This week New York’s a hive of activity; it’s the first ever Honey Week, a seven-day celebration of the honey bee. Events range from local apiary tours and lectures to evenings sampling honey-infused cocktails and honey-themed dinners. There’s an introduction to bee-keeping and the event culminates in the 4th annual Honey Fest in Rockaway Beach, which will be abuzz with honey inspired activities for young and old, including honey beer drinking and dressing up for the Be-A-Bee parade.
Steve Rogenstein and Jessica Austerlitz are the producers behind Honey Week and Rogenstein says the point is to raise awareness, “It’s critical that people understand that these little furry creatures are so much more valuable than other, less ‘precious’ insects. Their contributions to mankind and the planet as pollinators is incalculable; scientists state that one-third of all fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees.”
Since 2006, the US has seen a 40% decline in commercial honeybees. And the UK has seen a decline of 45% in the last four years.
“Queens can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, and a worker bee, in her six weeks of life, evolves through a series of chores: house-cleaning bee, nurse bee, guard bee and forager,” says Rogerstein. “It’s this trivia that we hope to convey to audiences, and, in the process, get people to understand that bees are creatures to love and protect, not fear and vilify.”
Four of the five boroughs are holding events, details of which can be found here, and the price ranges from free to $125 depending on which you to go, so there’s something for every pocket.
The fact that the festival has piqued enough interest to now include a week of events is indicative of New York’s ever-increasing environmental conscience, with this being the latest in a number of initiatives and projects being set up around the city to raise people’s awareness of their ecological footprint.
To combat traffic pollution, there has been a push for more sustainable transport options. Since 2009, the fleet of hybrid yellow cabs has grown from 15% of the total number of taxis in service, to almost half. Bike lanes have been on the increase in recent years too with Citi Bike stations launched across the metropolis last year. There are now 6000 bikes available through this scheme for the public to use. Trips are limited to 30 minutes before additional fees kick in, but they’re great for short jaunts, hopping on and off around the city. A day pass is $9.95 (£6) and a week, $25 (£15), but for longer use and a more leisurely cycle, bike rental companies are the way to go.
There are also neighbourhood farmer’s markets all over New York. There’s one every Saturday morning in the park opposite my building in Brooklyn. I love meandering through the market picking up our seasonal fruit and veg for the week, the fresh baked loaves, and pungent herbs and pickles. It has become a New York ritual of mine, and I look forward to the weekly chats with vendors, especially Peter ‘the cheese guy’, from Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, Vermont. You also hear local musicians play as you shop.
Being so fresh and pesticide free, the produce always tastes better and it’s very reasonably priced, with the added bonus of supporting farmers upstate or in neighbouring ones. And that’s the appeal.
Manhattan’s most well-known farmer’s market is Union Square’s Greenmarket, which runs every Monday of the year from 8am-6pm. Here, 140 regional farmers, fishers and bakers bring a healthy slice of rural life to the city. There are fun cooking demonstrations, samples to try and tips on quick and easy family meals.
Sustainable, locally sourced farm to table restaurants are also proving popular with an ever-growing number to choose from in New York. A favourite of mine, commonly thought to be one of the best Italian restaurants in New York, is Al di La in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I used to live a block away and I still miss their very affordable, rustic weekend brunch. Pure Food & Wine in Union Square is pricier, but the flavours are so complex and delicious, and the garden setting is so captivating, you’ll forget you’re even eating raw vegan food. If you really want to treat yourself, ABC Kitchen on East 18th Street is run by Michelin star Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and represents the slow food movement with environmentally conscious seasonal menus. You won’t find any pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones here and they’re stanch supporters of fair trade, as is the ethos of its parent company, ABC Carpet & Home. ABC Kitchen is an extension of this beautiful, upscale department store, so the decor and attention to detail are impeccable.
While making ethical choices with what we eat is getting far easier, having an environmental conscience regarding what we wear can be trickier. Kate McGregor opened Kaight in 2006 in the Lower East Side after she realised it wasn’t easy to source ethically produced clothing and accessories. Now operating out of Boerum Hill in Brooklyn, she saw Kaight as a chance to curate that much-needed resource.
“The craft movement is really huge here,” says McGregor. “New York attracts a lot of creatives. We have a lot of clothing and apparel from local independent and emerging designers creating their own interesting prints and textiles, a lot of gorgeous knits, a lot of beautiful accessories brands who use fair trade leather and resources.”
What’s more, helping to offset climate change, we’re now seven years into the Million Trees NYC project, an initiative to plant 1,000,000 trees in New York by 2017. Of these, 70% will be planted by the City, and 30% by private and community organisations as well as residents. Just under 100,000 trees still need to be planted to meet the target, but New York is already looking a whole lot greener.