Re-Imagining the School Lunch Tray in New York City

October 8th, 2014 by Matt de la Houssaye No comments »

In the 2013 Fall semester, Global Green USA and Parsons the New School for Design held a class focused on re-designing New York City school lunch trays. With over 830,000 lunch trays sent to landfill each school day in NYC, the challenge is: Can we transform trays currently made from unrecoverable expanded polystyrene foam into aesthetically pleasing, functional, recyclable, and compostable lunch trays?

The curriculum for the class, taught by faculty member Daniel Michalik, was designed in conjunction with Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR). This school lunch tray project builds upon Global Green’s groundbreaking work in New York City to develop and pilot recyclable food packaging recovery systems with quick-service restaurants such as Pret A Manger, Jamba Juice, and Starbucks.

This semester-long class provided a valuable applied educational experience for undergraduate design students; it brought experts in the field of foodservice packaging design and paper fiber together with young student designers who bring a fresh take to a timely issue in NYC. Parsons students worked both individually and in groups to research the design constraints associated with these trays. Global Green coordinated school visits to see trays in use and tours of manufacturing or recycling facilities, and arranged for product samples and presentations from industry professionals.

The objectives of the class were to provide a hands-on educational experience for design students, to inform the design of prototype trays that would, if produced and used en masse, enrich the lunch experience for New York’s school children by giving them the chance to act responsibly for the environment, and to reduce the ecological impact of school lunch.

Global Green is currently in the process of completing follow-up on the project by directly communicating the results to school boards, parents and other stakeholders to raise awareness of recyclable and compostable alternatives to unrecoverable trays, and share lessons learned from this project. Tell us what your school is doing and stay tuned to hear more about our project!

Watch the video here!

Zeroing Out Food Waste and Feeding the 5000

September 26th, 2014 by Lily Kelly No comments »

Feed the 5000

Everyone knows the “three R’s”: reduce, reuse, and recycle. However, not as many know that these actions are literally listed in order of priority. When you are faced with the potential for waste, the most environmentally—and financially—sound thing to do is keep that waste from happening in the first place.

For food, this is especially true. In a report produced by Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR), entitled Guiding Principles for Recovering Value from Commercial Food Waste, we emphasize smart purchasing as a great way to reduce food waste.

But what happens when a deli or a restaurant orders more than they can sell? Or what if a farmer has some weird-looking carrots that the grocer doesn’t want? As families across the US struggle with hunger and farmers battle an historic drought, excess edible food can and must be put to its highest use wherever possible.

Enter the Zero Food Waste Forum and Feeding the 5000, events that are helping to raise awareness about reusing—as well as avoiding the production of—edible foods that can’t be sold and are usually thrown away. By expanding the use and sale of “cosmetically challenged” produce; by educating businesses and the public about smart buying, cooking, and food storage practices; and by using new technologies to connect those with food to those without; we can take a big bite out of our nation’s hunger and food waste (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun!).

For the first time in the United States, the Zero Food ee89d3e8a9105487d260355e6f0eb995Waste Forum and Feeding the 5000 will be hosted here in beautiful Berkeley and Oakland, California on October 16-18. The Forum will bring together leaders in food waste prevention for a discussion on strategies and next steps for preventing waste. Feeding the 5000, a related and 100% free awareness festival, will use rescued food to feed 5,000 people who come to Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza on October 18. I’ll be there helping make sure every inedible food scrap gets composted (i.e. recycled), and I hope you can come too!

You can register for the Forum here and find more about Feeding the 5000 here. Be sure to stay tuned for Global Green USA’s conference report after the event.

Board Spotlight: Zem Spire Joaquin

September 26th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »


Sitting down with Global Green USA Board of Directors Secretary, Zem Spire Joaquin, Entrepreneur & Activist.


10 years ago, you joined the Board of Global Green USA. What inspired you to get involved?

