Long Weekend Reading: Communes, Solar-Powered Caipirinhas and LEED-Certified $5 Footlongs

From intentional living in western New York to solar-powered grilled corn in Brooklyn to a green Subway in Chicago, here are a few green links for the long weekend.

On the one hand, we’ve got three long days of the absence of work. On the other, the certainty that those days will almost certainly not be long enough, or include enough good times, to balance out the fact that the impending end of summer awaits on their far shore. As much as we’d love to, dear readers, there is nothing we can do about that — masterful prose and updates on the latest in New York City’s green scene cannot extend a three-day weekend. (We’ve tried, and the most we’ve gotten so far is the ability to add another few minutes and a renewed appreciation for insulation) Hopefully, then, the following far-flung links will deliver the next best thing — something to read while you are not working.

  • There’s a sense in which communes, collectives and whatever other words people use to describe Intentional Rural Organic Conscious-Living Communities are sort of embarrassing to urban green types. Beyond our usual argument on this — you know the one, about the inherent efficiency of New York City and dense, diverse, transit-positive cities like it, and the way it unconsciously conditions sustainable behaviors in a way that living in an isolated net-zero yurt just doesn’t — there’s the question of aesthetics. At gbNYC, it’s our hope that green building practices will become so mainstream as to become unremarkable — that they’ll so win out on their merits that it will no longer be notable when, for instance, a building has a super-efficient HVAC system and tons of insulation. Communes and the like, simply because of their willful placement outside the larger society, take a different tack (and conjure images of easily caricatured barley-in-the-beard hippiedom) and thus, despite sharing the same goals as we Urban Green Elites (fantasy football team name!), are kind of our opposite number. Still, it’s hard not to feel positively about this USA Today piece on the rise of much less easily caricatured green living communities — many of them structured around LEED-certified green buildings — including one just a few hours north of NYC in Ithaca, New York. “These are not the hippy, free-love communes of the 1960s, but living arrangements that focus on organic farming, green building, communal spaces and other aspects of sustainability,” USA Today’s Wendy Koch writes.
  • As you’ve likely noticed, this isn’t a food blog. (Spoiler: it’s a green building website) But you can generally tell whether I’ve eaten or not based on my posts — if I’m going on about pizza or using a few too many adjectives to describe a rooftop farm in Queens, I’m probably hungry. So it’s lucky for you, dear readers, that I am currently just-fed, and thus not interested in describing the very delicious roasted corn at Nolita’s Cafe Habana and Fort Greene’s Habana Outpost (which is made with cotija cheese and lime and chili powder and maybe I am still hungry?). Admirable as that corn is — and people, I am telling you — it is apparently far from the most excellent thing about these perpetually bustling restaurants. In the New York Times, Diane Cardwell describes Habana bossman Sean Meenan’s dedication to sustainability, which includes rainwater recycling, solar panels, and a green roof at Habana Outpost. Also, here’s a bonus gbNYC Labor Day Weekend recipe for Mexican-style grilled corn.
  • Finally, to Chicago, where green restaurants and green retail have successfully made their way downmarket. In the Chicago Tribune, Emily Bryson York brings news of the boom in green retail in the Windy City, including what almost certainly qualifies as the greenest place in America to get a foot-long sandwich for five dollars (plus tax). “The Subway sandwich shop at 236 S. State St. may look like any other new restaurant, but its tile, crown molding and most wall coverings are made from recycled materials,” York writes. “In the bathroom, sensors control water flow, timers manage lights, and the toilet has a low-flow option. A smart air-conditioning system normalizes temperature between the bread ovens and the eating area.”

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gbNYC is a multi-disciplinary consulting and real estate services firm. In addition to representing office tenants and commercial buyers in leasing and acquisitions, we also provide innovative consulting solutions from a unique, green building perspective. We advise on green building financial incentives, comment on proposed green building marketing strategies, author white papers, treatises, and market analyses, organize seminars on the LEED process and professional accreditation, and provide advice and analysis on green building risk management and the overall state of green real estate, leasing, and construction, in New York City and beyond.

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