Vertical Gardening at Home

A decade ago, Bryan Meador was an art student in New York City alienated by too much concrete. He felt far from Oklahoma, where he’d grown up gardening with his Cherokee grandparents. Wandering city streets in search of natural inspiration, he found joy at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. That gave him an idea. What if more greenery could lace through even the most built-up neighborhoods?  

The idea germinated over about eight years. By then Meador had graduated from the Parsons School of Design and begun living upriver in Kingston. Even in the much smaller town, he’d walk toward the Hudson and see acres of chain link fence along the way. In 2018, he started working out a design: the Seadpod, a recycled-plastic microplanter that could hang on chain link in groups, transforming cold metal fences into lush vertical gardens. 

Photo: Courtesy of Plant Seads

Meador’s start-up, Plant Seads (yes, it’s spelled with an “a”—the word is an acronym for Sustainable Ecology, Adaptive Design) is placing its first installations this summer. Fifty will hang in Kingston at the YMCA Farm Project, and more will be placed around Hudson by the Kite’s Nest youth organization.

In Kingston, the vision is to grow plants like climbing peas. Kids can tend them for snack-off-the-vine veggies, but they’ll also cover the fence with blooms (and fill the air with a sweet orange-honey scent). Back in the city, Plant Seads is finalizing plans with organizations like the New York Restoration Project, Harlem Grown, and Grow NYC as well. 

Photo: Courtesy of Plant Seads

Plant Seads is part of a larger global movement toward vertical gardening, which injects green into areas that have no soil in order to reduce heat, improve air quality, and mitigate runoff. Meador, whose mother keeps bees, hopes they can serve as pollinator habitat as well.

“I’m really excited about how these planters can work within the built environment we have right now, offering sound insulation and water absorption and air purification and all the psychological benefits of plants.”

Bryan Meador, creator of Seadpods

As cities densify, using every bit of space will become critical. More plant life has proven benefits to climate and human health, helping people grow food and breathe cleaner air. “The majority of people on this earth live in urban spaces now,” Meador says. “What I’m interested in is the atomization of gardening. One individual has 10 planters, and you multiply that by 1,000—that suddenly becomes a significant amount of organic material injected into the city, and a significant amount of rainwater absorbed.”

Photo: Courtesy of Plant Seads

Seadpods are true products of the Hudson Valley. Dan Freedman, dean of the School of Science and Engineering at SUNY-New Paltz and head of the Hudson Valley Additive Manufacturing Center, helped Meador perfect the design, along with Dan Young of M-Tech Design, Inc.

At 8.5-by-8.5-by-10 inches, the planters are carefully weighted to hold a gallon of soil each so they won’t collapse a fence. They mount using a keyhole and clamping key so they’ll swing flexibly to withstand high winds. Usheco, a local plastics manufacturer, is producing the containers, which are made from BPA-free recycled milk jugs and retail for $8 each.

Video Courtesy of Plant Seads

At home along the Hudson, vertical Seadpod gardens would ideally act as sponges. Their collective soak-up could help improve water quality in the river. When stormwater overwhelms combined sewer systems, waste goes into streams and on into the river. Seadpods can be a solution to help people hold their rainwater and keep it out of the sewer system.

“By holding onto the rainwater where it is, these planters help the natural aquatic ecosystem.”

Bryan Meador, creator of Seadpods

Have a fence of your own that you’d like to turn into a green wall? Seadpods are available at

HV’s Own Local Currency

by Laura Covello

What if there were one easy way to put more food on the table for less money, grow your business while reducing expenditures, experience more of the natural and cultural riches of the Hudson Valley, and support local nonprofits? Shopping with the Hudson Valley Current, our very own local currency, can do all this.

There are upwards of 100 local currencies in the United States, and our is a project of a nonprofit by the same name, the Hudson Valley Current  (HVC). Hundreds of area businesses already accept Currents, and according to HVC records, in the last three years Current transactions have grown exponentially.

Started exclusively as a digital currency, a beautiful paper version celebrating the natural beauty of the valley was introduced in 2019. (Photo: Chris Hewitt)

In addition to issuing Currents, the organization functions as a barter facilitation platform. Members offer their services or products — or items they don’t need — in exchange for Currents. They then spend their Currents on the goods and services offered by other members, who in turn spend the Currents at other local businesses, and so on. This creates new reciprocal networks and new unsolicited business.

Reinvesting the Currents in local businesses strengthens the local economy is strengthened through what economists call the “multiplier effect.” An increase in spending produces an increase in both income and consumption greater than the initial amount spent.

Membership is free and comes with 300 Currents to get you started. (One Current is equivalent to one dollar.)

Money Without a Bank

While using a local currency has elements of micro-lending, “We’re not a bank; we don’t charge interest,” says Chris Hewitt, the organization’s executive director. “We’re a nonprofit; anything we make has to go back into the system.”