I had two children suffering from severe asthma, and after trying everything else, I set out to a healthy home for them. I found Global Green to be the best resource and wanted to help other families get access to better materials and information, especially if they couldn’t afford to hire someone to assist them. I was impressed with the work Matt Petersen and his dedicated team were doing at Global Green USA, and was also in awe of the vision President Gorbachev and Diane Mayer Simon had for Green Cross International.

As the founder of and now Editor-at-Large of Home & Lifestyle for the Huffington Post, you know “eco-chic!” How do you define that concept, or way of life?

Jordan Harris, the same board member that recruited me to join Global Green, was the genius who introduced me to the term “eco-chic,” but I own the URL. Many years ago I was the eco-editor of House and Garden Magazine, which had the tagline, “for the well-lived life.” The magazine was my visual muse, but a life surrounded by gorgeous things that could be making you and the planet sick just didn’t seem well-lived to me. Eco-chic is about really living well! It is about true luxury. Examples are the Tesla, Jennifer Dawes recycled gold jewelry, Stella McCartney dresses, Tatcha skincare, Simon + Krull bags, Kenneth Cobonpue furniture, and the new Mercedes Electric B-Class vehicle, which I have just signed on to be the spokesperson for! Ecofabulous is more inclusive, though. A toothbrush can be considered fabulous but is unlikely to be considered chic (there are exceptions, of course).

In addition to joining the board, you also began hosting the Gorgeous & Green Gala, one of Global Green USA’s four title events. How has the event evolved over the years?

The first year I just set out to introduce Global Green’s work to San Francisco and many of my amazing friends there. It was met with open arms, wallets and minds. I realized that the event could also be a platform to showcase the wonderful products that I was writing about on Ecofabulous. I wanted people to see that a healthy lifestyle did not have to be devoid of…well, style! Nadine Weil and Christopher Bently then stepped up to help what would become one of the most revered eco-events in the country. Lily Achatz produces a fashion show to rival Paris, if Paris was conscious (I hope that it will be in the future!).

What is in store for guests at the 10-year celebration of Gorgeous & Green this year?

There are so many things to look forward to at our anniversary Gorgeous & Green Gala this year! We have themed the “green tie” event Emerald City, with a guest performance from Broadway star Shoshana Bean, most known for playing Elphaba in Wicked. There will be a delicious -course meal by celebrity chefs Dominique Creen (Atelier Crenn), Parke Ulrich (Epic Roast House and Waterbar), and Ethan Howard (Cavallo Point). The auction will feature many phenomenal items, including a painting by renowned artist Zio Ziegler, and guests will have access to an exclusive gifting suite. You don’t want to miss Gorgeous & Green this year!

For more Gorgeous & Green Gala information, and to purchase tickets, click here!



Encouraging Reflections on the Monumental People’s Climate March

September 24th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

By Paul Walker and Matt de la Houssaye

March Photos2

Left: Matt de la Houssaye, Paul Walker and Deborah Klein Walker      Right: Paul Walker and Matt de la Houssaye march proudly


Climate change continues to threaten the planet and humankind. As the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported this year, increasing carbon emissions from China, India, the US, Europe, and elsewhere, threaten life as we know it today. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, agricultural production is down in many areas due to drought, overall temperatures are rising, and climatic disruptions are intensifying, all causing enormous negative impacts on the earth and humanity. We were therefore very committed to joining the “People’s Climate March” in New York City on Sunday, September 21st, and helping to represent Green Cross International, its US national affiliate, Global Green USA, and the other 30+ Green Cross affiliates which have all been working for two decades now to raise public attention and action on climate change.

While predictions for the march talked about “tens of thousands of people” joining the demonstration that day, we realized as we entered the New York subway at Penn Station (34th Street) on Sunday morning and saw the packed platforms, that the turnout appeared to be much heavier. By the time we reached 81st Street on the west side of Central Park, towards the tail end of the march, we witnessed the vast throngs of marchers and could barely even exit the subway! We squeezed into the crowds which covered both sidewalks and the street and waited for the march to begin.

