For Whom the Bell Tolls

Tony Furnivall beside one of the dozen bells in Trinity Church's clocktower. (Photo: Ella Morton)

Tony Furnivall beside one of the dozen bells in Trinity Church’s clocktower. (Photo: Ella Morton)

If you’ve still not knocked off “do the new” on the year’s bucket-list, we have a suggestion. Join the Wednesday Night rites of New York’s church bell ringers.

Bell ringing, also known as change ringing, is what Furnivall calls “an ultra-niche interest.” Originating in medieval England, it is practiced by an estimated 40,000 people around the world today, mostly in the United Kingdom and among countries of the former British Empire. In the U.S., there is a small but enthusiastic bell-ringing scene, spread across 42 towers. The North American Guild of Change Ringers, established in the 1970s, calls ringing “a team sport, a highly coordinated musical performance, an antique art, and a demanding exercise.” “We ring bells to celebrate,” Furnivall says, and if you’re spry enough to clamber up a clock tower, you can grab a rope and join in the fun.

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Airports and Urban Farming

Katrina Ceguera tends JetBlue's farm outside Terminal 5 at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. PHOTO: Chelsea Brodsky /JetBlue

Katrina Ceguera tends JetBlue’s farm outside Terminal 5 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. PHOTO: Chelsea Brodsky /JetBlue

Airports are growing a ‘green’ conscience, and how! If Kochi in Kerala, India is home to the world’s first airport to be completely powered by solar energy, then the Galapagos airstrip is not far behind. Going off-grid is just one way to offset massive carbon footprints left behind by the use of fossil fuels. Another way might be to add a touch of green – like JetBlue did at the New York airport.

JetBlue was intent on growing potatoes and other produce at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It took three years of jumping through hoops before the T5 Farm, named for its location outside Terminal 5, came to fruition in early October, the company says.

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Let’s See You Shop Sustainably

HowGood, an independent research organization based in New York City, may have answers for the food industry’s many scales of sustainability. PHOTO:

HowGood, an independent research organization based in New York City, may have answers for the food industry’s many scales of sustainability. PHOTO:

Are you a conscientious shopper? Do tags of ‘organic’, ‘locally sourced’, ‘homegrown’, ‘all-natural’, etc easily sway you and your shopping cart? Got questions that can better aid your shopping choices? Then HowGood is where you should stop by before you head to the check-out counter.

But if one apple touts organic certification, and an adjacent apple boasts local sourcing, which green reigns supreme? And what grocery store offers the singular scale for weighing the overall benefits? HowGood, an independent research organization based in New York City, has toppled the food industry’s many scales of sustainability to answer these questions through a more nuanced, easy to understand system.

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Stepping Up to the Plate

Polystyrene lunch plates are being shown the door in some US cities. PHOTO: NRDC

Polystyrene lunch plates are being shown the door in some US cities. PHOTO: NRDC

New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, and Dallas. Six cities. 4,536 schools. 2,848,000 students enrolled. 469,000,000 meals served annually. And one organisation that unites them all and its plans to combine purchasing power and coordinate menu creation and food service in schools. Meet the Urban School Food Alliance. And here’s their latest idea: ditching polystyrene lunch trays and replacing them with compostable lunch plates. It’s a significant move since all together, the schools in the Alliance serve up 2.5 million meals a day.

But what’s most revolutionary about these new plates is what they’re made of. The polystyrene used in traditional lunch trays is a petroleum-based plastic that won’t break down for hundreds of years. When the trays end up in landfills — and 225 million of them do every year — they leech pollutants into the water and air, according to the group. The new plates, by comparison, are made of recycled newsprint and can break down within a matter of weeks in commercial composting facilities. They’re also only a tiny bit more expensive, at $0.049 apiece compared with $.04 apiece for the plastic trays.

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Ithaca Featured in NatGeo’s Intelligent Travel Section

Cornell’s McGraw Tower. Photo by S. Inman

Over the last several years, dozens of our interns have been Cornellians, and some have even been born-and-bred Ithacans. It is often said that Ithaca is “ten square miles surrounded by reality,” for reasons that we won’t go into here and might be gleaned from the text below. But if Ithaca is sometimes seen as a bubble, then it can be expected that students at Cornell University or, to a lesser degree, Ithaca College live in an even more insulated shell that separates them from the city of Ithaca.

So it’s somewhat refreshing to see a descriptive post by an Ithaca resident–but McGill University graduate–in National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel section. Under the “Beyond the Guidebook” category, Alizé Carrère wrote a quick but information-packed list of things that she loves about her city, which you can read below or here:

Summer is the best time to visit my city because that’s when Ithaca really comes to life. Many of the college students leave for summer break, so the city opens up and all of the best outdoor attractions are in their prime. You can enjoy waterfall hikes, summer concerts in the park, patio happy hours, fresh produce in local restaurants, and twilights that stretch into the nine o’clock hour.

You can see my city best from the top floor of Cornell University’s Johnson Art Museum, which reveals a near 360-degree view of Ithaca, including Cornell’s beautiful campus and the south end of Cayuga Lake. The museum itself, which looks like a giant sewing machine, was designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the creative mind behind the striking (and once controversial) glass pyramid in front of the Louvre.

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TED talk Majora Carter : Greening the Ghetto, how entrepreneurial conservation and urban regeneration lead to more social justice

This seminal talk from 2006 by Majora Carter, founder of the Majora Carter Group, introduced me to entrepreneurial conservation. So you can say it kind of led me here.

It is unfortunate how the reputation of a neighbourhood may reflect on its inhabitants. In french the silly expression “C’est le Bronx” refers to a messy room. People from the Bronx, Majora Carter included, decided to change this image. In fact, they decided to reclaim their rivers, their air, their land while creating jobs, leisure activities for local families, a safer gentler environment for children to grow up in.

It’s a story I’d like to hear about in many neighbourhoods around the world.