Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Neighborhood Watch: Look Out for the Green Guys

by HEEC Member Amanda Rich

After visiting Arnold Arboretum or other beautiful tree-lined parks during the fall, it’s somewhat easier to see the direct correlation between increased tree canopy and environmental benefits.  Trees provide a nurturing habitat for wildlife, reduce soil erosion and water run off, provide cooling benefits/ shade, and provide air filtering and carbon sequestration capabilities[1].

But what of the social and economic benefits directly related to the “triple bottom line” of sustainability?  According to a Baltimore, Maryland study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, a 10% increase in tree canopy corresponded to a 12% decrease in crime.2  An even greater decrease in crime rate was seen when comparing public land to private, indicating the significant need to maintain trees in parks and other public urban areas[2].

Increasing tree canopy provides a well-kept look to neighborhoods, encouraging time outdoors and positive social interaction.  Trees and park settings have a calming effect; green surroundings have the capability to reduce stress, increase relaxation and improve cognitive performance[1].  A study conducted in Chicago, Illinois associated increased presence of trees with reduced mental fatigue, irritability, and aggression[3]. Significantly less violence was reported inside the homes of residents with more greenery than those without trees[3].

Image Credit:

Trees encourage a stronger sense of community, and many urban areas are struggling to maintain a green canopy.  Do your part to provide new trees with the care they so desperately need!  Great sites such as are available for volunteers to identify newly “orphaned” trees in local neighborhood(s) and receive the assistance they need from green organizations.

Adopt a tree!

[1] Konijnendijk, C. C., Nilsson, K., Randrup, T. B., & Schipperijn, J. (Eds.). (2005). Urban forests and trees : a reference book. Berlin: Springer.

[2] Troy, A., Morgan Grove, J., & O’Neil-Dunne, J. (2012). The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban–rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landscape and Urban Planning, 106(3), 262–270.

[3] Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Aggression and violence in the inner city: effects of environment via mental fatigue. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 543-571.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Harvard iLab Team Launches App for Socially Responsible Shopping

Green Spotlight on: DoneGood, by HEEC Vice President Lacey Klingensmith

We recently sat down with Scott Jacobsen, one of the co-founders of DoneGood, which launched out of the Harvard iLab Venture Incubation Program. DoneGood is an app for socially responsible shopping that makes it easy to find businesses that share your values while raising money for local causes.

HEEC: When did sustainability become an important issue for you and why?

Scott: Before coming to Harvard, I was working for the Children's Defense Fund, a child advocacy group in Washington, D.C.  At my favorite sandwich shop, they would always put things in plastic to-go containers and there was no recycling, which really bothered me. I talked to the owner about this several times, but nothing was ever done, so one day my colleagues and I were going to make signs and picket outside of the restaurant...but then I got to talking with my co-founder Colin, who was also frustrated by the lack of transparency around sourcing of clothes, and we started to wonder: why is it so difficult to find businesses that share our values? Maybe there is a better way than picketing…

HEEC: How did DoneGood initially get started, and what makes it unique?  

Scott: My co-founder Colin and I talked about creating a place for people to go and easily find products and services that aligned with their values, but we both had full time jobs and didn't have relevant experience. We started asking ourselves some questions like how do you know if a place is really doing good, and not just greenwashing? So we talked to a lot of business owners and discovered that there are many organizations out there doing great work, but consumers may not know about it because these organizations don’t have the channel to communicate to the motivated base of consumers who would value their sustainability efforts and be willing to spend 10-20% more on products that are sourced locally and made fairly. What we uniquely offer is bringing together all of this information into one resource that helps consumers find and support their local good businesses.

HEEC: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a venture startup, and do you have any advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

Scott: I used to make good money and could go out to eat whenever I wanted, but I can’t afford to anymore, and that's OK. I’m house sitting in order to live in a place for free. You have to be willing to put your creature comforts aside and invest your money in growing the company. My advice is to never give up. Hussle. Push through walls because there will be hard times but you've got to keep pressing forward.

HEEC: What’s your vision of an awesome, sustainable future?

Scott: I would like a sustainable future in which everywhere you go, there are options that are very clear and transparent to help you make good choices!

Learn more and download the app at

Hyperlocavores Take CSA to the Next Delicious Level

“Did you know ginger and asparagus could be grown in Massachusetts?!”

Green Spotlight on: Cuisine en Localeby HEEC Member Amanda Rich

                Image credits: Cuisine en Locale                                                      

Cuisine en Locale restaurant executive chef Sean O’Brien excitedly spoke of hidden gem ingredients that many local residents are simply unaware can be sourced from the New England area.  Maximizing their offerings to customers by using amazing seasonal flavor combinations, your average pesto elevates to a mind-blowing level of toasted pepitas, pressed squash seed oil, aromatic garlic, and zesty ramps.  

Initiated by business owner JJ Gonson ten years ago as a personal chef service and catering business, Cuisine en Locale has since expanded to include a “farm to fridge” meal delivery service and bar lounge open for Monday night tacos and small plates on weekends.  Declaring their primary mission to utilize only locally sourced ingredients,  Cuisine en Locale maintains a continuous relationship with local farmers and farming cooperatives.  Giving their customers the ability to practice the mantra of “knowing where your food comes from” is an amazingly simply concept, yet it is often overlooked as long-distance food distribution becomes more routine.     

While other restaurants are shipping large pallets of produce cross-country, Cuisine en Locale is reliant on the rapid change of seasonal ingredient availability.  Often unsure of what may arrive week to week, the chefs collaborate and utilize their creative element to develop spontaneous weekly menus.  Culinary imagination is necessary to locate substitutes for flavors we often take for granted; India black peppercorns are set aside for the array of local hot chili peppers, Mediterranean olive oil takes the back burner for locally pressed sunflower and squash seed oils, and citrus is replaced with the acidic flavor of wood sorrel.  Operating a business [where the ingredient supply and menu changes weekly] is extraordinarily challenging, but kitchen manager Sandra Aronson explains “if you provide yourself with enough cushion and your customers with enough options, you will never be at a loss.”

For the extraordinarily busy patron looking to wean themselves off of processed foods and take out, Cuisine en Locale’s “Once a Week” food delivery service is the equivalent of having a personal chef in your kitchen.  Similar to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, Cuisine en Locale provides the amazingly delicious link between local farms and hungry customers desiring more than another fast food meal.  Patrons can opt to have their meals delivered via eco-efficient bike delivery, or can pick up their weekly food at a variety of locations.  “Once A Week” menus have included seasonal arrays like grass-fed chuck roast tenderly braised with North Star Farm chipotles and Valicenti tomatoes, roasted Red Fire Farm carrots topped with garlic eggplant puree and Mapleline Farm heavy cream, and Sofia’s Greek yogurt cheesecake with Green Mountain Orchard blueberries and Maine sea salt.  Sign me up!

Cuisine en Locale
Once Lounge (open Monday taco night, Thursday-Saturday cash bar)
156 Highland Avenue, Somerville, Massachusetts 02143
617.285.0167 |