40% of food in America goes uneaten—it’s an almost unbelievable fact. Here in New York City, around 20% of our waste stream is food waste. For decades, this food waste has been sent to landfills where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas and large contributor to global warming.
Instead of sending all this food to landfill we want to first prevent, then recover, and finally recycle any remaining food.
In recent years, New York City has shown incredible leadership on food waste recycling, and our apple cores and potato peels are starting to meet a better end.
Back in 2013, City Council passed two laws to jump start the recycling of food waste. These laws established a curbside organics collection pilot and organics diversion requirements for businesses. My colleague Eric Goldstein has written about the residential program and commercial requirements, if you want to learn more.
In the years since, New York City Department of Sanitation has been hard at work implementing these two laws. And it shows—with three great examples in the last few weeks alone.
First, as of yesterday, the New York City curbside organics collection program serves 2 million people, making it the largest program of its kind in the country. By the end of this year it will serve 3.3 million people and by the end of 2018, all NYC residents will have access to curbside organics collection or to a convenient drop off location. This is no small feat and the city’s leadership and dedication on this issue will help drive development of food recycling infrastructure and hopefully inspire action by other cities as well.
Second, just last week, the NYC Commissioner of Sanitation Kathryn Garcia announced a proposal to dramatically expand the number of commercial food establishments required to separate their organic waste and send it for beneficial use. Currently the largest 350 or so commercial food establishments are required to separate their organic waste, but this new proposal will add approximately 2000 businesses. Department of Sanitation estimates this will increase diversion of organic material from the commercial sector to 50,000 tons a year.
Third, New York City’s Department of Sanitation’s Foundation for New York’s Strongest hosted the first NYC Food Waste Fair yesterday. The Food Waste Fair—with more than 1000 people in attendance—sought to equip NYC businesses with the tools to address food waste. There was a great panel on food waste policy (including my colleague Mark Izeman, city staff, and experts), workshops for businesses, and dozens of exhibitors.
With the city’s dedication on this issue and so many interested stakeholders, we look forward to building on good food waste recycling leadership and making similar strides on prevention and recovery to holistically address food waste. [NRDC]
What Can You Learn About Food at the Eco-Carnival?
On Sunday, October 11 the 2nd Annual Green City Challenge Eco-Carnival will be presented at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden on Avenue C and East 9th Street from 12 – 4 pm. This event is open to everyone and is absolutely free!
At the Eco-Carnival, you will learn about recycling, energy, green building, composting and much more. Additionally, you will learn about ways to purchase, prepare and eat food that is environmentally sustainable and healthy for your family.
What is the connection between food and the environment? First of all, industrial agriculture is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Not only is industrial agriculture heavily mechanized, but most of the food you buy in the grocery store or in fast food restaurants is produced using a lot of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, and fungicides. In other words, the main ingredient in your food is oil and other fossil fuels! Industrial Agriculture is responsible for a large portion of Greenhouse Gases which cause climate change. Additionally, most processed foods are made with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which have not been properly tested for safety and do not have to be labelled.
So, you may be wondering, how can you feed your family with good, healthy and environmentally responsible food? In New York City, we are very fortunate to have the Greenmarkets. At the Greenmarkets, local farmers from up to 100 miles away bring their produce to market. Most, if not all the vendors use organic methods to grow their food. When you buy food from a Greenmarket, you not only get fresh, locally grown food, but you also get a wonderful experience of being at a market where everyone is looking for healthy, environmentally responsible ways to grow, prepare and eat food.
At the Eco-Carnival on Sunday, October 11, there will be one or two booths where you can watch demonstrations of how to prepare simple and non-expensive dishes with fresh, healthy, and environmentally responsible ingredients for your family. In addition, the Go Fish Challenge, one of the many fun and interactive activities that will be part of the event, will ask you to differentiate between species of fish and other seafood that is environmentally sustainable or not. Keep in mind that most seafood is not sustainably produced and is often not healthy for you for various reasons.
