Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recyclebank's Green Your Vacation Challenge

Recyclebank launched the Green Your Vacation promotion at, an interactive contest where members can learn to green their summer plans, earn points, and win prizes including 2 grand prizes:

A ten day cruise to the Galapagos Islands, courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions and a stay at the Four Seasons Costa Rica at Papagayo. The contest will last through end of July.

Please visit, and refer friends for multiple chances to win!

Monday, May 2, 2011

New On-Street Recycling Containers in Northside

Assumed to have been installed to coincide with the Great American Cleanup on April 16th, the Cincinnati neighborhood of Northside has recently added on-street recycling containers along the Hamilton Avenue Business District.

The new receptacles are sleek, attractive, and easy to differentiate from the uniform trash containers, which can be found throughout the city. The containers were obtained through a grant, assisted by the Office of Environmental Quality. Recycling pickup has been contracted through Rumpke Recycling. Hopefully the design choice for the new recycling containers will encourage proper use, not as another place for passersby to throw their trash.

Located near Shake-It Records on the north side of Hamilton Avenue, near Lingo Street.

This measure capitalizes on Northside's growing reputation as one of Cincinnati's greenest neighborhoods. Already in the neighborhood are a variety of services and outlets for reuse, environmental awareness, and alternative transport methods.
  • Eateries Melt and The Grove feature a variety of locally-source, vegan and sustainable fare.
  • Fueled by the Easter Seals Work Resource Center, Building Value is the place to reclaim salvaged building materials and furnishings. They give a second life to quality, architectural components. Building Value also enables donors and buyers alike to obtain tax credits and LEED credits for their projects.
  • MOBO Bicycle Cooperative is the lone bike co-op in Cincinnati, boasting a membership of 600, as of 2011. Their central location enables reasonable access from all stretches of the city. A membership gives you access to tools, a slew of donated bikes for parts, and technical assistance from the friendly staff.
  • MOBO is part of the Village Green Foundation, which is a non-profit garden co-op that aims to grant "access to healthy foods for all the residents of the community.
  • Even reuse and consignment shops like Chicken Lays an Egg, Casablanca Vintage, and Shop Therapy offer a cornucopia of pre-loved clothing (the former), carefully selected clothing from the 40's to the 70's (second), and items for the home (the latter).
  • Fabricate is a gallery and retail store featuring locally homemade and handmade. Celebrating reuse and creativity!
  • Many Northside businesses recycle. Northside Tavern, for years, has diverted nearly all its glass bottle and aluminum can waste.
  • Let us not forget Northside Farmers Market, open year-round at Jacob Hoffner Park and North Presbyterian Church. Local organic produce, naturally raised meats, raw cheeses, and more.
Active Northside residents and businesses celebrate environmental activism, careful reuse of materials, and a sustainable urban neighborhood. Let's hope that Northside's hop to be the first neighborhood with on-street recycling will encourage others to follow suit.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lost: the Famous "I Love Compost" Magnet

About a week ago, I discovered something that confirmed why my car felt a little strange as of late. Someone had stolen the "I Love Compost" magnet" from the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District from the back of my 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid.

They have been one with each other since the Recyclebank press event, back in October, at Annwood Park. Clearly, these buggers found this beautiful magnet to be a valuable find. If you have an extra one, or have any sightings to report of Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District giving these away during Earth Week, send me a line! This is a 21st Century, First World tragedy--yes. But it would be nice to get a replacement!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Details on the Great American Cleanup in Clifton (Cincinnati) - Saturday, APRIL 16th (8:30am-1:00pm)


We are rapidly approaching the Great American Cleanup for 2011. As the founder of the CTM Green Clifton Committee, I really wanted to get Clifton on track with annual cleanup events, after what I understood as a long dormancy. My goal is to make this second annual effort bigger than the last. Before I get into the details of this year's event, I want to thank everyone who has expressed any level of interest.

The basics...
Date and time: Saturday, April 16th at 8:30am
Meetup place (or home base): Clifton Plaza (333 Ludlow Ave)
Morning kickoff: Please arrive by 8:30am, so that we can coordinate the efforts with team leaders, assign teams for our volunteers, get liability forms signed, and get acquainted over coffee and eats.
Duration: We're looking at a 9:00am start time, expecting teams to return to Clifton Plaza by noon.
What's next?: I am working on a couple local partnerships within our business district that would provide food for our volunteers after great hard work. No one has any need to worry about not seeing food in front themselves after the cleanup. Lunch will be served from 12pm to 1pm.

The cleanup and supplies...
What's being picked up? We will be picking up trash and recyclables separately. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will be supplying all teams in Cincinnati with different colored bags, white for one and clear for the other. Weeding out recyclables from our pickup materials is taken very seriously.
Electronics? Yes, electronics are being collected, as a part of the Great American Cleanup. However, they will not be a part of the regular cleanup activities. Instead, KCB has arranged for two drop off locations during the event--one is Blue Ash and another at a still unreported location central to all of Greater Cincinnati's neighborhoods. I will keep you up to date on that piece.
Supplies: Based on supplies from Keep Cincinnati Beautiful from last year, volunteers will receive bright KCB volunteer t-shirts. As stated earlier, KCB will also supply separate bags for recyclables and trash, latex gloves, a pocket first aid kit for home base, and posters for the event. You may see some posters around Clifton in the days leading up to the event. Until the Supply Day--Tuesday, April 12th--I will not know exactly what we will receive but I planned for supplies for 30 volunteers. Do not fret--KCB overcompensates with supplies for team volunteer estimates, and I will make sure we are not running low.