The crowds, although overwhelming, were all in high spirits and anxious “to speak truth to power,” to march that afternoon and tell the world leaders, convening in two days at the United Nations to discuss climate change, that we wanted action, not just words, to help address this growing global crisis. The marchers were a remarkably diverse mix of young and old including infants in strollers, high school and college groups, and elderly with walkers and canes. Many demonstrators were also costumed to represent melting icebergs, coal-burning plants, “drowning clowns,” and other innovative characters. Drummers were beating out invigorating rhythms, and innumerable signs and banners demanded “no nukes,” “no Keystone XL pipeline,” “no LNG ports and tankers,” “energy conservation,” “sustainable energy,” “clean air and water,” “divestment in fossil fuels,” “no Planet B,” and many other calls for tackling climate change, protecting the environment, and improving security, safety, and public health.

March Photos1

The back end of the march at 81st Street did not begin moving until about 2 in the afternoon, given the enormous crowds in the 30 or more blocks ahead of us. We all welcomed the opportunity to begin moving after standing in place for over two hours, and marched down the west side of Central Park, then down Avenue of the Americas past Rockefeller Plaza and Radio City Music Hall, well into the late afternoon. The whole march, some 40 blocks long, was very peaceful and joyous, with everyone sharing snacks and water, and well organized by the City of New York. It reminded me (Paul) very much of the large and historic anti-nuclear march my wife, Debbie, and I, along with our first son, Ian, at age 18 months, joined in New York City on June 12, 1982, to protest US President Ronald Reagan’s dangerous nuclear weapons build-up and threats of nuclear war. Just as that large public demonstration, with well over one million marchers, led to Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreeing to nuclear abolition at the October 1986 Reykjavik Summit, we expect that this historic public outpouring of commitment and concern, matched by hundreds of other demonstrations around the world, will put pressure on the world’s leaders and parliaments to take climate change seriously and act accordingly.

We all need to think globally, but act locally, and some 400,000 or more of us did this past weekend in New York City. As many of our signs and statements on Sunday underlined, we need to act now, not just continue debating until it’s all too late.



Improving Food Deserts Through Food Hubs

September 24th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

By Lily Kelly, Gina Goodhill-Rosen, and Walker Wells

Graphics by Tim Bevins


The following is part one of a three-part blog series summarizing the results of our research into the role that food hubs can play in neighborhood sustainability and the urban food network.

Over the past decade, roughly 300 food hubs have emerged nationally to enable small- and medium-sized farmers to gain entry into new retail, institutional, and commercial markets that would be difficult or impossible for them to access on their own. Food hubs come in many shapes and sizes. Some own and operate the cold storage facilities, warehouses, and trucks for the collection and distribution of produce, while others primarily act as brokers that facilitate, aggregate, market, and sell produce among multiple farmers, storage facilities, and distributors.

Global Green is interested in howFoodHub_States_small-01 food hubs can improve the situation in low-income communities that have limited access to fresh food, otherwise known as food deserts. An urban food desert is defined by the USDA as a neighborhood, often a census tract, that has a poverty rate of 20% or greater, or a median family income at or below 80% of the area median family income, and at least 33% of the population living more than one mile from a grocery store. The USDA estimates that 13.5 million Americans live in food deserts.

Food hubs seem to be a natural fit to serve food deserts, yet they have not been recognized as readily as other strategies, such as grocery stores, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, urban farms, community gardens, or fresh food offered to convenience stores. Fortunately, in some communities, food hubs have Fh-Fd_2-04emerged as a vital part of improving food access in food deserts, with approximately 13 percent of food hubs currently located in food deserts. Increasing this number to better realize the potential synergy between food hubs and food access efforts is a key first step. But to be truly effective, food hubs need to offer access to local residents through some type of storefront, stand, or other type of distribution.

