Category Archives: Waste

Final Project Update

Throughout my time in Greenworld, I’ve become extremely uncomfortable knowing and witnessing firsthand how common illegal idling occurs every day in New York City. I will be writing and directing a short film concerning the urgency of addressing illegal engine idling on a local level in New York City, especially now that America has a new President-elect. This matter has never been more urgent than right now. The President-elect’s notions regarding climate change or preserving and protecting our environment are pitiful and terrifying. I am not one to claim someone is wrong. However, scientific facts exist to prove his statements are based on opinions, not facts and are therefore incorrect.

Anyway, back to the project… I first learned from George Pakenham that there has been an anti-idling law on the books in New York City since 1971 and has gone almost unenforced, all the more emphasizing the blatant disregard and terrifying indifference this important health and environmental issue brings to light. Ultimately, I will be using this filmmaking platform to make idling enforcement more of a priority as well as to educate people of Bill 717, an anti-idling bill currently being proposed and reviewed in New York City, the monetary incentive New Yorkers could receive by reporting illegal idling if Bill 717 passes (which happens to be a comfortable yearly salary), core traits and reasoning behind human behavior (specifically why people do not take action when they know what they’re doing is wrong or is not helping a good cause), and finally, distributing information on how to continue moving forward with this issue, which is by going from the top down and inundating specific members of the NYPD with statistics regarding the immediate action necessary to make anti-idling enforcement more prevalent in NYC and to begin discussing this issue more around the internet to increase awareness of what tremendous damage this is contributing to the environment.

My new friend, Isabelle B. Silverman of the Core Fuel Engine Group has been kind enough to discuss my final project with me and she’s provided me with some excellent places to start taking action prior to knowing whether Bill 717 gets passed or not. For instance, anyone could send countless email to the NYPD Chiefs Michael Pilecki and Chief Chan.  Chief Chan is the head of the NYPD Transportation Unit and Pilecki is his Deputy. Isabelle also suggested reaching out to Mayor DeBlasio and asking him to make idling enforcement more of a priority especially given the thousands of 311 calls on idling that’ve resulted in no action. Here are their two emails:

thomas.chan@nypd.org

michael.pilecki@nypd.org

Webpage where submission for Mayor DeBlasio can be made:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/static/pages/officeofthemayor/contact.shtml

We should also be tweeting about this and posting on Facebook. Any social media presence helps!

Inundating them with these emails, tweets, and Facebook messages should help tremendously because they will have to start talking about it. There is also the possibility that students could start a social media campaign, even write a Care2 petition and get it signed online. Here’s some of the text from Isabelle. She believes it could be sufficient to be emailed, tweeted, or posted on Facebook:

“Illegal engine idling considerably contributes to bad air quality and noise which is why, since 2010, 40,000 New Yorkers have filed 311 idling complaints. Idling is clearly an important issue to New Yorkers but the 311 complaints don’t lead to tickets because the vehicle is gone by the time the DEP gets the complaint. The NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agents (TEA) are the city agents that are best suited to hand out idling tickets. Currently, TEAs only issue about 2,500 idling tickets compared to 9 million expired meter tickets.  Given that issuing idling tickets is more confrontational because the driver is usually in the vehicle, please dispatch a few hundred TEAs in pairs and make it their main focus to issue idling and double-parking tickets. Often, double-parked vehicles also idle so they should get two tickets. This law has been on the books since 1971 and has gone almost unenforced. Thank you very much for your consideration to this important health issue!”

Trash Day

After the midterm presentations, I have become more aware of the topics mentioned. One of these subjects is how much trash is thrown out by humans. I have tried to limit how much I personally throw into the trash, and I try to recycle (or compost at the dining halls) everything that can be.

This afternoon, while I was walking back from campus, I noticed this large pile of trash outside on an NYU building on Lafayette. This is a haunting image, largely because this amount of trash is a typical amount on a (bi)weekly basis.

