In this week's Newsletter: Better composting using the bokashi method, understanding biomimicry, goats do the weeding in Prospect Park and much more!
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Better Composting, Coming Soon to NYC?


As many people know, the NYC Department of Sanitation started rolling out an organics composting program in select parts of the city. What may be less well known is that, of everything NYC throws away every year, 31% is organic material, which creates methane, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. And while it would be a great thing to send less, or even someday zero, organic waste to be landfilled, the Organics Collection Program pilot has run into some problems- especially because there are no commercial compost facilities within our city limits.

But now a new company, Industrial/Organic, may have a solution, based on the ancient Japanese composting method known as bokashi. The process involves using a medium like bran or sawdust to encourage microorganisms to break down the organic matter in a  process somewhat similar to making yogurt. In fact, newspapers soaked in lactobacillus medium can work just fine for bokashi purposes.

The bokashi method ferments the compost and breaks down the nasty bacteria- the ones that make garbage smell bad!- in the process. And because it's less energy-intensive than conventional commercial composting, and less obnoxious as well, the industrial bokashi system that Industrial/Organic is proposing could make large-scale composting safe, convenient and sustainable for the urban environment.

You can read more about Industrial/Organic and their composting system on TakePart.com here.

Just What Exactly Is "Biomimicry"?

Humans pride ourselves on our cleverness and ingenuity, but one of the most ingenious things we've ever come up with is biomimicry. But what does that mean?

Biomimicry is a design method that takes its cues from nature. After all, evolution has been refining and specializing nature's designs for about 3.8 billion years! Humans have been around for about 0.005% of that time. Many of the design and engineering challenges that we face today have been resolved in some other plant or animal. By making those connections between the human world and the rest of nature, we open ourselves up to a world of sustainable options and possibilities. 

While biomimicry as a design philosophy and field of study is relatively new (the Biomimicry Institute was founded in 2006  by Janine Benyus and Byrony Schwan, the 21st century is not the first time this approach was ever tried. The photo above shows a staircase in the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, Spain. The great Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi took over the project in 1883 and turned into the culmination of his Naturalist period, and a very early example of biomimicry.

Here in NYC, Solar One BFFs Terrapin Bright Green have been working with NYSERDA on their Bioinspired Innovation program, which uses biomimicry principles to solve energy, engineering and design challenges. Learn more about this program and Terrapin's work here.

You can read more about this fascinating approach to design, architecture and engineering on Grist.org here.

Prospect Park's New Weed Whackers Are Cuter Than You Might Think

Brooklyn's largest and most famous park is trying a creative but hardly new way of coping with an extensive invasive weed problem: On Sunday May 22, Prospect Park introduced eight goats, all of different breeds, as a chemical free, energy conserving measure as part of an overall plan to restore the park, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The Parks Department would lie to start replacing the many trees that were knocked down in the superstorm, but first the weeds, including poison ivy and mugwort, need to go before all of Prospect Park's topsoil erodes away and restoration becomes even more difficult and expensive. 

Enter the goats, who are not only a green alternative to mechanical weed whackers and chemical herbicides, but can also easily navigate the park's many hills, and sloped areas. The eight goats represent such diverse breeds such as Nubian, Angora and Pygmy, have four stomachs and can consume about 25% of their body weight in vegetation a day. The goats will keep eating the root of the plants until they eventually have no energy to grow back, at which point the trees can be replanted. 

You can read more about Prospect Park's goats on the Prospect Park Alliance website here.
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Upcoming Events at Solar 1

5/26
Lag B'Omer BBQ with the Jewish Latin Center
Solar 1/Stuyvesant Cove Park, 23rd Street & the East River, 6-9pm, $35 standard admission/$20 members, sponsor tickets also available

5/28-29
Cookout NYC Food Party on the Pier
Solar 1/Stuyvesant Cove Park, 23rd Street & the East River, 12-9pm, $10 adults includes one drink/children free

Other Events

5/27
BPI Multifamily Building Operator Training
Solar One Workforce Training Lab, 29-76 Northern Boulevard, Queens, various times and prices, check link above

5/30
Happy Memorial Day!

5/31
Green-Roofing Workshop
Gowanus E-waste Warehouse, 469 President Street bet 3rd Ave & Nevins St, Brooklyn, 2:30-4:30pm, free 

The BIG One: NYC Clean Energy Standard Public Hearing
90 Church Street bet Murray St & Park Pl, Manhattan, 5-9pm, free 

6/1
Parks Workshop - Partnering for Success
The Arsenal Building, Third Floor Gallery, 830 5th Avenue bet E. 64th St & 65th St Transverse, Manhattan, 6:30-8:30pm, free

6/2
The 5th Annual NY Sun Works Youth Conference “Discovering Sustainability Science”
Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway bet W. 94th & W. 95th Sts, Manhattan, 10am-12pm, free
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