Green Matters

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Donate your turkey grease

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 3:20 PM

  • Henry Alva

Like any red-blooded Louisiana-American, you'll likely be plunging your Thanksgiving turkey into the golden pool of a turkey fryer tomorrow. You'll plunk it on the dinner table or buffet, shove a knife into its side and declare victory in the name of America the Beautiful.

But waiting by your garage is a lonely, festering pot of spent cooking oil with nothing left to fry. What are you going to do with it? Well, you can donate it. Yes, your used turkey grease is a valuable commodity for some, and there are plenty of folks willing to take it off your hands — like Operations REACH's Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project.

The program collects used cooking oil from turkey fryers to be used for biodiesel fuels rather than see it poured down a storm drain — which you should definitely not do with your oil even if you don't donate it. By 2012, the project seeks to recycle more than half a million gallons of oil into biodiesel.

A full list of drop-off locations and dates after the jump:

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Farmers markets cropping up

Posted By on Sat, Nov 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM

A Saturday scene at the Crescent City Farmers Market.
  • Ian McNulty
  • A Saturday scene at the Crescent City Farmers Market.

In honor of Thanksgiving, my Cuisine page column this week looks at the rapid rise of locally-grown foods around New Orleans. With so many more urban farms, community gardens and farmers markets, it’s easier to get food with local pedigree on your holiday table this year than it’s been in generations.

“It’s beyond marveling,” says Richard McCarthy, executive director and a founder of the Crescent City Farmers Market. “Sixteen years ago when we started the market we had to think we were a little crazy believing we could help revive our traditional food system, but today people in New Orleans are eating local like nobody’s business.”

Neighborhood-based markets have a long history in New Orleans, where at the start of the 20th century there were more than 30 city-owned markets in operation. The only one of those remaining is the French Market, which after a prolonged and pricey renovation does today have more viable fresh food options.

Meanwhile, there has been a surge in the number of independently-run markets around town and across the New Orleans region, the result of decidedly grassroots efforts.

They’ve brought a lot more options to the table when you’re shopping for your holiday feasts or any time at all. Here are the basics on local markets, arranged by the day you choose to shop:

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making groceries and making music at the Food Co-Op grand opening

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 11:37 AM

The produce section at the New Orleans Food Co-Op.
  • Ian McNulty
  • The produce section at the New Orleans Food Co-Op.

Walk the aisles of the New Orleans Food Cooperative’s gleaming new grocery store in the Faubourg Marigny, and it seems there’s something to catch the eye or spark a question on every shelf and in every bin, from rare heirloom produce varieties to specialty meats to vitamins and tinctures.

This Saturday, Nov. 12, in those same aisles you’ll also find free samples galore and farmers, vendors and other representatives ready to answer your questions and share their back stories.

The Food Co-Op’s 4,800-sq.-ft. grocery opened one month ago in the multi-use Healing Center complex and Saturday marks the store’s grand opening celebration. This day has been a long time coming from the Food Co-Op, which formed nine years ago with the goal of making healthy, sustainably-produced food more accessible in New Orleans, so for Saturday’s celebration the group is putting on a big community party with food, music, demos, samples and tables from local artists and community groups. The event goes from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free.

“There will be constant, non-stop samples, vendors presenting their wares, discussing their product or their farm,” says Elizabeth Underwood, outreach manager for the Food Co-Op. “It’s a great opportunity for people to build relationships with the source of their food and to know where they’re food is coming from and how it got here.”

Locally grown produce at the Food Co-Op.
  • Ian McNulty
  • A selection of the produce at the Food Co-Op.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Growing momentum: Hollygrove Market turns three

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 5:41 PM

The sign sums up the mission at Hollygrove

Lately the name Hollygrove has been turning up on menus at more and more New Orleans restaurants, where it’s practically become a byword for locally-sourced food.

It refers, of course, to Hollygrove Market and Farm, which is an urban farm in its own right, a market for other small-scale farmers and artisan food producers around the area, an education center and a hub for the local food movement.

The increasing frequency of such menu shout-outs to Hollygrove are just one sign of its impressive growth. October marks the group’s third anniversary, and in that short span it has developed a thriving network of restaurant clients and a distribution system that includes five weekly locations around town, as well as door-to-door delivery of market boxes.