The trash we throw out really is “out of sight, out of mind” as the saying goes, and therefore I wanted to share this image because it angered me. One can only imagine– if this is the amount of trash from one week, then how much trash does this building generate in one year, ten, 50, 100 years? This one building alone can create its own landfill, and there are millions of buildings like this all over the world….

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Transparency through Fashion

Within our day-to-day lives, it can be difficult to see past what is only visible on the surface. We choose to investigate, dig deeper, and find out how the world around us is functioning. Often times, we rely on visual cues to set us into question. Through connecting these visuals to our investigative work, we aim to find answers that connect with our bank of knowledge. Once we find transparency, we often want to share this with others and make it more accessible to them than it was to us.

The film, “Merchants of Doubt” set me into thinking about this idea of transparency between consumer, company, and in this case, our third party, the environment. The tool used by these big CPA’s was doubt. The doubt acted as a layer of opacity, blocking the consumers from being able to pull back the curtain, and view the truth of the situation. This idea of transparency is a driving force in the concept of my midterm project in which I would like to explore the lines of capitalism and the environment through clothing.

The article, “The Fashion Industry and Its Impact on the Environment and Society” brings a level of awareness to the destructive impacts the fashion industry, specifically fast fashion, has on the environment globally. It is claimed “that the garment industry is the world’s second biggest world polluter” although it is hard to decipher exactly what impact it is having as the production process is much larger than one might think. The process spans the agriculture of fibers, manufacturing textiles, dying, printing, bleaching, construction, and shipping and that is only up to the point of the sale of the garment. In this line of manufacturing is the demand for water, fertilizers, dye chemicals, and waste in product.

Past its life on the line of manufacturing, a garment may be worn and then discarded as the next style comes in. A garment is either then resold, or disposed of. Only 15% of discarded clothing is resold or recycled. As highlighted by the article, the resale of clothing may not be a globally conscious act. It states, “not only does the availability of such a great quantity of second-hand clothes create unemployment within the garment sector of developing countries, but it also negatively impacts economic growth and destroys the designs inspired by local cultures and traditions.” This is not something the average consumer would know or be expected to infer even though it is something they interact with daily.

Fashion is not only a form of expression, but it is a form of communication. We send a message to those around us with our dress. I want to tap into this tool for communication to bring the issues discussed about capitalism and the environment to the forefront. Bringing these topics into our every day through dress allows it to be more visible. Placing it in context of our own bodies brings a point of interest to the closeness of these issues.

The looks will be created through styling, constructing new pieces, and altering old clothing. I plan to use the process of upcycling, taking an old garment and creating something new from it, as a key part of these conversational pieces. Putting these larger devices in conversation with one another, I hope to create curiosity and questioning. I aim to use my visual tools to set others into question and find a new level of transparency.

 

Shown below is the beginnings of my visual research aiming to begin a vocabulary of the organic, inorganic, human, non-human, industrial, and natural and how they may manifest themselves in art and fashion.

Bear Arms for the Revolution

Reading Bryan Schutmaat’s article, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” and Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” make me feel small yet very loud and able to to create positive, lasting change on our environment. Schutmaat discusses Rob Billot’s experience discovering his relationship to environmental issues such as fighting the use of chemicals in our food. He originally represented plaintiffs, private citizens, large corporate clients, and defended chemical companies but made a change when he discovered a family connection to a farmer in West Virginia. Moreover, Emily J. Gertz’s article, “How the West Was Lost: Ranchers Devastated by Fossil Fuel Boom” describes how large corporations were able to weave around and ultimately avoid the consequences of disobeying laws and therefore could easily control and manipulate the environment of that area. Although he did not see a full victory, Rob Billot opened up an incredibly important conversation concerning environmental protection and activism.

Similar to the issue of idling, I believe that we are stronger together. Ballot’s fight proves just that. Sure, everyone is busy and has their own life to live. However, we won’t have lives to live (at least live well) if we don’t have clean air, food, and water that are free form corporate interest and manipulation for profit at the expense of the health of our communities and the environment. I believe Earthjustice is an excellent resource to use for my project on idling and air pollution in NYC because Earthjustice works to disempower large corporations that profit off the expense of the health of people and the environment.
The fact that they’re a nonprofit organization is also a plus. It assures communities that their interests are the polar opposites to corporate profiteering interests.