You will find a draft map of team routes attached to this email. The highlighted routes are suggested based on main vehicular or pedestrian routes, common cut-throughs, and known problem areas. I would encourage team leaders to cover other neighborhood streets within their zones if time permits. But I think these routes will take up a significant portion of our time. I will provide individual route maps on cleanup day.

Team leaders...
I have already received interest from individuals becoming team leaders. Due to the large expanse of our neighborhood, we may need two or more team leaders per route. It depends on the turnout by 8:30am or so on April 16th. Feel free to email me, if you are interested in becoming a team leader.

Please let me know if you feel that I am leaving anything out here. If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to email me.

Very much thanks,

Christian Huelsman
Clifton Town Meeting, board member
CTM Green Clifton Committee, chair
GAC Clifton site leader

Sunday, February 13, 2011

NPR and PBS are in danger of being eliminated by Congress

Our Republican Congress is aiming to eliminate all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would erase National Public Radio, PBS, and other public media from our lives. The cuts are claimed to be due to budget constraints, but a small fraction of a percent of the total budget helps to pay for public media.

In Ohio, we have already seen strong-armed (and successful) efforts to eliminate statewide rail from the radar, after years of planning and even federal funding allocation. More recently, newly elected Ohio Governor John Kasich has cut $70 million in state transit funding. Now, the possibility of nixed public media is threatening.

Please visit the CREDO action petition site to learn more about looming elimination of public media funding.

Below, I have included my letter to Congress via the petition in the link above. Please, strongly consider sharing your words with Congress.

Respectable members of Congress,

The high cost of eliminating public television and radio is abominable. The higher cost of eliminating public options across the board is stifling and offensive. In the past two months, as an Ohio Resident, I have witnessed years of statewide rail planning quashed by the sentiment of then-governor-elect John Kasich. He has since eliminated $70 of public transit funding in Ohio. Now you want to take away public radio and television for all, in the name of "budget issues".

I am offended by the narrowly representative interest of Republicans in Congress, who aim to take action against an "overinflated government". However, it is the government-aided non-profit organizations, institutional and public construction projects, and others that defend a public process and provision for all. In the case of PBS and NPR, listeners and viewers keep them afloat but government funding keeps it alive.

We need public radio and television to maintain last remaining near-non-partisan media outlets. Private enterprise has changed the way we are delivered the news--special interest groups with enormous lobbying power, former big oil/ag/industry executives appointed to government positions, and so on. These decisions are not in the interests of Americans but in the interests of the sovereign well-dressed and self-interested.

Please do not take away from us what millions actively support and value.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Win 2,011 RecycleBank Points! What's your green resolution?

To those of your with RecycleBank accounts, and to those who have yet to register for an account: this is for you. It is no mystery that I am one of two members of the Cincinnati RecycleBank team. A common goal of ours and yours: to increase recycling rates in our city.

Pledge to make 2011 your greenest year ever on and be one of 20 weekly winners.

We want everyone to make this their greenest year ever. Each week in January, we're asking our Facebook fans to share their green resolutions. Every Monday at 11 AM EST we'll post a new topic to start the conversation. From that post, we'll pick 20 lucky fans to receive 2,011 RecycleBank Points! The giveaways started this week, so make sure you "Like" us on Facebook and join the conversation to enter!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

RecycleBank in Cincinnati

Cincinnati is enhancing their recycling service by partnering with RecycleBank - a rewards program that motivates people to take greener actions, like household recycling, by rewarding them with points that are redeemable online for rewards from local and national retailers, restaurants, pharmacies, grocers and more. Similar to frequent flier programs, the more a community recycles, the more RecycleBank Points participating households earn. Single or multi-family residences with Cincinnati curbside trash service are eligible to participate in the program free of charge.

• You must register to redeem rewards. To sign up for RecycleBank: visit or call 1-888-727-2978

• All eligible households have received their new recycling carts - to find out which phase you are in and which week you will be picked up, check out the City’s enhanced recycling program overview at: or call 513-591-6000.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recycling: Blow-molded vs. injection-molded plastics

