I write a lot about ways in which New Yorkers can do right by the environment. And while it's good to engage with the theory behind going green, it's also great to get out in the world and see how other people are putting their passion into practice. Here are four fun little daytrips (some longer than others) that will show you firsthand the way people can make their communities a better place to be.
If Paris is, as Hemingway put it, "a moveable feast," then the Sloop Clearwater is our own moveable eco-vacation right here on the Hudson. Launched by Pete Seeger back in 1969 as a locus for environmental education, the Clearwater sails up and down the Hudson teaching children and adults about the state of the river, the environment, and environmental activism. With stops from 79th Street to Hudson, Red Hook to Poughkeepsie, all you need to do is check her schedule at Clearwater.org, and figure out how far you want to travel for a three-hour cruise aboard the 108-foot sloop. Look for "Public Sails" on the website, and pack a picnic. Disembark at Beacon, and you can also visit the DIA Foundation (not eco, but fun). What better way to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's voyage up his namesake river? And Pete Seeger's 90th birthday? Happy sailing!
The Other Red Hook
No, Brooklyn's Red Hook isn't the only one — head 90 miles up the Hudson and you'll find yourself in the pleasant hamlet of Red Hook North. Sail into town on Route 199 from the Taconic State Parkway (I know, sorry, you can also take AmTrak to Rhinecliff) keeping your eyes peeled for farmstands and "Pick Your Own [apples, peaches, pears, pumpkins]" signs, depending on the season. Take a right at the (only) light in the center of town, and you'll see more of the same — three or four miles north of town you'll see a great farmstand (fresh cider!) and then a sign for Greig Farm (pick your own blueberries!). Back in town, on 199 just past the light, Tello's Green Farm restaurant is a great little pan-Latino joint with burritos, arepas, and more made with the produce and eggs raised at...Tello's Green Farm (they're at the Union Square Greenmarket M-W-F...best eggs and happiest chickens in NY state...) Don't forget to pick up a couple dozen for the city folk, and continue west to Hardemann's farm stand, also on 199. Finish the day in the "suburb" of Tivoli: grab dinner at local/vegetarian restaurant Luna 61, home of the world's best jerk seitan and vegan devil's food cake, and a truly epic banana cream pie.
Hawthorne Valley Farm
Feel like something more substantial than a pick-your-own adventure? Hawthorne Valley, in Ghent NY, is a biodynamic farm, health food store, bakery, community and Waldorf school, all nestled in a beautiful valley. Biodynamic farming is a system created by Rudolf Steiner in which the farmer(s) work with crops, animals, the seasons and the stars to create a balanced whole. It's way more complicated, and interesting, than "regular" farming. Though you can (and should) get their farm produce, yogurt, sauerkraut, bread, and more at the Union Square Greenmarket, visiting Hawthorne Valley is another experience entirely. Tours are available, and there's a cafe for grabbing lunch: check their website for special events. Hawthornevalleyfarm.org.
The Catskill Animal Sanctuary
Tucked up in an idyllic low valley in the Catskill Mountains, this animal sanctuary (which rescues farm animals) is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. But beyond the gorgeous scenery (seriously, last time I was there with someone, they confessed it actually looked like the vision of Heaven they'd always had), there's something really inspiring about the work these people are doing, taking care of abused or abandoned farm animals: horses, cows, goats, chickens, pigs, ducks... all your favorite barnyard personalities! They also do educational outreach, trying to let people know that farm animals SHOULD NOT be treated like property — they are not disposable. Lucky for you, they're having a special tour on June 27th, at 11am, led by... Calvin the Cow! (seriously). They have regular tours on Saturdays and Sundays, with the kids tour at 1pm. For directions to the Sanctuary (which is in Saugerties), visit casanctuary.org.