[metaslider id=56904] Featuring: An Interview with Gita Nandan of NY Rising.

In May our friends from The Feast NYC, a monthly dinner series that gathers creatives, and entrepreneurs for inspired action in their community, sat down over meatballs (yes meatballs) to discuss what it means to adapt and how we make our cities more resilient in the face of climate change.  Leading the conversation on the dinners’ theme of “adapting”, was guest speaker Gita Nandan. Among many impressive titles she carries, Nandan is an architect at Thread Collective, Co-Chair at NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program and board member at GreenHomeNYC.  Nandan is a community activist, proud Red Hook resident, sustainable architect and all around superwoman.

Adapt; To make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; To modify.

In 2011 alone, New Yorker’s experienced three extreme weather events that left communities devastated by destruction.  With the new and harsh realities of climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather it’s becoming apparent that the discussion on how we can adapt to build more resilient communities is more important than ever before.  This discussion was recently brought to the forefront of the news with the announcement of the world’s first ever Chief Resilience Officer, Patrick OtellinI. This is part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s effort to commit $100M for the 100 Resilient Centennial Challenge in which they are investing in 100 chief resilience officers in selected cities around the globe.

Read on as Gita shares with us the importance of going green, the future of Red Hook as she sees it, and a few tips one can make today to help create a sustainable impact in the home and community.

Q | First off, as an Architect, can you please tell us what Sustainable Architecture is? Sustainable design for us, is a core principle, a way that we think, design and implement. While the overall goal of sustainable design is resource efficiency to avoid depletion of important resources like energy, water, and raw materials; it is also about the larger life-cycle thinking, extending to transportation, packaging and the manufacturing process.  To us, most critically it is to create environments that are livable, comfortable, safe, and productive that will last long into the future.  Addressing the integration of social equality, and economic equality with environmental goals in the design process are also key to our thinking process, and expand beyond building design.

Q | Why is it important for you to get involved with organizations such as NY Rising Red Hook and GreenHome NYC?Those two organizations are very different from each other.  But in general I find that working with non-profit organizations (GHNYC), and community led efforts (NY Rising) allows for an expansion of our commitment to the community led design process, and ways to be involved in projects that our firm would not necessarily take on.  The NY Rising is particularly important to me because it has a direct relationship to my own home and community, and is a way I can help in the rebuilding effort.

Learn more about the 50 state-wide communities being rebuilt by NY Rising

Q | When talking about the theme of “adapting”, how have you witnessed Red Hook changing? While to storm was devastating to our neighborhood (and the city in general), it was also beneficial in that the vulnerabilities were exposed, and have led to a sincere community effort to rebuild, reconnect, and re-envision Red Hook to address climate change and try to resolve these vulnerabilities.  There has been a number of community led efforts that have brought the community closer together – the Red Hook Coalition Summit, the Long Term Planning Recovery Plan, the Red Hook Communications team, etc.

Q | How do you see Red Hook changing in 5-10 years?
This is a bit tricky.  I have an idealised version of what I want to see and then there is the reality of what is happening on the ground.  I would really like to see our neighborhood be an example of a climate adapted urban New York City neighborhood that addresses social inequality, economic inequality, along with a sustainable environmental set of design principles.  But after the storm that has been a lot of real estate interest, which is surprising given that the history of flooding, and vulnerabilities.  I hope that Red Hook can hold onto the waterfront and small village characteristic. That is why we live here.

Q | Do you think that being “green” will ever become the norm versus the alternative?

I think that it has already become much more mainstream than it has.  The issue is separating out the greenwashing, from the actual real “green” efforts that are out there.

Q | What are three changes our readers can make today to create a lasting sustainable/green impact in their homes or community? It goes beyond purchasing power.  Buying your way into sustainable impacts is not an impactful direction.  I suggest thinking about how can you be radical and small actions that have big impacts.  For instance:

1. Compost your food. (So many co-benefits, the list goes on and on).

2. Support products that are traveling short distances, things made in NYC helps lower carbon footprint.

3. Give up AC, that’s right air conditioning, or at least curb your appetite.

4. Air flight is one of the largest contributors to one’s carbon footprint, which is hard to get people to change, but you could try to travel locally for one or two trips, and curb one’s international traveling to once a year or less.  Or take the train!

Q | What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far? That is a hard question. Probably taking the risk to start my own firm with Mark and Elliott.  The good thing is that when one is young and willing to take risks and have faith it seems quite logical easy, but there were many challenges along the way and it is one of the most rewarding challenges I have taken.

Q | What inspires you? Passion.  Passionate people.

Q | What’s the best piece of advice you have been given? If you are not scared to do it, then it’s not worth doing.  Through managing the fear, accomplishing the task and coming out the other end, you will only then have learned a great deal.

Join The Conversation: To join future conversations with changemakers in your community sign up for an invite to join the Feast Worldwide monthly dinner series: http://feastongood.com/2014/worldwide  June dinner announcement coming soon!

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The Feast Worldwide monthly dinner series gathers creatives, and entrepreneurs for inspired action in their community. Each month in cities across the globe creators come together over the dinner table to rally around a local entrepreneur, feasting on delicious food, creative energy, and incredible ideas. Want to attend the next Feast dinner?  Apply Here

Photography by Bekka Palmer 

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