This excerpt is from the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) website, which does a particularly good job at delineating blow-molded and injection-molded plastics. A waste hauler's ability to recycle and find markets for these materials differs. I have substituted Rumpke Recycling below, as they hold the same guidelines as DSWA. Perhaps Rumpke or the City of Cincinnati can post something similar on their respective websites. As a RecycleBank outreach intern, I get a number of questions regarding "bottles vs. butter tubs." I invite you to visit the DSWA, for additional insight on the similarities and differences of recycling programs abroad.
[Rumpke Recycling] only collects narrow-neck plastic bottles in both its Curbside Recycling Program and Recycling Drop-Off Centers. Narrow-neck plastic bottles such as water or soda bottles, shampoo bottles, and detergent bottles are accepted regardless of the recycling number found on the bottle and usually contains liquid contents. A narrow-neck plastic bottle is one that has a neck smaller than the body of the bottle. [Rumpke Recycling] does not accept wide-mouth plastic containers such as butter or yogurt containers because the manufacturing process differs from narrow-neck bottles. Narrow-neck bottles are what are referred to as blow-molded plastic while the butter tubs and yogurt containers are injection-molded plastics or a "punched" plastic. While the types of plastics for both blow-molded and injection-molded plastics is still the same, the manufacturing process is different. This results in each plastic having a different melt index, which means that they melt at different temperatures. There are not many markets for other types of plastics, which do not have a narrow-neck in the regions around [Cincinnati]. Without a market to accept the items, [Rumpke Recycling] does not have a resource that will accept and process this type of plastic.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The seriously silent revolution (hums like an air conditioner)

Today's post is very much sparked by a recent MaddowBlog entry, which paraphrased a Salon article titled, "Losing Our Cool": The high price of staying cool. Salon spoke to Stan Cox, the author of the new book, Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). It discusses the impacts of air conditioning on American population shifts, since the 1960s. The interview and book also (more than) allude to political implications for mass movement to the South and West, and how it corresponds to Republican constituency.

As should be typified by greeneyedcity, I prefer to assess the impacts of air conditioning--and, by association, overall quest for comfort--on our natural and social environments. Nature has incurred our wrath mostly in the last century or so. We consume and waste more as a nation than any country on earth. The international response among developing countries has been less than favorable. At international summits, lesser developed countries are reluctant to adopt carbon standards unless nations like the United States follow them too. The big boys seem to want to play by their own rules, reaping the benefits of industrialization and consumerism long after their peak.

In the United States, we continue to consume about as much as we always have, relative to the number of cars on the road and number of miles to our jobs and supermarkets. Subsidization allows for lower quality, lower-priced products and services. Despite environmental disasters, we continue to drive down the street for milk. When we idle our automobiles, we leave our air conditioners running full blast. Despite the mindful construction of hundred-year-old buildings, we scramble for window units, when the temperature reaches eighty degrees. In other cases, central cooling systems are always running during hot days, because newer buildings do not have passive systems for temperature regulation. In fact, most of them rely on electric-dependent systems. Meanwhile, as Cox's book states, our A/C consumption causes climate change, and we respond by using it more as the temperatures rise.

What about the social side of air conditioning? As funny as that sounds, the quest for comfort confines us to our own spaces, which have become more personalized than ever. When air conditioning first appeared in performance and movie theaters, they were the places to seek refuge from the heat. But they were also places for people to meet, share leisure, and patronize local businesses. Theaters were centers of attraction when business centers turned dark, but they were certainly destinations during the day. What are our Twenty-first Century attraction centers? Nearly every private residence or multi-unit building has air conditioning (or the option to have it). Urban dwellers have less incentive to leave their homes to find both cool air and leisure.

Cox mentions how we keep our car windows closed and our A/C cranked, so that we keep automobile emissions out. But the number of road miles and hours of mobile A/C usage consumes gasoline fuel more rapidly than simple fan usage or rolling the windows down. (Keeping the windows down, however, leads to lower fuel efficiency after exceeding about 50 mph.) Either at home or on the road, we demand comfort from air conditioning, thereby contributing to climate change.

Like many contemporary revolutions or uprisings, since the late 1960s, the pushes to cut carbon emissions, protect forests, or regulate post-consumer waste are relatively segmented and unorganized. What impact does one person, not running their air conditioning, have on the environment. Not very much. Indubitably, air conditioning is also competitive edge. Businesses even think of cutting their cooling would suffer financially. Cox pointed out studying showing lower tolerance to hotter temperatures, when people experience long-term exposure to climate-controlled environments.

Are policy, tax, or credit mechanisms the only remedy for the cyclical environmental detriment we create, as we artificially cool our singular spaces? Should residential owners be given less freedom to cool their spaces, while given more incentive for business owners (and municipal entities, of course) to cool their interiors? Could it, in turn, stimulate consumer spending? I am not necessarily arguing that breaking the A/C cycle requires a solution oriented toward economic development. However, short of socialism and strict (and responsible) government regulation of consumption, I do not see an end in sight.

One of the most responsive business moves, with regards to climate change, was Britain's new Prime Minister capping the expansion of the tiny London Heathrow Airport. However, when city-regions are the largest culprits of greenhouse gases and energy consumption, adequate power is not in the hands of municipal governments but with state government, rural, and suburban constituencies. Until we restructure the hierarchical power structure in the United States, are we left with economic development measures to meet our future carbon goals. Or we left relegated to the seriously silent revolutions among individuals, who are left feeling like isolate extremists in a sea of apathetic consumers?

(See a related treehugger post titled, The Deluded World of Air Conditioning Revisited.)

