Sustain Everyone

@SustainEveryone

Climate Science Navigator: Why? — January 26, 2020

Climate Science Navigator: Why?

Illustration by Matthew Laznicka (http://inthesetimes.com/)

Climate skepticism is the denial of the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing a rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that is driving the global climate crisis. With so much misinformation intentionally spread by multinational corporations and politicians whose interests lie in the continued destruction of the planet, people must be able to navigate the up-to-date data on climate science to make informed decisions. This climate science navigator will be a series of posts that can be used to learn and share the data that global, national, and local agencies gathered and reported to the public over the past 10 years on the unfolding climate crisis.

Look out for upcoming posts titled:

Climate Science Navigator: Global Reports on Climate Change

Climate Science Navigator: National Reports on Climate Change

Climate Science Navigator: Local Reports on Climate Change

Instagram: @Hydroponics.NYC
& @Matthew_Gerard_

Turn Any Bottle into a Hydroponic Wick System — August 18, 2019

Turn Any Bottle into a Hydroponic Wick System

Materials:

Plastic bottle
Wick Roll
Coco coir (in loose form)
Leafy Green Dry Nutrients Part A and B
1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon
Herb seeds
Scissors
Plastic wrap
Rubber band

Process:

Create a bottom and top chamber out of your bottle.
Cut top of bottle off about 3 inches below where the curve starts.

Make a hole in the cap.
Use the tip of a pen or hole puncher (or drill if using a soda bottle or other thick plastic cap) to make a hole in the bottle cap. You can punch a hole in the plastic near the mouth of the bottle if this is easier.

Thread a wick through the hole in the bottle cap and tie a knot.

Be sure to hold upper end of wick upright and fill coco coir around the wick to ensure moisture at top of coco coir. Use a pen to assist threading the wick through bottle cap, cut wick long enough on both sides of cap to reach bottom of bottom chamber and near the top of coco coir in the top chamber.

Attach the bottom and top chambers.
Turn the top chamber upside down to allow wick to sit in the bottom chamber and staple the top part to the bottom part in one spot. Be sure not to staple all sides to allow you to add nutrient solution when necessary.

Fill the bottom chamber with nutrient solution.
A simple method for making nutrient solution is to to take a quart-sized container (like an old Chinese food container) and fill it nearly to the top with tap water (you can use the water that is already in your tote.) Then, add 1/8 of a teaspoon (0.63 mLs) of part A and 1/8 of a teaspoon (0.63 mLs) of part B of the dry nutrients using your measuring spoons. Mix nutrients thoroughly. You want the EC to measure 900-1300 ppm to grow most herbs and lettuce, and you can test the nutrient level by using a digital meter. When your water level drops significantly, add nutrient solution to keep the wick underwater in the bottom chamber.

Fill the top chamber with coco coir and plant your seeds.
Coco coir is made from the outside of a coconut husk and provides the seed with a moist home and later provides support for the plant’s roots. Flatten the coco coir by gently patting down on the surface. If you use the plug version of coco coir (see link below), tear the plug on one side and sandwich the top end of the wick between the coir to ensure moisture is drawn up to your plant.

Cover with plastic wrap and a rubber band and place near light source until sprouting.
This will increase the humidity in the top chamber and increase the rate of seed germination (sprouting).

Remove the plastic when you see any sign of a sprout.
Once you see any green sprouting out of the coco coir (or purple if you planted purple basil), be sure to remove the plastic to allow the plant to grow tall and reach full potential.

Afinished Hydroponic Wick Bottle Systems made by middle schoolers in Brownsville, Brooklyn. @Hydroponics.NYC

*Be sure to add nutrient solution initially to the bottom chamber and refill with tap water as needed, since it will evaporate out and get used up by your plant.

Link to roll of wick:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0174U8WS0/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Link to loose coco coir:
8 Quarts of Loose Coconut Coir
https://www.amazon.com/Quarts-Organic-Loose-Coconut-Coir/dp/B0054ZL6LI/ref=sr_1_24?keywords=coco+coir+loose&qid=1580867850&sr=8-24

Link to coco coir plugs:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002IU8K2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

adone.png Purple Basil.

IG accounts:
@Hydroponics.NYC
@Matthew_Gerard_

Build A DWC Hydroponic Garden in Less than an Hour — August 9, 2019

Build A DWC Hydroponic Garden in Less than an Hour

Ever have the urge to grow something green? Since most of us live in cities, access to space to grow plants is practically non-existent, and soils are often contaminated with heavy metals and other industrial pollutants. Despite these conditions, people are using creative hydroponic growing techniques that do not rely on traditional methods of growing food.

