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Florida's Eco Village: Satori

by Chermelle Edwards

Its official, spring is finally here and so is National Earth month.  During April, many will increase their individual efforts toward creating a more sustainable environment. As this work proceeds, many will be inspired to not just "go green," but live green too.  

An urban village near Fort Lauderdale, FL named Satori is giving renters - families and individuals - an opportunity to live inside a haven of eco-luxury. Satori, which means "awakening" in Japanese, is a Zen-like 279 unit rental community in the center of Ft. Lauderdale


Satori's mixed-use living space is a four building complex ranging from five to nine stories. It covers nearly six acres of land and is conveniently located near area beaches, downtown shopping, dining and jogging trails for the outdoor type.  However, for those who are interested in indoor amenities, a close look at its interior structure proves that it is a model example of how luxury and eco-friendly building can co-exist. 


The properties are developed by the Altman Companies and they've hired Steve G to create the design amenities of the project.  There's expert choice of materials, fine craftsmanship in the finishes, designer flooring in the entry foyer, living and dining rooms. Moving toward the bathroom one can find sophisticated cabinetry, dual Vessel sinks in the master bath as well as designer-selected Matco-Norco plumbing fixtures.


There is more to this complex than what meets the renters' eye.  Eco-friendly customizable options provide direct health and financial benefits. SEER 15 AC units - more efficient than its counterpart with a 10 and under - reduce consumption by 14 percent, lessening the electric bill for residents. Appliances from lighting to front load washers use less water, less energy and is gentler on ready-to-wear clothes. Merv 8 Air filters - a 100% synthetic electrolytically charged filtration media - use environmentally free refrigerants creating pure breathing in apartment units. Finally, residents can ease their VOC fears away as carpeting paint and drywall are VOC free.


Beyond the nuts and bolts of the apartment reveals something else truly unique. Early leasers have the opportunity of customizing their units.  They can choose their choice of granite counter tops, designer tile, carpet and flooring and even some accent paint colors.   "Renters love the idea of customization and the amenities that Satori offers," said Jeff Cohen, Satori Apartments Property Manager.


This urban village isn't just designed for humans. Dogs have their own bark park and biodegradable bags for their refuse.  Cars have a garage cover designed to reduce global warming along with plug-in stations for battery powered vehicles.  The level of customization Satori provides outside of choosing location and size is a first for the real estate leasing industry. The Altman Company, developers of Satori, is proud to lead an effort that is having a positive effect on the environment.


"The Altman Company believes that more people are choosing apartment living as a lifestyle choice and want the conveniences of resort-style living. With that in mind, its focus is on providing more services, amenities and customization, allowing the resident to personalize their home," said Cohen.


The customer focus exhibited in designing Satori is good for its dwellers. More importantly, the mission of this eco-village has a positive impact on the environment. The elements of Satori are sure to awaken locals in Florida and elsewhere to live green.

New York City Composting

Story and Photo by Lisette Johnson

When the concept of composting is raised, rarely does the image of a woman with latex-sheathed hands sorting through New York City's leftovers come to mind. Aurelia Kaelin, a member of the Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC), is reshaping perception at the Union Square Greenmarket where she can be found every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  

Every other day, Kaelin hauls several industrial size garbage cans to Union Square, dumping out the plastic bags collected from various depositories on her route. Founded in 1987, LESEC, a free program, provides recycling services for residents.

"Some people forget how young our recycling program is here in the city," Christine Datz-Romero, the co-founder and Executive Director of the LESEC, told Green Crier. Datz-Romero explained that the program took its first major step in 1990 when it occupied an empty lot that is now a community garden on 7th Street. In 1998, they negotiated a deal with the Parks Department to use an area of the East River Park and installed the first in-vessel composting unit in Manhattan that same year.  

"We live in a dense city, with very little green space," Datz-Romero told Green Crier. "Anything we can do to get us back in touch with nature is important. People look for that." She said that because the end product is something so tangible - "it's fertilizer! You can use that to make the parks greener or for your houseplants." - composting is a simple activity that for some people provides the missing link back to the great outdoors.

The composting process is fairly simple. Residents drop bags off at the Greenmarket where Kaelin and others empty it into large bins that are loaded into the truck. Bins are then unloaded at the East River Park into the in-vessel compost machine, and sawdust is added as the carbon source to break it down, initially. After approximately ten days in the container, it is dumped into large piles filled with worms for curing. It takes roughly three months for the scraps to cure into rich compost, which for the most part is sold back at the Greenmarket for potting soil. The rest of it is used in the 7th Street community garden, where the program got its start.

"This program is here to inspire people, and to get the city to think a little bit bigger. We need a lot more to address all this organic waste that is out here," Datz-Romero told Green Crier. San Francisco has had a curbside compost pick-up service for a number of years, and Seattle recently implemented one. There's also a similiar program in Toronto, noted Datz-Romero. In Kaelin's native Switzerland composting and recycling has a celebrated, successful history. In fact, in 1999 the European Commission issued a Landfill Directive that by 2016 member states are required to decrease the amount of biodegradable waste they contribute to landfills by 35 percent. Many states opt to do this by administering federally-run composting programs.