I’d like to quote from another student in class who goes by the name of Eco Kitty on this site. She posted that on their website, Earthjustice has written, “The generous support of hundreds of thousands of individuals like you allows us to take on the most important cases and stick with them for as long as it takes.” Earthjustice is a nonprofit organization that advocates that awareness, education, and action are the primary tools to take advantage of in the face of environmental issues today and after having all the facts and knowledge of what is currently happening in our environment, I can’t imagine how one could defend ignoring this revolutionary fight.

“There’s No Honor In Waste” -Samara Swanston

Last Wednesday, October 12th, I was invited to join Peter and the core engine exhaust group for lunch. The group included George Pakenham, Isabella B. Silverman, Samara Swanston, Karl Storchmann, Peter, and myself. The afternoon comprised of an extremely productive and informative anti-idling campaign meeting, vigorous note taking on my end for my midterm and final project, and the icing on the cake was Peter covering my meal. Thank you again Peter!

In order to get a clearer idea of who all these people are that Peter and I met with, here is what they all do. George  is the notorious man-on-emissions; an environmental activist who focuses on idling and who made the film, Idle Threat (website: http://www.verdantvigilante.com/about/george.html). Isabella B. Silverman is also an environmental activist who starred in George’s film Idle Threat. Samara Swanston “is currently the legislative counsel to the Environmental Protection Committee of the New York City Council and an Adjunct Professor at the Pratt Institute Graduate School for Urban Planning and the Environment” (https://www.linkedin.com/in/swanston-samara-80923356). Lastly, Karl Storchmann is an NYU professor of Urban Economics who’s found a great response rate from his students when offering extra credit to report idling in NYC.

Samara Swanston built off this idea to give extra credit to students but in greater detail. She said it is imperative to write an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) to a government agency with the focus being on an environmental and public issue, as these issues impact everyone breathing the air in New York City. Samara ended her input with a new quote; “There is no honor in waste.”

Additional information I was given during lunch was that Karl has a youtube channel called “Idle NYC,” which closely resembles our first blog post assignment when Peter asked us to go notice idling and post some pictures or videos. Also, summer months such as June and July appear to be the peak times of year for idling due to higher demand for comfort and stronger air conditioning. What is more interesting is that idling in the summer heat and keeping the air conditioning on actually puts out even more heat into the atmosphere than the colder months of the year because the tailpipes get much hotter in the summer sun.

To wrap up our meeting, Samara and Isabella gave me two very important names to keep in mind and to share with friends, colleagues, and environmental activists. Thomas M Chan is the Chief of Transportation for the NYPD and Inspector Michael Pilecki, a commanding officer of traffic enforcement for the NYPD. Samara and Isabella told me to pass on these names to my peers and cohorts because these are the guys to write complaints to in order for something to be done in terms of law enforcement for idling in NYC. I imagine it is more productive to approach this from the top down than the other way around so that our voices have a greater chance of being noticed and heard. The most important factor in all of this is to vigorously stay on these guys and overwhelm them with complaints until something is done. Otherwise, they’re more likely to not take notice that people actually care about this crucial law and the detrimental impact it has on our environment.

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Photo credit goes to our awesome waiter who’s name I did not get but I wish I had!

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Me and Isabella B. Silverman, environmental activist and star of Idle Threat.
Me and the man-on-emission himself, George Pakenham.
Me and the man-on-emission himself, George (of the *concrete* jungle) Pakenham. 