A weekly market box from Hollygrove

“It’s really grown in these three years beyond our wildest expectations,” says general manager Paul Baricos. “That has a lot to do with our partners and our volunteers, because we couldn’t do it on our own.”

This Saturday, during its regular weekly market at Hollygrove headquarters from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the group and its supporters will celebrate its birthday with a party including live music, farm tours and lots of food. A collection of local vendors will be on hand, Baricos says, including many serving vegan fare. There will also be a cookout where more carnivorous customers can sample grilled goat, with meat provided by Ryals Goat Dairy, a favorite at local farmers markets. The party is free and open to the public, while prepared foods and the normal market haul will be available for sale.

NOLA Food Swap

Another upcoming event at Hollygrove also promises to showcase the growing momentum in the New Orleans local food scene, and it sounds like a delicious showcase at that.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Fun and useful things to do with your phone book

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 6:15 PM

This week many people in the New Orleans area received their copies of the Yellow Pages — a weighty tome that's completely useless for anyone with any working knowledge of Google.

So what do we, humans in the year 2011, do with this object that some older people in our families tell us was once used to "look up phone numbers"? You can recycle it: both the City of New Orleans and Phoenix accept phone books as part of their curbside recycling programs. If you don't want to recycle it, consider reusing it. There are plenty of fun ways to ascribe some purpose to this giant thing of paper you never asked for. You could use your phone book for ...

1. Arts and crafts projects! With a book containing hundreds of pieces of paper that are not at all relevant to you, the possibilities are endless for anyone with crafty inclinations. You could paper mache something — maybe a headpiece for your Halloween costume? This website has an easy, illustrated guide to get you started. You also could use your phone book for pressing flowers and leaves, which can then be used to make bookmarks or other sweet things for your mom.

2. Roach (and other large insect) killing. Phone books are heavy and cover a large area, so they are ideal for throwing at roaches if you have bad aim.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Lafitte "greenway" community meetings begin tonight

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Design firm FutureProof and Friends of the Lafitte Corridor plan green rooms throughout the Lafitte Corridor.
  • Bart Everson
  • Design firm FutureProof and Friends of the Lafitte Corridor plan "green rooms" throughout the Lafitte Corridor.

Remember those super-ambitious plans to turn a former railway into a 3-mile park running from Lakeview to the French Quarter? Now that new contracts have been signed, the project is finally getting some legs. The Lafitte Corridor revitalization project — which will develop bike paths, green spaces, community gardens, "green rooms" for events, and other features — begins its community meetings tonight.

Bart Everson, president of the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor, told Gambit in March that these meetings are a huge part of the planning process. "(The corridor) goes through a number of different neighborhoods, and people presumably coming from different areas and backgrounds are going to have different ideas about the process," he said. "The greenway has to reflect the communities' desires or it's not going to be successful. It's our role to make sure the process at this stage is an honest, open, transparent process and the community really is engaged."

In November 2009, the city picked Austin, Texas landscape architecture and urban planning firm Design Workshop for the project, backed in part by an $11.6 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). An audit by the Department of Housing and Urban Development screened all projects using CDBG funds, so in January 2010, the city prematurely terminated its contract with Design Workshop. Then-incoming Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked Mayor Ray Nagin to freeze all city contracts. So by the end of Nagin's term, no bidder had been selected for the project — but when the project was rebid, Design Workshop was re-selected in August 2010.

"We don't foresee it as just another tourist attraction," said Design Workshop's Steven Spears. "It'll be something more profound. Tourists and locals will be able to use and enjoy (the greenway) for alternative transportation (and) recreation."

The project team, led by Spears, is made up of urban planners, engineers, architects, and environmental consultants. Topics for community meetings include recreational programs, housing, job opportunities, arts, environment and health, and transportation.

The "Lafitte Corridor Connection" meetings being today at 4:30 p.m. at Sojourner Truth Community Center (2200 Lafitte St.) and continue through Aug. 19. There also are open house-type events from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily all week, where you can stop by and check the project's process and suggest ideas. Those open houses are at Sojourner Truth as well as Grace Episcopal Church (3700 Canal St.).

Hit the the jump for the full schedule.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Orleans' plastic bag problem

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 6:11 PM

A bag that once contained a tube of lipstick and pack of gum.
  • A bag that once contained a tube of lipstick and pack of gum.

