. East coast. Crassostrea virginica ranges from St. Lawrence Bay in Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, and can be found as far as the West Indies and Brazil. The species most commonly occurs in coastal (estuary and bay) waters and is well known for forming extensive reef systems both intertidally and subtidally. As filter feeding organisms, oysters help improve local water quality by removing suspended sediments and algae, and in so doing they also play a crucial role in nutrient cycling by removing excess nitrogen out of the system.

LeAnne Harvey, Community Relations Manager, setting up the oysters

LeAnne Harvey, Community Relations Manager, setting up the oysters

Oysters once formed the dominant habitat type in the Hudson Raritan Estuary providing shelter, food and spawning grounds to over 200 species of aquatic organisms. The Hudson Raritan Estuary encompasses all waters around New York City and northern New Jersey and is home to one of the greatest natural harbors in the world, and now also one of the busiest ports in the entire United States. However now we have completely wiped out oyster habitats in this area through a combination of dredging, development and dumping.

Why are Oysters Important?

  1. They remove excess nitrogen from our waters reducing algae growth
  2. Cycles nutrients through the food chain
  3. A single oyster can filter up to 24 gallons of water a day in optimal conditions leading to better water quality overall
  4. Provide a habitat for submerged aquatic flora and fauna
  5. Wave breaks that can reduce the harmful effect of swells on our shorelines

The Billion Oyster Project aims to reclaim the habitat that the oysters once had by reintroducing them into the shoreline. They do so through a variety of different methods but the ones that HII worked with was by building oyster cages. By the end of the day the HII team had helped plant 240 oysters into the East River State Park shore!

HII building Oyster Cages!

HII building Oyster Cages!

Come join the Billion Oyster Project in their effort by going to www.billionoysterproject.org and checking out their volunteer opportunities. Their next few meetings to help are going to be at Governors Island on these dates -

  • Saturday August 2nd 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday September 13th 10am to 5pm
  • Saturday September 27th 10am to 5pm

Come out and have some fun!

NEIWPCC-logoMany thanks to HEP/NEIWPCC for supporting this program.

Written by Samir Jagdish, Environmental Services Intern

Posted in Collaborative Partnerships, Environmental Education, Hii Programs, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You Are What You Eat

“You are what you eat!” This idiom has become the poster child for promoting health and awareness in food intake, connecting concerned mothers with other health conscious like-minded individuals. This phrase originates in 1826 from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s words, “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt” which translates directly to “man is what he eats”. Throughout the past decades this phrase was immortalized by many including nutritionists and hippies and eventually made its way into everyday vocabulary.

This phrase clearly suggests and promotes the idea that putting unhealthy food into your body will make you an unhealthy individual. But what if it isn’t the actual food that is harming us? What if the harm comes from how the food is grown?

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A monoculture farm in Lincoln, Illinois.

Farming must keep up with the exponential growth of the human population. To keep up with the challenge, small scale and family owned farms decrease in number and large factory farming operations become increasingly present. To increase crop yield these large scale, monoculture styled farms, use chemical pesticides to control pests. Pests can range from invasive insects that eat crops to weeds that take away nutrients from crops. Getting rid of pests on a farm allows the farmer to produce a higher yield of crops ready to be shipped around the country for distribution. So why would a farmer choose not to use pesticides if it means less work and more money?

Pesticides made with chemicals have the power to harm human health. A common pesticide, commonly known as Roundup, is comprised of glyphosate. Roundup has a multi-step system for farmers, called Roundup Ready; it includes genetically modified seeds that correspond with a specialized blend of chemicals to maintain the synthetically modified growth of the crop. Glyphosate is commonly used on soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola. Although Roundup aids farmers in growth, its components are harmful to humans. Glyphosate has been shown to cause birth defects, neurological disorders, fertility issues and cancer.

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An organic farm in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

This is where organic farming comes into play. The term organic in farming means crops grown without the aid of chemical pesticides. Eating organic food means taking in the nutrients of the crop without an extra dosage of toxic chemical residue from synthetic pesticides. So if “you are what you eat” do you want to be a chemical called glyphosate?

Organic Food without the Hefty Price Tag

Even I have experienced the hike in the price of a crate of tomatoes from a regular supermarket versus an organic one. There are ways to buy organic while staying within budget.

  1. Explore farmers markets. There are outdoor farmers markets throughout New York City that sell organic food at an affordable price.
  2. Buy food that is in season. The price of food increases when the crop is not in season in your area. Try buying fresh produce in bulk when the crop is at the height of the season and freeze it for later use.
  3. Grow your own food! Utilize that extra rooftop space to grow your own organic veggies.

Written by Erica Prince, Environmental Leadership Intern

Posted in Personal initiatives for sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Think Bigger

With a growing world population, farming and sustainability are boundlessly intertwined and at the heart of global issues. How can we feed all of the hungry people on earth? How can we maximize arable land? When considering such daunting questions, addressing one facet of the matter is essential in moving forward.

Urban Agriculture

The concept of urban agriculture encompasses a wide range of activities and outcomes. Its goal is to grow plants and raise animals in a city setting. It entails a complexity of interconnectedness between residents and resources, while aiming to achieve self-sufficiency.

My favorite type of urban agriculture is rooftop gardens. These include an array of individual, community, and institutional initiatives, but all work to utilize otherwise lost space and harvest fresh local produce. But I want to think bigger than rooftop gardens. Lately, an innovation, also known as vertical farms, has caught my attention.

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A vertical farm design by Chris Jacobs

For a city to become self-sufficient, vertical farming is key. Vertical farming is the usage of a skyscraper greenhouse to grow crops and raise animals in an urban area. This is an expanding idea, as the global population is increasing and our available cropland is dwindling. Therefore, vertical farms use skyscrapers as new area capacity, which we can create for our growing global food demand.

Vertical farms create and exemplify a closed loop system. For example, there would be no more agricultural runoff, as the water would be reused; and the amount of water used in the first place would be significantly smaller than on an outdoor farm. A vertical farm can use 70% less water than a traditional farm, through the use of technologies such as hydroponics and drip-irrigation. Furthermore, the waste from the farm can be composted, and then used as very nutritious soil. Vertical farms enable year-round crop production, protected from the outside cold, while using sunlight as part of its heating system. Furthermore, there are no crops lost to severe weather events.

Since vertical farms are in an urban setting, the produce is fresh, with minimal food miles. Countries like Iceland or the United Arab Emirates, for example – with a lot of people, and little cultivable land – would benefit enormously. Finally, the uses of abandoned city properties, as well as the creation of new jobs, add to its economic sustainability. The advantage is that food production could take place anywhere, providing healthy, fresh food to areas that may not otherwise be able to produce them.

To learn more about vertical farms, watch Dickson Despommier’s TEDtalk “The Vertical Farm.” ▶ TEDxWindyCity — Dickson Despommier — The Vertical Farm – YouTube.

Sustainability

This is only one aspect and one possibility within sustainability. What really is sustainability? This buzzword has been used, manipulated, overused, and worn out. In its primary sense, sustainability is the ability to sustain, uphold or maintain something at a certain rate. Sustainability is social, economic, and environmental; it is an idea and a mentality, while also representing adaptability and efficiency. Although its essence is at the heart of human nature, with the recent surge in climate change awareness, its popularity has emptied it of its true meaning. There is always a new ‘green’ trend, but we need to concentrate on making a fundamental shift away from superficial words, to an essential understanding that all human actions have an impact – let’s make it a positive one!

Written by Claire Bouillon, Environmental Services Intern

Posted in Personal initiatives for sustainability, Uncategorized | Leave a comment