Posts filed under ‘recycling’
New 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:
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.
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.
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. (more…)
Look at these snazzy glasses I bought at Pier One. Or Ikea. They only cost $10 each. Can you believe it? What a deal.
Gotcha! I actually didn’t pay anything for these glasses, and they’re not even glasses at all – they’re jars. But I’m using them as glasses, because every time I buy glassware it ends up broken (thanks, Boyfriend), and it’s not worth buying new ones. Instead, we just look for peanut butter and jam and pickles and whatnot that come in glass jars, and when they’re empty we wash them out and use them for drinking. They’re free, durable, and sometimes even attractive. The big ones are good for water and the little ones work well when we’re treating ourselves to a cocktail or glass of wine.
So forget buying new glasses at the store. It’s a waste of time, money and resources. Next time you’re shopping for food, think about the container that it comes in and whether or not you can re-use it. Be cool like me and drink from jars!
New York City has this great tradition, where the Sanitation and Parks Departments pick up all the tossed-out Christmas trees, bring them down to the park and grind them up into mulch. I had the great pleasure of volunteering at one of the parks where the mulching was taking place last week, and it was really something. As you can see in the photo below, they had this big industrial-strength chipper and within a few hours had turned well over a hundred trees into a huge, piney pile of mulch. I had the foresight to bring my car with me (cars are bad bad bad), and filled it up with bags of mulch that now exist in the form of a large, decomposing lump in my back yard. Come spring time (or as soon as the snow melts and it’s not unbearably cold outside) I’ll use the piney stuff to make paths between my garden plots – this year it’s too fresh to use on the plants themselves. Yay for mulch! And more on my garden coming soon…
The NY Times reported this morning that the recycling industry throughout the US is being negatively affected by the economic meltdown. It seems that the prices for recyclable materials have dropped, thereby making it unaffordable for many recycling companies to keep collecting materials. In big cities like New York, it’s not causing to much of a problem, because the cost of sending trash to the landfill is still higher than the cost of getting it recycled, but small-town Americans are seeing their recycling programs suspended or cut back, as the companies who collect their reycling are running out of space, an the companies who turn the recyclables into new stuff will only buy the materials at exceptionally low prices.
Contrary to my post the other day, this scenario is an example of how the economic crisis is, in fact, bad for the environment. Even if the crisis is causing Americans to cut back on their consumption of consumer goods, more of their garbage is now going to the landfill instead of the recycling plant, which balances out any possible positive results of our new found stinginess.
If the current government an the incoming administration support a bailout for the Auto Industry in the name of saving jobs and promoting greener cars for Americans, I think it’s only fair that they also institute some sort of recycling sector bailout that would give incentives to companies to buy USA-made recycled products. Many of our recyclable materials have traditionally been sent to China to get processed and sold back to us as paper, car parts and other small consumer goods, so promoting local processors and giving American companies a reason (tax breaks) to buy our own trash and make it into new things here would have the dual effect of keeping money and jobs here at home, and keeping trash out of our landfills. The new administration may also want to consider simply outlawing the use of newly mined or logged materials in times when recyclables are in surplus (like now).
Aside from just reducing landfill tonnage, recycling saves massive amounts of energy and other resources – there’s a great Economist article that outlined all of this a couple years ago – give it a read for more info.
Boyfriend and I have officially left our apartment in Brooklyn and have been in Massachusetts freeloading off our parents and getting ready for our big trip. Did I mention our trip? We’re heading out on the road for a couple of months to see the country and blow our savings (trip blog is coming soon). So far we’ve already done a great job blowing our savings – we bought a car that turned out to be a lemon, and now we’re buying another car so that we don’t end up stranded in rural Alabama. This trip better turn out to be fun and liberating, because so far the whole ordeal has been a bit of a pain in the arse.
But back to my point, we quit our jobs and moved out of our apartment. Anyone who’s ever moved will probably agree that moving is a great opportunity to clean out your home, sort through your things and ultimately get rid of all the garbage that you’ve accumulated. I have a lot of trouble throwing things away because it’s wasteful, so the whole moving out process was rather stressful. Plus, we had about 3o0 pounds of partially-digested compost to get rid of, and a truck to rent, and a couple of cats to pack up and relocate to their grandparents’ house in Massachusetts.
After everything I learned a few good tips for green moving: (more…)
Most people probably don’t find compost very sexy, but I’m actually quite passionate about it. Organic waste, like food scraps, sticks, leaves, dried flowers, etc. aren’t really “waste” at all – they’re potential dirt. And dirt is good. All you really need is a bin and some worms, and you can trun your food waste and yard scraps into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. And in New York, which is plagued by soil shortage and an expensive waste disposal system, compostable garbage should be coveted.
Unfortunately, most New Yorkers send these nuggets of nutrients to the dump rather than keeping them around. And I really can’t blame them. There isn’t much space in the city for composting – even if you have the cahones to set up an indoor worm bin, most New Yorkers don’t have enough space inside their apartments to squeeze one into. The city should really set up a more effective system for collecting yard and food waste (right now all we’ve got is a yard waste collection program). But that’s not the point of my writing today – I’m here to discuss a more urgent and somewhat personal matter.
My apartment, as you may know, has an outdoor deck area with plenty of space for composting. As you may not know, however, is that Boyfriend and I are leaving the city at the end of this month and heading out on a road trip (more on that later). This means that I have to somehow get rid of my compost before the next tenants arrive to take over our (beautiful) home and garden. And I can imagine that they’re not going to want to deal with this: (more…)
I highly recommend checking out this video and passing it along. It’s about 20 mins long, so you should set a little time aside to watch it, but it’s highly worthwhile and very informative.