Today I visited the grocery store near the office for a carton of milk and some yogurt, which I decided I could easily carry out the store using my hands and gigantic purse. When I told the women working at the checkout counter that I wouldn't need a plastic bag for my items, one of them asked derisively, "Why, are you trying to save the environment?"

I've gotten similar responses in the past after politely refusing a bag — either because I've brought my own or didn't think the pack of Tic-Tacs I purchased needed its own three-gallon-sized vessel. I'll either get an eyeroll or snarky comment like the woman's today, or the baggers will decide to just stop doing their jobs because I've brought my own bags. The latter scenario invariably creates this embarrassing struggle for me to hurriedly bag my groceries before the growing line behind me gangs up and murders me.

Look, I'm no Portlandia character. Although plastic bags are poison-filled wildlife killers, I bring my own bags to stores because — like many reusable products — they are just way better than their disposable counterparts (I had the same experience with resuable menstrual products). They hold more stuff, they're less likely to break and I can tote them around the store and use them to carry my groceries. The bags from the local company Repax are small enough to stuff into my purse or pockets. They're cute! And plus, I just hate how plastic bags accumulate in my house. There's only so many tiny trash cans you can line.

Reusable bags are an eco-friendly thing I assumed most people — regardless of socio-economic status — can get behind, unlike overpriced organic rice milk ice cream sandwiches or the majority of Whole Food's health and beauty section. They're a practical, inexpensive way to waste less. So why the resistance in New Orleans?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rising sea levels could send the Gulf to your backyard

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 6:06 PM

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) dropped a report this week (following this fairly damning one) outlining the potential (and likely) effects of rising sea levels on several U.S. cities. New Orleans of course is on the list — the NRDC says its one of "the most vulnerable cities in the United States to the impacts of climate change, due to its low elevation, land subsidence rates, sea level rise, and prediction of more intense hurricanes." (Read the full breakdown of New Orleans here.)

The NRDC predicts sea levels in the area to rise by 1 to 4.6 feet by 2100, one of the highest rates in the the nation. The effects include wiping out significant chunks of wetlands, exposing the city directly to the Gulf of Mexico.

Rising seas will likely wipe out a significant portion of the coastal wetlands in the Mississippi River Deltaic Plain, where wetland loss rates are already among the highest in the world. Without inputs of sediment, an additional 3,900 to 5,200 square miles of wetlands will be under water by the end of the 21st century. If the impacts of relative sea level rise on wetlands are not checked, metropolitan New Orleans could eventually sit on land almost completely surrounded by the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands would not only represent a loss of natural flood protection, but it would impact the vast array of plants and animals that the wetlands support, many of which are tied to economic activity including fishing, timber, agriculture, tourism, and recreation. The combined value of infrastructure and biological productivity associated with Louisiana’s wetlands exceeds $100 billion.

Earlier this year, the University of Arizona produced a similar report showing that by 2100, New Orleans could face 10 percent land loss. The report's maps show much of the city lying at or below 1 meter of elevation, with areas immediately along the Mississippi River (read: levee protection and higher ground) lying at or below 6 meters of elevation.

But while the UA report didn't specify any call to action, NRDC seems confident in post-Katrina reconstruction — raising homes, 500-year storm protection, flood mitigation — to combat the rising tide.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today Show features Atchafalaya Basin

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush, filmed a segment for the Today Show spotlighting the Atchafalaya Basin and Cajuns' way of life. View it here. It was good PR for the state. Bush-Hager caught some crawfish, was scared by a 9-foot alligator and even played a triangle with Cajun musicians. She never did quite pick up the correct pronunciation of Atchafalaya, however.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Mapping shoreline activity in Louisiana

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Volunteers build up a coastline in Plaquemines Parish.
  • Photo courtesy Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration
  • Volunteers build up a coastline in Plaquemines Parish.

There’s an adage among geographers that you can’t manage the landscape without measuring it first. That’s true of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, which bear the brunt of 90 percent of the land loss suffered by the continental U.S.

It was with that in mind that the National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette produced an unprecedented, multi-layered topography system that not only accurately depicts Louisiana’s coast but also shows 78 years’ worth of shoreline activity. You can download that map here.

The map and data produced by the project were released last week and republished by dozens of print, broadcast and online outlets around the world. Here’s a synopsis of the headlines still being rolled out: The seventh-largest delta on the earth’s surface has experienced a net loss of 1,883 square miles since 1932.

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