Looking for a little fresh air? The Green Apple is dedicated to providing stories and information on simple ways to "green" one's life -- even in the most urban of environments, such as the New York City area. As an extension of our Green Living page, our mission is to provide fresh insight on area green initiatives and movements of all varieties. It is written by WABC employee Stephen Schmidt. Go ahead, take a bite!


Sporting a greener shade


Brooklyn's Barclays Center is looking to become the first LEED Certified promo sports venue in the New York City area later this summer. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets.

The color green has always been synonymous with sports of all varieties. The freshly cut crass of a well-manicured outfield… or end zone or the more trampled kind heading into the final rounds of Wimbledon.

Now, thanks to the efforts of the Natural Resources Defense Council, sports at the highest levels across the country are donning a deeper shade of green than they ever have before -- and are leaving quite the impressions on their surrounding communities as a result.

“It’s the overall transformation of a cultural center and that’s what is so powerful in the sports movement. There are few sectors like sports that are as culturally and economically influential,” said Alice Henly, who serves as the coordinator of collegiate sports greening at the NRDC. “And when we can take those cultural icons, like our sports stadiums and arenas and transform them with green building measures, with onsite renewable energy, with more efficient operations, they can be a cultural guide and model for the marketplace. We are seeing this happen across the country.”

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Returning to (wet) roots

Ecology center

Above is the proposal of the artificial wetland that would be located next to the Lower East Side Ecology Center's composting facility in East River Park. Photo courtesy of the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

If the Lower East Side Ecology Center gets its wish, a piece of East River Park will be returning to a simpler time -- with all of Lower Manhattan standing to benefit.

Recently, the center has begun a push for donations to create an artificial wetland in a 0.6-acre plot of land in the park’s southern end along Cherry Street in near proximity to the center’s in-vessel compost processing system. The project has already received approval from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. The cost of the project should fall somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million (those interested in donating should visit this site).

“Compared to things you can build, it’s a relatively modest capital budget to turn what is basically a space filled with dust and dirt and a little bit of pavement into a green space that would really amazing both environmental asset and educational facility,” said Caroline Kruse, the center’s development director.

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Central Park's Cherry Hill Concourse: Room with a view


The Cherry Hill Concourse in Central Park recently underwent a renovation. Among the changes were a simplication in its appearance in order to not distract from the views of the surrounding lake. Photo courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy.

Less is more.

That was the thinking behind the renovation of the Cherry Hill Concourse in Central Park, where a ribbon cutting ceremony was recently held to signify a simpler -- and greener -- approach that should keep most visitors’ eyes focused on the vistas of the surrounding lake.

“The most important design objective we had was that it was not a plaza,” said Chris Nolan, the Central Park Conservancy's vice president of planning, design and construction. “It was a concourse, and precedent was given to the experience of the landscape, not a space created by the pavement material. We wanted to pick a [complementary] material that emphasized the fact that the whole design was about cueing up this view to the lake and not be visually distracted by drawing your vision down to the pavement.”

Gone are the three tiers composed of impervious materials such as solid brick and stone that separated the landscape margin from the pedestrian path and the concourse itself. As Nolan noted, such an arrangement provided no outlet for runoff water, leaving it with no other option but to head to the catch basin and into pipes directly into the storm water system. 

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Science Barge in Yonkers: All aboard


The Science Barge, a completely self-reliant, floating hydroponic greenhouse facility, has been calling Yonkers home since 2008. It was started by New York Sun Works in 2007 before being taken over by Groundwork Hudson Valley.

While talking about the latest news concerning the Science Barge, Bob Walters’ thoughts were temporarily interrupted by a question.

“Excuse me. How much is it?” asked an elementary-school-aged child as he walked across the ramp that helps anchor the barge to its current Hudson River resting place along the Yonkers shoreline. “It’s free for you guys,” Walters said.

Walters has served as the director of the Science Barge -- a very rare completely self-reliant hydroponic greenhouse -- ever since it was acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in 2008, after being originally started by New York Sun Works.

On this day, there is a $3 suggested donation for the opportunity to come aboard, submit a vote for the barge’s fourth edition of its Floating Sculpture Competition and Exhibit and enjoy some refreshments. No one, though, was forced to donate -- and kids 10 and younger are always free. The event, held on June 23-24, is just one of several activities that Walters and the rest of the barge’s staff have used as a vehicle to build community awareness of the vessel itself and its overall mission.

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The greenery among the granite


Swamp white oak trees dot the edge of the sides of the North Pool at the newly opened 9/11 Memorial. There are a total of 225 at the moment, but more than 400 will eventually inhabit the 8-acre space.


They provide shade on a hot Sunday afternoon in May. They provide a horizontal splash of green amid a mostly subdued canvas.

But for the exception of the “Survivor Tree” standing on the western side of the grounds of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the visitors who make their way through the temporary entryway don’t pay much attention to the site’s collection of trees and other greenery.

Instead, understandably, visitors’ eyes gravitate toward all the names emblazoned in bronze to honor the lives of the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 and 1993 World Trade Center attacks -- and the 30-foot manmade square waterfalls and pools on which they are etched.

So guests -- who have been coming following the opening of the 10-year anniversary of largest terrorism attack on American soil -- may not realize that the memorial is on course to receive the rare distinction of being LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified after the memorial, museum and museum entry way are completely finished.

In 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED system as a way to establish a base line on designing and constructing sustainable buildings in the 21st century. Those guidelines, though, were established in a pre-9/11 world -- and so the designers of the resulting 9/11 Memorial and museum have been setting their own precedents ever since the beginning planning phases.  In talking with those who have played integral roles to the memorial’s creation, every step has run along a fine line between sustainability and the understood sensitivity of the situation.