Hydroponic systems are unique in that they do not use soil to grow plants, but rather delivers nutrients to plants using nutrient-rich water, also called nutrient solution.

Recently, I created a container deep water culture hydroponic system by re-purposing an old plastic storage tote. In deep water culture (DWC) systems, plants sit directly in nutrient-rich water, and an air pump & air stone keeps the water from getting stagnant by blowing bubbles into the water.

It was super easy, and I’ve outlined the steps here so you can construct your own DWC hydroponic herb garden for your home today!

Step 1: Gather your materials (see links at end of post):

-Storage tote,
-Drill,
-2″-3″ hole saw drill attachment,
-Net pots (2″, 3″),
-Coco coir plugs,
-Dry nutrients part A and B for lettuce (also good for herbs),
-Digital EC meter & pH meter,
-Measuring spoons,
-Air pump,
-Air stone,
-Herb & lettuce seeds

Step 2: Drill holes into the lid of your storage tote.

You can drill as many holes as you think will fit the size of your tote’s lid. I went with 13 holes after spacing out each plant site about 3″ apart from one another. When complete, remove all plastic scraps and debris by rinsing the tote out.

last1.jpg @Hydroponics.NYC

Step 3: Fill the container nearly to the top with tap water & add dry nutrients.

A simple method for making nutrient solution is to to take a quart-sized container (like an old Chinese food container) and fill it nearly to the top with tap water (you can use the water that is already in your tote.) Then, add a teaspoon of part A and a teaspoon of part B of the dry nutrients. Add nutrient solution to your reservoir where your plants live, and measure the electrical conductivity (EC). You want the EC to measure 900-1300 ppm to grow most herbs and lettuce, and you can add another teaspoon of each part A & B as necessary to reach the desired EC level. After each harvest, check your EC and add nutrients & water when necessary to maintain 900-1300 ppm range.

Step 4: Installing the air pump and air stone

The air pump attaches to the air stone via a small plastic tube (usually provided). Place the air stone in the nutrient solution and the air pump at a higher elevation than the level of the water in your deep water culture system (to prevent a siphoning of water out of your system).

DWC3 @Hydroponics.NYC

Step 5: Insert the net pots into the holes you cut for each plant site.

You want the bottom of the net pots to be submerged in nutrient solution, so push the net pots in and then add a coco coir plug to each plant site.

Step 6: Plant your herb and lettuce seeds & place under light source.
Now you are ready to plant your seeds in each plug (1-2 herb/lettuce seeds per plant site).

*Be sure to place your system under sunlight or an artificial light source to ensure your plants can photosynthesize!

Recommendations:
-If it’s summer, consider placing your DWC hydroponic garden outside under the direct sunlight, or if one of your windows gets a ton of sun, place it there.

-If you have space under a coffee table, consider installing these lights on the bottom of the table and placing your DWC hydroponic garden under there: https://www.amazon.com/Integrated-Fixture-Extendable-Greenhouse-Installation/dp/B07FZTKYXV

-If none of your windows get enough sunlight, you can purchase an LED lamp to provide your plants with the lights it needs.

DWC.JPG @Hydroponics.NYC

Links to Materials I used:

-Storage tote: https://www.amazon.com/Rubbermaid-FG2214TPDIM-Roughneck-Storage-Metallic/dp/B075WXMPBF/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1CPO0ONHQAR5J&keywords=10+gallon+rubbermaid+tote&qid=1565441533&s=gateway&sprefix=10+gallon+rubber%2Caps%2C132&sr=8-4

-Drill: https://www.amazon.com/BLACK-DECKER-LDX120C-Lithium-Driver/dp/B005NNF0YU/ref=sxin_5_osp48-6ac4fb34_cov?ascsubtag=6ac4fb34-e401-481a-a17e-9630f5769850&creativeASIN=B005NNF0YU&cv_ct_id=amzn1.osp.6ac4fb34-e401-481a-a17e-9630f5769850&cv_ct_pg=search&cv_ct_wn=osp-search&keywords=drill&linkCode=oas&pd_rd_i=B005NNF0YU&pd_rd_r=0939e467-0503-4191-b33d-b9d55ccdc15e&pd_rd_w=9gylW&pd_rd_wg=oV85b&pf_rd_p=c501273b-119a-4fc9-ad78-eda5006b0be9&pf_rd_r=CTRQQHPXZNJH81RGY6PT&qid=1565440579&s=gateway&tag=spyonsite-20