The Eastern Market in Detroit is a prime example of the power of a food hub to help both farmers and underserved communities. The Market’s mission is to be “the undisputed center for fresh and nutritious food in southeast Michigan.” An indoor, 5-day-a-week farmers’ market, the Eastern Market leases vending spaces to different farmers, who can then sell directly to the public. This gives the shoppers the ability to access a diversity of products and engage directly with farmers to learn about the food

CaseStudy_v2they are buying. To make fresh food available where no retail outlets exist, Eastern Market coordinates with churches, residents, and community centers throughout Detroit to host “pop-up” farmers’ markets. Through these efforts, they are able to leverage their ability to manage and aggregate healthy food in order to support local entrepreneurs and increase access to healthy foods at the neighborhood level.

The Eastern Market campus also features a shared cooking space to support residents who may not have stoves, ovens, and cooking equipment in their apartments, as well as entrepreneurs who can use the facility to prepare meals that can be sold elsewhere. Cooking classes are also offered to help residents understand how to prepare unfamiliar foods and make the transition to a healthy diet.

Leaders like Eastern Market show the potential for these hubs to strengthen the urban food network. As food hubs are still an emerging phenomenon, there is a unique opportunity to help shape the role they will play in our food system to increase food access, improve health, and promote urban sustainability. We’ll continue to explore this concept and how it can be applied in the next blog post in this series.


Global Green USA Featured at Greenbuild International Conference & Expo

September 19th, 2014 by Michelle Pyne No comments »
Exterior (L) and Interior (R) of Holy Cross Project Example Home

Exterior & Interior of Global Green USA’s Holy Cross Project LEED Platinum Home


Excitement is mounting for the biggest green building conference and expo in the world – Greenbuild 2014! The conference features educational sessions, incredible speakers, LEED workshops and an expo hall with over 700 industry exhibitors. This year, the conference will bring over 25,000 attendees to New Orleans, October 22-24.

At this year’s conference, Global Green USA and many others will showcase the progress that New Orleans has achieved in rebuilding a more sustainable city. Our own Walker Wells will be leading a LEED for Neighborhood Development charrette forthe Laffitte neighborhood, Jeff Supak will open the Living with Water Greenbuild tour focused on grassroots water management work in NOLA, and our Holy Cross Project will be featured on two Greenbuild Tours of the Lower Ninth Ward.

These official Greenbuild Tours will present the best of New Orleans’ sustainable buildings and neighborhoods. Global Green’s Holy Cross Project will be featured on the Lower Ninth Ward tour entitled “Making it Right in the Lower Ninth” on Monday, October 20th and Friday, October 24th. The Lower Ninth Ward attracts visitors from all over the world, having gained momentous notoriety after Hurricane Katrina and the resulting levee failures that destroyed homes and took the lives of thousands of residents. The Holy Cross Project sees thousands of visitors each year, who come to see how the Lower Ninth Ward is recovering, and to hear about how this resilient community is working to build it back better than before.

Tour participants will visit one of our five single-family LEED Platinum homes. Features of these “Global Green 21st Century Shotgun Homes” include borate treated wood to repel both mold and termites; geothermal heating and cooling; solar panels; energy efficient design, lighting and appliances; superior air quality, natural lighting and air flow; repurposed, natural, and locally sourced materials throughout; extensive and educational monitoring system; extensive rain gardens and bioswales to beautify the area and reduce storm water runoff.

The tour will also witness construction of our Community Development and Climate Action Center, which will provide community resources and act as a first responder location for man-made and natural disasters. We’ll also catch the incredible view of downtown New Orleans from the Mississippi River levee adjacent to the site. The tour will continue with Make It Right Foundation homes and The Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development’s barge board green renovation, ending with Bayou Bienvenue – an old cypress swamp just beyond a levee wall in the Lower 9.

See the Greenbuild tours and register here. We hope to see you in New Orleans!

For more information about Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans, please contact Michelle Pyne at 


Staff Spotlight: Michelle Pyne

September 18th, 2014 by Global Green USA No comments »

MichellePyne Photo Collage

Sitting down with Michelle Pyne, Green Building Program Associate.


