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Johnny hits the big time with Woodwise

woodwise

We are incredibly excited to announce that Johnny has begun to blog at ApartmentTherapy. He is the man behind a new column, Woodwise, on which he shares his lessons in carpentry and woodworking.

Congratulations, Johnny!

August 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Green Washing, not greenwashing.

Cleaning products

I recently went on a shopping spree in Soho. No, not for clothes, but for green cleaning products.

Green Depot began as a supplier of green building materials- think insulation, paint, tiles. Their success in the building world coincided with a rise in public awareness and interest, and they recently took the plunge into the consumer world. Green Depot’s store on the Bowery showcases all things to do with “living,” from building materials to gardening supplies and lighting options. They have a “filter” system that evaluates the environmental impact of their products, so as to “squarely address greenwashing.” With the curator of all things natural and organic (Whole Foods) just down the street, it certainly feels like Green Depot is angling for the position in the world of green.

For me, the jewel in the Green Depot crown is their cleaning agent refill bar.

Soap bar

Anyone can bring a bottle in and have it refilled with glass/tub & tile/all purpose cleaner or dish soap. Eager to give it a try, I crossed town with 3 empty bottles (method, Listerine & Envirostep) in hand. The stuff is literally on tap, and several pumps later, the friendly barista (soaptender?) had filled the bottles and taped on new labels. The cost? 12 cents an ounce, which works out to be less than a new bottle.

In addition to the modest cost savings, that’s three less plastic bottles for me to chuck in a landfill. (I’ve been haunted about my plastic footprint since watching “Garbage Island.”  It’s a problem.)

Is it reasonable to think that everyone is going to schlep around with empty bottles in their purse? Maybe not. But response has been very positive, and one hopes that it might provoke major players such as P&G and Unilever to acknowledge that consumers are beginning to care enough to go a little extra distance– and that there is opportunity to meet us halfway. I personally would be delighted if my supermarket had a refill station for everything from shampoo to cooking oil. –Kat

August 17, 2009 at 5:49 pm

CDC calls America “obesogenic”

Health WrapAnd here’s some evidence. Happy Friday!

CDC’s definition of Obesogenic: “Characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity.”

–Kat

August 7, 2009 at 1:34 pm Leave a comment

3 Years, 3 Months, 8 Days.

highlineopening2That is how long we have gazed out of our window at the High Line, dreaming of the day when we might have morning meetings amidst greenery.

IT’S OPEN. Once forlorn, it is now resplendent, and we had a chance to take a stroll on the park’s opening day yesterday. The pictures speak for themselves, but in a nutshell, we thought it was fabulous and well worth the wait.

Huge congratulations go to Joshua David and Richard Hammond, who conceived the idea and formed Friends of the High Line in 1999. Designed by Field Operations (Jame’s Corner’s landscaping design firm) and Diller Scofidio+Renfro, beautiful renderings of the High Line have graced the pages of NY publications for years. Since then, budgets have been slashed and snazzy features have been sacrificed. Nevertheless, the creative juices kept flowing, and there are many elements (undulating and pronged paving, oversized rolling lounge chairs, water features, plants you have never seen before) that will surprise and delight. We particularly love the re-introduction of wild grasses that were found on the High Line when it was deserted.

Come and see for yourself! –Kat

June 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Introducing Beverly

bevblogIt is with great pleasure that we introduce Beverly to the People Are Amazing team. In addition to applying her anthropological brain at IF, she also organizes New York’s Pecha Kucha movement, has a thing for acrylic furniture, and favors dogs and cats equally.

May 13, 2009 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

High Line Update #5: Blooms!

High Line SpringSpring is in the air and purple patches have blossomed on the High Line. Katie from Friends of the High Line tells us that these are “Rhapsody in Blue” flowers, from the Salvia family. While we’re enjoying our office view, we can’t wait to admire them up close, and eagerly await the official opening, rumored to be some time in June. As always, daily updates are available on the official High Line blog. –Kat

May 12, 2009 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Motorcycle Federation’s Choppers and Capuccino

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One would think that a biker gear store would be on a little side street in Alphabet City. Newly opened NYC Motorcycle Federation disproves this theory, defiantly sitting on 6th Ave and Downing next to the hip 10 Downing restaurant and across from celebrity-ridden Da Silvano’s. Gleaming vintage bikes and racks of worn leather jackets are juxtaposed with an Illy cafe counter, and a signboard outside the store that cheerfully announces “Refueling station. The best espresso you have ever had”

It makes you curious about the espresso-imbibing NY biker community. To find more, I visited MF’s site:

motorcyclefed

While I cannot claim to be intimately acquainted with biker culture, I’m not sure that the phrase “outlaw couture” would roll off the tongues of your traditional Harley-driver. But it’s a new world, and who says you can’t mix Italian espresso with rough and tumble, free wi-fi with rebellion, or energy-efficiency with an engine’s roar?

