Narragansett Still Waits for Its Recycling Program

When I first got to Rhode Island just over two years ago, I was stunned at the responses I’d get when I asked the simple question: “So how do I recycle here?”

I generally received blank stares or “Oh, we don’t recycle here” or “Oh, we just throw that stuff in the garbage.” It was like going back to the early 1990s in Philadelphia, our hometown. We had figured that since southern Rhode Island was so scenic and that the state was seemingly so liberally-inclined, it would be way ahead of the curve with recycling.

A typical scene in my native homeland: The Phillie Phanatic, recycling mascot Curby Bucket, Mayor Michael Nutter and the St. Joe's Hawk sign landmark legislation that moves the city to single-stream recycling. That's just how we roll.

A typical scene in my native homeland: The Phillie Phanatic, recycling mascot Curby Bucket, Mayor Michael Nutter and the St. Joe's Hawk sign landmark legislation that moves Philadelphia to single-stream recycling.

Flummoxed, my partner and I started looking for information on how to recycle (which is how we came to the scary conclusion that Rhode Island was way behind the curve when it came to the interwebs too). Finally, we found that if we wanted to recycle, we’d need to drive it to a transfer station about two miles away. We just leased a car after living for years on little more than walking and transit, so we figured, hey, when in Rome… And it was fine. We felt active about our recycling, but we felt a little ridiculous about burning fossil fuels to do so.

"Kids, remember: Always recycle: TO THE EXTREME!!!" -- Poochie the Dog

"Kids, remember: Always recycle... TO THE EXTREME!!!" -- Poochie the Dog

Last year, we were thrilled to learn that our town would introduce curbside recycling. We’re a little disappointed at some of the limitations of the program in terms of what we can recycle, but it’s ultra-convenient and the service (both recycling and trash pickup) is flawless, which is a definite, concrete, gigantic improvement over Philly’s notoriously bad/late/sloppy/surly garbage and recycling service, even though we need to pay a private company to do it here, rather than enjoy it as a municipal service as we did back home.

We’ve been in our happy curbside recycling state for over a year now, and we forgot that the next town over, Narragansett, STILL doesn’t have a mandatory recycling program, which is made even more egregious by the fact that a.) it’s an oceanside community and b.) it’s the home of the Green Life Smart Life project!

Perhaps Curby Bucket needs to take a trip to Narragansett and get this program moving!

Perhaps Curby Bucket needs to take a trip to Narragansett and get this program moving!

The will apparently is there to introduce a recycling program in Narragansett. Predictably, it’s a money issue. The grant money needed to start the program has dried up due to the global economic crash. According to the South County Independent article in the link above, my town submitted its grant application before the crash; Narragansett didn’t.

The town now is trying to decide how exactly to go forward with its recycling plan. Wait for a grant? Charge the residents for it? “No-bin, no-bag/barrel”? (Someone clue me in on that last one; I still don’t understand the description in the article.) We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, what’s the recycling program in your town like?

Posted by Joe Paone

Rhode Island Locavore Holiday Weekend

The Rhode Island state flag. I'm all for hope.

The Rhode Island state flag. I'm all for hope.

My wife and I had a friend from our hometown of Philly to visit at our current home of Wakefield, Rhode Island, this Fourth of July weekend. Excited to show her around, we decided to have a full-fledged Rhode Island locavore experience.

In our previous existence, we were strong supporters of small urban businesses. As relatively new residents of the Ocean State, we are now always on the hunt for cool things to support in our new, albeit much more rural, community and region. Our one regret is that we have to drive so many places here, as opposed to walking or taking public transit, which is so convenient in Philly.

So with that caveat, we embarked in our car for some adventure and to patronize our state’s businesses, which, with a 12.1 percent state unemployment rate and climbing, can really use the support.

Our strawberry haul!

Our strawberry haul!

On Friday, we headed up to Schartner Farms in Exeter, where I had my first-ever strawberry-picking experience! It was really incredible to pick food out of the ground that we would eat later that night and throughout the weekend. The three of us left with a five-pound basket of absolutely delicious strawberries, for which we paid about $11. Strawberry season is almost over, and blueberry season is almost here, so we’ll definitely be heading back soon for more berry goodness.