-2″-3″ hole saw drill attachment: https://www.amazon.com/10-Piece-Hole-Saw-Kit-Wood/dp/B07DNT1D4V/ref=sr_1_9?crid=HK4MQH3R07Y2&keywords=hole+saw+attachment&qid=1565440732&s=gateway&sprefix=hole+saw+atta%2Caps%2C128&sr=8-9

-Net pots (3″): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B073WJ78MM/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Net pots (2″)
https://www.amazon.com/Zicome-Garden-Plastic-Cups-Pots/dp/B06XJ2G6FS/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?keywords=net+pots&qid=1553617516&s=gateway&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1

-Coco coir plugs: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002IU8K2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

-Dry nutrients part A and B for lettuce (works for herbs too): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MSW5LQQ/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

-Digital EC meter & pH meter:
https://www.amazon.com/VIVOSUN-0-05ph-Accuracy-Readout-Temperature/dp/B06XKMH86J/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=ec+meter&qid=1565442108&s=industrial&sr=1-6

-Measuring spoons:
https://www.amazon.com/1Easylife-Stainless-Measuring-Spoons-Ingredients/dp/B00IE2J0SO/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?keywords=measuring+spoons&qid=1565441240&s=industrial&sr=1-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFKQUc3OEI2SDdKV1omZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTEwNDM2MjcxUkZTV0tRRk1NTUZXJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA0NjIyOTM1U0NRQzBHVVNNOVcmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl

-Air pump:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009YJ4N6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

-Air stone: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FZY71K6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

-Herb & lettuce seeds: https://edenworks.com/

IG accounts:
@Hydroponics.NYC
@Matthew_Gerard_

NY Harbor, Jamaica Bay, and the Rockaways’ Fight Against Williams Natural Gas Pipeline — March 23, 2019

NY Harbor, Jamaica Bay, and the Rockaways’ Fight Against Williams Natural Gas Pipeline

A couple of weeks ago, I felt the need to stand up publicly and testify at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (NYCDEP) public comment session on the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), also called Williams Pipeline for short, which would transport fracked natural gas via the construction of a 23 mile pipeline that “would run along the Staten Island coast and extend out to four miles off Rockaway” (Santino, 2019).

map.jpg *Note the existing pipeline was pushed through and built after Hurricane Sandy, when local residents were preoccupied with the rebuilding of their homes and communities (Source: NYC Surfrider Foundation).

The NYCDEC has to approve a crucial water quality permit before construction can begin. There is a federal law that requires an environmental impact statement (EIS), to look at the impacts to wildlife and human health before moving forward with projects like this. The first hearing was held on 02/26/2019, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, during rush hour, on a weekday, and in a hardly accessible area if you travel by public transportation from the areas that would primarily be impacted by the pipeline’s construction, such as the Rockaways. Not many from my area were able to attend.

FT.jpg Fort Tilden, NYC. @hydroponics.mh

After public pressure on the NYCDEC to have it in an area where potentially affected residents live, there was a second public comment session held just one mile from my home on the Rockaway Peninsula in the auditorium of Rockaway High School for Environmental Sustainability. I felt the irony of sitting in a school devoted to environmental sustainability, and at the same time protesting the approval of such an unconscionably unsustainable project.

I can trace my interest in environmental justice and sustainability back to my first interactions with the ocean and its wildlife as a young kid. My parents took us fishing on the beaches of the Breezy Point Tip, and I was always fascinated by the diversity of creatures I discovered near the sea. I feel blessed and grateful to have been raised so close to this amazing natural area, having found a place among the seagulls, horseshoe crabs, piping plovers, and other enchanting forms of wildlife early in my life. These places are a home to several endangered animals and plants, and are some of the last wild sanctuaries still found in NYC.

oc An oystercatcher in Rockaway Beach, NYC. @hydroponics.mh

Apart from my personal connection to the land and its people, I do, as a graduate from a master’s program in environmental management and sustainable development, understand the scientific review of the potential risks laid out in the draft environmental impact statement conducted by the NYCDEP. With this educational experience, and growing up in the local community, I felt uniquely obligated to testify at the public comment session on March, 6th, 2019. I will not go into the many risks associated with the project here, but will include some helpful resources at the end of this post if you are interested.

Riis Jacob Riis Park @hydroponics.mh

To be honest, there were challenging mental barriers that almost prevented me from testifying. I remember thinking many times, I could be at relaxing at home in my apartment and warm, not walking in the cold to the bus to attend this public comment session. When walking into that building after a long day of work and tired, I remember the thoughts of inadequacy and doubt flooding my thinking when I walked to into the auditorium. Am I really as qualified as I think I am to speak on this?

