Friday, January 29, 2010

Tu B'Shevat!

I found out that today is Tu B'Shevat, the Jewish celebration of the New Year of the Trees. From what I've read so far, this holiday marks the first bloom in Israel. It seems to have begun as a way to calculate the maturity of trees for harvest and tithes. Accordingly to Leviticus, fruit is forbidden for three years, sacred in the fourth and up for grabs in the fifth. Celebratory customs include planting trees and eating fruits and nuts. More recently, many have embraced Tu B'Shevat as a means to further environmental awareness. Happy Tu B'Shevat!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Applied Sciences: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Matter can neither be created nor destroyed. This is a principle that we all learned in high school, but so few of us understand how it relates to the practical world.

A few weeks ago, on Clinton Avenue, I looked on as sanitation workers loaded a perfectly sound couch into a garbage truck. Although watching the truck's compactor snap this huge piece of furniture in half was pretty cool, I was troubled that anyone would consider a seemingly pristine and functional couch disposable.

When I had to part with a beloved hand-me-down loveseat because it wouldn't fit in my new apartment, I made sure it had a home at a friend's place. When he no longer needs it, we'll find it a new home, provided his cats haven't torn the poor thing to pieces. I guess it's equal parts fanatical pack-ratism and responsibility to ensure that that loveseat lives out its useful life.

My guess is that whoever threw out that couch on Clinton Avenue gave little thought to its ultimate destination. Out of sight, out of mind. But that couch was trucked to a marine transfer station, tipped onto a barge and shipped to a landfill, where it will sit -- providing comfort to no one -- for many, many years, when it could have been reused by others or disposed of in an environmentally responsible way.

Wasteful behavior is a mix of ignorance, denial and laziness, and we all have our weak moments. But there are ways to make responsibility for the environment fun. For instance, yesterday, my friends hosted a clothes swap party, where I unloaded a few impulse purchases and snagged myself a super-awesome NY Jugglers t-shirt. The party hosts donated the remainder of the clothing to the Council on the Environment’s textiles recycling program. Our unwanted apparel will be redistributed to those in need or, if deemed non-usable, recycled for use as insulation or even car upholstery.

So next time you edit your wardrobe, replace a working appliance or part with a couch, think twice about taking the easy way out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Hate Winter

It’s my refrain these days: “I hate winter.” I say it almost unconsciously; it slips out dully as an expression of boredom or more sharply as an articulation of stress, frustration or panic. Winter makes me feel cornered and desperate: the pervading grey that slips too quickly into black, that stench on the subway, the dormant trees twisting in the relentless wind.

I find myself conjuring images of pioneers struggling though the barren winter, cut off from the world, huddled around a wood-burning stove, eating the last of the cured meats and praying the livestock doesn’t die. I think I read too much historical fiction, but I relate to the strange combination of restlessness and lifelessness.

Rationally, I know that winter is what makes summer so grand. I know that nature is merely resting, not dead, preparing to emerge renewed in spring. I get the yin and the yang of it. But I miss spending time outside, and I hate this desolate landscape. I hate winter.

Clearly, I have a serious case of cabin fever, and I apologize for being such a downer. We’ve got a lot of winter to go, so I resolve to find the life out there and report back soon.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

MulchFest 2010

Not to bore you with yet another Xmas tree-related post, but this one comes more in the form of a public announcement. For those of you who are ready to oust your trees, the City has a great program called MulchFest that will allow you to recycle them! Just bring your Xmas tree to a local park on January 9th or 10th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to feed it through a wood chipper. (You can find listings of MulchFest sites by borough at the Parks & Recreation website or by calling 311.) The City will use the mulch to nourish trees citywide with enough mulch left over for you to take some home!

(I just love PlaNYC's spokesbird!)