Monthly Archives: November 2013

Spring 2014 Registration Update

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

An update on Spring 2014 registration at the Pratt Institute.   SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core still has available seats.  SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit has now filled to capacity, but students may elect to get on the wait list in case registered students decide to drop.

SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit
Modern sodety relies on burning fossil fuel for energy, with serious economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Learn the history of how we came to rely on unsustainable energy sources and ways In which our future use of energy may be made mode sustainable.

Spring 2014: Tuesdays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Spaces remain available in SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core, which meets Monday afternoons from 2-4:50pm in Spring 2014  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2014: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Both of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, both may be applied to the Sustainability Studies minor, and there are no prerequisites for either of them. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

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The Sustainable Core at Pratt

This spring, I am leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching the fourth offering of SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core.  This 3-credit course meets Mondays from 2 to 4:50pm.  SUST 201 is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

If you are interested in examining the relationships between humans and the Earth, the consequences of our energy sources, determining what is toxic and how it can be detected, strategies for green architecture, strategies for green industry, assessment of environmental policy, and ecotopian literature (all with the aid of resident expert practitioners), consider enrolling in SUST 201.

In addition to being required for all students seeking the Sustainability Studies minor, SUST 201 may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and there are no prerequisites to enroll. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about SUST 201 (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Register for Spring 2014 Sustainability Courses at Pratt

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

Registration for Spring 2014 is underway at the Pratt Institute, and I am offering two Sustainability courses.  Each of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, each may count to satisfy credits in the Sustainability Studies minor, and there are no prerequisites for either of them.  All Pratt undergraduates are eligible and encouraged to enroll.

One of these courses focuses on how we power the processes that allow us to create and distribute goods, as well as transport ourselves and enjoy the conveniences of modern life.  If you are concerned about global climate change, nuclear power, or tracking, consider registering in SS 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit.  The seminar examines the ways industrial society has harnessed energy, what the consequences of our past and present energy uses are, and how we might develop more sustainable practices involving energy.  Here’s a quick summary:

SUST 401-01 Power, Pollution, and Profit
Modern sodety relies on burning fossil fuel for energy, with serious economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Learn the history of how we came to rely on unsustainable energy sources and ways In which our future use of energy may be made mode sustainable.

Spring 2014: Tuesdays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

In addition to that seminar, I am leading a team of Pratt Institute faculty teaching the fourth offering of SUST 201P The Sustainable Core.  This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, is the required core course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, and is an excellent way to get familiar with the many ways sustainability is practiced at Pratt.

SUST 201-01 The Sustainable Core
This course provides an overview of sustainability by exploring definitions, controversies, trends, and case-studies in various systems and locales (urban/rural, local/national/global). Investigation of critical elements of sustainability, including environmental history and urban ecology, sustainable development and landscape transformations, recycling/waste management, ecosystem restoration, and environmental justice.

Spring 2014: Mondays, 2pm-4:50pm.  3 credit hours.

Both of these courses may count as a Social Science or Philosophy elective, and there are no prerequisites for either of them. As of Monday morning, SUST 401 has 1 space left, so students interested in taking it are encouraged to register now. If you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about these courses (or about the Sustainability Studies minor), please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Chloe

We met Chloe in 2004. She was the first greyhound we lived with, and was such a nice dog that we adopted two more within three years. But she was the first.

She was five when we met her, and was already retired from a career racing in Florida.  A salvage dog, living with a recycling historian.  This is her sitting obediently waiting for a salmon treat that first year.Chloesitsforsalmontreats

Chloe taught us all about greyhounds.  She taught us how they run amazingly fast for a couple of minutes and then spend the rest of the day lying inert.  She taught us how they groom like cats do, eat ravenously, and pick up weird neuroses such as being afraid of the closet where The Monster (what we humans know as the vacuum) lay in wait for her.  She taught us about the dental and medical issues these dogs can have, with some of the worst teeth this side of Shane MacGowan and a variety of reasons to visit veterinary offices.

When she was seven years old, in December of 2006, she started taking on fluid in her midsection. The vets said that her intestines were malfunctioning, maybe due to a virus, maybe due to cancer. We thought we would have to put her down by New Year’s.

Some medication later, and the liquids in her abdomen resolved themselves, but she was very weak. She could not sit up or walk for three weeks. Mostly she lay with her head on the ground and we had to hand-feed her.

Chloe7illShe recovered. Fully. Maybe better than before. Got a little whiter, especially in the face. When our local rescue group got a puppy named Hudson, we took him in and she was quite happy to hang out with him.

