It's undeniable that New York City is known for...its trash. There's trash and junk everywhere. When I first moved to New York, I was really disturbed by the excess all around me. Not just the trash piled on the curb, but the constant use of resources: double-bagging for a pack of gum, take-out containers galore, free newspapers left and right, three menus and a message from a church under my door... I slowly learned how to navigate the landscape of waste and find my own ways to be eco-friendly in a city that demands so much of the planet. From always carrying a collapsible shopping bag in my purse to buying a reusable water bottle and ordering take-out as infrequently as possible, I found little ways to reduce my own trash. My next goal is composting in my apartment. One day, though, it occurred to me...is New York really hating on the planet all that much? Sure, it's a relatively dirty city, but separating cleanliness from waste, I started realizing the everyday eco benefits that we take for granted. Imagine if all 8 million people were given a car and re-allocated to the suburbs?! The MTA is a necessary function of New York City, but also a huge planet-saver. And the trash...well, with recycling plans in place, when you look closer at the trash mountains (ok, don't get too close), half of it is sorted out as paper and bottles. There are large-scale practices in place that really support the health of the planet.
That leaves us with individual initiative - what can we all do every day to support the planet in smaller ways, while still living a big-city lifestyle? Buy tree-free paper products from Duane Reade? Go bagless at Whole Foods (for your 10 cent rebate!)? Bring your coffee from home in a travel mug? Get what you can second-hand from one of the million thrift stores in Brooklyn? Always request an email receipt? Shop local instead of ordering from Amazon, skip Fresh Direct and go to the store instead (one less box, one less delivery via truck)? Adopt an animal from a local shelter (because animals have over-population/resource problems too!)? Clicking the "I'm Eco Friendly" box when ordering from Seamless (it's inevitable sometimes)? Returning your plastic bags to recycling locations (most grocery stores)? Try one of New York's world-class vegetarian restaurants?
People in NYC care about the planet after all, and it's encouraging to find businesses and organizations that promote an eco-friendly lifestyle and green practices. Here is a list of fun and functional eco-minded businesses and organizations to support in the city. Feel free to chime in with any hidden eco-gems you come across!