What’s so Green about Sugar Hill Harlem Inn?

Since October 2007,we have been using solar power at Sugar Hill Harlem Inn.This process took us about a year and a half to complete.In January of 2006,we started,to investigate the possibilities,of installing photovoltaics on the roof of our house.After searching for a contractor I found one right here in Harlem. Duce Construction. After taking measurements on my roof to make sure I have enough sunlight,we moved forward with the next step,which was applying to NYSERDA, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.They provide cash incentives for the installation of new solar electric or photovoltaic systems by eligible installers.

Most of this tedious paper work was done by the contractor.I was advised however that I needed a new roof and that would cost as much as the the solar panels.The good news was that I would able to get a low interest loan from Neighborhood Housing Services.This is a non profit bank that provide loans for repairs to home owners and that includes the PV installation.They also assist those in foreclosure.After getting the loan and getting off to a bumpy start with a roof contractor,I found a roofing company in Brooklyn called Greene Roofing.They did do a good job on the roof but I practically had to beg them to come do the work.

One problem that we encountered was Con Ed that pesky power company in NYC,that hates competition.As you may know, everything electrical must be UL rated,so everything from the panels to the wires to the inverter is UL rated,but this is not enough for Con Ed,they want the whole system to be UL rated as a kit.There is a company near Kingston NY,called SunWize that sell these kits so we got our PV panel kit from them.However as we approached the time of installation,Con Ed decided that this kit should be UL rated installed,which meant that they would need their inspectors to be able to check PV panel installation.But their inspectors don’t know how to inspect PV installations,so they organized a special class for the inspectors to attend,in order to learn how to check the installed UL rating of a solar panel installation.The problem is that they made the class voluntary and nobody showed up.In the end we paid an outside contractor $1600 to come and inspect the installation.

The paperwork took 18 months and the installation took about 2 weeks.The contractor did a fantastic job and if you are a client of Duce,for Christmas you get a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne and an invite to their Christmas party.So don’t forget that old adage,”act globally,shop locally”In this case it was a great success and we are very proud of our solar panels that will still be generating power long after I move on into the next dimension,unless one of those satelites that periodically fall out of the sky,happens to land on my roof.

The food that we serve at Sugar Hill is organic.No human growth hormones in our milk,no factory farm eggs.Our coffee and tea is fair trade.We have a delicious multi grain bread from a very well known gourmet food store on the Upper West Side called Zabars

There is a garden that is mostly composed of trash. Old wood beams and red brick from nearby construction sites that have debris left over from demolished buildings.We found a large table base made from angle iron that was made to cut rebar and then dumped on the sidewalk, outside a building site.Two weeks later we found a piece of glass leaning up against a lamp post 2 blocks away.It made a perfect table top. In order to create a garden,we brought in soil and some old tree trunks and bark, moss and plants that were taken from the woods in an area south of Woodstock in the Catskills.We have built a wall from tree bark that was striped from fallen trees and we are growing wild Virginia creeper on it.

All the food waste is put on our compost which is mixed with leaves.Almost any organic material is suitable for a compost pile. The pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens.” Among the brown materials are dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Nitrogen materials are fresh or green, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps.

Two years ago I did a course on bio-sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica.My teacher was a man called John Jeavons .Unfortunately my garden is too tiny to grow much food but I learned a great deal about seeds and composting and I bought some heirloom seeds from him.Every year I grow cayenne prized for thousands of years for its healing power. Folklore from around the world recounts amazing results using cayenne pepper in simple healing and in baffling health problems.

As well as having worms in the garden we also have another type of worm that is kept in a container in the kitchen.This type of worm is called a red wriggler we feed these little critters scraps of food and the worms produce a very rich soil from their castings.Referred to as intestines of the earth, earthworms are one of the best soil builders on the planet. Earthworms consume one half to a total of their body weight in organic matter every 24 hours. Earthworms eat organic matter such as table scraps, yard and garden waste, leaves, grasses and manure. In its place, earthworms deposit a water-soluble, ready to use casting 5 to 11 times richer in nitrogen, phosphates, calcium and magnesium than the organic matter they consumed. The earthworms powerful gizzard grinds the matter while the intestinal tract secretes chemicals which release the major as well as micro plant nutrients and then deposit them directly into the soil where plants can readily feed. Redworms will not harm live roots or foliage, they will however, consume anything organic that falls to the ground and convert it into a wonderful fertilizer.

To clean our rooms,we use Mountain Green. This is a non toxic,green cleaner,that is used to clean the bathrooms kitchens, floors,and other surfaces.We also use Mountain Green,laundry detergent.These cleaners are never tested on animals. Green cleaning is using environmentally safe cleaning products, equipment, and methods that do not endanger our environment, employees, or the guests. Traditional cleaning chemicals are often made with chlorine, ammonia or other toxic chemicals. Traditional cleaning products have been linked with skin irritations, respiratory infections, and other serious health problems. Sugar Hill Harlem Inn offers eco safe cleaning products and green cleaning methods to ensure healthy, clean, rooms for our employees and guests.

We have done some research on grey water systems but we have found that automated systems for flushing toilets with grey water are complex and expensive. Flushing with untreated grey water will result in fouling of the tank and fetid anaerobic smells. Treatment is expensive. The $650 Homestead Utilities system (s16), which is the cheapest I’ve heard of, would take 23 flushes a day—if you had a restaurant it could earn its keep.Extreme economic unfeasibility can indicate extreme ecological unfeasibility; the earth would be way better off if I just waste the water than if I wasted all the plumbing, pumps, tanks, filters, and electricity needed to make this sort of system work.

Here finally is a list of green activities in NYC

Harlem walking tours. Click here
There are 3 theaters within walking distance of Sugar Hill.
Harlem Stage Aaron Davis Hall Classic Theater of Harlem
There are also restaurants and jazz clubs.I am not sure how that would benefit the environment,but having fun sure helps the atmosphere.
Bicycle tours.Click here.Or bicycle rental click here
There is a park on the block.
There are 2 botanical gardens,Brooklyn and the Bronx
For a list of free museums Click here
For green markets.Click here
Walking, whether it is a stroll through Central Park or a walk across Brooklyn Bridge is great fun and great excercise
Every Monday during the summer there are free outdoor movies shown in Bryant Park.

And lastly we have gospel music.The church that is nearby that we recommend is called the Convent Avenue Baptist Church .So if you are feeling that all is lost and we are not doing enough,you could always try praying………and good luck with that option.It sure did not help our President.

Most all of these activities are done by the guests,without my input beyond advising them on the most earth friendly activities and for the most part are free,including many of our museums.

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    Recommended by Lonely Planet
    Sugar Hill Harlem Inn - Best of BedandBreakfast.com Award winner, 2007-2008

    Sugar Hill Harlem Inn, New York City, New York

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