On Saturday, we crossed the Jamestown Verrazzano and Claiborne Pell bridges, taking in some stunning scenery as always, and headed to Aquidneck Island to visit Newport Vineyards in Middletown. newport_vineyardsWe tasted five wines each and got a tour of the winery for only $9 per person! The tour was informative; we learned a lot about how the wine was made, from the vine to the barrel to the bottle, and we also learned some interesting facts about the local climatological conditions that make this region such a great place to grow tasty wines. Of course, I had to take home a couple of bottles. I was partial to the Blaufrankish and Rochambeau. My wife also couldn’t resist the Rhody Coyote Hard Apple Cider. This paragraph from the winery’s web site says it all:

Newport Vineyards was originally planted in 1977 on a hill overlooking Rhode Island Sound with the goal of producing fine wines and as a way of preserving beautiful agricultural land from rapid development. Aquidneck Island is blessed with one of the most desirable farming areas in the country, if not the world. This extraordinary micro-climate is created by a combination of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to the south and the moderating effects of Narragansett Bay. These conditions provide a long, cool growing season ideal for developing complex flavors in wine.

Champlin's is not kidding when it says its seafood is right off the boat!

Champlin's is not kidding when it says its seafood is right off the boat!

On Sunday, we headed due south to Galilee for a visit to one of our favorite feeding spots, Champlin’s, where we devoured fish and chips, oysters and smelts. All of it was fresh off of the commercial fishing trawlers that dock right near the restaurant!

To drink at Champlin’s, I enjoyed a couple of refreshing Narragansett beers. The original Narragansett Brewing Company was founded in 1888 in Cranston, where it eventually became New England’s largest brewery, employing many thousands over the decades. narr3jpgHowever, the original brewery closed in 1981, at a time when regional brewers were rapidly going out of business in the face of intense competition from the monolithic national brewers Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors. Since those dark days, regional and craft brewing has thankfully come back into vogue, and in 2005, a local team of investors acquired the brand in the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. Currently, the brewery is headquartered in Providence but contract brews its beers in New York and Connecticut. The company’s goal, however, is to open a brand-new brewery in Rhode Island, and it is lobbying the state to accomplish just that. We’ll support them any way we can.

In our view, there’s nothing more patriotic we could have done this weekend than support local businesses. We hope you’ve been doing the same, and if not, maybe it can be the theme of your next holiday weekend!

Posted by Joe Paone

Salty Brine Goes Green

One of southern Rhode Island’s busiest and most popular spots, especially in the summertime, is the village of Galilee in the town of Narragansett. Recreational and commercial fishing boats bring their bounty to the pier here every day. The Block Island Ferry shuttles travelers to and from the island from its dock here. Camping is available at nearby Fishermen’s Memorial State Park. And tiny Salty Brine State Beach, along with longtime local favorite restaurants like Champlin’s Seafood and George’s, regularly attracts a brisk volume of visitors.

It’s at the nexus of many of these attractions that a major green project is now underway. It’s causing huge parking and aesthetic issues and inconveniences this summer, which surely aren’t making merchants and visitors as happy as they’d like to be. But for Galilee’s long term, this is good news: Salty Brine Beach’s 37-year-old public bath house is being replaced with a new handicap-accessible, LEED Silver-certified, sustainable, energy-efficient facility. And it’s all going to be powered by a wind turbine and solar panels. (In case you’re curious, the wind power will be provided by a residential-size 10KW Bergey wind turbine on a 100-foot tower.)

The project is being coordinated by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation’s Renewable Energy Fund and the state’s Department of Environmental Management, who view the upcoming 2,478-square-foot bath house not only as an upgrade to the previous facility but also as an educational tool for the public about green energy. 

Lighting, exhaust and circulation fans, and hot water for showers and flushing toilets “will be provided on-site by a small, residential-scale wind turbine and solar hot water heaters on the roof of the building,” says the press release. “The building has been designed to maximize energy efficiency with its R30 building shell, energy-efficient lighting fixtures, lighting controls, faucets and low-energy hand dryers. Other measures, such as heating only half of the building for early spring and fall public use and maximizing the use of daylight, will enhance energy efficiency at the facility.”

Besides education, the public will get bathrooms, showers, an outdoor rinsing shower, a foot-wash, a snack bar with utilities for possible hot food concessions, and an upper-level lifeguard station. “The bath house deck with ramp, and a new shade structure and observation decks on the stone jetty that are connected by a boardwalk along the parking lot edge, will enhance public access and use of the facility,” continues the release. “Bike racks and additional parking spaces will also be provided.”

Compared to the minor mess that’s there now, this sounds awesome. Until the project is completed on Memorial Day 2010, however, we’ll have to deal with fences, port-a-johns, no showers and hardly any parking spots. It’s a small price to pay, though, for getting Rhode Islanders working and going green at the same time.