Photo credits: (1) flickr user -WHITEFIELD-; (2) The New Press

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Obligatory "Happy Earth Day" post

Hello, readers! I hope you are celebrating Earth Day in your own respective ways. Living green is not about this one day of the year, of course. I like to think of Earth Day as a time to reflect on how we carry on from day-to-day, as our habits impact the environment. Many holidays are about giving gifts or giving thanks. Today, I encourage you to look at how we all individually impact the lives of others--other humans, all living creatures, and the Earth's composition as it was intended.

We all succumb to consumer culture, our own busy lives, and the incessant temptation to just do nothing. But it is vitally important to remind ourselves that we can always do more. As a community of any scale, a global village or a neighborhood, we have an abundance of untapped potential. We can absolutely enhance the lives of others through community, while impacting our own lives positively.

I ask you all to find time to become more involved in your communities, this year and every year beyond. As we empower our own communities, we increase the breadth of knowledge and experience--fuel or "people power"--that can be used to affect policy, create and recreate livable spaces, and build more lasting relationships.

I hope to see some of you, this weekend. Great American Cleanup activities will be happening throughout America, particularly in Cincinnati, local readers. Check Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to find a cleanup or landscaping project in your area. Carry your positive energy beyond today and this weekend.

Always thankful,
Christian Huelsman
Clifton Town Meeting, board member
CTM Green Clifton Committee, founder + co-chair
greeneyedcity, founder + proprietor

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Nature as an attraction": Have we gone too far?

Blog Like You Give a Damn is the official blog of Architecture for Humanity in Minnesota, a local chapter of the volunteer non-profit organization that promotes architecture and design in social and global crisis intervention. The blog features interesting vignettes from other online publications exhibiting innovation, communication, and alternative interpretation of architecture and design through culture. Several posts provide a glimpse into the architecture and media community in the Twin Cities, but BLYGAD taps both design and alternative culture stimuli. As blogger Colin Kloecker states in the first of three posts on December 14th, while describing the supplemental use of tumblr, BLYGAD is about, “predicting the present to better design the future.”

The January 17th entry particularly caught my eye, which highlights the recent work of Finnish artist Ilkka Halso. His work "examines the tensions between our natural and built environments and ultimately, how we act to save and/or destroy both.” Included are several manipulated photographs that feature natural environments within scaffolding or enclosed altogether with structural elements. His work reminds me of how we treat priceless architectural works, which are now monetarily or environmentally cost prohibitive. The historic preservation movement and discipline arose when we began—especially in the United States—to treat our built environments as highly disposable and replaceable. Although we are no longer faced with the apathy we experienced with the height of 1960s urban renewal, multiple generations of sturdily built structures (with exceptional craftsmanship) continue to be sacrificed for supposed greater efficiency.

Just how efficient is it: to bulldoze a site every thirty years, to use cheaper materials that degrade or fall apart faster, or to shift so drastically to composite construction materials that cannot be reused or recycled (nor can many of them degrade under natural conditions, after they are disassembled from a building)?

Ilkka Halso shows our current brand of nature romanticism through a lens that exemplifies nature as a museum attraction. Today we sacrifice our natural environments in the name of growth, prosperity, and economic development. Globalization allows small communities to “have what she's having,” resulting in a homogenous built environment from one populace to the next. Much like past generations of architecture, nature often cannot be replaced once it has been degraded or eliminated. No matter how exhilarating it would be to visit a preserved section of the Kitka River (shown above) in a controlled environment, what would the surrounding areas of the museum look like?

Nature is an infinitely complex, non-linear network of systems. Urban theory has been formulated for centuries on subjects such as “central place theory,” grids systems, view sheds, and public space. The latter certainly applied to a much smaller time span, but both nature and architecture have become subjects of case-by-case fascination. We must think of our environments as highly contextual, or quality of life will go the way of the do-do.

(Both photos shown above were taken from BLYGAD's January 17th for context.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Clifton Plaza is now open!

After more than a year in the making, the site of the former, nondescript, one-story building Bender Optical is now Clifton Plaza. Temporary fencing was removed from the public space and opened at approximately 12:45pm today. The plaza features scattered granite bench seating, circular table seating, two bar-style standing tables, and a solar-powered trash compactor. A can for recyclable plastics, glass, and metal containers will be installed at a later date. The finished product is perfect, attractive and modern public space for visitors and Clifton residents alike. The new plaza provides a more pleasant and accessible connection between the businesses on Ludlow Avenue and the merchant parking lot on Howell.

You will find additional details about the project in the coming days. Thank you to everyone involved with the project--workers and CTM Plaza Committee members alike!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

DANCE_MOTHERNATURE and neighborhood bar recycling

By now, many young and hip Cincinnatians know what the first Saturday of each month brings. Since 2008, local art, film, and event collective PROJECTMILL has been running the monthly DANCE_MF event at Northside Tavern to a healthy crowd. To keep things fresh and interesting, each month's event comes with a theme. The April 2010 edition of DANCE_MF is all about green. From the associated facebook invite description:


Spring has sprung so come celebrate your chosen sun and rock and twig gods with a sweaty raindance this Saturday at NST, where we bring you... DANCE_MOTHERNATURE!

Green is the new black, so wear it! Also bring your old cell phones to drop in a box and be recycled by the zoo... something about chemicals in the SIM card or something... we're not sure but we support it!!

