NEW YORK—Kaity Tsui, 26, born and raised in Murray Hill, lived the typical urban life of a child in Manhattan—and didn’t have much experience with the natural wonders that abound in New York state. Her urban roots, however, have not stopped her from being celebrated as The Greenest New Yorker.
Even if her experience of the natural world was mostly centered on the city's parks and gardens, she always treasured the urban green spaces and the well being of the natural world outside the Big Apple.
“It started with Captain Planet when I was a kid, and just grew from there,” Tsui said, recalling her days of learning environmental lessons from the popular cartoon.
Tsui volunteered and worked at the American Museum of Natural History. She got involved in the New York Restoration Project , founded by actress Bette Midler, which fosters community garden space. Tsui has also planted trees all over the city, serving as the Tree Care Coordinator for MillionTreesNYC .
These are just a few of the accomplishments that earned her the title of Greenest New Yorker . I Love New York , the state's tourism board, held the first Greenest New Yorker contest in honor of the 40th annual Earth Day in April 2010. I Love New York will soon release the details for the 2011 contest, in order to name Tsui's successor.
The I Love New York board turned their iconic red heart logo into an environmentally friendly green for a campaign that would help city dwellers appreciate the green wonders of both the city and the state beyond. Tsui is New York's green ambassador; on her blog, she gives tips on how to turn everything green, from a low-waste Super Bowl party, to frequenting the Union Square Green Market.
She also chronicles her journey to the 10 greenest wonders in New York state, as listed by the I Love New York campaign.
2. Letchworth State Park—the “Grand Canyon of the East.”
3. Taughannock Falls State Park—home to one of the highest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, as well as a hub of outdoor activity.
4. Adirondack Park—the largest expanse of publicly protected land in the country at 6 million acres.
5. The Empire State Buildingone of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and a focal point of the city's initiative to green its buildings.
6. Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island—high dunes, waves, and maritime forest—a close getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
7. Storm King Art Center in the Hudson Valley— both a museum and nature conservancy, sculpture meets field and forest in the Hudson Highlands.
8. Catskill Scenic Trail—with a gentle grade and well-packed trails, the beauty is accessible to many.
9. Waterways of the Thousand Islands—which boasts bountiful fish and territory for boaters.
10. The Roosevelt Baths and Spa at Saratoga Springs—where people have been coming to bathe in the mineral water springing forth from a geological fault since Native Americans held it to be a spiritual place with healing powers.
Tsui spent Valentine's weekend in the Adirondack region. Whether in the company of a loved one, or alone, Tsui says it doesn't matter, it's a splendid place for a “staycation.” Between participating in the Sarnac Winter Festival dressed in a medieval costume, and visiting the greenest restaurants and hotels in the area, Tsui had some time to enjoy hot chocolate, dog sledding, and snowshoeing.
She may be the greenest New Yorker, but she'll have to wait until summer to experience the state at its greenest. For now, she's enjoying the white wonders of the land.
“I even saw some ice fishing! I've never seen that before,” mused Tsui.
Well-traveled though she is, Tsui has primarily experienced the world's urban destinations. Her parents hailed from Hong Kong, where she would often go to visit family. She studied abroad in London while earning her degree in Metropolitan Studies from NYU. She has, however, glimpsed life outside the city on occasional family excursions to the Catskills or Poconos.
Not only the natural beauty of the Adirondack wilderness astounded her, but also the man-made environment.
“It was great being able to support the local communities and businesses,” said Tsui. Tsui states that sustainability is about supporting local businesses—especially when they are green-certified. New York state is home to the most green-certified restaurants in the nation.
Tsui dined at Generations restaurant in the Golden Arrow Resort. This resort is one of only two in the world to be awarded a 5-Greenleaf status by Audubon International. It's eco-friendly from the rooftop ecosystem—vegetation, birds, and insects—to the picture frames made of reclaimed wood.
She sojourned at Gauthier's Sarnac Lake Inn, also Greenleaf marked by the Audubon. It has a solar-heated pool and pesticide-free lawns, biodegradable cleaners and low-flow showerheads.
While staying at the waterfront property, Tsui didn't see much activity on the frozen lake. She's looking forward to visiting the Waterways of the Thousand Islands in warmer weather, another of the I Love New York's top 10 green destinations.