ChloeHudson
HudsonChloeholdingpaws

In the years since, she had cancer a couple of times, but localized in the leg. The worst effects of those tumors were having to wear bandages after surgery.ChloeHudsonlawnnap

Chloe moved with us from Ohio to Illinois and then to Brooklyn. (Here in Brooklyn, I used to joke to passersby that she got it backwards, working in Florida and then retiring to New York.)  Wherever we were, she always tried to dig a little hole and laze around in the dirt.chloeindirt

Greyhounds tend to live from 12 to 14, though several illnesses kill them younger. Her half-brother Huey (they share a sire, along with 8,300 other dogs) died a month shy of his eleventh birthday from cancer. They spent several years together (mostly asleep) hanging out with Hudson.ChloeHudsonHueysleeping

Chloe turned 14 last April. She got frail in her old age, but doubled her age since we nearly lost her in 2006, seven years ago.

None of that time was taken for granted.  Last night before I went to bed, I thanked her for sticking around for my birthday.  Today, that day, she got up, had breakfast, took a walk, had lunch, spent some time getting love from people walking by the yard, and then got in her bed.  Late in the afternoon, she moved to get up and snapped her back leg.  The decision was easy, and we said goodbye to her just about the time she’d usually have her dinner.  The last taste in her mouth was a farewell brownie hurriedly purchased from the market around the corner from the emergency vet.

Saying goodbye to Chloe is sad, but we are grateful for the time she spent with us, and for teaching us about life with greyhounds.  If you are curious about greyhound rescue, I encourage you to talk to your local rescue group about sharing your life with one of these wonderful creatures.

Thank you, Chloe, and goodbye.Chloepawcradle

Today is America Recycles Day

Today is America Recycles Day, a day when Americans across the country join together to encourage diverting materials from the waste stream through recycling efforts. Click the link above to find an event near you.

What do we mean when we say we recycle? What are the environmental and economic dimensions of recycling? What does it mean to say a recycling program works? I try to address these questions in my book Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America, and in my teaching. It’s a question Pratt Institute undergraduates can consider next semester in SUST 201 The Sustainable Core Mondays 2-4:50pm. Talk to your academic adviser about how the course may fit into your schedule.  In the meantime, use America Recycles Day to consider how to best reduce the amount of material we choose to trash.

Two Waste-Related Events in NYC This Week

In advance of America Recycles Day this Friday, two notable events are taking place in NYC this week. On Wednesday, Junkyard Planet author Adam Minter speaks at the New School:

JunkyardPlanet_RedSmallJunkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion Dollar Trash Trade
Wednesday, November 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM
The Hirshon Suite, The New School
55 West 13th Street, New York, NY
Lecture and Q&A with author Adam Minter
Moderated by Jonathan Bach, Chair, Global Studies

When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday’s newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don’t want and turn it into something you can’t wait to buy.

In this discussion, veteran journalist and author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion Dollar Trash Trade (2013), Adam Minter, travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, 500 billion-dollar industry — one that employs more people than any other industry on the planet except agriculture, and that is transforming our economy and environment. Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to recycling factories capable of processing a jumbo jet’s worth of trash every day. Along the way, we meet an international cast of characters who have figured out how to squeeze Silicon Valley-scale fortunes from what we all throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy “grubbing” in Detroit’s city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, Minter traces the export of America’s garbage and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. Minter explains that if what you toss into your recycling bin can be used in some way, the international scrap recycling business will manage to deliver it to the person or company who can do so most profitably. “Going green” usually means making money—and it’s often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren’t pretty.

The lecture and presentation will be followed by a Q&A, book signing and reception.

Adam Minter grew up in a family of scrap dealers in Minneapolis. He became a professional journalist and now serves as the Shanghai correspondent for Bloomberg World View, in addition to writing regularly for the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. For the last decade, he has divided his time between the United States and China.

Thursday, CUNY hosts Robin Nagle, Mierle Laderman Ulekes, and Sanitation Commissioner John Dougherty.

Nagle_bookOn Thursday, November 14th, please join the CUNY Center for Urban Environmental Reform for Tales from Our Trash: Sanitation Workers, Sustainable Cities, and the Value of Knowledge, an event about waste handling in New York City. Held in honor of Frank Justich, a NYC Sanitation worker killed on the job in Astoria in 2010, the event will feature a discussion with Professor Robin Nagle (author of Picking Up, and the anthropologist-in-residence with the NYC Department of Sanitation), as well as presentations by the NYC Commissioner of Sanitation, John Dougherty, and conceptual artist, Mierle Laderman Ulekes (artist-in-residence with the NYC Department of Sanitation), and youth activists representing future generations. The event is the first in CUER’s planned series focusing on trash as a lens for considering issues of sustainability. The focus of the evening’s conversation will be on trash as an issue of inter-generational equity, and the need to recognize sanitation workers as the front line of urban sustainability.

