Tag Archives: Climate change

Concocting Fabrics

For my final project I have decided to tackle the ever-growing footprint of pollution stemming from the fashion industry. As Eileen Fisher famously stated during her reception speech for her 2015 Riverkeeper Award, the fashion industry is the second-largest polluting industry in the world; only second to the oil industry. While that may seem like an over exaggeration, when considering all the input costs involved in each step of the garment production process–from the initial cultivation of crops, to the manufacturing of textiles, to the time we as consumers discard of them– this estimate doesn’t seem as much of a misjudgment. It has become a fact that most within the industry have taken note of, however, have only begun to take baby steps towards alleviating the current status of impact the industry as a whole.

While some have chosen to tackle the issues at a singular level, improving upon the existing issues at each individual phase of the lifecycle of a garment (such as improving the practices of farmers cultivating cotton or reducing or eliminating the usage of water in the textile dyeing process) a greater ambition would be to eliminate the footprint of an entire portion of the garment production process. That is what Bio-fabrics aim to do: capitalize on the production of fabrics from microorganisms in lieu of traditional crops and livestock, thereby cutting out most of the necessity of water, land use, waste byproducts, chemicals, emissions and energy usage, as procurement moves from a large farm to bio-experimentation labs. If fabrics were to be produced in such a way, a great number of the current issues plaguing the production and manufacturing side of the business would be mitigated.

This is the aim of my project, to refine the process of producing Bio Fabrics and figure out a sound way to advance the process of creating fabrics rather than cultivate them.

Bio-Fabrics, are a type of fabric originating from a chemical reactions of microorganisms. In the formula I am utilizing, the reactions lead to the production of a cellulose film, woven from the fermentation of a Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria (or SCOBY). This recipe I have focused my attention on is the brainchild of Suzanne Lee, Fashion Designer and Director of the BioCouture Research Project, who noticed the potential for microbe-grown fabrics when interviewing a biologist for her 2005 novel, Fashioning the Future. Since then, Lee has taken many steps into the augmentation of the perception and overall realization of bio-fabrics, however, in the process has recognized many shortcomings of the current selection of grown fabrics.

(Watch: Suzanne Lee’s TED Talk Presentation)

Additionally, from my previous experience in producing bio fabrics, I have identified many shortcomings to the current abilities of this microbial concoction and realized key areas in the process to which I have the ability of improving upon. Two leading issues I have identified within the process revolve around the water solubility and possibility of production in scale for the SOCBY produced fabric. It is in these areas which I aim to refine and improve upon the existing models during the course of my final project.

Cellulose Film Out of the Bath
Cellulose Film Out of the Bath
SCOBY in Fermentation Bath
SCOBY in Fermentation Bath
Cardholder crafted with Bio-Fabric
Cardholder crafted with Bio-Fabric

In order to tackle these issues, I have several preliminary ideas. The first is the utilization of the waxy coating of fruit as a source of post-production coating for water-proofing. The other being the formation of growth bins that take the shape of clothing patterns. Through experimentation, I hope to aid in an overall improvement to the fabric and increase the feasibility of utilization of Bio Fabrics in larger scale, with the end goal of producing a fabric that can be a viable option for the industry use.

Apple Wax

Courtesy of Google+

Water Glass

My final project will explore the abundance of glass found in Astoria Park. The shards of glass and waste glistening amongst the waves pose an important question: is the water surrounding New York City healthy? For my research, I will focus on the East River. The East River is a salt water tidal estuary. It’s a receptacle for the city’s sewage and and garbage, and was so unhealthy at one point that people could not swim in it. Fortunately, as of 2010, it is Use Classification 1 which means it is now safe for boating and fishing. Yet, the glass and bottle caps remain. To check its cleanliness I have decided to shovel three gallons of water. One will be of the water, one will display the rocks, and one will show the glass.

areyouprepared.com 150 Gallon Rock Well Water Tank

Then, I will collect pieces of the glass and create a mosaic out of it representing the river. Once I finish it, I will show it to at least 10 strangers at Astoria Park to hear their initial response, and then explain how all of it was created by what’s in the water surrounding them. Hopefully we can start a conversation and discuss the health of our city, and on a larger scale our world.

brownstoner.com Glass Beach

I’ll also take a look at how water has changed throughout history. With climate change increasing, it will be interesting to see the past and future of the rivers surrounding New York City.


“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.

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

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. 

Love me some black Mercedes lung (just kidding…)

On my walk to class this morning, I made a quick stop at Liquiteria for my favorite smoothie, Bulldozer with added strawberries and blueberries.  While waiting for my order, I looked out the window and instead of the usual dog walkers and cabs flying down 6th Ave, I saw a beautiful black C 700 Mercedes Benz waiting out front. I remembered this assignment and decided to go outside to get a closer look to see whether or not the driver was idling. Sure enough, she was texting on her phone with the AC on.  I snapped the photo above and got her license plate number and she was sitting on the corner of W 8th and 6th Ave.  It made me feel like a detective (a secret dream of mine since I was a kid) so I think I’m gonna keep this up.  Unfortunately, idling is destructive and in no way do I hope to see more of it occur. However if it does, I plan on staying aware and taking action.