Grow Your Own Clothes

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Suzanne Lee, Creative Director of Modern Meadow, and creator of Biocouture has engineered a vegetable leather fabric using a bacterial reaction with tea and yeast.  The result is a thin, rubbery, biodegradable transparent cellulose with super absorbency.  As a fashion student, I have studied the ethical and environmental issues with garment production as well as witnessed the great amount of waste produced by the industry first hand.  When I interned in a sample room last semester, I was often given yards of fabric and prototypes and told to shred them so that they the materials and designs would be unusable to anyone rummaging through garbage.  Everyday I would cringe when handed a pretty much completed garment, or a piece of fabric that was large enough to create 3 more dresses, but reluctantly obeyed as an intern.  

The fashion industry is one of the leading industries in pollution as vast amounts of water are used to create textiles, and fast fashion produces more unused garments and waste than ever.  Brands such as H&M and Zara have released “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” lines, but as fast fashion thrives off overproducing products quickly and cheaply they are anything but eco-friendly.  Even more conscious brands such as Stella McCartney and Reformation produce waste through garment production, but Lee’s biocouture fabric is natural, organic, and completely biodegradable.  

The only issues are that it is not yet a stable medium as interaction with liquid would cause it to decompose, the ability to manipulate the finished material as far as colors and embellishments is minimal, and as it is a vegetable leather it can be used only for specific garment types.  For the midterm I would like to play around with Lee’s growable fabric by cultivating my own cultures at home and experimenting and researching different ways to help manipulate the fabric to create something that can be more durable and mainstreamed.  The fabric takes 3-4 weeks to cultivate and dry so I have purchased the necessary materials to begin the process as soon as possible.  I hope to manipulate the fabric with different methods of embellishment such as pleating, embroidery, beading, dying, and paint with an end result that can be incorporated in a photo series along with a few of the garments I created last year for the TechStyles: Gallatin Fashion Show.  My collection focused on using recycled fabrics from clothing found at thrift stores to create garments sustainably and reduce the amount of waste produced.  

Stars are the most widely recognized astronomical objects as they represent the most fundamental building blocks of the galaxy.  Stardust emphasizes the use of recycled suede, which mirrors the nebula stage of a star as dust and ionized gases create an interstellar cloud, or nebula.  As the collection progresses, iridescent sequins are combined with light airy fabrics that slowly shed away the nebulous suede symbolizing the formation of a stable star.   The sheer elements of the designs simulate the way humans see stars with a naked eye.  While it is possible to see stars that are deceased, the saying that “the stars we see at night have already died” is a myth.  Most of the stars we see at night are very much alive due to their proximity and the speed of light.  With fabrics recycled from previously used garments, most of the materials used to create this collection are sustainably curated to minimize production and waste.  The leading cause of CO2 and methane gas emissions, as well as water and energy consumption is animal agriculture.  In turn, this means the raising of animals for both the leather and fur industries.  While much of these materials are by-products of the meat industry, factory farming practices are widely used to meet consumer demand.  The way to combat this is to ultimately refrain from buying any animal products–including: meat, dairy, and egg products, as well as leather and fur goods.  By purchasing leather secondhand, we can support environmental sustainability over destructive fast fashion.   Stars are born within clouds of dust and scattered throughout most galaxies.  For this reason the use of secondhand suede resembles a nebula. The birth of a star evokes the way that our resources can be reused from muddled matter to create something new and beautiful, just like a star.  

You can watch Suzanne Lee’s Ted Talk here:

How do we show the effects of engine idling?

George Pakenham, Professor Karl Storchmann, and I continue to ratchet down on idling from our different vantage points.    In my work I have often explored the question of how to render that which is invisible to the unassisted human vision system visible.

Would people shut their engines if they could see the by-products from their gasoline engines?  What if they could see the heat they were generating?

NYC has about 5,100 legally operating food trucks which generate $15 million dollars in taxes.  That’s about 5,000 fossil fuel fired, air-polluting, climate warmers running 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year in New York City alone.


In the United States there are approximately 3 million food trucks burning kerosene, natural gas (hello, it’s methane which comes from decomposing plant matter), propane, and/or gasoline.     That’s a fair number of street level emitters of particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons, and a whole batch of complex compounds in aerosol, vapor, or otherwise respirable form and heating up the place at the same time.    Plus there is an entire supply chain of high-carbon footprint activities necessary to get that fossil fuel into the tank.