Rumor has it that  the store was conceived by the talented duo behind fashion-technology-super-trendy DDCLAB. Whether or not this concept hits the mark with bikers, I must admit that I already enjoy their coffee and wifi… and a leather jacket may be next. –Kat

March 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Recessionary Thoughts: The Consumption Quandary

buybetterless2

This weekend I walked past the John Fluevog store in Soho, and was struck by their “Buy Better, Buy Less” promotion. In a time when shopping has ground to a halt and 70% sales are the new 30% sales, retailers are looking for new ways to connect with skittish consumers, an especially tricky thing for the luxury industry. One beacon of hope in high-end retail is the concept of buying higher quality, more durable goods, but fewer of them. While not an original thought (just ask your depression-era grandparents about the wastefulness of the past decades), durability has hardly been the backbone of the retail sector, or of pop culture as we know it. In fact, planned obsolescence is key to most business’  long-term strategies.

The “Buy Better, Buy More” wave of green products and free-trade-everything, has been followed by the harsh realities of the economic collapse. So while counter-intuitive from a traditional business perspective, I wonder if culturally, the time has come for companies to redefine their relationship with consumers on fundamental level: asking people to consume less. One viable way to do this would be to offering a more durable product, but augmenting revenue with service/maintenance add-ons. Fluevog for example, could offer re-soling services by cobblers who are experts at working with their designs, thus adding another year to your shoes. Skeptics will balk at this idea, pointing to the direct decrease in replacement shoe sales. But it’s a new era, and perhaps customer loyalty, the knowledge that resources are being maximized, and fresh revenue streams will become necessary differentiators. In most cases, keeping your customers may better than losing them all. –Kat

February 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

High Fructose Corn Syrup: Food Villain?

In the past few years, High Fructose Corn Syrup has hogged the spotlight as an insidious force in the food world. Natural foodies have embraced this latest bogeyman, blaming it for allergies, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It has become shorthand for over-processing, consumer exploitation, contentious farm subsidies and questionable parenting. The tides have turned so much against HFCS that the Corn Refiners Association has launched a campaign to point out that while is it fast becoming a “food villain,” few people actually know why they have come to see it as a negative ingredient in food:

There are some interesting parallels with organic food, which has simultaneously become positively coded in society. Different people value organics for different reasons: safety, taste, naturalness, humaneness… the list goes on, but regardless of specifics, the result is that many people just think it’s “better.” HFCS is organics’ evil twin. People have come to eye HFCS with suspicion for a multitude of reasons, believing that it is unhealthy, unnatural, everywhere, tastes inferior and the root of the obesity problem. It’s a food villain.

There is a reason for the raging debate. I looked for a simple answer, but there isn’t one. People are very opinionated, arguments from both sides are at times more emotional than logical, there is an abundance of fuzzy facts and inconclusive science, and there’s little distinction between cause and correlation. I thought that it would be helpful to share some of the information and questions I had, so that people who haven’t made up their minds can base their own opinions on fact rather than hype. (more…)

September 11, 2008 at 4:13 pm 2 comments

Pattern-finding and Random Delight

It’s well-documented that we are in an age of unsurpassed information and data. Luckily, technology has not only created the swirling mess, it has also made sense of it, resulting in everything from Google Earth to Newsmap. Dynamic duo Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar have emerged as thought leaders in the field, and making a splash with their “We Feel Fine” project (pictured above left), which aggregates and maps how the blogosphere is “feeling” at any one time.

Given the rising importance of “pattern-finding,” I was initially surprised when my friend Paul Ratliff shared with me the concept of “Random Delight.” His theory is that there is a counter trend to pattern-finding — technology is also helping to push completely arbitrary bits of information that we seem to enjoy on a playful and instinctive level. Great examples are: the Beacon project, that projects real-time websearch terms on the wall; Urban Spoon’s iPhone restaurant finder application, which has a “slot machine” function (pictured above right) that selects a restaurant based on how hard you shake your phone.

The more I thought about it, the more it makes perfect sense. Pattern-finding helps to feed our desire for logic and order, while randomness feeds the side that delights in human ingenuity, deviations, and providence. We turn to technology to do exactly what we want… can we now trust technology to do exactly what we least expect? –Kat

August 21, 2008 at 9:52 am 1 comment

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