Defining Numbers

You, as a reader, see numbers and correlate them to  size. A number is either large or it is small. Nothing more. Nothing less. You read an article about the world’s current energy consumption, which explains that China uses 3,403 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE), and you think: that’s large. You read another article that says only 1% of earth’s water if fresh, and you think to yourself: that’s small. But what do these numbers mean beyond their size? Can you grasp the true weight of these problems beyond a superficial understanding of how large or how small these numbers are?

11 Billion.

That is the expected world population by the year 2100. That is four more billion people on earth than the current total population. And while that doesn’t sound like much of a problem (economists account an increase in population as a sign of growth), it is actually a very dangerous trajectory given the current methods of living. You see, with only 7 billion people on earth and the global energy consumption (the amount of energy used by the entire world’s population) is almost 15 MTOE. That is 15 million tonnes of oil equivalent. Yes, that is a big number. But just how big is it really?

Let’s compare it to the joule, a unit of energy that we are more familiar with. There is approximately 41 gigajoules in 1 tonne of oil equivalent (toe). 1 gigajoule is equal to 1 billion joules. That means that a single toe is equal to 41 billion joules. Multiply that by the 15 million toes that the world’s population uses yearly for energy and the number that shows up on the calculator is 615,000,000,000,000,000. That is 615 quadrillion joules in one year. The number quadrillion is so large, it is rarely ever used or known by the average human.

A map of the global energy consumption
A map of the global energy consumption

Now, we’re humans. We need to consume energy in order to drive our cars, power or homes, charge our phones…But 89%  of that 615 quadrillion joules that we use comes from non renewable energy sources. That means that around 547 of the 615 quadrillion joules we use a year come from burning fossil fuels. The carbon emission that is released into the atmosphere from the U.S. ALONE is around 5,000 million metric tons of CO2. And that is one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) for climate change.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 9.11.07 AM

Another four billion people on earth will mean that the yearly global energy consumption will drive up to around 966 quadrillion joules. And since only 11% of the global energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources, that means that 860 of that 966 quadrillion joules will come from burning fossil fuels. That will drive up the carbon omission released into the atmosphere (in the U.S. alone) by almost another 3,000 million metric tons of C02. If we continue ignoring renewable energy sources and obtaining most of our energy through carbon emissions, we will be perpetuating climate change at an increasingly faster speed.

The climate change is causing islands to sink countries to be deemed “unavailable”due to global warming. This means that there is less and less space for people to live and with an increasing population, the question becomes: where are we going to put everyone?



That is the number of years that are left before the year 2100. That’s only 30,660 days. It’s a small small number in comparison to the big numbers we’re battling. We’re working against a ticking clock and people still think that these numbers are just numbers.

The thing is, I don’t know how to solve this future energy crisis.   But what I do know is that if we do nothing to change what we have been doing, we’re perpetuating a spiral where larger populations are damaging the environment, and the damaging environment is hurting the larger populations. We are not working in symbiosis with the world that we call our home.  And what is worse is that we will have even less freely available water to drink and the cumulative effects of eighty more years of oil and gas spills in our oceans, atmosphere, and lands.
Geothermal, solar, and wind seem to be our best bet for non-carbon producing methods
of generating power for the future. And I hope we generate the political will not only to make this happen, but to start treating these numbers as more than a statistic, but a call to action.




Change The World, One Scoop At A Time

Save Our Swirled (S.O.S.) Climate Justice Now!
Save Our Swirled (S.O.S.) Climate Justice Now!

There is no denying that I love ice cream, but I also love companies that use their power of voice for good. Ben & Jerry’s is an ice cream corporation that has been dedicated to our world since the beginning. They are bringing facts to the public in a quick and easy to read format.

“5 Things That Will Happen If We Burn All the Fossil Fuels”

  1. Antarctica will melt
  2. Sea levels will rise 200 feet
  3. No more orange juice
  4. We could easily sail around both poles
  5. No more mansions in the Hamptons

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are two friends who co-founded this company in Burlington, Vermont. They are activists and are creatively engaging with the climate change movement through art in the form of ice cream. The video below reminds me of James Balog‘s photographs of the glaciers and the power of an image combined with facts. For many, glaciers are distant and hard to appreciate unless they have seen them personally. Ice cream; however, is something that almost everyone is familiar with and can understand. This video is kid friendly and has a message for all ages.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has fans around the world and they are constantly inventing and creating new flavors. With the ability to bring in new flavors at anytime, they are able to start a conversation with their consumers and the greater public. One of the latest inventions is called “Save Our Swirled” also known as “S.O.S.” Besides being a Raspberry ice cream with marshmallow and swirls of dark and white fudge, it also has an important message…”if it is melted, it’s ruined!”

Ben & Jerry's, Save Our Swirled (S.O.S.)
Ben & Jerry’s, Save Our Swirled (S.O.S.)

They care about the planet and are active in finding a solution to climate change. Many employees were at the Climate March last year. Ben & Jerry’s uses simple but powerful words to educate the world on the issues that are plaguing our planet today. They have an audience and are using their voice to create awareness and change. Below is their idea of four basic solutions for helping slowdown climate change.