Yet, I continued to walk to that high school auditorium, to stand in front of a panel of NYCDEC representatives and over 100 of the residents of the Rockaways and other surrounding local communities. Did I mention how much I hate public speaking? I made it short and to the point, as it took over an hour and a half for them to call my name.

My comment addressed the concerns for human health and wildlife when the pipeline is constructed. There would be dredging of sands and sediments off the coast of the Rockaways and Staten Island that are holding and storing safely the industrial toxins of the last century. This action would release toxins like PBCs, heavy medals, and other industrial pollutants into the water column where organisms live and where people swim. The result would be poisoning of people and wildlife that interact with the waters off the Rockaways/Jamaica Bay.

nana “Exploring with my Nana at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, NYC, on 12/30/13.” @hydroponics.mh

I tell this story not to show off how great of a citizen and environmental advocate I am trying to be, but to point out that we need to persist over the many barriers (mentally and physically) that keep us from speaking out when we know we are qualified and worthy of doing so effectively.

geese.jpg Jacob Riis Park. @hydroponics.mh

Although the comment period has ended, you can still act to oppose the NESE project (see below:)

“Those interested in helping this cause can visit stopthewilliamspipeline.org, call Cuomo at 877- 235-6537 or text ‘RENEWABLES’ to 69866” (Santino, 2019).

Watch this short clip to learn more about the proposed pipeline:
The Fight Against The Williams Pipeline:

Local News Article:
The Push To Stop The Williams Pipeline:
https://www.rockawave.com/articles/the-push-to-stop-the-williams-pipeline-2/

Here is a link to an amazing (and my favorite) documentary about how NY Harbor and Jamaica Bay is experiencing positive ecological renewal as a result of the past 20 years of cleaning up the bay and environmental awareness generated through local advocacy, as well as explores the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on a local NYC community, Broad Channel (This natural and inhabited area would all be affected by the proposed pipeline):

Saving Jamaica Bay:
https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Jamaica-Bay-Susan-Sarandon/dp/B073X9MRL8

“Life is a garden, not a road. We enter and exit through the same gate. Wandering, where we go matters less than what we notice.” — Kurt Vonnegut

IG accounts:
@Hydroponics.NYC
@Matthew_Gerard_

Making Connections: Repost from @TresPiedrasEcolodge — March 18, 2018

Making Connections: Repost from @TresPiedrasEcolodge

Original Post by me on TPEcolodge.wordpress.com

Often I am renewed with a sense of tranquility and serenity when spending extended periods of time in nature. Recently, I was lucky to return to my friends Maricel, Marconey, and Gretel’s property in the rural community of Tres Piedras in remote southwestern Costa Rica, currently known as Tres Piedras Ecolodge. I lived here 2 years earlier, with two of my friends Tessa and Victor, for 5 months while doing field research on carbon storage, and I was returning to visit friends and enjoy the solitude of being so close to the natural world.

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I was also excited to introduce Marcel and Marconey to Jack Ewing, owner and founder of Hacienda Baru National Wildlife Refuge and Lodge and author of Monkeys are Made of Chocolate. I had the opportunity to meet Jack during a class trip in 2012 with SUNY Binghamton University Professor Dick Andrus. On the class trip, Jack explained to students how he started his ecotourism business and, in the process, how he preserved a substantial swath of land containing ecologically sensitive mangrove forests and other tropical ecosystems.

IMG_0575.jpg

During this most recent trip to Costa Rica, Maricel, Marconey, and I took a drive about 40 minutes outside of Tres Piedras to meet Jack at Hacienda Baru, located on the West coast of Costa Rica, just north of Dominical Beach.

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I had reconnected with Jack online when Tessa, Victor and I lived in Tres Piedras in 2016 and were brainstorming ways for Maricel and her family to build their ecotourism business when we lived in Tres Piedras for 5 months. It wasn’t until recently that we were able to all come together and meet on March 9th, 2018. Hacienda Baru has been in operation for over 30 years, so we were extremely grateful to be making connections someone as experienced as Jack.

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Moreover, Jack was extremely warm and welcoming when we visited a couple of weeks ago. He sat down with us and talked about the challenges of running an ecotourism business, and he also had some helpful suggestions as to how to differentiate the business of Maricel and her family from the already existing ecotourism businesses flourishing in Costa Rica. Being so rural, Tres Piedras Ecolodge offers a unique experience to appreciate an authentic Costa Rican rural community, where traditions are still celebrated by the people who call Tres Piedras home.

