Image source: hermmermferm on Flickr
Queens has a lot going on in terms of sustainable construction, alternative energy, wildlife conservation, and other environmental initiatives. In fact, many of the finest tourist attractions – and special spots for locals – in the borough have a green streak. Here are our picks for the most environmentally sustainable attractions in Queens.
1. In the upper reaches of Astoria, the Steinway & Sons piano factory (which gives awesome tours) has been using solar energy since 2009. In fact, the factory is home to the world’s largest parabolic solar installation – a setup that involves solar troughs that focus the sun’s energy to heat fluid, which in turn helps provide the cool, dehumidified air that is necessary for the manufacture of pianos. Other sustainable features of the factory include replanting trees to replenish its wood supply; and efficient closed-loop systems to collect dust and scraps for use in other parts of the manufacturing process. And above all, what makes Steinway instruments so sustainable is that they are built to last at least 80 to 100 years.
2. The Queens County Farm Museum in Floral Park is a place for urban residents to learn about animals, plants, and agriculture. It practices sustainable farming techniques such as composting, crop rotation, cultivating heirloom vegetables, companion planting, and livestock grazing and browsing rotation. The farm sells its natural products (honey, eggs, vegetables, herbs, etc.) locally within a 15-mile radius.
3. The Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, besides being a spot for New Yorkers to take in greenery, used innovative green building concepts to redo its visitor center in 2007. The building earned a LEED Platinum certification for attaining the highest level of sustainability in construction. The building incorporates green features such as solar panels, a rainwater collection system and natural water filtration system, and a green roof for heating and cooling.
4. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a nationally protected area that serves as a sanctuary for birds and other animals and plants that keep the bay’s ecosystem healthy. Visitors – setting out from the Visitor Contact Station, a Gold LEED certified building – can walk the trails and learn about the wildlife and the history of the bay. The green building features bamboo and cork flooring, recycled redwood siding, 90% natural lighting, solar panels, geothermal heating, and a wind turbine for natural cooling.
5. Another nature center, the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston, is devoted to environmental education for children and adults, through nature walks and programs like class visits, workshops, and nature clubs. The park is also part of a wetlands restoration project, and staff and volunteers actively work to reintroduce native species and control invasive species. Before the birth of the environmental movement, wetlands were once considered a place to dump waste; now this wetland is thriving once again.
Image courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image
6. Lastly, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria/LIC, reopened in 2011, was on track to earn a LEED Silver rating for its complete renovation. The only green feature we know about for sure is the energy-efficient LED lighting that creates a cool effect on both the interior and exterior of the building. But the redesign is definitely up there on the list of innovative architecture in Queens.