Days 289 & 290: Taking a Bite of the Big “Green” Apple – Part 1

This past week YERT headed into the Big Apple for some big-time green fun. Julie had four days of rehearsals at NYU (she absolutely LIVES for performing in their musical theater grad-student theses and we’re all for nourishing one’s soul, so Mark and I were on our own for most of the week).

We started off our time in NYC right by visiting Bob Fox, principal of Cook+Fox, an architecture firm responsible for one of the most groundbreaking environmental buildings ever – the world’s first LEED Platinum skyscraper…the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park near Times Square. This building is going to set the standard for skyscrapers – complete with motion-controlled, personally tailored temperature zones to maximize AC and heating efficiency and a giant block of ice made by off-peak solar electricity to help keep the building cool. Cutting edge stuff. Bob also revealed all kinds of green features of the Cook+Fox office (bamboo shelving, innovative daylighting design, Cradle to Cradle carpets, water reclamation, etc.) including a wonderful green roof with one of the best views in Manhattan.

After the interview, Bob was kind enough to “grease the skids” for us at the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) across the street, so we headed on over for a sit-down with the NRDC’s Air and Energy Program Director, Ashok Gupta, and one of the organization’s energy attorneys, Luis Martinez, at the NRDC’s headquarters – a building that not-coincidentally paved the way for green office buildings back in 1989. Needless to say, Mother Nature has quite the crack team of lawyers and environmental policy gurus working for her – and boy does she need it!

By 3pm, we were exhausted and hungry, so we shlepped over to Bonobo’s on 23rd and Madison Ave. It’s an awesome raw-food vegetarian joint that packs a super-nutritious punch. Best of all, they’ve always got some funky nut/date desert ball of goodness near the cash register – delicious. Luckily, the staff totally “got” the no-trash experiment and we totally got fed.

Friday we headed up to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies to speak with Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig about the effect of climate change on crops and the world’s food supply. This was especially interesting timing given the recent headlines regarding food shortages around the globe. Cynthia said that while increased CO2 may have mixed results initially yielding short-term crop increases in some areas, the long-term prognosis is not good at all, particularly if things continue on as they are. Makes me even more resolute about learning to farm organically once this trip is done.

After her interview, Cynthia sent us over to speak with Nilda Mesa, Columbia University’s first Director of Environmental Stewardship (and knitter extraordinaire). Having not eaten all day, Mark and I were starving by this point and, going way above the call of duty, Nilda and her office bent over backwards to share with us whatever packaging-free food they had lying around – part of a “brick” of cheese, some rice snacks, a banana. Then she took us up onto her office’s green roof and, along with the very knowledgeable Cathy Resler, Manager of Recycling and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs, over to the main campus for the dime tour of some of the green stuff going on at Columbia including a cool program developed by a Columbia grad called RecycleBank that pays students (or anyone, really) for recycling by rewarding them with “points” that are redeemable for discounts at stores all over the city (or country). Cathy then gave us the low down on all things recyclable on campus (we even rescued a nearly fully functional camcorder from the electronics recycling bin – Cathy was determined to try to resuscitate it). Finally, we spoke with Hannah Lee (a student delegate to the climate summit in Bali who runs Columbia’s Eco-Representatives program and is one of the university’s brightest eco-stars) to get the student perspective on how the campus is going green. Things sound like they’re heading in the right direction around Columbia…and New York.

Next time NYC Part 2…

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