Only recycled dance moves acceptable this time, mf-ers.

See you there! Save the world!

Reduce, Reuse, Re-Running Man,

Well, greeneyedcity felt the need to get with the program, so to speak. There is always a need to improve recycling options and participation among bars and restaurants. However, the response from power wielders has left much to be desired.

Speaking to Northside Tavern owner Ed Rush, the Tavern was once part of a city pilot to augment recycling among bars. However, a changing of guards left a handful of public officials unwilling to support the project (which can be added to the mound of other useful projects that have been scoffed at by various elected officials). Rush, however, felt that Rumpke Recycling had reasonable rates. So the recycling of tons of beer bottle empties continued.

At the DANCE_MOTHERNATURE event, attendees are expected to wear green, bring in their old mobile phones for recycling (thanks to the Cincinnati Zoo's Cell Phone Recycling Program), and recycle those dance moves that only come out on special occasions. Perhaps some classics and mashups can be expected from the DJ.

In addition, greeneyedcity--with the help of HCDOES--will have installed several "clear-tainers" in the front and back bar areas. The tavern already recycles but many may not be aware of their longstanding commitment. The installation is symbolic of the unified support of waste reduction by the folks of Northside Tavern, PROJECTMILL, and greeneyedcity. Picture a multilayered array of back patting through progressive community brainstorming, and you're there.

Hope to see you out there on the dance floor.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Propounding on the documentary No Impact Man

"Can you save the planet without
driving your family crazy?"
UC Sustainability recently screened the Colin Beaven documentary, No Impact Man, with which I completely fell in love. The film documents Colin, a New York City-based writer, and his journey through a year-long experiment to achieve net zero environmental impact, which began in November 2006. Prior the the film and book of the same name, he wrote a series of entries on his blog about his decision to take personal action, instead of waiting for “the senators and the CEOs to change the way we treat the world.” Colin thoroughly acknowledged that this transformation en masse was a marketing tactic for his next book. His transformation, however, had deeper implications—it had a profound effect on how his wife-with-child and he conducted themselves on a daily basis.

This film draws parallels to my own life as an evolving environmentalist, at times emphasizing “mentalist”. Over the past two years—especially since moving to my current apartment in Clifton’s Ludlow Business District—I have made the lives of my girlfriend and my friend-roommate more difficult. First it was simply recycling and minimizing how many times I ended up taking the trash out to the dumpster. That correlated with takeout and leftover food waste taking up room in the refrigerator. Now we use 100% recycled, post-consumer toilet paper and parsley infused surface cleaner. I buy bulk grains and use UV-sensitive, biodegradable kitchen trash bags. We now have an indoor composting bokaski unit. But Colin’s experiment was the truest test of his wife’s patience, love, understanding, and willingness to learn. Perhaps No Impact Man is not the conventional love story, but it is a story about love and all those other things.

A strong critic—and there are certainly many out there—might slight Colin simply for living in New York City. However, the fact that he conducted the experiement in NYC made it entirely possible. Access to healthy food is a heavy variable for anyone to impact his or her waste. (This is not to say that the same experiment could not work in Cincinnati, but it may be entirely impossible in a suburban community.) Colin and his wife Michelle regularly visited farmer’s markets, and eventually connected well enough with one to spend their vacation at the farm (using the plentiful commuter rail in the region). The couple got rid of their flat screen television and other frivolties. About halfway through the experiment, they cut the lights. All the while, they had a large network of associates and friends, trains and buses, which is a by-product (but not necessarily guaranteed in all cases) of living densely. That network was a helpful support system to keep their marriage and project intact. That network enabled Colin and the family to balance negative environmental impact with positive impacts, and to reach net zero.

An important piece to note is that Colin’s experiment was designed to work in stages. Stage one was to figure out how to create no garbage waste, including packaging and disposable products. The second stage was to create a smallest environmental impact with their food choices (which, for a short while, included using unsuccessful, primitive cooling techniques instead of living with a actual refrigerator). The third stages involved consumption of only necessary items, and learning how to do it sustainably.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Planning for Sustainability: Six hours with Price Hill Will ... and beyond

Last Saturday afternoon I spent six hours roaming the neighborhood streets of Price Hill. The Census officer never showed up at the Corryville Branch Library, so my contention for a temporary job would have to wait. Thus I got an earlier start to working for Price Hill Will (PHW), a non-profit development corporation in East Price Hill. Through my current co-op with Community Building Institute, I connected myself to various organizational partners through the place matters Comprehensive Community Initiative they manage. My volunteer opportunity spawned from several visits to PHW Eco-neighborhood Community Action Team (CAT) meetings. Emily Horning, a community organizer for PHW, regularly mediates and delegates at meetings. The neighborhood business district is due for streetscape improvements in the summer, so this presented a perfect opportunity for some first-person fieldwork.

PHW’s Beautification CAT identified several projects that would benefit from my initial mapping of the business corridors. These included:

1. Old, painted municipal waste containers along Warsaw are fading and falling into disrepair. I was to map them and show examples of those in poor shape. The mapping would be use to identify redundancy with other municipal waste facilities and where they are current lacking.