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Additionally, Jack also introduced us to Juan Carlos who works for Hacienda Baru as a tour guide. He and another tour guide (who showed us the medical plant garden! see below) were interested in hearing Maricel and Marconey describe their ecotourism ideas, and in doing so gave more clarity and direction as to what type of operation could be possible at Tres Piedras Ecolodge in the future for Maricel, Gretel, Marconey and their family.

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The next steps are more clear, as funds are needed for repairs to the cabins to make them more appealing to visitors, and one way of accomplishing this is to use government subsidies for conservation to fund the business’ upfront costs. Although the woman in charge of this paperwork was ill while I was visiting Hacienda Baru, Maricel and Marconey intend to visit her when she is recovered and well.

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Finally, I am humbled to have had this experience to go to Hacienda Baru with my friends Maricel and Marconey. Check out a picture below of our walk on the trails together after meeting with Jack and his employees! 🙂

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A Shirf Towards Ecological Agriculture — February 20, 2018

A Shirf Towards Ecological Agriculture

The way we view the world is often a reflection of the paradigm of the day, that is the deepest set of beliefs and assumptions a culture has about any given topic at any moment in time. Needless to say, paradigms do shift over time to create the unique circumstance we see on a daily basis, and sometimes this happens rather quickly.

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The new shift in thinking seems to be towards sustainable urban food production. Photo taken at AgTechX @matt_horgan

Paradigm shifts: Thinking in cycles not lines

One paradigm of today seems to be the perception of our lives as a series of linear processes. We seem to idolize cause and effect relationships whenever possible in daily life and tend to view most of our experiences through this narrow lens without analyzing the entire picture.

dog.jpg

However, thinking of systems in terms of lines tends to be characteristically more predictable and simpler, while systems as cycles are naturally more complex.

natures cycle2
Nature’s Cycle by Virginia Lee 2001  

Shift towards interconnectedness

A personal shift in assumptions I experienced was while I was taking an ecological agriculture class during my time at SUNY Binghamton. My perception of self shifted from the individual, separate self to a more interconnected sense of identity.

muir

Ecological Agriculture: Nature as model

Ecological agriculture is a term used to describe a type of farming that raised food without any chemical or synthetic fertilizers, to create an agricultural system that mimicked ecological systems that sustain in nature.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.26.55 PM.png
By: permacultureprinciples.com

The general trend in agriculture since 1950 has been towards large-scale industrial farms that use synthetic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers, but a recent surge in interest in local, organic produce by consumers is causing a paradigm shift in the way we consume and produce food.

Ecological agriculture can be seen in the increased interest in urban farming in recent years. By incorporating sustainable food systems into the built environment, we can improve food security in urban environments.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 2.32.14 PM.png
Sky Vegetables February 2018 By @matt_horgan

We can also use underutilized spaces, like basements, to produce food on land to support the health and to educate our local communities
An example of a hydroponic food system, and what my neighbor calls a “permaponic system”, is seen below (Top: after 6 weeks/Bottom: the before picture).

before:after.jpg
By @matt_horgan

The potential for ecological agriculture to foster a more harmonious coexistence between human beings and the earth, as well as the practical implications for food security and positive impact on local economies leads me to think that this will become ever more present in our city in the near future.

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 2.44.51 PM.png
By @matt_horgan While walking to class at CUNY Brooklyn College, I saw this incredible urban food garden someone created on their front lawn 🙂

I look forward exploring ecological agriculture more on this blog in the future 🙂

A Collaborative Space for Urban Farming — February 4, 2018

A Collaborative Space for Urban Farming

The key to success is collaboration: an idea so simple that it is often dismissed by introverts, like myself. It is easier to stay in my comfort zone than to venture out into new environments.

Recently, I couldn’t help but wonder, who else is asking similar questions as me in NYC?

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 10.46.02 AM

Specifically, which organizations, if any, were already established in the realm of urban farming here. I searched the internet ambitiously looking for any NYC-based organizations related to this topic. To put it simply, urban farming is the growing of food within cities, usually incorporated into the built environment. (See below image of my neighbor’s hydroponic system in a basement in Queens, NYC).

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 10.48.00 AM

Eventually, I came across a class titled ‘Building an Urban Farm Business Plan’ that is run by AgTechX. The founders of AgTechX, Ricky Stephens and Henry Gordon-Smith, are about connecting individuals looking for opportunities “at the intersection of urban agriculture, technology, and sustainability” (https://agtech-x.com/). The Co-lab they run in Brooklyn provides a space for those of us interested in getting involved in urban farming in NYC and holds classes in hydroponics and aquaponics. Members work to build a more sustainable food system right here in the dense urban jungle of NYC.

