There are exciting new ways that NYC is becoming more environmentally friendly – and still more we can all do.
By Dan Garodnick
In my tenure in the City Council, I have worked hard to push the envelope on ways to protect the environment — from authoring the City’s Green Energy Code, to requiring new commercial buildings to have sensors to turn out lights, to requiring better access to recycling in residential buildings.
And I am pleased to report some big progress on recycling, just from last week.
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn this, but New York City has consistently had notoriously low recycling rates. It’s my hope that that is about to change.
Last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced an important new recycling initiative which will save the City $600,000 each year, and lead to more than 50,000 tons of waste diverted from landfills. The best estimate is that we’ll raise our recycling rate from our current 15 percent to 30 percent by the year 2017.
The biggest change is that New Yorkers can now recycle hard plastics, including toys, shampoo bottles, coffee cups, food containers and hangers. You can find a full list of what you can and cannot recycle on the Department of Sanitation’s website. Quick tip: your old CDs and hummus containers are okay, but don’t recycle old cassettes or toothpaste tubes!
Don’t know what day to put out your recyclables? You can check refuse and recycling collection dates on nyc.gov.
This will not only save the City money and divert items from our landfills, but it’s also very important for our environment. According to the Department of Sanitation, for every ton of paper we recycle, we save four metric tons of carbon equivalent, which is the same as taking one car off the road for eight months.
Even better, by recycling metal items such as cans and tinfoil, we save the equivalent of five metric tons of carbon for every ton of material, which is the same as taking one car off the road for an entire year.
Of note, the City’s pilot composting program in public schools also cut the amount of garbage those schools sent to landfills by up to 38 percent. Did you know you can bring your compost to some greenmarkets? You can find participating locations on GrowNYC’s website, grownyc.org.
How else can you prevent greenhouse gas emissions?
• Did you know home solar panels can pay for themselves in six years? My office prepared a factsheet with incentives available if you adopt solar panels. And, if you have questions about installing solar panels on your roof, visit the Department of Building’s FAQ page.
• Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, will save you energy and money. In fact, you could save over $100 over the bulb’s lifetime. And of course, be sure to recycle old CFLs.
• Another tip to save money and energy: unplug home electronics when they aren’t in use. Seventy-five percent of electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they are plugged in but turned off. By using a power strip you can save up to $200 each year off your energy bill.
Better recycling in residential developments
Starting next year, new apartment developments will need to set aside space for recycling. I authored a piece of legislation which I hope will change New Yorkers’ recycling habits by making recycling as convenient as possible.
A greener East Midtown
As we consider the Mayor’s proposed rezoning of East Midtown, I firmly believe that any new buildings that arise from this rezoning should be held to the highest environmental standards. In New York, it is our buildings that are the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (in fact, they account for 75 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions) and we need to be responsible stewards to future New Yorkers. For the first time ever, the Department of City Planning has included a sustainability requirement in a proposed rezoning resolution. Buildings that seek increased density under this rezoning would need to outperform the New York City Energy Conservation Code by at least 15%. This is a very good jumping off point for conversations about how the City can incentivize green design.
Dan Garodnick is a City Council Member and candidate for re-election representing the Upper East Side.
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