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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.

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It’s easier than ever for Queens residents to green their routines, thanks to the increasing number of compost initiatives around the borough. Several libraries, Greenmarkets, community gardens, and other organizations have become drop-off sites for your kitchen scraps, so that your food waste doesn’t have to go into the landfill.

If you’re ready to go green in 2013, here are the many locations you can bring food/plant scraps to be composted. Most of these drop-off sites are open year round, and more locations will be added soon.

Long Island City

LIC Community Garden – 49th Avenue, between Vernon Blvd and 5th Street (GMAP)
Sundays, 10:00am-1:00pm

Long Island City CSA, Hour Children – 36-49 11th Street (GMAP)
January 19 and February 2, 10:00am-2:00pm

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This week we checked out the opening reception of Carried Away, an art exhibit at Materials for the Arts in Long Island City (GMAP). On view are several colorful works that resemble Buddha heads and headless ancient Greek sculptures. The modern, down-to-earth twist is that they’re all made of plastic bags and other found and recycled materials such as bottles, spools of thread, and PVC pipes.

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COFFEED, the new café that’s outfitted in recycled materials and minimalist design, selling sustainable and local products, and promoting urban agriculture, looks a little out of place on the strip of Northern Boulevard that’s home to car dealerships, auto body shops, self-storage facilities, superstores, and parking lots. But there’s a new sort of vibe growing at the building at 37-18 Northern Boulevard (GMAP), which is also home to rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange, the New York office of the Jim Henson Company, and tech startups such as internet TV company Aereo.

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Philip Fava, the CEO of Long Island based recycling company PK Metals, writes in Forbes:

“For decades, everyone said Long Island City has enormous potential,” said Dan Miner, SVP of Business Services for Long Island City Partnership. “After years of effort on the part of the business community and the Bloomberg Administration, it’s clear that Long Island City has finally arrived.”

The Insider is Brownstoner’s weekly look at the state of interior design and renovation in the borough of Brooklyn. It’s written by Cara Greenberg, a design journalist who blogs at casaCARA: Old Houses for Fun & Profit. Find The Insider here every Thursday at 11:30AM.

 

THIS c.1900 ROW HOUSE is about as green as you can get without being LEED-certified. “Our clients had a very strong green agenda, but a normal budget,” says Jeff Sherman of the DUMBO architecture firm Delson or Sherman, which took on the job of converting a three-unit house that had had the same owner for 50 years into a single-family residence for a couple with two kids.

“LEED certification winds up being a surprisingly expensive process,” Sherman explains, citing the paperwork involved in documenting sources and the required follow-up inspections. Instead, Sherman and his partner Perla Delson, who are accredited to do LEED projects, strove for maximum impact at minimum cost. The result is a project that still has “strong green credentials,” as Sherman puts it. The contractor was the Brooklyn-based Square Indigo.

The 20’x44′ four-story building is chock full of sustainable strategies, including radiant heat flooring, solar water heating, spray foam insulation, a high-efficiency boiler, and a whole-house fan (a rainwater collection system and photovoltaic panels are yet to be implemented). Daylight is maximized by enormous skylights, as well as the replacement of one-third of the back wall with expanses of glass. Materials were re-purposed whenever possible, even the little ‘Juliet’ balconies at the rear of the house, which are segments of the original fire escape.

Now sleek and utterly modern, the house had some old doors, mantels, pressed tin, and bathroom fixtures, all of which were salvaged, though not for use in this project. “The owners worked Craigslist and Build It Green to make sure any possible thing that could be used by somebody, was,” Sherman says. “The house was picked clean by the time we started.”

Photos: Seong Kwon

Much more after the jump.