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In honor of Earth Day


Image courtesy of Earth Day New York

When it comes to all things Earth Day, it’s safe to call Pamela Lippe an expert on the subject.

After all, it was Lippe who organized the 20th anniversary celebration of Earth Day in 1990 as close to two million people shot down a large chunk of Manhattan along Sixth Avenue from Times Square to 59th Street. Then there were the record approximately one million people who occupied Central Park at the same time. “It was quite a miracle,” Lippe said.

These days, Lippe, the executive director and president of the non-profit organization Earth Day New York, focuses not on the grandiose but the granular: the small things people can do a daily basis to keep the idea of Earth Day, which is on April 22, alive and well.

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Full Circle, Part 5: WeRecycle!

This is the fifth entry in "Full Circle," a series that will be profiling companies and organizations that offer biodegradable and recyclable products or services -- both in the New York City area and beyond.


Pieces of gold shine through a sea of motherboards gathered as the result of several computers being run through a "shredder" at a WeRecycle! facility. The gold will later be collected and smelted to be used in other products. Photo courtesy of WeRecycle!.

So you have an old laptop that has essentially become a giant paperweight as you’ve moved onto a sleeker model. Such a device contains a.) many components that are hazardous to the environment (batteries, mercury lamps, etc.) and b.) personal information that could be revealed if in the wrong hands. So what do you do with it?

Well, one option is to visit the website of WeRecycle!, a company based out of Mount Vernon, N.Y., that specializes in e-waste disposal both at the private business and residential levels. The company’s site contains an area where a visitor can type in his or her zip code and find out about nearby collection events and locations. For example, those interested can drop off that old laptop at any New York City Goodwill store as part of an arrangement that WeRecycle! set up -- and take comfort in knowing that their data is being disposed off in a safe and secure manner.

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Full Circle, Part 4: NLR

This is the fourth entry in "Full Circle," a series that will be profiling companies and organizations that offer biodegradable and recyclable products or services -- both in the New York City area and beyond.

This machine at the NLR plant in Connecticut, which has been in use for about one-and-a-half years, can recycle about 5,000 lamps an hour. Photo courtesy of NLR.

For whatever reason, the light bulb will not go off in the collective conscience of most American businesses when it comes to complying with the Universal Waste Rule.  

Even though the rule has been a part of a federal regulation of the Environment Protection Agency since 1990, Raymond Graczyk said that only about 30 percent of private businesses properly handle the removal of universal waste such as mercury-containing light bulbs, batteries and ballasts -- even though the numerous toxic effects of mercury poisoning has been well documented for years and years. Those effects include damage to the brain, kidney and lungs.

“What happens with mercury is that it accumulates in the environment, so when you’re getting hundreds and hundreds and millions of lamps being thrown out a year that  mercury is released to the environment and then it finds its way back into the food chain, especially in fish,” said Graczyk, who is the co-founder and president of NLR, a company based north of Hartford, Conn., that specializes in lamp and universal recycling services for mainly commercial businesses. “[Awareness] is increasing some but it’s not as rapidly as it should be. It’s hard to say and necessarily come up with a reason why… Whether people aren’t properly informed. Whether they don’t care. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t realize how really available and easy it is to recycle.”

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Full Circle, Part 3: TerraCycle

This is the third entry in "Full Circle," a series that will be profiling companies and organizations that offer biodegradable and recyclable products or services -- both in the New York City area and beyond.


This "upcycled" backpack is made from Capri Sun drink containers. School supplies are the top-selling items for TerraCycle, accounting for close to 30 percent of its annual product sales. Photo courtesty of TerraCycle.

Albe Zakes will admit it. While in school at the University of Colorado, he was a “frustrated environmentalist.”

“I felt like too many environmental non-profits [organizations] refused to work with major companies,” he said. “It was always petition, letter-write, protest, and picket instead of coming to the board room table and trying to work with them.”

Luckily, Zakes found an upstart company that shared his passion of making mainstream big-box stores more eco-friendly: Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle. Since its founding in 2002, the company has been able to forge multi-faceted partnerships with major retailers and manufacturers through an innovative business model that interweaves making and selling of upcycled products, recycling and donating to non-profit organizations. At the time of this posting, the company had more than 26 million people collect more than 2.3 billion waste units and raise more than $3.4 million dollars for charities around the world.

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Full Circle, Part 2: Materials for the Arts

This is the second entry in "Full Circle," a series that will be profiling companies and organizations that offer biodegradable and recyclable products or services -- both in the New York City area and beyond.

This work "Shrine," by Jesper Aabille and Georgia Muenster from Flux Factory, is one of six that make up, "Creative Reuse in New York City," the latest exhibition at the MFTA gallery in Long Island City. All of the works are made of reused items. Photo courtesy of the MFTA.

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or drama production. Or art therapy session.

Consider the 25,000-square foot warehouse that houses the Material for the Arts in Long Island City a treasure trove for thousands of those aspirations. On any given day, the venue could contain anything from 6-foot Styrofoam seahorses from a Limited Brands window display to an assortment of tables and chairs from Google’s New York offices.

“The look of it is always changing,” said MFTA representative Kevin Stirnweis of the sprawling facility that was said to once be a factory for Ford Model T cars back in the day. The organization, which was founded in 1978 and is a unit of the Department of Cultural Affairs, moved to the location in 2001 after first being housed in the Chelsea district of Manhattan.

Although the warehouse provides plenty of space for more than 1,500 donors to donate for 1.3 million pounds of items and materials valued at approximately $5 million (according to 2010’s numbers) for the benefit of non-profit organizations throughout the five boroughs, the organization is currently undergoing an expansion by adding shelving units to house more donations of items ranging from fabrics to furniture to school supplies -- and everything in between.

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