Mike Rooney

programming and philosophy

5 Things I Didn't Know About Sustainability in NYC

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When I initially moved to NYC, I didn’t really understand how / what to recycle, and how to reduce my impact on the gigantic amount of trash NYC processes. I just threw everything away.

Here are some tips I learned in the past two years that are not only ideally helpful for the environment, but also benefit the local community, your apartment, and even your wallet.

  1. Many Greenmarkets accept compost materials.

    Farmer’s Markets in NYC, “Greenmarkets”, often have a stand that allows you to drop off your food scraps. This allows you to save your food scraps in the freezer until you make it to a market (I use a plastic carton that was previously a container of spinach). This has a couple great benefits: your apartment smells better without food scraps in the trash and you don’t need to take it out in a hurry (using less trash bags), you contribute nutrients to local gardens / farms, and it is less material releasing methane in a landfill.

  2. …and textiles.

    Most markets also have textile recycling, which allow you to get rid of clothing in any condition. They sort it and donate the things in good condition for reuse, and claim to have some means to recycle the rest.

  3. You don’t have to use ConEd (sort of)

    There are alternative energy providers, often at Greenmarkets but also online, that provide sustainable energy, including a company that is 100% New York State wind powered. Local wind! The prices are often very similar, if not cheaper, than ConEd, so it can be a no-brainer. It is trivial to switch and you don’t have to change anything, and you still get a bill from ConEd.

    The way they set it up (which seems very elegant in some respects, if you can get over the abstractness of your usage), is that ConEd still monitors your usage, delivers your energy, and bills you at the new rate, but then they are required to purchase your kWh usage from the alternative company you choose.

  4. For plastics, NYC only recycles bottle-shaped #1

    If your plastic doesn’t have a number “1” recycling symbol on it AND have a mouth less wide than the main component (a bottle shape), it gets sorted and thrown out by the city. However, it is still great to recycle these as the city sells what it does recycle, making a profit, instead of having to pay to remove trash.

    However for metals and glass, I think pretty much anything (hangers included) are fair game.

  5. Whole Foods and Co-ops allow recycling / reusing of many things the city doesn’t.

    If you have non-bottle-shaped #1s, as well as plastic bags, #5 and #6 plastics, Whole Foods and some food co-ops have bins you can deposit these in. I believe Whole Foods also has a book donation bin!

While managing all of these may seem like a lot of work, it is fairly simple once you get into the habit. For example, there’s a Whole Foods adjacent to the Union Square Greenmarket, so you could bring your frozen compost container and recyleables in a reusable bag, drop them all off, and fill up the bag with fresh goodies (at the market, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s), accomplishing composting, recycling, and shopping in one trip!