Living Local: New York

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The Living Local series is an insider’s look at local environmental efforts and accessibility. Take a trip around the U.S. without leaving your computer!

New York is the third most populous state in the nation and houses the largest city in the country. Even though such a booming population could create the potential for a great deal of wasted resources, the Empire State supports a variety of programs and initiatives to encourage its millions of residents to live a local, simplified lifestyle. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. How Green is the Big Apple?
  2. Recycling Rules
  3. Tightening Its Belt
  4. From Junk to Jewels
  5. Fresh Produce From a Grower Near You
  6. Urban Gardening Breathes New Life Into Cities

How Green is the Big Apple?

At just above the national average with a 34 percent recycling rate, the most populous city in the nation still has its work cut out for it, especially compared to a city like San Francisco, which boasts a higher rate at 69 percent.

Photo: AngMoKio, Wikimedia

According to the 2008 U.S. Census, New York's population tipped the scales at 19.5 million, with just over 8 million in New York City alone. Photo: AngMoKio, Wikimedia

In addition to being vigilant about recycling, New Yorkers can also visit the New York Wasteless Web site to find everything from current recycling rules to the city’s recycling history.

The Wasteless program initiated a pilot public spaces recycling program in order to increase recovery rates, and residents can visit the Wasteless site to find drop-off spots near them. The city also runs a compost project and offers a Christmas tree compost pick-up service every year.

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Recycling Rules

New York State mandated that all municipalities must have local recycling laws. Residents in each NYC borough should visit the Wasteless Web site to determine applicable rules. In addition, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Web site is an excellent place to to find information on everything from where to recycle batteries and cell phones to the New York State Automobile Recyclers Initiative.

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Tightening Its Belt

The state has also implemented many waste-reduction programs to encourage reducing waste and recycling, including:

  • A plastic bag reduction law that requires some stores to set up bag recycling programs
  • A Green Schools Challenge that encourages and recognizes schools implementing waste reduction programs
  • A database of local recycling coordinators

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From Junk to Jewels

In addition to utilizing the usual reuse Web sites such as Freecycle and Craigslist, the NYSDEC Web site also has extensive listings of local organizations from churches to jails that accept materials for reuse. If residents can’t find a local reuse outlet, the site also maintains a database of material exchange companies throughout the country.

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Photo: Wikimedia

New York City has been praised for its transportation system, making green commuting a way of life. Photo: Wikimedia

Fresh Produce From A Grower Near You

While New York may not have a year-round growing season, it certainly makes great use of the bountiful months of spring, summer and fall. From Albany to Long Island, the state boasts a wealth of farmers’ markets.

The Council on the Environment of New York City sponsors Greenmarkets throughout the five boroughs. Community Markets can be found in Westchester and Rockland Counties, as well as scattered throughout NYC.

Also, the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York lists markets and resources throughout the state for those interested in living locally.

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Urban Gardening Breathes New Life Into Cities

Square footage and green space is often an issue, especially in population-dense cities like New York. However, community and rooftop gardens are springing up all over the Empire State.

For example, the Capital District Community Gardens serves Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady Counties by helping residents, “improve their neighborhoods through community gardening, healthy food access and urban greening programs.”

Rochester Roots has a similar mission and works to improve the quality of life for those living with a limited income in the city of Rochester. In addition, city dwellers can easily see where their food comes from by making a short trip upstate to one of the many working farms like the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills.

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