When you attend the Eco-Carnival on Sunday, October 11 at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden on Avenue C and East 9th Street from 12 – 4 pm, we hope you will be inspired to change the way you eat as well as the way you do other things in order to be more environmentally responsible.
Scrambling for last minute Christmas presents? Don’t stress! Here are a few tips on finding the perfect eco-friendly Christmas gift!
Buying toys for your children, nieces, or nephews can be such a stressful hassle. No one wants to stand in line for hours to buy that doll or game after waging war against other customers. Plus, thinking about the energy and resources used to create that toy certainly is no fun. Besides, the kids will probably be bored of that toy by New Years! What if there was a more eco-friendly option to buying gifts?
This year, skip the long lines and angry customers, and opt instead to rent a present! There are options such as Toys Trunk that allow you to rent toys. It might seem like a strange option, but renting a gift is certainly an environmentally-friendly option for this Christmas. By renting, you’re cutting down on the energy and resources needed to create another toy that’ll probably just end up in the garbage heap somewhere down the line.
(Just a few of the toys that Toys Trunk has to offer!)
2) DIY Gifts!
A fun, crafty way to give a greener Christmas gift is to make your own gift! With so many tutorials out there, it’s never been easier to make your own gift for that special someone. DIY gifts are great because they cut down on energy and other resources needed for production and disposal – perfect for a green gift. The best part of a DIY gift, however, is that your gift will be unique and heartfelt and made with the receiver in mind.
DIY gifts may sound a bit intimidating at first. However, there are plenty of tutorials that will help you every fun step of the way. Some fun DIY gift ideas perfect for winter are: journals, beanies, mugs, and even hot chocolate kits!
(This year, I crocheted scarves for my best friends!)
The holidays can be the most wonderful and stressful time of the year, so why not help others to de-stress just a bit with the gift of a fun or relaxing activity! Instead of generically gifting lotions, you can opt for a gift certificate to a local sauna or spa, such as Rejuvenate Spa, that uses natural, eco-friendly products. Anyone will appreciate that perfect gift of relaxation after the holidays. And if you’re stumped on an idea for the epicure in your life, why not give them a gift card for a local, vegetarian/vegan restaurant? This idea is especially great for a best friend, family member, or significant other, since you can spend some quality time together!
(Besides, who wouldn’t want to relax after hectic holidays?)
We hope these tips helped you figure out the perfect green Christmas gift for your loved ones! Warm wishes and happy holidays from all of us at Green City Challenge to you!
Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year for enjoying time with family and friends as you sit down to a Thanksgiving feast. However, it can also be a great start for some eco-friendly Thanksgiving traditions. Here are some tips to make your Thanksgiving feast greener and more eco-friendly.
1. Go Vegetarian/Vegan!
For a healthy and eco-friendly Thanksgiving feast with your friends and family, you can opt for vegetarian and vegan options. Traditional Thanksgiving staples like cranberry sauce, sweet potato casseroles, and gravy come with vegetarian and vegan options that are healthy and deliciously eco-friendly. Of course, you can also add in your own favorite vegetarian and vegan foods to your Thanksgiving feast!
Gone are the days when vegetarians and vegans sat around awkwardly while family and friends dug into their turkey! Opt for vegetarian alternatives, such as Tofurky or Quorn products. Remember to warn relatives with soy or gluten allergies before they chow down, however, as these vegetarian/vegan turkey substitutes often contain wheat and/or soy products.
2. Green Utensils
Disposable cups, napkins, utensils, and plates can build up fast, and lead to a large amount of waste and garbage used by all of your Thanksgiving guests. To minimize unwanted waste from your Thanksgiving dinner, use reusable eating utensils instead. However, if you really must use disposable utensils, try to use biodegradable utensils, such as the products listed on Eco-Products.
Before Thanksgiving dinner, you can also ask your guests to bring reusable containers for any leftovers they may want to bring home. However, if you feel uncomfortable asking, you can also prepare reusable containers for your relatives to borrow for the mounds of leftovers.