How would you describe your role at Global Green USA in five words?

Advance Sustainable Development through Pilot Projects

What is your biggest priority at Global Green right now?

My biggest priority is to complete the Holy Cross Project Community Development and Climate Action Center (CDCAC) in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. The CDCAC will offer community meeting space, a visitor center, small fresh food store, and office space for Global Green staff. The space will bring resources back to the Lower 9th Ward that have been absent since Hurricane Katrina (nine years ago!). In addition, the CDCAC will feature passive survivability features, including back up solar battery power, to be used when the utility grid is down.

What has been your biggest accomplishment at Global Green?

My biggest accomplishment has been in moving all three phases of the Holy Cross Project towards completion. The milestones include selling the LEED Platinum single family homes, breaking ground on the Community Development and Climate Action Center and obtaining letters of support for Phase III (an affordable multifamily building) from Mayor Landrieu, Senators Landrieu and Vitter, community organizations and Lower 9th Ward residents.

What do you hope to have accomplished by 2015?

By 2015 I hope to have the Holy Cross Project CDCAC up and running with programming to advance both local and national education about energy efficiency, green infrastructure and climate change.

What is your favorite thing about Global Green USA?

The Holy Cross Project! Global Green has made an incredible impact in rebuilding a more sustainable New Orleans. The HCP Visitor Center is a unique teaching tool that is able to engage residents, builders, developers, students and tourists in sustainable building.


Keep up with Michelle on twitter @mvpyne!

A Declaration on Climate Change and A March for Action

September 15th, 2014 by Paul Walker No comments »

time to act

As the Director of Green Cross/Global Green USA’s Environmental Security & Sustainability Program, I am pleased to join with 159 other environmental laureates from 46 countries today calling on charitable foundations and philanthropists to use their enormous financial power to address global warming.  Our appeal, published today in a full-page ad in the International New York Times, appears just one week before the world’s leaders convene in New York for the United Nations Climate Summit.  Our appeal states that the world “is heading for 4-6 degrees Centigrade of global warming, given current policies on the burning of coal, oil, and gas,” and we underline the very real and growing threat that “we will lose our ability to feed ourselves, run out of potable water, increase the scope of war, and cause the very fabric of civilization to crash.”  These common concerns among us all are based on the most recent findings of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and need to be addressed by us all immediately.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society to the New York Climate Summit next week and has challenged them to make bold commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build political momentum towards a global climate change treaty at the December 2015 Paris Climate Summit.  I warn, along with my fellow environmental laureates, that time to prevent damaging global warming is fast running out and the Paris Climate Summit may be our last chance to agree on a global treaty capable of saving civilization.  We emphasize in our appeal that foundations and philanthropists have the financial resources to respond on a scale that would materially increase negotiators’ chances of success in Paris.

I will be in New York City next Sunday, September 21, 2014, to underline our appeal by joining the thousands of fellow environmentalists marching against climate change and welcome all of our colleagues and concerned citizens to do likewise in their own cities, states, and countries.  Only by addressing global warming now will we all be able to prevent massive suffering in the foreseeable future.

View Environmental Laureates’ Declaration on Climate Change here.

Greening the Home-Buying Process

September 3rd, 2014 by Linda Stone No comments »


Buildings, between construction and operation, are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Global Green USA has long been working on policy, projects, and education to reduce carbon pollution from the built environment. To further this work in the residential realm, Global Green’s New Orleans Office has partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Louisiana Chapter and the New Orleans Metropolitan  Association of REALTORS® (NOMAR) Green Committee to educate REALTORS® and other real-estate related professionals like appraisers about the new green fields and tools in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  Translating the value of energy efficient, sustainable home features into higher sale prices, better financing opportunities, and quicker home sales is critical to the process of transforming the green home market.

