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The Little Plum of the Big Apple State

7 Sep

Beach plums growing at Briermere Farm. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Visit the East End of Long Island now and into autumn for a lingering taste of summer! Though the past few days have been rather dismal downstate, the beaches of Long Island have more to offer after Labor Day than you might think. 

Right about now, farmers are harvesting tartly sweet beach plums to render into batches of jams, jellies and sauces and to bake into treats. Go enjoy them and you’ll be helping to carry a splendid natural and culinary heritage forward.

I’m thrilled that as I LOVE NEW YORK’s 2011 “Greenest New Yorker” I might become one of the purplest too. My $500 award from Escapemaker.com will be directed to the Greenhouse Project to grow beach plum seedlings that can be donated to schools, community gardens and other public spaces. This new effort parallels my championing of the Newtown Pippin apple.

Beach plums are indigenous to the east coast of North America. They play an important role in stabilizing dunes and feeding wildlife. Explorers Giovanni da  Verrazzano and Henry Hudson wrote of the beach plums lining what’s now known as New York Harbor. It’s hard to miss these bushes, which are resplendent in white blossoms in late May and thick with green leaves and cherry-sized fruits in late August.

Wild beach plum blossoms. (Photo courtesy of Cornell University)

Today in New York State you’ll find wild beach plums on Long Island, Fishers Island and Shelter Island.  Habitat restorations surrounding Jamaica Bay incorporate beach plums and several New York City waterfront parks feature small plantings. I first learned of beach plums from David Lutz of Friends of Gateway, a volunteer group that grows beach plums and other native plants. They do well at the New York State Tree Nursery in Saratoga Springs, which lies between the territories of beach plums and another of New York State’s edible wild fruits, the Great Lakes sandcherry.

Briermere Farms owner Clark McComb teaches Hour Children visitors Beach Plums 101. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Cornell University researchers helped spark a beach plum revival by helping farmers to master new growing techniques and markets. I recently brought a group of 20 kids from Hour Children to visit Briermere Farms, a 300-acre rolling expanse of orchards and cropland in Riverhead, NY. Owner Clark McComb introduced the kids to beach plums and to healthy treats like peach slushies made from fruits he grew himself. Landscape designer Gil Lopez, who greatly helped with our trip, was inspired to include beach plums in his palate for sustainable gardens.

Children in the beach plum orchard of Briermere Farms. (Photo by Erik Baard)

Two of Hour Children's happy harvesters. (Photo by Erik Baard)

To see a full gallery of our trip, click here.

Pits made from fruit we picked will be germinated by the Greenhouse Project. In addition to the expertise Cornell University and Friends of Gateway offer, staff at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center have always been very helpful to my green efforts.

Stay tuned for more info about an upcoming Beach Plum Week in Long Island City.  It is in the works for September, with local restaurants selling gelato, smoothies, tarts, martinis and other delectables. Proceeds will benefit the Hour Children food pantry.

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Green Travel Resources

8 Mar

“The earth belongs to anyone who stops for a moment, gazes and goes on his way.” ~ Colette (1873-1954), French novelist

To me, every day is Earth Day, which is why it’s important for people to know that helping conserve, preserve and care for Mother Nature serves everyone’s best interests too. So how does this relate to travel exactly?

Well, as we continue to travel to places near and far, we realize it’s a small world after all and how everything and everybody is interconnected. That’s why it’s important for us to be aware of our impact and try to make changes in how as well as where we travel. How would you want visitors to treat your home?

Hmm, I’d like to think of myself as somewhat well traveled, and I promise that New York has something green for everyone, no matter where they come from. Home to accessible natural treasures like the Empire State Building, the Catskills, Adirondack Park, and Niagara Falls, here are some available resources and guides on traveling with green style – nothing that a keyword search for “New York State” and “green” can’t handle!

Green Destinations throughout New York State:

Related Articles:

General Tips on How to Travel Green:

Related Sustainable Tourism Events:

  • Green Getaways, Local Food Travel Expo” at Skylight One Hanson in downtown Brooklyn, NY on April 30, 2011 – hosted by EscapeMaker.com and presented by Amtrak and Zipcar. By the way, we are announcing the next Greenest NYer there too!
  • Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will feature presentations and discussions to help tourism professionals gain necessary tools to effectively implement sustainability practices. Held from September 19-21, 2011, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA.
  • Find the New York Marketplace at the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show held inside the Jacob Javits Center in NYC, November 12-15, 2011.

Quoting John Ur, “From the boats at Ellis Island to the border with Canada, New York takes all comers. It will suck you in” (Cinematic Road Trip: New York – Intelligent Travel Blog).

Your Green Valentine’s Playbook with My Own Lake Placid-Adirondack Eco-Trip!

9 Feb

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Brr… why hello there!

Ahh yes, ‘tis winter, the coldest season for us New Yorkers. By the same token, “winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home” (Edith Sitwell). I consider the whole state my home, and what better way to celebrate this time of the season than by taking a staycation.