3. Nature’s Decorations
Instead of store-bought decorations, use natural decorations! You can place pumpkins, gourds, apples, and Indian corn around the house for autumn-friendly decorations, or in a basket as a beautiful autumn-themed centerpiece. You can also even find natural autumn decor in your own backyard with acorns, tree branches, and pine cones!
For a natural, autumn-themed air freshener, use cinnamon sticks, vanilla extract, or cedar oil in a mason jar to give your home a cozy, autumn scent!
(Apples in a basket always feel so autumn-ey!)
4. Rescue a Turkey!
You’ve already saved a turkey by opting for a vegetarian/vegan turkey, so why not rescue another one? Organizations like Farm Sanctuary allow you to sponsor and rescue a turkey from the Thanksgiving dinner table so they can live long, happy lives on sanctuaries. While not necessarily an eco-friendly decision, rescuing a turkey is definitely a more animal-friendly Thanksgiving tradition we could all adopt for our feathered friends.
(Thanksgiving turkeys will be so much happier!)
From all of us at Green City Challenge, we wish you and your families a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!
Thanks to the development of new resources, programs and smartphone apps that are focused on green efforts, it has become easier than ever for people who live in cities to lead lifestyles that are more environmentally friendly. Here are just a few of the ways technology can make green living more seamless for city dwellers.
1. Online City Resources
Many cities that offer recycling and disposal services publish online guides that detail policies and offer helpful tips. These resources, such as New York City’s “Recycle More, Waste Less” page, are the best places to go to clear up any
confusion or common questions about what can and can’t be recycled. This particular New York City resource also links to other useful websites, including a service that will significantly reduce junk mail as well as an educational recycling game for the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.
2. Recycling Apps
Going a step beyond listing a city’s recycling rules, there’s an app that can help people recycle when they’re in an unfamiliar area. There are also a few of the best green living apps out there, including the iRecycle Recycling Guide from Earth911. This app can come in handy for people who travel frequently or who are in a neighborhood or part of town that doesn’t offer recycling pickup services. Users can simply input the type of item they’d like to recycle and the app will point them to the nearest recycling facility.
3. Food Apps
Sustainable eating is an important aspect of green living, but it can be difficult to remember exactly which foods are sustainable and which aren’t. Also recommended is the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is perfect for fish and sushi lovers. This app features a list of seafood choices that are ranked by “best choice,” “good alternative” or “avoid,” depending on how sustainable each variety is.
4. Shopping Apps
In addition to providing information on which foods to buy, there are apps that offer environmental safety rankings for other types of products. Bennett’s recommendations include the Dirty Dozen: Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides and the EWG Sunscreen Guide. The Dirty Dozen is a handy resource for purchasing fruit and vegetables. Shoppers can access a list of the types of produce that contain the most pesticides as well as a list of the 15 cleanest types of conventionally grown fruits and veggies. Similarly, the EWG Sunscreen Guide offers details on which sunscreen ingredients are hazardous to the environment or to people’s health.
5. Programs in Development
Dirty Dozen, EWG Shopping Guide, Seafood Watch and iRecycle Recycling Guide are all excellent apps for city-dwellers looking to make more green, sustainable choices. But there are even newer apps and programs to look forward to because developers are hard at work creating more inventive and easy-to-use methods of promoting green living. Recently New York City hosted Reinvent Green, a sustainability-focused hackathon that challenged developers to create digital tools that could help New Yorkers lead greener lives. As Zoe Fox of Mashable reported, some of the award-winning apps include GreenCan, which locates the nearest recycling bin and lists which materials it accepts, and FreshFixNYC, which helps New Yorkers search through the available products at farmer’s markets.
With developers hard at work, there continue to be technological advances that help city dwellers find sustainable products and make the most of recycling and disposal services. With just a few of these apps and services close at hand, every individual can contribute to making her city a cleaner and greener place to live.
By Guy Schumaker. Guy is a freelance writer and editor. He loves exploring the technology sector and spends his weekends developing new apps.