2. The Beauty CAT is working with Metro to consolidate bus stops with benches and shelters in Price Hill. Once again though, there may be a problem with advertisement benches in locations not zoned for them. Some are zoned; some are not (“parasitic as in nature,” as Emily put it). I was to map and photograph the benches in Price Hill, who owns them, and if they are authorized. Those that are not can be relocated or eliminated altogether. This may reduce eyesores in the community and augment Price Hill’s reputation as a “Cincinnati’s greenest community”.

3. Compile a photographic inventory of each block from Warsaw and Grand through Glenway and Crookshank.

So, what were some of my findings?

  • There is an unusual oversupply of bus stops throughout East Price Hill. I would venture to say that every other stop could be eliminated. Every block?
  • Advertising benches are not as plentiful as I expected, which could be a good or a bad thing. Many bus stops simply do not have seating for waiting. However, in higher traffic areas—as I mentioned Emily stated—they are “parasitic,” abundant and redundant.
  • Near one pocket park I found unnecessary duplication of waste facilities. Four were located on park property, while two were found immediately off park property on the sidewalks. There were even recycling containers for plastic + glass and aluminum cans on park property. When the park closes, are we no longer allowed to legally recycle?
  • As I mentioned in recent business association and community council meetings throughout the city, public recycling drop-offs seem to be located in very auto-oriented areas. In Price Hill these resources are especially sparse. Behind Holy Family School are two ABITIBI Paper Retriever containers, a clothing drop, and one Rumpke Recycling ommingled container. In this case, however, the drop-off location is quite walkable by comparison.
  • No systematic scheme is apparent in the placement of municipal waste cans. Some are midblock; others are at corner bus stops. And, as stated earlier, style and condition of the facilities are inconsistent.
  • In one specific case, there is a defunct bus stop on Seton Avenue, afront the long-abandoned KFC location at Five Points (Warsaw, Glenway, Seton, and Quebec). A bare signpost still remains without a Metro route sign badge. Its corresponding municpal waste can was empty on a Saturday, even though Emily and I both believe that trash is pick up on Mondays. Many other trash facilities are located at Five Points.

The sidewalk redo on Warsaw Avenue should be underway in Summer 2010. Hope is that bus stop consolidation, augmented litter control, and bus stop safety measures will conincide with the project. I will provide you all with an update when the comprehensive inventory, survey, and index are complete.

You are always invited to any of Price Hill Will’s Community Action Team meetings. The next Beautification CAT meeting is this Thursday, March 11th at 6:30pm at Price Hill Chili. The next Eco-neighborhood CAT meeting will be held tonight at 5:30pm at PHW, as last week’s meeting was rescheduled.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Propounding on the new documentary Tapped and our world of plastic (bottles)

Brought to us by the those who brought us Who Killed the Electric Car, Tapped—a documentary mostly about bottled water—recently screened as part of the UC|Sustainability Film Series for Winter 2010. The film exhbited where bottled water is sourced, which companies are behind the various brands of “natural spring water”, the containers in which it is sold, and the generally hidden impacts of bottled water on our environment and health. Although I was aware of the concerns of plastic packaging, as well as the unnecessary use and waste of water resources, Tapped was an engaging work that seemed to impact all in attendance.

Several topics in the film caused my innards to sink. It was the same disgust when I feel when the following ingredients are applied to the same recipe: individual ignorance by choice and corporate apathy. It is fairly simple for someone to point the finger solely at the insiders’ club—vile industry and the government at its mercy. But several times during the film, it was expressed that voting with our feet is ever so important. In this case, it is all about voting with our wallets.

One topic that disturbed me was environmental degradation in the name of plastic, If I recall correctly, 30 million plastic bottles are disposed every day, but only half make it into the recycling stream. The other half makes its way into landfills, rivers and streams, and even wash up on distant islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The film exhbited one such beach that no longer had the pure white sand it solely featured for thousands of years. Instead, it was littered with millions of small pieces of plastic. Our consumer choices translate into loss of habitat for marine life. Our culture of convenience translates into a lower quality of life for fellow humans and entire ecosystems alike. This is precisely the big picture thinking that I fear lacks in collective society only days after seeing realm-rocking documentaries about real life quasi-chaos.

My primary concern leads me to borrow a couple terms from the business world, both of which I picked up an Organization Theory course. After seeing several environmentally focused documentaries like Food Inc, The Age of Stupid, No Impact Man, and others, I cannot help but think of a class discussion on the difference between “corporate responsibility” and “corporate responsiveness”. Companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle likely will not alter their practices of virtually stealing water from local water bodies, (which was shown to result in “overharvesting” even during droughts), unless they are trounced with government regulation. Their image of “pure” and “clean”, and their sleek bottle design is about as bad a Starbucks’ recent greenwashing.

Corporate responsibility usually comes into play when a company comes under fire for objectionable practices. It is a chicken-and-egg issue though. The film interviewed a former EPA official, who quit the agency after being told that he was not permitted to take action against a petrochemical company (those which make the petroleum-based resin used in plastic production), which was causing adverse health effects in residents of nearby Corpus Christi. However, if enough people complained to the agency, he would then be allowed to enforce penalties. But where do we obtain that critical mass, when much our bountiful news and informational sources tell us what they want us to know?