While kitchen scraps are biodegradable, and it seems that they could help a landfill break down, they are, in fact, contributing to the massive production of methane. "Putting food scraps in the landfill is contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming," Datz-Romero told Green Crier. "In a landfill it's an anaerobic process. Methane gas is actually a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Unless that methane gas is really getting harvested... it's not a valid argument to say ‘oh, it's going to decompose anyway.' It's really just generating really powerful greenhouse gases."

While the LESEC is not the only city group that collects compost, the city does very little to encourage programs such as this. Community gardens and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture collectives) run small operations in Ft. Greene and McCarren Park in Brooklyn, and the City has an in-vessel composting project on Riker's Island.

But this year, for the first time since the program was implemented in 1990, the city dropped the yard waste composting program. Each fall the sanitation department picked up leaves and other garden waste, but it was cut as part of budget cuts this year. The program costs about $3 million every year. "It was a really unfortunate decision that was made," Datz-Romero conceded. "The sanitation commissioner sometimes does not see the benefits of recycling. He sometimes makes cuts that in the long run are really going to hurt us."

In the meantime, however, individual efforts are making a difference. Leftovers could eventually assist in the seeding of Central Park's great lawn next spring, or make a fellow New Yorker's houseplants thrive. After all, "green" is cyclical.


Luxury Condos Go Green

by Lisette Johnson

When Greenbelt opened its doors for public sales in February 2008, it was a breath of clean air for the recent luxury boom in the trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Developer Derek Denckla of Propeller Group bought the plumbing warehouse in 2004, far before “green” was a hot phrase in everyone’s mind, with the intention of turning it into the first green condominium in Williamsburg.

“Imagine people talking about building a building like this three or four years ago,” Rental Representative Dave Maundrell of, the popular real estate agency based in Brooklyn that handles Greenbelt, told Green Crier. “It just wasn’t commonly done. It was extremely cutting edge.”

The most visible green amenity of the building is the massive solar panel that sits atop the Bulkhead roof. It provides electricity for the building elevator, and all the common areas. The roof itself is made of highly insulated Energy Star certified material that helps prevent thermal loss, as does the insulated fiberglass of the skylight in the Center for Performance Research downstairs. All materials used for construction were extracted responsibly from sites within 500 miles of Greenbelt, and significant amounts of cement for building structure were replaced with a recycled material called “fly ash,” a byproduct of coal combustion.

In the units, recycled glass makes up the bathroom facades, and countertops are made of recycled paper. Appliances are Energy Star certified, and the minimum amount of wood used meets the qualifications of the Forest Stewardship Council as responsibly harvested. “There are linoleum kitchen floors,” said Maundrell, “which probably hasn’t been done since the 70s.” Because of the materials it is made of (linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, cork powder, and limestone dust) this natural linoleum lasts up to 30 years longer than traditional material and is considered a ‘rapidly renewable resource.’ The bamboo used for other flooring is also considered so because of its quick re-growth. The fact that nearly the entire unit is lit with natural light encourages tenants to reduce use of electricity, and the secure bike storage room in the basement promotes use of alternative transportation.

These lead to 40 percent savings in energy consumption, including 30% less water usage than an average building. “If you think about it in terms of talking to a buyer, you could talk about lower electric charges and better fuel efficiency,” Maundrell told Green Crier. “With oil as high as it is, it helps us sell to buyers.”

And yet sustainable condos aren’t everything Greenbelt is about. Denckla, an artist himself, bought the building with intention of using the ground floor for community artists who had been displaced from their overpriced studios and neighborhoods. He wanted to provide a place for emerging artists to present and rehearse their work in a studio with rental costs below market value.

At the beginning of the year, Auster Events hosted a series called “@ greenbelt,” a two-week open house that featured a sustainable living showcase and a multi-media art exhibition. The exhibition was intended to be more than a how-to-live-green seminar, and gave participants the chance to interact with moderators such as Gita Nandan, founder of GreenHomeNYC and Ben Jervey, the author of the Big Green Apple Guide. “It was fantastic,” Karen Auster, of Auster Events, told Green Crier. “We had an amazing turnout. All the events were a huge success.”

The series was hosted in the ground floor of the Greenbelt, in the space designed for artistic residencies. The Center for Performance Research, a partnership between the John Jasperse Dance Company and Chez Bushwick, headed by Jonah Bokaer, recently bought the space and will host events at Greenbelt this coming October. Bokaer was evicted from his Bushwick loft in May 2006 after rent increases made it impossible to stay, but the column-free, 1,600 square foot studio space is a welcome replacement. Even with the CPR residency, however, Greenbelt will still be a resource for beginning choreographers and dancers to showcase their work. In addition to the studio, there are separate rehearsal rooms and space for administrative offices.

The condominiums in the building are two-bedroom, expect for a one one-bedroom which recently sold for nearly $600,000. Two bedrooms run from $750,000 to 850,000, which although sounds hefty is average market price for Greenbelt’s less sustainable luxury cousins in the neighborhood. As of September 2008, all units had sold except two, but Maundrell isn’t worried despite the market crisis. “The developers themselves are very passionate about their building,” he said. And no matter how trendy green living becomes, it’s a good thing to have some passion. Once the long process ends, hopefully by the end of the year, Greenbelt will become the first LEED-certified building in Williamsburg. “It’s still cutting edge,” Maundrell told Green Crier.