4 Tips on How to be Environmentally Friendly in NYC

As a conservation biology student, I have started to take notice of all the ways I negatively impact the environment around me. I caught myself using plastic bags at CVS because I was too lazy to walk back to my apartment to grab reusable ones, or wasting food because I didn’t feel like washing my Tupperware container. It became easy to forget how much waste I was creating when surrounded by an industrial city like New York.

While NYC has taken leadership in understanding and promoting sustainability in some ways (effective public transportation system, cleaning up the Hudson River, etc…), there are still many ways to improve our environmental stewardship. I wanted to write this blog post to inform NYC residents of some ways they would reduce their environmental footprint, because while there are many people taking action, there is a lack of awareness on many of these environmentally friendly choices. In order to make a difference, we have to take steps to change what we consider to be the norm. Hopefully these tips can help educate those who want to start creating a new normal.

  1. Reusable bags and containers

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. These bags then end up in our environment, particularly our oceans. Did you know it takes over 1000 years for a plastic bag to decompose? Many countries have taken steps to place bans or heavy taxes on plastic bags, such as Rwanda, China and Denmark. Even though our government isn’t pushing for this change, it doesn’t mean we can’t make the change ourselves. Buying and using reusable bags is simple, and a lot more effective than thin, flimsy plastic bags. You can buy them at almost any grocery store, or department store. There are now foldable reusable bags that can fit inside a small purse or pocket, so there is no excuse not to carry one around with you wherever you go. Also, Tupperware goes a long way and can keep your food fresh without the need to use plastic bags, plastic wrap or foil. Below I have provided some links to reusable shopping bags, as well as reusable produce bags (washable mesh bags to put your fruit and vegetables in, instead of the plastic bags provided at grocery stores).

Foldable reusable bags:

https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Foldable-Attached-Polyester-Lightweight/dp/B01N6EGXUB/ref=sr_1_7?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1508097894&sr=1-7&keywords=reusable+bags

Reusable produce bags:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012UBNQDE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

IMG_1938
Reusable grocery and produce bags
  1. Compost

When waste goes to landfills, it releases methane and carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Composting is a great way to put your food and plant waste to use, as it helps fuel plant growth by acting as fertilizers for gardens and agriculture. While New York doesn’t have a good compost system in place, there are still many places to drop off your compost thanks to the NYC Department of Sanitation. They provide multiple compost drop off sites throughout the city, so you can drop off your compost close by at least once a week. I know what you’re thinking right about now – “I don’t want to have a bin of smelly, rotten food in my house.” Well here is the amazing news. You can freeze your compost instead, so there is no smell involved. Just place your food in a large bag, preferably a compostable bag, and freeze your food and plant scraps until you’re ready to drop it off at a compost collection site. Below I have provided a link to the NYC Department of Sanitation site to learn more about what you can and can’t compost and where you can compost around the city. I will also provide a link where you can buy compostable bags to store your food.

NYC Department of Sanitation:

http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/collectionandcleaning/collection.shtml

Compostable Bags:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B013XGQXVW/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  1. Buy locally

NYC has Greenmarket Farmers Markets, which provides locally grown produce from family farmers all around the New York area. Not only are you supporting local business, but you are supporting sustainably run farms that do not have as great of an environmental impact. My favourite is the market right behind the American Museum of Natural History that happens every Sunday, and it also has a compost drop off site. To learn more about NYC Greenmarket Farmers Markets, and where to find a market near you, check out the link below.

Greenmarket Farmers Markets:

https://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets/whylocal

greenmarket2_strip
79th Street Farmers Market behind the American Museum of Natural History http://wearablecollections.com/greenmarkets/
  1. Recycle

Similar to composting, recycling helps reduce the waste sent to landfills, thereby reducing the amount of harmful gases like methane and carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. NYC also makes recycling easy for us – the blue bin is for mixed paper products and the green bin is for glass, metal and rigid plastic. If you want to learn about what you can and can’t recycle in NYC, please take a look at the links below.

NYC Gov:

http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/1239/residential-recycling

NYC Department of Sanitation:

http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dsny/zerowaste/residents/what-to-recycle-for-residents.shtml

Thank you for reading, and I hope you stay for future blog posts 🙂

– Shannon Murphy

Why are pirates so eco friendly? Because they always follow the three arrrssssss

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