You may already know that weatherization and energy efficiency can add value to residential properties.  However, without information from comparable properties, appraisers cannot easily determine this value. In November 2013, new “green feature” fields and a Green Building Attachment were added to the MLS both to enhance property listings and document these features for comparison purposes. One of the new “green” fields adopted by NOMAR and the Gulf South Real Estate Information Network (GSREIN)—which provides MLS services for the 10 parish New Orleans Metro area with over 5,400 participating subscribers is called “Energy Efficient Features.”  This includes:

  • Solar
  • Water heaters
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 16 or greater
  • Improved insulation
  • Windows
  • Low flow fixtures
  • Energy efficient lighting;
  • Enhanced air filtration
  • Native/drought resistant landscaping
  • Green building certification, such as LEED for Homes

But this new field only gives a hint at what a homebuyer can expect.  NOMAR’s Green Committee consulted with a variety of local experts and conducted research on national trends, also, to create a new “Green Building Certification, Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Attachment” that gives sellers an excellent opportunity to expand on the more generic categories above.

Global Green, in conjunction with the local Advocacy Committee of the USGBC and NOMAR’s Green Committee, presented to more than 100 agents at the following offices: Dorian Bennett Sotheby’s, GARDNER REALTORS®, REMAX, Keller Williams Realty and Latter & Blum Inc., and more than 4000 REALTORS® and affiliates via the NOMAR Green Committee Newsletter. The agents learned that using the new fields in the MLS and encouraging sellers to complete the new attachment detailing eco-friendly improvements documents the added value of green improvements, which can then be reflected in higher sales prices. They also saw that they can serve eco-buyers more easily and professionally when they can search for and show listings that more closely meet these buyers’ demands.

With benefits to homebuyers, agents, and the environment…it’s a win-win-win! For more information about using the new green tools in the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) in New Orleans, please contact: Jodie Manale, NOMAR Green Committee Chair, at

Global Green USA Helps Pass Styrofoam Ban in Our Nation’s Capital City!

August 27th, 2014 by Chris Weiss No comments »

District citizens, wildlife, and environmental advocates had a good day this month when the District of Columbia Council successfully passed, and sent to District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray for signature, both the “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013” and the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014.”DSC_0106b2

These important bills had provisions to help the District keep garbage—including Styrofoam—out of local rivers, and to move DC towards becoming a zero waste* and more environmentally friendly city.

Highlights of the two bills:

Major Zero Waste Provisions of the “Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013”:

  • Calls for a ban of the use of Styrofoam for food service businesses in the DC by January 1, 2016.
  • Requires food service businesses in DC to only use compostable or recyclable food service ware by January 1, 2017.

Major Zero Waste Provisions of the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014”(partial):

  • Requires DC to develop a zero waste plan that lays out the programs necessary to achieve Mayor Gray’s “Sustainable DC” plan goal of 80% waste diversion, including a Pay as You Throw (PAYT) system that can help increase the District’s waste diversion rate.
  • Prioritizes reuse and recycling over landfilling and incineration.
  • Requires separation of waste into recyclables, compostables, and trash.

What made this first step in the legislative process particularly meaningful is that the District of Columbia Council—much like Seattle, San Francisco, and other cities—did not back down when high paid corporate lobbyists from the American Chemistry Council, DART Container Corporation and other large corporate interests, lobbied aggressively against these provisions.

Global Green USA and partner the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) both played a pivotal role in making this important policy change happen. DCEN also enlisted the assistance of many DC-based organizations including the Anacostia Riverkeeper, Anacostia Watershed Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, DC Statehood Green Party, Earthjustice, Energy Justice Network, Foundation Earth, Global Bees, Green Cross International, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Potomac Riverkeeper, SCI/Community Forklift and Sierra Club DC Chapter.

Zero Waste Badge bAchieving zero waste in our nation’s capital city is a major priority for Global Green and DCEN, and we will be pushing to make sure the District moves towards achieving the already established 80% waste diversion goal.

*What’s Zero Waste? 

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.” 

For more information, please contact Chris Weiss at