10 Steps You Can Take for a Greener New York City

New York Botanical Garden

New Yorkers like it Green

From turning abandoned lots into mini-parks with green space to composting lunch food from the city’s schools, most New Yorkers understand the importance, and the benefits, of living in a greener New York City.  For one thing, it just looks nicer.
A study out of Stanford found that people living in urban areas have a 20% higher risk of anxiety and 40% higher risk of depression than those living in rural areas.  It turns out all those Woody Allen movies depicting the neurotic New Yorker may have been onto something!  Because we have a higher vulnerability to mood disorders, and because our neighbor’s trash, whether from the next building or the next borough, easily becomes ours, we must work together for a Greener New York.  Here are some easy, yet powerfully effective, ways to make sure our city is a safe place for us to live, play and breathe, for years to come.

MTA? Going your Way!

1.Take Mass Transit?! Yeah, I know, the New York City MTA is not always the most friendly way to travel.  We travel like cranky sardines from station to station, impatiently waiting to arrive at our station so we can finally breathe freely. The overcrowding is especially overwhelming, to us and the system, during peak rush hours.  During the weekend, many of the train lines are compromised in some way due to construction.  Thank you, Sandy.  We hardly knew you.  But, before you hit the Uber app on you iPhone, consider this:

  • Transportation generates close to 40% of green house gases in America
  • The MTA prevents 17 million tons of carbon emissions each year
  • With its high number of mass transit riders, New York is the most carbon efficient state in the nation

Food for Thought

Pan searing brocolli and bok choy
2. Whip it Good! New Yorkers love their take-out.  It’s quick, easy, seemingly cheap and gratifies almost instantly.  One tap of an app on your walk home, and by the time you’ve kicked off your work clothes, you’ve got a hot meal and Netflix to look forward to.  Here’s a green challenge:  whip up your own meals and avoid takeout.  This will accomplish several things at once.  First, your bank account will thank you.  It’s easy to overlook the $5 daily coffee and danish, the $9 sandwich for lunch and maybe $3 midday snack.  Add that up, though, and without even thinking, you’ve spent over $15.  Add that up over 20 days, and in a month you’ve easily spent $300.  More important, however, is avoiding using all those cups, bags, and plastic utensils and take-out containers.

3.  Meatless Monday is more than ‘just a thing.’   Okay, you’re not a vegetarian, and you like your meat.  Or maybe you consider yourself somewhat of a ‘flexitarian?’  Where not here to judge, but it’s always good to be informed. Did you know that many of our diets are a major contributor to climate change?  It’s not as simple as saying, ‘eating meat is bad.’  However, the fact is that, with population at 7 billion human beings wanting to eat meat, those cows have to be raised somewhere.  The food to feed the cows has to be grown somewhere.  That somewhere is normally in the place of what was once forested land.  And, the more trees we cut down, the more carbon dioxide stays in our atmosphere.  That’s because trees absorb carbon dioxide.  Less trees, less carbon dioxide absorption.

Also, raising cows for beef is water intensive.  It takes about 1,850 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef, compared to only 39 gallons of water to produce a pound of vegetables.  With water becoming more and more scarce, the benefits of eating less meat are clear.  Movements like Meatless Mondays introduce fun into reducing our carbon footprint.  For those who aren’t already vegetarian, it’s one of the easiest ways to help the city and the planet.  It’s not as hard as you think.  Here are some great recipes to get you started.

4.  When it comes to grocery shopping, just bag it–bring your own bags when shopping.  Around the world, countries are beginning to ban the use of plastic grocery bags.  They may seems convenient, but they’re an eyesore, and damage wildlife.  How many times have you looked up at the trees of New York and see plastic bags entangled in their branches?  It doesn’t stop there, of course.  New York City is surrounded by water, and many of these bags end up in the Hudson and East Rivers.  And, more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean each year.  For a greener New York City, and world, we need to stop using and throwing away single use plastic bags.  For a more eco-friendly choice, you can pick up these multi-use grocery bags, which are made of rugged rip-stop nylon and pack small and light for on-the-go New Yorkers.  As an added bonus, add to your order a few of these produce bags.  They are lightweight and even have the tare weight written on them!

Shoes on Sixth, Fashion on Fifth

American Spending Chart 2016
5.  The notion of the ‘Rich American’ may spring less from our actual incomes and more on our spending habits.  Americans spend more of their expendable income than they save every year.  While this habitual behavior may feel good at the time, in reality what it does is shortcut quality of life in older age and fill our planet with harmful materials.  Most electric gadgets will be used less than two years, then head straight to a land fill.  Dining out once in awhile is nice, but they numbers say otherwise–Gen X’ers spend nearly $4,000 each year on dining and take out.  That, of course, means more plastic in our land and sea.  Do your future self a favor and take up the habit of frugal living, even if only a few days a week.

6.  If you’re going to buy, then buy high.  With certain products, you really do get what you pay for.  This is the case with high-end electronics, such as computers and tablets, and clothes.  Our addiction to low-end clothes shopping may keep our closets full with the latest trends, but they also keep our planet and oceans full of plastic.  Clothes, when rotting in landfills, omit methane gas, the major contributor to climate change.  Worse, you may think you’re doing good by donating those clothes from H&M, but more often than not, resale shops don’t re-sell castoffs from popular low-ends outlets.  The solution?  Save up, then buy high.  Your clothes will last longer and when you no longer wear them, someone else will.

7. As spring and summer temperatures are getting hotter and hotter, Americans are turning more to air-conditioning.  Air conditioning use is implicated in climate change.  Air-conditioning releases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which contribute to global warming.  Also, on-demand cooling anytime the mercury climbs puts demands on our energy grid.  In warmer months, air-conditioning comprises a full 25% of a home’s energy costs.  While it costs an average of .36 an hour to cool a home with an air-conditioner, it costs only .1 an hour to keep cool with a fan.  Plus, fans emit no HFCs.  The best choice?  Choose a fan when temperatures rise.

8.  Office buildings in NYC contribute a full 70% of carbon emissions.  There are thousands of office buildings all over the city, in every borough.  Imagine what an impact we could have if only 10% of the buildings began making easy changes such as painting their roofs white, composting food, and lowering air-conditioning temperatures.  Do you have a colleague at work who runs a space heater year round?  Space heaters use a tremendous amount of energy, and their use points to an over-cooled office.  Lowering the general temperature from 68 degrees to 72 could help to remove thousands of pounds of carbon from our atmosphere every year.

9.  Are you one of the millions of New Yorkers who has to keep her windows open all winter because your apartment is over-heated?  Walk around the city when it’s cold, and see how many windows are open as if it’s mid-summer.  This is an egregious waste of energy, oil and gas.  Your super can contribute a lot of a greener New York City.  Your super’s role is so important to a greener New York that the city now has a program to train your super to be more energy efficient, which could save your building money, and our city’s health and wealth.

Keep a Greener New York City and Still Get Out of Town!

Greener New York City and Montauk lighthouse and beach
10. From Far Rockaway to Montauk Point, New York City is always close to a beach holiday.  With some of the most famous beaches in the country, including the Fire Island National Seashore, East Hampton and Shelter Island, New Yorkers have their pick of holiday destinations, without having to endure air travel.  Beaches aren’t your thing?  An extensive bus and train system offers mountain loving hikers quick access to the Catskills and beyond, all the way up to and beyond the Canadian border. With all the options we New Yorkers have to natural beauty, we can keep our carbon footprint light and enjoy the Green New York we’ve helped to preserve.

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