Finally, I imagine myself working somewhere at the intersection of sustainable food and education in the near future, and the team at AgTechX is a great place for me to meet people who could, at the very least, point me in the right direction.

See below a picture of hydroponic systems over at AgTecX’s Co-lab in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

IMG_2577 copy

After my trip over to Brooklyn this week, I’m inspired to see a group of dedicated and passionate young people interested in urban farming. In the coming weeks, I am going to explore the classes given by the team at AgTechX with the intention to learn more about the logistics of hydroponic and aquaponics systems in NYC. This will also be an ideal way to connect with like-minded individuals in this emerging field.

To learn more about the collaboration among the urban farming community in NYC visit:
Website: https://agtech-x.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/agtech-x
Instagram: @agtechx
MeetUp: https://www.meetup.com/AgTech-X-NYC-Meetups/

Follow my Instagram accounts for more urban farming/nature photos:
@matt_horgan @SustainEveryone @Hydroponics_NYC

Relaunch: New Blog Name @SustainEveryone — February 1, 2018

Relaunch: New Blog Name @SustainEveryone

Hello there! I’m an aspiring environmental writer, who was born and raised in Rockaway Beach, NYC and I’m passionate about finding a healthy way to live sustainably within the natural world. My studies in the environmental field brought me to Upstate New York, Texas, France, Vermont, and Costa Rica. During this time, I grew to see the potential for urban farms to increase people’s access to healthy and nutritious food within cities. More recently, I became fascinated by hydroponic systems and their ability to produce food quickly using no soil, little water, and marginal nutrient inputs. Urban agriculture is an ideal solution for the issue of food security in cities, which is why I see it as more crucial today.

Finally, I recently decided to change the name of my former blog (Sustainable Future through Food) to @SustainEveryone with the intention to explore existing urban farming throughout NYC and to inspire people to become actively engaged in organic urban food production. I hope you will follow along with me on my journey as I discover the beauty of small-scale organic urban farming in New York City.

Follow me on Instagram 🙂 @SustainEveryone @Hydroponics_NYC @matt_horgan

Follow “Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve” Blog: Here’s Why — March 23, 2016

Follow “Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve” Blog: Here’s Why

Many consider writing to be one of life’s greatest forms of expression. It offers an outlet to portray one’s ideas clearly and effectively to the reader. For almost a year now, I have found pleasure in writing about various topics relating to food and the environment on this blog, Sustainable Future Through Food. I plan to continue doing this in the future, but for the moment I will be focusing my attention on starting and maintaining a new blog called Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve. As I am just three weeks into my 6 month long internship in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica, I am realizing the power of blog writing for the outreach goals I laid out in a previous post. Consequently, I will be writing on a new blog page (TPEcolodgeReserve.wordpress.com) to share my experiences living and researching in the wilderness of Tres Piedras, CR. The blog will also serve as a platform for raising awareness for the property where I am doing my research, and eventually it will be available for other researchers, students, professors, and ecotourists to express their feelings, adventures, and experiences here at the Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve (TPER).

Here is the first post from the new blog site TPEcolodgeReserve.wordpress.com titled:

