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Green Brooklyn

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Even the internet’s becoming eco friendly. Environmentalist do-gooders take to the blogs in a grass roots initiative known as greenbrooklyn.com. But before you get on them for the large amounts of energy they’re using to sustain their daily posts of reduce, reuse, recycle – hold your cynical tongues: they use 100% wind powered website and email servers. You may know which bin to put your plastic bottles in, and hopefully wait until the next garbage can to toss out your gum. But with congestion rates on the rise, and city waste at an all time high, Ethan Oringel, Co Creater and Founder of the environmentally conscious url says there’s much more to learn.

Tell us about your blog… what is the premise, what are your main coverage areas, how did you get started?

Green Brooklyn (www.greenbrooklyn.com) is a website with news and opinion, grassroots initiatives, and resources on how we can all pitch in — individuals, community groups, as well as city government — and make Brooklyn and NYC a more sustainable place. The topics covered include all the main issues in sustainability — energy, building, food, green space, and more — but also ones not traditionally associated with being ‘green;’ such as education, community action, and culture.

The concept for Green Brooklyn actually hatched in 2004-2005. I had been doing a lot of research on the web about sustainability purely out of interest and curiosity, and I found that while there were some really good resources on renewable energy and green building — and a few select green blogs — there was one aspect that was missing. And that was a really strong connection between sustainability issues and local communities around the country. In my mind there was a niche to fill for a local green blog, the green community in Brooklyn was just beginning to boom, and so finally in the Fall of 2006 I stepped up and gave it a shot. I had intended from the beginning to develop the site to include local on-the-ground greening initiatives and local resources, and that is what I have done with the relaunch of the site for Earth Day 2008.

What brought you to the New York area?
Chinese food. No really, I am a 4th generation New Yorker, who was raised in Northern Westchester — close enough to nature to really develop an appreciation for the natural world at a young age, but still just a short train ride away from Midtown. My first foray into actually living in the city was in Fall of 1998 as the dot com boom was starting to take off. I figured it was my one chance to make a million dollars before I turned 30, and it was… And I didn’t. But I did get to work for David Bowie, so that was cool.

What do you love about living here?
I Love NY. I don’t think I can pick one thing or even make a short list. Actually, I think one of the most fulfilling things about living in NYC for me is to see, hear, and feel the ghosts of my family’s past. For example, in 2000 I coincidentally moved to within one building of my great grandfather’s first apartment in New York (on Orchard Street) after getting off the boat in 1900. Total accident. You can’t make that stuff up. My grandfather was born and raised on Attorney Street on the Lower East Side. My dad was born and raised in Brooklyn. Actually, another funny story, my great grandfather on my father’s side and my great grandfather on my mother’s side each had a general store within a block or two of the other on the LES, but my family didn’t find that out until my parents were married for 30 years. There is something about those NY stories that I just love. That, and it is the most amazing and cosmopolitan city in the world.

What do you think makes a New Yorker?
I think New York itself makes you a New Yorker. But even though the city itself can change the most unlikely person into a “real” New Yorker, I think people are predisposed to be receptive to it or not. You either have it or you don’t. I think cabbies are much more real New Yorkers than some of the hipsters or yuppies who come from far and wide to New York try to live ‘the life’ or to ‘be cool’.

What surprises you about New York or New Yorkers?
Absolutely nothing surprises me. Nothing at all. Anything can happen, at any time, anywhere in the city. Same goes for the people of the city. I guess the most surprising thing is just how incredibly diverse the city really is. It is diverse in the cultures and languages, but also in its history and neighborhood life. Who would have known (without poking around) that there are entire neighborhoods of family homes in South Brooklyn, or that there are sleepy waterfront communities in Queens that look like they were picked up from the North Eastern Atlantic coast and dropped just inside the borders of the five boroughs. But in getting back to the surprise factor, it is really impossible to really comprehend just how diverse NYC is. So even though I know that we live on the most diverse speck of land on Earth, I find myself constantly amazed.

When you leave New York, what do you miss the most?
That really is too easy. The things you cannot get anywhere else with any sort of satisfaction. Namely: bagels, pizza, old school Jewish diners, the Yankees.

Do you know any tricks or insider info?
Yes. There is only one trick. It is all up to YOU. And when in doubt, walk. You’ll find what you are looking for even if you didn’t know you were looking for it.

Best corny tourist attraction that you secretly love?
I guess I would have to say that everyone should go to the top of the Empire State Building at least once. Seeing the city from high up is incredible. Windows on the World was even better (I went once about 20 years ago).

Best neighborhood bar?
I used to live in Park Slope/Gowanus and I really liked a little spot called Barbes (www.barbesbrooklyn.com). I liken it to a dive bar in Paris, in Brooklyn. Except they have a small stage where they put on a wide variety of live music and movies, mostly the likes of which could only come from Brooklyn (like the Slavic Soul Party every Tuesday night).

Best late night joint?
Grand Central at 5am.

Last cultural thing that you did (movie, museum, theatre, etc…)
Rubin Museum of Art (www.rmanyc.org), “explore the artistic legacy of the Himalayan region and to appreciate its place in the context of world cultures.” Truly brilliant. Just go.

Best fancy schmancy restaurant?
I don’t really do fancy schmancy… I am looking forward to going to the restaurant Luz in Brooklyn (www.luzrestaurant.com) for their Earth Day (April 22 and 23) celebration. On those two nights, dinner consists of organic and locally-produced foods that are prepared and served without electricity. “No electricity, no telephones, no gas, no credit card machines, no computers, and no heat lamps.” And I just think that is awesome.

Best place to meet members of the opposite sex?
Cafe Habana Outpost

Best Green (organic) restaurant in town?
Cafe Habana Outpost

What are you doing to “go green”? Where do you go for green cuisine? Post a comment below and tell us what’s up.


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