Then there are small engines of many types, buses, and trucks.    Same set of parameters but they burn even more fossil fuel. Instead of 3 million units, there are approximately 253,000,000 cars alone in the United States and around 1,200,000,000 (billion) cars in the world.

That’s a lot of engines, venting approximately 19 pounds of heat trapping carbon products per gallon at the tailpipe.   Somehow we refine a million additional barrels of oil each year  to fuel our lives.  We currently consume 95 million barrels of oil a day (42 gallons per barrel of oil).

In addition to thinking about the complex chemicals generated as a product of the internal combustion process (idling and otherwise) which we are all breathing, this new InfraRed imaging camera has started me to think about more than a billion automobiles helping to heat up the planet as they drive about – or idle.

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Until we come up with a way to change human behavior we are going to have even more people operating their vehicles longer than necessary.   Given the statistics released by the World Health Organization, our love affair with the things we need/want (cars, energy, money, and shiny new things) is literally killing us all.

Kind of a whacky  predicament  for a bunch of otherwise smart people to be in, isn’t it?

 

Dani Schoffman – Final Project

I originally had planned on making videos with the tagline “Every Little Bit Helps.”  The idea was to influence people to do the little that they can to help the environment. Nowadays people don’t realize how they can help, and that if everyone did their small part it would make a big difference.  My goal for my final project was to create short videos that would make people understand just that.

After meeting with professor Terezakis, and talking about my project, he sent me these videos, but this video stuck out especially.  We also talked about it in our meeting.  I decided to change my idea for my final project.  The underlying concept stayed the same. The goal is to influence people to change the way they do day-to-day things, and help the environment more.  I wanted the videos to be short, so they fit into today’s internet culture of short attention spans and snapy style.

I created two 30 second videos with the objective of showing how “not cool” it is to not care about the environment.  The whole concept of what is “cool” is interesting to me, and I decided to challenge that in my videos, too.  The basic concept is that the guy is “cool” and doesn’t care about things, which turns the girl on, but then when he doesn’t care about the environment, he looses the girl.  Once I came up with the concept I had a very clear idea of how I wanted the videos to look and feel.  I drew up storyboards and a shot list to help with this.

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Save Water – storyboard
Recycle - storyboard
Recycle – storyboard
Shot list for both videos
Shot list for both videos

The first video I did is about saving water. Since we can only drink %1 of the earth’s water, and we waste so much of it daily, I think this is a very important issue that people can easily help with, as shown in my video- just turn off the water when brushing your teeth (or doing the dishes, or showering, etc.)

The second video is about recycling.  I think it is just as easy for people to do this as anything else, just do it.  Waste and production of more and more things in this world is one of the biggest environmental threats there are.  If everyone just recycled it would make a huge difference, and it’s not hard at all.  That’s what I hope to show in this video, along with how it’s not “cool” at all not to care about these things.

I myself ended up acting in the videos, which made it hard for me to direct the camera and see what the frame and shot was looking like as we were filming.  Later, when I was editing them, I was disappointed in how some of the shots turned out.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re in front of the camera and not behind it.  I should have been more particular and careful with my cinematographer, to really make sure I know what he will be doing in each frame and shot, and how it will look before we shoot.  This is a lesson I learned by doing this project.  Filming in my apartment also turned out to be more difficult than I expected, since it is so small, it was hard to get a lot of the angles I wanted.

Because of these constraints the videos did not come out exactly the way I imagined and planned them (as can be seen by the difference between the shot list and storyboards and the actual videos).  However, I am happy with how they turned out.  I do think they get the points I wanted across, and hopefully will make an impact on people who see them!

People are too apathetic about these issues, as if it doesn’t affect them or have to do with them.  We all live on here, on the same planet, together. It is all of our responsibility to take care of it.  If some people are too “cool” or don’t care bout it, it is just plain ignorance. That’s what I hope to change with my videos for my final project.