The four basic “quick fix” points to solve climate change:

  1. Divest from fossil fuels
  2. Increase renewable energy sources
  3. Put a price on carbon pollution
  4. Work with developing countries to invest in renewable energy

Ben & Jerry’s is also know for their truck tours around the United States, bringing free scoops to fans of their ice cream. Now they have teamed up with Tesla, Elon Musk’s invention, and are using that it as their environmentally friendly car.

Ben & Jerry's teaming up with Tesla
Ben & Jerry’s teaming up with Tesla

Different environmental organizations have teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s in their movement. “Protect Our Winters Wants to Freeze Climate Change in Its Tracks” Avaaz, “one of the world’s most powerful online activist group”, has partnered with Ben & Jerry’s Climate Justice plan. They are seeking people to sign the Avaaz petition as the world prepares for the December 2015, Paris Climate Summit. Ben & Jerry’s have been mobilizing their employees and fans to be active in contacting their political leaders. They idea is that the more of the public who stands up and voices their love for our planet Earth, the more our political leaders will do something about climate change.


…Died & Buried. Fossil Fuel made of Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Pieces, Fudge Dinosaurs & a Fudge Swirl. 2005-2010.

Flavor Graveyard, Fossil Fuel
Flavor Graveyard, Fossil Fuel

Wild Salmon Dilemma

This week, I read an article “What’s depleting salmon populations? ” by Jennifer Horton. In the article, Jennifer indicated that wild salmon is significantly reduced from the entire world. The essay also reminds me of Reut Elimelech’s project summary “Seafood Fraud”, which including the seafood crisis we are facing now. The picture of a jellyfish sandwich impressed me a lot. Reut addressed in her presentation that if there’s no more edible fish exist; jellyfish sandwich probably will soon be added to the menu and recipes.


Horton used “Four Hs”, which means harvest, hatcheries, habitat and hydropower to conclude the factors affect salmon population. Almost every condition for the salmon living and reproducing is essential.



Personally say, I love seafood especially the sashimi and sushi with fresh salmons. Suppose that each of individuals eat 50 gram of salmon per week, it means 15,000 tons of salmon fish are eaten in the United States. Actually, people prefer to eat salmon instead of other kinds of fish due to mercury. Commercials of salmon recipe or products are often to be seen on TV and magazines. Indeed, wild salmon has a little mercury and it is a good ingredient if you are trying to lose weight.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 12.12.20 AM

So, how many salmon are caught per year in fact? Much more than the assumption! The chart below reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows commercial capture of all true wild salmon species from 1950-2010. We can easily find out that the number is continuing grow up, which is not a good sign for wild salmon reproduce. And nearly all captured wild salmon are Pacific salmon. The more we capture, the less salmon that are able to reproduce surplus.


Hatcheries and Habitat

I merge these two factors together to study because they are inextricably linked. Everyone knows that salmon is special than other fish due to it return to their habitat to spawn. The habitat river is where the baby salmons come from. If the environment of the habit degrades badly, salmon will not return back to reproduce. The population of salmon will decline soon. “Even small disturbances can make a big difference, since spawning is highly sensitive to things like increased sedimentation. Logging, agricultural practices, trash dumping and oil spills all contribute to poor water quality.” Said by Horton.

Today, most people cannot imagine just how little number of salmon would be migratory and spawn in the river. One of the reason why salmon taste delicious is they prefer cold and fresh water to live in. However, with the global warming and the deterioration of river conditions, most of the river is no longer to be the ideal habitat for salmons. The fish has to migrate further north in order to get a proper temperature to spawn, which means the more danger they probably are going to meet in the journey of going back. The data on Water Encyclopedia is undoubtedly startling:

“In California, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, salmon are extinct in nearly 40 percent of the rivers they were known to inhabit — at least 106 major stocks gone forever. In 1990, New Brunswick’s 108 salmon rivers supported healthy native Atlantic salmon runs. Ten years later, all are in decline and fewer than half have wild salmon populations at or above levels required to ensure survival. The Miramichi River was the world’s largest and most productive Atlantic salmon River; yet now, less than 1 percent of the salmon return to the river to spawn. The Atlantic salmon situation in the United States is also severe. Once, most rivers north of Connecticut were teaming with salmon. Today, it is estimated that only 50 to 100 native Atlantic salmon will return to a half dozen rivers in eastern Maine.”



Many examples show that the development of hydropower dams block salmons migratory. According to the study at Northwest Power & Conservation Council, “The Clearwater Coho salmon, once abundant in the Snake River Basin of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, became extinct in the early 1960s largely due to the construction of a dam that blocked the fish’s passage to and from its birthing grounds. ”



 “Without modifications, hydropower dams block salmon from accessing vital habitsts.”

Resource: Joel Sartore/National Geographic/Getty Images

However, there are also studies addressed that dams and salmon can coexist. It demands us to take the needs of the fish to survive into considerations in the construction of the dams. Some modifications for salmons to migrate are enough to change the statue quo of the relationship between the fish and dam. We have the responsibility to think more, just than being human, but also for salmon, for fish and for our unique earth.