Having said that, I am SOOO stoked about my trip to Lake Placid this weekend via Amtrak. Why Lake Placid? Well, its green leadership in conserving energy and making recycling easier for the community makes it an eco-tourist destination at the forefront of the sustainability movement, and let’s not forget its picturesque mountains!

On Friday, I’ll be staying at Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn in the Adirondack Mountains. This family-owned, two-acre waterfront Inn has been recognized by Audubon International as a Green Leaf Property as it continues to work hard to preserve its environment and support local small business through its Green Sustainability Initiatives. FYI: Lake Placid’s larger next-door neighbor is Saranac Lake, which was honored as an All-American City in 1998. Learn more about the Saranac Lake Chain including Upper Saranac Lake, Middle Saranac Lake and Lower Saranac Lake here.

As one of I LOVE NY’s Top Ten green destinations, Adirondack Park in The Adirondack region was created in 1892 and is the largest publicly protected area in the U.S. Click here for an interactive map of the Adirondacks. According to the NYS Adirondack Park Agency, the region “boasts over 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and a wide variety of habitats, including globally unique wetland types and old growth forests – [giving] the Adirondacks a [biodiversity] found nowhere else.” And did you hear from the New York Times that New York State recently bought conservation rights for 89,000 acres of forest in the Adirondacks? Whoa!

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All About LEED

12 Jan

This month, I thought it would be interesting to discuss New York State’s growing green building practices with LEED projects popping up all over the State.

So, what exactly is LEED?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. Developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED system is the recognized international benchmark in green building design and construction, measuring important factors like “energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.” Look into LEED’s promising future here

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How to Give the Gift of Green this Holiday Season

16 Dec

It’s mid-December, and you haven’t shopped for gifts yet. What to do!?

Don’t panic. There’s still time to get great deals, plan delicious meals, and sing some holiday jingles!

This season, think about giving money-saving and eco-friendly gifts to show others you care about them as well as the environment. This gives you the opportunity to get your creative juices flowing too.

First, look for the gift you want to give. Second, figure out how you want to gift to be presented. Third, how will you and your gift(s) get there? Make sure your gift is protected from the elements. Because Ezine’s Tips For a Frugal and Environmentally-Friendly Holiday Season article was so organized, I’ve highlighted the basics with some good-natured humor:

Gift Giving

1. Make a gift or re-gift unwanted gifts, as long as you don’t return it to the original giver. You can also organize a gift swap – one person’s trash is another’s treasure, but of course there’s no guarantee.

2. Give used items, such as books from local used book stores, or green gifts. Buy seeds, bulbs, other plants, compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs, a thermos, a water bottle, etc. A bike is one of several items on my wish list, hint, hint…

3. Save on wrapping paper using newspaper comics, which you can then recycle sans scotch tape. If this isn’t your cup of tea, consider reusing any gift bags that you received from previous years. Consider “wrapping” some presents in tote bags so the recipient can use fewer plastic bags in the coming year. For a quick gift tag, reuse last year’s holiday cards, or make your own from construction/poster paper.

 

Entertaining

1. Bring a dish or two. Create your best dish so others know what you can do and consume happily. The hosts would definitely appreciate your efforts – less food for them to prepare.

2. Organize carpool trips together and save on gas and parking space. Of course, make sure there is a designated driver, and the riders are people you like or can tolerate, depending on how long the drive is.

3. Cook with a group and make a masterpiece, all with some good fun, music, and cheap booze!

 

Home Life

1. Earn extra cash from a seasonal part-time job. Those gifts can add up.

2. Green Tree. If possible, get a tree that can be planted so you can watch it grow!

3. Make it a game night. Have fun without spending a lot of money, unless of course you’re betting and want to make things more interesting…

The Huffington Post mentions how we can “Give Back Painlessly: 50 Ways To Donate Time And Find Spare Cash For Others” and simply pay it forward, like volunteering. Additional resources are listed here:

–          Planet Green, 9 Ways To Cut Waste This Holiday Season

–          Greenpeace International, Your gift to the environment

–          Eartheasy.com, How to have a Green Christmas

Traveling light and green this winter is another great way to lower your carbon footprint. Some green travel choices can be found here, and aside from carrying your own water bottle, you’ll find more travel tips on Travel Gear’s website. I don’t remember where I got the following message, but it makes a strong case for being a Green Traveler:

Supporting local businesses–keeps money in your neighborhood; you’ll receive better service; helps create and keep jobs; promotes competition and diversity; less sprawl and environmental damage; in return local businesses usually support local organizations; works toward a positive economic impact locally; you’ll invest in your community.

It’s important to reflect on this past year and make some goals for 2011, especially as New Year’s approaches, that include ways to be a greener New Yorker. A lot of us struggle with this prospect, but I hope my blog has given you some helpful and tangible tips on how we can achieve this. One 2011 tip I’ll leave you with is the “How to Save on Winterizing Your Home” article from one of my favorite websites – Real Simple’s Green Living section.

Stay tuned for my next blog entry on green resolutions. Until then, keep warm and Happy Holidays!

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