Emerald City

March 6, 2009 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

taxi_hybridNew York isn’t widely known as a “green city”. It’s overshadowed by Seattle, San Francisco and a host of European cities that have high-tech recycling programs and fancy compost bins, but the Big Apple is getting greener every day. Here are some of the cool green things that have been happening in New York lately:

Food!

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recently released a document called “Food in the Public Interest,” which outlines a groundbreaking plan to improve human and environmental health in the City and puts a strong emphasis on promoting local food systems, farmers markets and urban gardens. A Brooklyn Healthy Food Campaign is also underway to promote expanded food access in the borough, plus there’s a Brooklyn Food Conference coming up in May. Finally, a Food Co-op has just opened its doors in the South Bronx, and there are about a half dozen other planned co-ops in various stages of development in Brooklyn.

Transit!

In the past couple of years, New York has added over 100 miles of bike lanes in its car-dominated streets, and recently I’ve noticed the addition in my own neighborhood where a few main thoroughfares have been painted with bike-friendly stripes. New York has the largest hybrid-electric bus fleet in North America, and although Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC effort to switch over the City’s entire taxi fleet to hybrids and electric cars by 2012 was shot down in court, there has still been a noticeable increase in hybrid taxis on the road. The Toyota Prius has also gotten pretty popular in town, and I feel like every time I go out I see one cruising around.

Recycling!

New York has the country’s largest recycling program, which requires all residential and commercial buildings to recycle paper, metal, plastic and glass. In 2002, the recycling program was essentially shut down due to budget problems resulting from the September 11th attacks, but recycling was restored in 2004 and in 2008 the City recycled over 6,000 tons of trash per day, up by about 700 tons daily from 2007. And although you won’t see recycling bins on subway platforms, the garbage thrown out in NYC subway stops is sorted and recycled after collection. Last month, New York State put forth the “Bigger Better Bottle Bill” which aims to add non-carbonated beverage bottles (from juice, iced tea and bottle water) to the list of bottles that you can return for a deposit (which currently only includes beer and soda).

Trees!

The Mayor’s Million Trees NYC project aims to plant a million new trees throughout the city by 2020, and since it started in 2006 the initiative has put over 170,000 trees in the ground. My favorite part of this project is their website, which invites you to ask for a tree to be planted on your street. There are two new trees that just went in on my block, and I look forward to watching them grow – along with NYC’s sustainability – over the coming years.

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