However, I would actually like to concurrently mention both my concerns by replacing “corporate” with “environmental”—and not just our natural environments. Both industries and communities must find a way to coexist in good health somehow. Leveraging partnerships with big corporations seems to be a key ingredient of establishing sustainable relationships, no matter how large or small your neighbors really are. Perhaps it could be via institutions with government as a silent figure at the table—a mediator of sorts. The creation of a long-term plan to live in harmony with each other—that is necessary, I feel. But like the uprising against tobacco companies and their evil mind tricks, government must play a facilitiating role. Government has regulatory measures in place to prevent the free market from taking over our societal reins. It seems that we run into problems when an adminstration comes along that deregulates the corporate realm.

We are ingrained in a culture that responds to chaos but does not do a very good job at using preventative measures, that is, until tragedy strikes. That is environmental responsibility, motivated by a range of factors tied to consequence. Environmental responsiveness—I believe—in achieved when two or more partners engage in a long-term commitment to address the always-looming issues in our lives. The different is that environmental responsiveness can be an antidote to the cynical response that laymen have against the limited scope and results of environmental and corporate responsibility. In the case of bottled water, government can help to take back our local waters. There is evidence that it is always working.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

greeneyedspotlight: Cincinnati-based emersion DESIGN's LEED Platinum HQ

When one visits Cincinnati-based emersion DESIGN's website, they notice the plethora of services they currently offer. The architecture firm also offers engineering, interior design, and planning services, as well as building inspections and drafting. Oh, but you say you have seen such a firm before. What makes emersion DESIGN and its team of eighteen designers special may be the space in which they work. After all, does the space make the person make the space, or does the space make the person?

Located in Norwood and within walking distance from Xavier University, the Hamilton County Business Center has been home to the emersion DESIGN office since 2007, where former KZF owners and architects and the nine-member team began. In 2007, after just five months of operation, the firm realized the need for more space to accomodate its influx of projects. The sprint for a LEED platinum-rated renovation was a no-brainer.

The result: emersion DESIGN became the first architecture and engineering firm in the world to achieve LEED platinum status for its office. The team carefully researched its options to achieve a maximum rating, while remaining focused on practicality and cost efficiency. No LEED Platinum certification is easy to obtain. The key is a cross-balance of credits and utilization of existing resources. Their answer was a salvage and module design purposed for disassembly.

Sustainable Sites: Although site selection is a typical category in any LEED rating system, in emersion DESIGN's case, it seems they had the certification in mind all along. Their location in a historic building trumps new construction in terms of a sustainable vision; utilization of a former brownfield site is yet another. The workspace's centerpiece is the large work table near the north-facing windows, taking advantage of daylighting. Proximity to a walkable neighborhood and transit both provide a suitable capstone. All these features are built-in advantages to the firm's vision.

Also worth noting is the firm's lease renegotiation to limit the number of parking space to the minimum required by code (11 spots for 18 employees). The firm would also pay a base rent with utilities as a usage cost. Thus, the emersion DESIGN paid for their energy consumption, rather than an artificially constant, incorporated rate.

Water Efficiency: Other than relocation of a sink from the general work area to the front vestibule (which also houses indoor composting and recycling facilities), few credits were acquired through Water Efficiency. However, the retrofit included low flow integration.

Energy + Atmosphere: From the ceiling still hung the original fluorescent lighting, abundant and redundant as ever. Task lighting and reduction of overhead lighting accounted for a 35% reduction. 90% of their equipment was also EnergyStar eligible. Motion sensors for lighting also save on wasted energy in their meeting space. emersion DESIGN also earned the elusive Enhanced Commissioning credit to ensure that appliances and energy-hogging equipment worked properly.

Materials + Resources: This one was where cost really came into the picture. The firm's focus for attaining Platinum certification was in renewable materials and recycled waste. The long work table is made from sheets of renewable bamboo plywood, which amounted to $800 for each of twelve sheets. That's more than the combined cost of some of the office's salvaged material furnishings! Icing on the cake (an understatement) was that all wood was FSC-certified.

Indoor Environmental Quality: The aforementioned daylighting pitched in for IEQ credit, as well as E+A and Materials. Using salvaged 2x2 ceiling tiles from a Cincinnati Public School, sunshades were installed between the north-facing windows, saving the eyes of hard-at-work designs from the rising and setting summer sun. Although they originally preferred to do without carpets or rugs, they also chose to install removable, non-VOC rugs to earn a Low-Emitting Materials credit. Use of non-VOC paints and improvements to the ventilation (cleanout out duct space, modified roof unit) earned emersion DESIGN a couple more stars for doing their homework!

Innovation + Design Process: When you leap for Platinum certification, there are bound to be some Innovation credits. emersion DESIGN's pinnacle achievement was that 99% of project waste was recycled, reused, or repurposed, excusing two BAGS (18 pounds) of foam from around two TONS of waste!

From their website: "Key contributors include: BC&E, HA Kahler, Urban E, HCBC, HGC, APG Office Furnishings, Applied Lighting, Masland, Smith & Fong and Building Value."