The event, held at 6pm at the CUNY Law School, is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.

Remembering New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s Sustainability Promises

Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become NYC's next mayor.  Can he lead the city in a more sustainable direction?

Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become NYC’s next mayor. Can he make his sustainability promises policy?

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become the next mayor.  In his campaign, Mayor-elect de Blasio ran on a platform of reducing inequality and enhancing sustainability in the city.

As the transition from Mayor Bloomberg to Mayor-elect de Blasio officially begins, remembering this platform will be useful in evaluating the future direction of the city.  Here, in full, is the candidate’s platform on sustainability (as found on his campaign website).

A Vision For a Sustainable New York City

New York City has been a leader in green initiatives to save energy, protect the environment, and build green jobs for our economy. Bill de Blasio intends to build on that history and expand sustainability initiatives throughout the five boroughs.

Build an Alliance for a Sustainable New York

New York City has all of the critical components in place to become the most sustainable city in the world: dense public-sector resources and infrastructure, private capital, innovators in science and technology, strong labor unions, and a committed citizenry. We can and must build on the successes of PlaNYC and convene all stakeholders to build the most sustainable city in the world. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will convene public and private sector actors to expand and deepen PlaNYC, and he will update the plan every year on Earth Day.

Commit to Renewable Energy

The green collar economy begins with a clear commitment to alternative energy sources. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s investment in large-scale clean energy production, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biofuels. Not only would such a transition reduce New York City’s carbon footprint, it would expand economic opportunities — from entrepreneurs to production and installation jobs. Bill de Blasio will also advocate at the state level for the New York Solar Act, which will provide additional incentives to sup- port the adoption of solar energy production.

Retrofit and Green New York City Buildings

Bill de Blasio will make every government-owned building as green as is financially viable by 2020. For the private sector, Bill de Blasio will continue the commitment to the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation. He will also replicate Chicago’s public-private partnership model to create more funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. This includes direct loans for energy efficiency in buildings and “Energy Services Agreements (ESA),” where energy efficiency work is packaged as a service that building owners pay for through savings with limited upfront cost to the owner. (Ed Note: It will be interesting to see if Mayor-Elect de Blasio adopts the Urban Green Council’s 90 by 50 recommendations on reducing the city’s carbon footprint. While the city has begun to reduce carbon emissions under the PlaNYC program, that plan’s targets will not get the city below 350 ppm of carbon emissions by midcentury. Aggressive investments now in insulation, energy efficiency, and developing alternative energy sources in the 90 by 50 plan — which we teach at Pratt — will make New York City the leader in combating climate change.)

Help Every Business Reduce its Energy Use

At economic development hubs around the city, Bill de Blasio will have city workers provide technical assistance to local business owners with an emphasis on greater efficiency. This technical support will provide information on ways to increase energy efficiency in their buildings and better manage waste, which will help reduce transit and logistic energy costs while improving industrial processes. The city will also help small businesses identify the government and private resources that can help them green their businesses and use the energy savings to grow their businesses.

Set a Goal of Zero Waste in New York

New York City is behind in recycling and reducing waste, at great cost to the budget and the environment. The city spent $320 million in 2011 on disposal, while sanitation trucks drove 40 million miles, spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases.

The cost of Zero Waste may sound unattainable, but it is actually a practical program and goal. Since adopting Zero Waste, San Francisco recycles 80 percent, compared to 15 percent in New York City. Seattle and Oakland and states like Minnesota, Oregon and California are striving for Zero Waste. Companies like Xerox, Sony and Hewlett-Packard are finding that adhering to Zero Waste principles results in significant cost savings. Bill de Blasio will institute a Zero Waste program: strengthening and expanding existing recycling, instituting composting programs, and establishing waste reduction programs, including, for example, bans on plastic bags and requiring more materials to be recyclable or compostable. Instead of a focus on disposing and exporting waste, Bill de Blasio will look for opportunities for economic development, building industries, and creating jobs from materials that can be recovered. (Ed Note: I look forward to seeing if Mayor-Elect de Blasio will push for a tax or ban on plastic bags, develop Pay As You Throw (PAYT) caps on garbage disposal, require restaurants to use compostable takeout containers, and develop other Zetcompostable takeout containers, and develop other Zero Waste policies. Building on the methane-capture modernization of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will be a constructive continuity from the current administration.)