Trivia: Did you know that the beach was originally called Galilee State Beach, but renamed Salty Brine in 1990 after a beloved local radio personality of the same name? Sounds like this guy was quite the character!

Posted by Joe Paone

Green Building Perspectives with Benjamin Obdyke maker of Home Slicker

Based in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham, Pa., Benjamin Obdyke Inc. has been an innovator in the design and provision of residential building products since 1868, and today is best known as a leading provider of high-quality residential roof and wall building solutions. The company says its roof material and wall system products enhance the building system to maximize the performance, durability and value of a building’s critical outer structure. As the company’s motto goes, “When you ‘build better’ with Benjamin Obdyke, you build to last.”

Benjamin Obdkye is outfitting the Green Life Smart LifeTM home with its Home Slicker® product. Home Slicker provides a continuous space for drainage and drying, a thermal break and pressure equalization. These technologies will work in concert to eliminate the threat of trapped moisture within the exterior walls of the home. By installing Home Slicker underneath the cedar shingles on the Green Life Smart Life home, the life of the shingle will be prolonged; we won’t need to refinish or replace it due to excess moisture.

We spoke with Julian DeLuca, associate product manager with Benjamin Obdyke, about the green building market and about the company’s enthusiastic support for the Green Life Smart Life project.

What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project to date? What interested Benjamin Obdyke about the project?

There are plenty of green building projects going on across the country, but Green Life Smart Life is the only one I am aware of that has successfully created such an extensive online community surrounding the daily activities of the project. I think such an undertaking immediately gains one credibility, and that’s why Benjamin Obdyke has agreed to participate in the project.           

Where does Benjamin Obdyke see green building going in the next five years?

To be honest, I think it’s going to go away…but I mean this in a good way. I believe that the mainstream interest and acceptance in green building has built so much momentum over the past two to three years that green building will just become part of standard building practice by 2015. Speaking from my experience as a building product manufacturer, just as recently as two years ago, “green” was considered to be a nice-to-have feature that could help a company better position their product offerings against the competition. Nowadays, you would be hard-pressed to find a segment of the building product industry where being green wasn’t a prerequisite to compete in the marketplace.

How is your company evolving to address green building?

At Benjamin Obdyke, I think we have done a good job of incorporating green and sustainable building into much of our overall marketing message without making it seem like we’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We have excelled at reviewing our complete product line and grading the sustainability of each individual product. When we come across a product that doesn’t make the grade, we openly admit that it doesn’t make the grade, and immediately we look at making product improvements or changing the product composition in order to help end-users achieve points with either of the two biggest green building programs: LEED for Homes and the NAHB Green Building Guidelines.

What challenges do you see Benjamin Obdyke facing in the evolution of green building?

Ultimately I think the biggest challenge Benjamin Obdyke will face as it relates to green building is aligning ourselves with the right programs, projects and experts in the field of green building. The one negative thing I see with green building is that there are so many people out there claiming to be “green building experts” that it’s hard to figure out who really knows their stuff and who is just in this for the money. Long term, the more we can align ourselves with projects, organizations and people who can clearly delineate what being green or sustainable means, the better we can mitigate the risk of associating ourselves with the wrong people. Green Life Smart Life is an excellent example of the type of project we would like to align ourselves with.

Do you think green building will ever dominate your business?

I think it already does. We seldom go a day without hearing from a customer who has a question regarding green building and how one of our products fits in. We hear much of the same when we are at tradeshows, or when our salespeople are out in the field.

Anything else you would like to add about the green building market or the Green Life Smart Life project?

It’s a great project being led by a great group of people, and Benjamin Obdyke couldn’t be more proud to participate. We anxiously look forward to the completion of the project, but in the interim we’re just as happy following the progress via the construction dashboard and the blog.

posted by the Green Life Smart Life team

We have a second floor, and stunning views!

View of Beavertail

View of Beavertail from Beach

Okay, so we knew the views from this house were stellar to begin with considering we have ground floor water views, and also knew they would only get better once we went up – we just didn’t realize how great until today. Standing on our new second floor was nearly breath taking. All of the Narragansett Bay just opened up before us and off to the right, fully exposed, was Beavertail Point and the Beavertail Lighthouse. Wow. We feel truly blessed to be building such a beautiful house in such a miraculous place. This truly is a culmination of many years of hard work, patience, one bidding war, and a lot of tears to get to this point.

Check out the gallery on the website to get an idea of the views I’m talking about here. I’ll post images from the second floor as soon as I download them from the camera.

Posted by: JMH Follow me on Twitter.