Whew! Well, if you are interested in replicating the results of emersion DESIGN's renovation pursuits, the firm also specializes in LEED certification. For more information on services that emersion DESIGN provides, visit

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resource tab: Multi-Family Recycling Assistance Program

The following is a flier produced by the Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District. This is part of an effort to consolidate information about recycling, composting, reuse, and waste reduction in Cincinnati.

Multi-Family Recycling Assistance Program

The Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District can help apartment owners and condominium associations provide their residents with recycling! Through the Multi-Family Recycling Assistance Program, the District will work with you and your waste hauler to coordinate the easiest and most efficient method of recycling for your property. The District will then pay for the first year of your recycling contract if you agree to pay for the following two years.

With the Multi-Family Recycling Assistance Program, you will receive:
  • Consultation meeting and a customized recycling plan
  • Coordination of recycling services with your waste haulter
  • First year of recycling contract paid
  • Education about recycling for residents
Recycling could save you money! Property managers can often reduce their total solid waste management costs if residents recycle enough material to reduce their trash container size or collection frequency. This is because many haulers collect recycling at a lower cost than collection and disposal of an equal volume of trash.

Why recycle? Recycling saves energy, conserves natural resources, and creates new products.
  • Recycling one aluminum can save six ounces of gasoline!
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves six ounces of gasoline!
  • Recycling five plastic bottles can make one sq. ft. of carpet!

For more information or to determine if your property is eligible, please contact Michelle Balz at 513-946-7789 or

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Municipal recycling infrastructure: A Chicago Case Study for Cincinnati

This past weekend, several friends and I took a trip to Chicago. megabus ran a promotion for free seats, back in December, and we decided to take a 24-hour trip to the Windy City. I had plans to visit old standbys like Reckless Records, but also visit sustainable spots I found online. Unfortunately, our time ran short for running to Green Grocer Chicago, 360SEE, and Crop to Cup Coffee Company. I did, however, satiate my desire to find green assets in Chicago by doing photographic research for my upcoming presentations in Cincinnati neighborhoods.

The following are some new and old examples of recycling infrastructure in Chicago. Of course, these examples cannot be found all over the city, but they exhibit clear evidence of the power of partnerships.

Corporate-sponsored newspaper bins:
First is a basic newspaper recycling drop, which can be found in nearly all CTA transit stations, indoor and outdoor. Tied to Chicago's former Blue Bag Recycling Program, the bins originate from an agreement in 1997, between the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Tribune. The newspaper provided the CTA funds to both purchase and install them in stations (link), which obviously resulted in advertising in prominent locations. Over the next year, 300 containers were placed at 90 stations. (The photo on the left, as you can see, does not have the feature the Tribune logo. I could not find evidence that reflected this change to the design of the newspaper bins.)

Currently, Cincinnati's Government Square does not currently have recycling bins installed at its bus bays. Perhaps Metro could benefit by leveraging partnerships with The Cincinnati Enquirer or Cincinnati CityBeat. In Cincinnati, we only have a single daily newspaper, which no longer has competition. (Business functions were actually handled by the Enquirer, since the Post entered a joint operating agreement in 1977.) Nonetheless, CityBeat and the Enquirer cater to opposing political views, and compete for ad revenue. As little ad space I have seen used above the seating on Metro buses, I believe that ad-supported or corporate sponsored recycling infrastructure is a great opportunity.

Ad-supported sidewalk recycling bins:
The bins pictured at the right were found in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago. After a visit to, I found that the Andersonville Development Corporation formed a committee to develop the Eco-Andersonville initiative. The idea was to create a certification program designed scaled for small businesses. Their sustainability efforts now cover the following areas:

Sustainable Business Certification Program
Business district recycling
Energy audits
Green and sustainable events
Community and commercial composting research

The initial funding for the purchase and installation of the bins was made possible by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Recycling collection is made possible by the sponsorship of its 15 bins. They illustrate the importance of leveraging public resources and private partnerships to create attractive public spaces. Additionally, the installation exhibits a wonderful visible sense of neighborhood pride. (Although the bins shown above accept only paper, Eco-Andersonville's bins line the business district to accept paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass.)

It should also be noted that eco-Andersonville's partnership with the Chicago Resource Center has made it possible to boast a 99% recycling rate in the neighborhood.

Instead of waiting for the city to fund and fulfill our sustainable visions, neighborhood community councils and development corporations can leverage resources and partnerships to create more sustainable urban corridors.

Book exchange bins:
And finally, just the for heck of it, how about book exchange bins? The installation of these bins, as was found outside Quimby's Books in Chicago's Wicker Park, can be as easy as salvaging non-functioning newspaper boxes. Where *did* all those Cincinnati Post boxes end up anyway, after the paper folded in 2007?

As we have seen over the past couple years, reuse and mobile markets have proven to be popular in several Cincinnati neighborhoods. Northside Up for Grabs, an annual "free market" enables anyone to bring unwanted items in exchange for others. The new Share Some Sugar -- a Cincinnati-based, online borrowing service -- also provides opportunities in the realm of waste reduction. Book exchanges can be a very inexpensive addition to a bustling neighborhood center.