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development

Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness

With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure

By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism.
he methane-capture modernization of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will be constructive continuities from the current administration.)

Integrate Green Skills into Workforce Development

Training on ways to reduce energy costs effectively should be integrated into industry sector workforce development in all schools, apprenticeships and training programs. Bill de Blasio will model its green workforce initiatives on the Green Professional Building Skills Training model, which brings together labor unions, government officials, business leaders, environmentalists and CUNY educators to train workers and credential them for career advancement in green building management.

Focus on Resilience and Preparedness

With many neighborhoods across our city still reeling from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, and with severe weather on the rise, Bill de Blasio will invest in infrastructure upgrades that improve our resilience and ability to respond to an emergency. Permeable surfaces and natural infrastructure, for example, do more than help keep our waterways clean — they protect our homes and neighborhoods from natural disasters, increase home values, and create new construction jobs. He will also implement many of the recommendations made by the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery, including safeguarding utilities and hospitals, and improving protective infrastructure with assets like surge barriers and sand dunes.

Restoring Our Waterways and Investing in Soft Infrastructure

By restoring our coastal ecosystems — such as our wetlands, dunes, and rivers — New York City can renew our long-neglected waterways while making important strides in protecting against future storm surges. In the same way that the High Line has been transformed from an urban blight to a rich community space, New York City can renew our waterways — such as the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and Jamaica Bay — to improve our water ecosystems and expand locations for urban ecotourism.

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will work to restore our waterways and will implement a five-borough bioswales initiative to minimize the pressure on our water and sewer system.

Expand Municipal Composting Citywide

Composting is environmentally progressive, helps reduce waste streams, and mitigates harmful byproducts from decomposition. It also means less money spent on carting and fertilizer. The city has conducted successful pilot programs, and recently called for a major expansion. Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, Colorado all have curbside composting pickup programs. As mayor, Bill de Blasio will expand the city’s program and create a mandatory citywide municipal composting system within five years. (Ed note: Following through on this promise would be a constructive continuity from the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to develop pilot composting programs.)

Promote Transit-Oriented Development

As mayor, Bill de Blasio will target rezonings and development of additional housing to locations with strong transit connections, encouraging higher-density development at and around transit hubs, while preserving lower density neighborhoods located further from mass transit.

Support Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan

For many years, New York City’s trash was disproportionately shipped to poor communities in the outer boroughs. Bill de Blasio understands we need a fair, five-borough plan to handle New York’s garbage. De Blasio will implement the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, including opening the 91st Street Marine Transfer Station.

Establish Gateless Tolling

Even with EZ Pass, tollbooths still mean congestion and delay for thousands of drivers every day. The MTA has successfully experimented with gateless tolls on the Henry Hudson Bridge, proving that new technology can allow us to remove tollbooths and let motorists make toll crossings without reducing speed, saving time and reducing congestion. Bill de Blasio will work with the MTA to introduce gateless tolling on existing toll bridges that are notoriously traffic-choked, like the Verraza- no-Narrows Bridge.

Support Smart Grid and Smart Meter Deployment

To cut electricity consumption and reduce power outages, Bill de Blasio knows we need a long-term vision to upgrade the grid that delivers electricity to New York City homes. This means developing a comprehensive strategy to deploy smart meters that allow consumers to better manage consumption, and enable utilities to better manage peak energy loads. Bill de Blasio will work with Albany to establish real-time pricing options for electricity to decrease energy consumption and energy bills for participating New Yorkers. He will also support increasing the size of solar and alternative energy installations that can use net metering, which allows homes and businesses to feed energy that hasn’t been used back into the grid.

Uphold Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing

In 2009, Bill de Blasio sponsored the resolution calling on federal and state agencies to assess the risks posed by hydrofracking to drinking water, and to apply appropriate regulations. He supports the two-year fracking moratorium recently passed by the Assembly, and hopes the Senate will also approve the measure. Questions about health and environmental safety remain unanswered, and we can’t afford to get this wrong.

Several of these promises reflect continuities with the Bloomberg administration. Some are departures. A few raise questions about the details of implementation. This is an ambitious platform, and sustainability advocates are curious to see how and how much of it becomes policy for the United States’ largest city under Mayor de Blasio over the next four years.