Jungle Internship: Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve
Often we find ourselves in situations where it is hard or impossible to predict what will be. This condition can easily promote anxiety about our future and what it will bring to us (or what we will bring to it). At the same time, circumstances like this can invoke curiosity and a sense of opportunity. While traveling to Tres Piedras, Costa Rica to complete my last semester research internship of Saint Edwards University’s Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability, uncertainty and not knowing what to expect became quite familiar to me. Even though I had traveled to Tres Piedras in the past during my Bachelor’s degree (to study tropical ecology for the month of July in 2012, and to volunteer in reforestation efforts for the month July in 2013), I was now going back to the same site to carry out my own independent scientific research project for 6 months in a remote tropical ecosystem with one of my peers, Tessa Rager. The ambiguity of what we were getting ourselves into for the next half of a year was amplified by the fact that my undergraduate university has not traveled to the property for almost three years. Despite all of my uncertainties beforehand and on the journey here, I am extremely content and excited about the prospect of carrying out my research project, as well as helping the new property owner develop an organization that will conserve this (about 150 acre) slice of tropical forest in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica.
As I wrote in a previous post on my other blog site,(SustainableFutureThroughFood.wordpress.com), the property where Tessa and I are conducting our research has an interesting history of students, professors, and environmentalists all using this property over the last 20 years to teach ecology, initiate reforestation in the region, and conduct scientific research studies (among a variety of other projects). Now, a local resident, Maricel, is in charge of the property, and she wants to see this land conserved through the implementation of some sort of ecotourism on the site. This left a lot of room for Tessa and I to brainstorm during out first two weeks here about how to attract ecologically-minded people to this property, which consists of a secondary and primary tropical forest and four cabins on site.
During our first week, Maricel and her family were extremely welcoming and made sure we had everything we needed in the main cabin, which is fully equipped with a kitchen and bathroom. Maricel knew we have our own research projects to carry out and that we are willing to help her with outreach and development of some sort of conservation organization, but I sensed she did not know what to expect from us either. After a few days of adjusting, Maricel, Tessa, and I sat down to find out exactly what would be helpful from us to conserve this land, while at the same time produce some sort of a living to Maricel and her family. This revenue from the property has the potential to keep her, and possibly her family, from having to travel all the way to Dominical (located about 40 minutes by car from Tres Piedras) to clean tourists’ homes.
Thus far, Tessa and I have completed a variety of tasks for the goals we set forth for the property. Before anything, we had to make sure all the trails on the property were cleared of vegetation, as to allow us to move through the forest somewhat easily, to survey the property for ideal sites for our independent research projects, and simply to enjoy hiking in the jungle on our downtime. At the same time, we started a compost pile for our organic food scraps. Our hope is to start building a structure to provide shade for a vegetable and herb garden we would like to create on a part of the property where there is direct sunlight. It is too hot to grow vegetables without some sort of covering for shade, so we plan to use these metal poles that were left on the property by the previous owners and some screen we also found in the shed. Currently, we are working on developing an official website for the property, which we decided to call Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve (TPER). The goal is to get the name out there with the intention of providing a place for adventurous travelers to come and enjoy the natural beauty of the tropical forests here. The facilities are already in place, so raising awareness of this place as a spot for ecotourism and attracting people with an interest in this type of experience are our main goals.
One of the major points of interest on the property is the tropical secondary and primary growth forests, both of which are accessible by maintained trails. The forest has a tremendous amount of biodiversity, which makes it ideal for ecotourists, birdwatchers, ecologists, researchers, environmentalists, and anyone else interested in spending time the natural world away from the distractions of big cities. The surrounding village of Tres Piedras is mostly agricultural land, making the property we are living on even more special and more important ecologically. If we can bridge the gap between the current environmental benefits of the forested land at TPER and the potential for socioeconomic benefits to the local residents through ecotourism, there is a huge opportunity to conserve this ecologically sensitive ecosystem.
Moreover, getting here was quite hard without a car, as Tessa and I realized when we decided to venture into the nearest city of San Isidro en General. For this reason, Maricel’s brother offered to pick us up when we arrived on our first day with our heavy backpacking backpacks. To get to the city from Tres Piedras, we have to walk one hour catch the 6am bus at the closest community of San Juan de Dios. Then it is about a 45 minute bus ride until you arrive in the small city of San Isidro en General. Since the bus from San Juan de Dios to San Isidro en General only runs on Mondays and Fridays, we stayed overnight on a farm close to San Isidro to get some rest and visit Tessa’s boyfriend, Victor. He is working and learning about agriculture in the tropics at Finca Armata. The next morning we caught the bus to Platanillo, which is about a three hour walk to Tres Piedras (on a Tuesday when the bus does not run to San Juan de Dios). Luckily there were two people who drove us the majority of the way when they saw us walking along the dirt road. One fact about Costa Rica that becomes particularly noticeable when traveling by foot is that the land is rarely flat because the country is dominated by mountainous terrain. It may sound like a lot of work to get here without a car, but for me the cost in energy is rewarded ten-fold when I return to such a secluded and peaceful tropical environment (though it would be nice to have a car of some sort).
Despite the anxiety and uncertainty clouding my thinking on my journey here, the opportunities that are available to me here at Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve are more than enough to keep me busy for 6 months. In addition to quantifying and comparing the biomass (or trapped carbon) in the secondary and primary forests on the property, I will be working closely with Tessa and Maricel to attract visitors to the region through ecotourism in an attempt to conserve the land and create socioeconomic benefits for Maricel and her family.

If you are interested in seeing photos of the site and learning more about us, like us on Facebook “Tres Piedras Ecolodge Reserve” and follow us on Instagram “Tres_Piedras_Ecolodge. Once the website is complete I will update this blog post. Also, follow my new blog page TPEcolodgeReserve.wordpress.com

Internship Goals in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica — March 15, 2016

Internship Goals in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica

Often people are drawn to certain environments. Personally, I am drawn to the tropics, specifically the rainforest. For this reason, I chose to do my internship for the last semester as a graduate student in the Professional Science Master’s Program for Environmental Management and Sustainability Master’s degree program at St. Edwards University in Costa Rica.  As I lay awake in bed on my first night in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica, excited for what lays ahead, I think about where I am, how I got to this place, and what my goals are here.