This sometimes takes the form of donations to other local nonprofits with complementary missions, such as the African Roots Center, Community Action, Kingston Midtown Rising, Seed Song Center, and Wild Earth. HVC also partners with some of these organizations on ambitious revitalization projects — such as a food security initiative in Kingston’s Ponckhockie district that is set to launch in 2020.

Hewitt also explains, “We don’t offer lines of credit. What we  offer are lines of trust. This is a mutual credit system, based on reciprocity, which is not how a bank operates.”

To create a stable system without the backing of a bank, the organization has created several stabilizing mechanisms to prevent this micro-economy from collapsing, including creative use of advertising in their publication, Livelihood Magazine. A non-member restaurant, for example, can pay for ads with gift cards that are then sold to members for Currents. This has a ripple effect: the member benefits from access to a new venue they can pay (indirectly) in Currents. The restaurant benefits from any new business generated by the advertisement — and may also get additional new customers if the member dines with clients or friends.

Moving Beyond Ulster County

The HVC began in Ulster County in 2013, and while most of its membership is still there, that is changing. The organization is continually negotiating with established businesses in other counties to become what Hewitt calls “satellites,” businesses that partner with HVC to become anchors in their communities. Hawthorne Valley Farm in Columbia is a recent example. They accept Currents in their store, they pay willing employees partially in Currents, and they now host “Current events” on-site.

These events, such as a pizza party (with safe distancing), give locals a chance to learn about both the farm’s store and Currents—and to have some much-needed fun and community connection.

Community connection is both the reason for and the driver of the HVC. In a region as rich in talent and natural resources as ours, there is no real limit to what can be acquired with Currents.

That’s not hyperbole. The organization frequently acts as a matchmaker.

If a member needs a product or service — say, toner cartridges or lawnmower repair — David Cagan, Director of Member Engagement, will make it his mission to recruit new members who can meet that need.

Since COVID-19, the two primary needs in the Currents community have been food and housing. In response, HVC launched an online Resilience Marketplace offering food from farms, restaurants, caterers, and stores. They have also negotiated with landlords in Beacon, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie about taking rent payments in Currents.

In addition, they are launching a Currents Community Protection Plan (CCPP), a locally focused response to the CARES act and the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) that will offer Current lines of trust up to $100,000 with no interest or fees and free training in establishing exchange circles for key organizations and agencies

For more information on the CCPP, Currents, or other Hudson Valley Current programs, visit

Flying Forestry

Flash Forest

Could drones play a role in halting climate change? A company in Canada thinks so.

Toronto-based Flash Forest has proposed using drones to plant more than 1 billion trees worldwide by 2028. It maintains that its specially outfitted gizmos could sow more than 22,000 seeds a day — over 10 times what humans can plant in that time — and at 20% the cost of traditional reforestation. Scientists agree that planting more trees is one of the cheapest and most efficient methods for combating climate change. On average, a single tree absorbs about 40 pounds of carbon annually.

Under the high-flying reforestation plan, a device on one drone would fire pods into the soil that contain pre-germinated seeds and nutrients to enhance their growth, while a following drone would spray the ground with additional nutrients. Scientists involved with the project also will make use of drones to conduct aerial mapping that will allow them to determine the best planting sites and check up on the seedlings’ progress.

“The timber industry has engineered and mastered efficient harvesting technologies, capable of quick clearing with minimal human involvement,” Flash Forest says. “Tree planting, on the other hand, still operates with bags and shovels.” The company states that this technology disconnect has caused a huge imbalance — each year, the Earth loses 13 billion trees, but only regains about half that amount.

“We started Flash Forest with one clear goal: healing our planet’s lungs,” notes the firm. “Until that job is done well, no other job matters.”

Shipshape Energy


Shipping, which transports 90 percent of the world’s globally traded goods, accounts for 3% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. This may not seem like much until you calculate that it amounts to more than 1.5 billion metric tons. (A full-grown elephant weighs about 1 metric ton.)

In other words, curbing ship emissions is essential in confronting the climate crisis. Fortunately, shipping companies seem to be getting on board. The International Maritime Organization has agreed to cut carbon emissions from global shipping by 50% by 2050 compared with 2008 levels — a good first step, but not enough to reach goals that will make a big difference. Going further, Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipper, is committed to making its fleet completely carbon-neutral by 2030, and is urging others to follow its lead. 

How do you transition away from diesel fuel? Shipbuilders have begun exploring ingenious solutions. They include rotors that provide wind power (ships currently fitted with these use up to 20% less diesel fuel), aerodynamic designs that turn a ship into a giant sail, powering vessels with hydrogen produced from seawater and covering decks with solar panels. Successful designs must provide enough power to propel these gigantic vessels through the water without taking up space needed for cargo.

Re-energizing the world’s cargo fleets will be expensive, but the time has come, says Diane Gilpin, CEO of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance. “I don’t think there’s any argument any longer about the need to do it. There is anxiety about which is the most appropriate way, because nobody wants to make a mistake. But you have to take a risk.”