Tres Piedras is a rural village located about 40 minutes inland from west coast of Costa Rica if you drive. For about 60 years now, the main source of income for the residents has been cattle farming. In a rapidly changing global economy, however, the people here are being forced to look outside Tres Piedras for work to support themselves and their families. Unfortunately, opportunities are often lacking and hard to get to from this area of the country. People are having to travel to Dominical for work, which is the nearest costal village with some opportunities (typically cleaning and maintenance jobs). Also, people here are having fewer children and farming less because of how difficult it is to raise a family on cattle grazing and subsistence agriculture.

I first learned about Tres Piedras while getting my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies at Binghamton University in New York. As summer approached during my sophomore year, I was looking for a way to escape the drudgery of waiting on tables at the local restaurant back home in Queens, New York, when I came across a flyer detailing a trip to Costa Rica. During the month of July, I would have the opportunity to take a tropical ecology class and receive internship credit for reforestation efforts and participating in sustainable development projects. I quickly contacted the professor directing the initiative, Dr. Richard Andrus, to secure a spot for myself in 2012. After having such an incredible time on the first trip, I decided to volunteer and go a second time for the month of July of 2013.

Moreover, I am extremely lucky to currently be back in Tres Piedras for my last semester internship of my Master’s degree program. The main purpose of the internship is to design and carry out a scientific research project for a company or organization anywhere in the world, which has the potential to lead to a job after graduation. Ever since my first trip to Tres Piedras in 2012, I fell in love with the place and its residents, and for this reason I had a strong urge to return here.

Although my undergraduate school no longer returns to Tres Piedras, I contacted the current owner of the property that I studied on in July of 2012 and 2013 to see if it was possible for me to carry out a research study there. Maricel, a lifetime resident of Tres Piedras and now owner of the 350 acre property, was happy to hear that I wanted to come back to the area and offered me and another classmate of mine a place to stay for the duration of our internship, which is recommended by our professors to be 6 months long. One of the reasons why I wanted to return to this location in particular is because there are both secondary and primary tropical forests on site. For my project I will be comparing the biomass of the trees and woody vines in the secondary forest to the biomass in the primary forest. The property is ideal for scientific research because of the two stages of forest growth, as well as for its the tremendous amount of biodiversity.

In addition to carrying out our own independent research projects, my classmate, Tessa, and I agreed to help Maricel figure out a way to attract people to this incredible property once again. For Tessa and I, this is crucial to our stay here. Without any incentive to keep this property intact with all its biodiversity, it is almost certain that the property will be developed to accommodate homes for more people. It makes no economic sense to keep this property as it is now because it is too large for Maricel and her family to manage while they spend most of their time working in Dominical, Costa Rica. The fact that it does not provide them with any revenue is a real problem, so Tessa and I have been thinking up ways to conserve the property while providing some economic benefit to Maricel and her family. Hence, ecotourism was an idea that we thought would be a great way to accomplish these objectives.

According to a paper written in 1965 by Hetzer, ecotourism has four main principles or pillars. The four principles “are minimizing environmental impacts, respecting host cultures, maximizing benefits to local people, and maximizing tourist satisfaction” (Buchsbaum 2004). Tessa and I proposed the idea of ecotourism to Maricel last week, and she was excited about the idea. We will be working to build a website for her to make the property known once again.  Additionally, we are considering paying to put the property on a ‘work to stay’ type website like WorkAway.info or WWOOF.net (World Wide Opprotunities on Organic Farms) to recruit experienced people willing to help us start up some gardens and complete other maintenance tasks on the property.

Eventually, it would be great to form another connection with a university that is willing to send professors and students to carry out research, teach ecology, and complete internships here. This would provide Maricel with a steady stream of people coming to the property. Unlike ecotourism, this kind of partnership with a university has the potential provide long term stability to Maricel and the community of Tres Piedras.

The goals we set forth for ourselves seem overwhelming at times, but I have faith in our ability to convince the local and global community that tropical ecosystems, such as this one, can produce economic, social, and environmental benefits Tropical forests are in desperate need of conservation for a variety of reasons, and this property is the perfect place for us to start recognizing and realizing this essential truth. Personally, I have various things to consider before planning to live in Costa Rica long-term, but I am grateful and excited to just have the opportunity to help some amazing people here in Tres Piedras for the next 6 months.