NYC is rapidly becoming one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S. Multiple plans for tackling climate change are in the works as New Yorkers are realizing that environmental issues are on the rise worldwide – and in our own backyards, too. We all can create a positive impact on our environment, making NYC sustainability a reality for our neighborhoods.
Is New York City a sustainable city?
Carbon emissions, landfill waste, air and water pollution and the use of fossil fuels has always been an issue for the concrete jungle known as the Big Apple. Fortunately, New York City is making major strides towards becoming a sustainable city through initiatives in transportation, waste management, retail, and energy.
The City has shown great progress by implementing legislation that’s facilitating a sustainable future. For example, the Climate Mobilization Act, enacted in 2019, set the city on a path towards carbon neutrality. Smaller policy changes make a difference, too – the citywide plastic bag ban took effect in 2020 to reduce the use of plastic bags in retail and encourage customers to utilize reusable bags.
Bike sharing programs such as Citi Bike and Revel have been developed and expanded upon to encourage the use of alternative forms of transportation and reduce gasoline-powered vehicle use. Citi Bike has around 34,000 bicycles in NY, granting New Yorkers greater accessibility to bike riding. Plus, the Department of Transportation has made plans to upgrade 20 miles of protected bike lanes by 2023, ensuring greater safety to cyclists.
Unlike conventional bus transportation, hybrid MTA buses use a diesel hybrid electric propulsion system which relies on both fuel and electricity, resulting in a reduction of gas emissions in public transportation. The MTA revealed it has over 1,300 low-emissions hybrid buses and 399 2nd generation hybrid buses up and ready to transport New Yorkers to their destinations.
Lastly, with NYC incentivizing residential solar installation, the solar movement is alive and well. Because of the tax incentives and electricity bill savings it provides, solar has become a great option for homeowners. Con Edison estimates that their customers have installed around 43,000 solar projects, and around 9,000 customers are subscribed to community solar programs.
Interested in solar for your NYC home? Get in touch with us.
What environmental sustainability issues is NYC facing?
Although it’s fair to say that NYC is making much-needed strides to become a more environmentally-friendly city, we still have a long way to go to protect our future as the climate crisis looms.
One issue NYC faces is coastal resilience. Data shows that in the near future, Lower Manhattan, for example, will face tremendous flooding due to climate change, threatening critical infrastructure, homes, and businesses. Fortunately, the City plans to invest $900 million in climate adaptation projects to protect our coastlines. The Financial District and Seaport Climate Resilience Master Plan will feature a multilevel, elevated waterfront which will extend the shoreline of the East River and protect from sea level rise.
Air quality in NYC is a major environmental concern due to its health risks. Emissions from fossil fuel combustion cause densely populated cities to have higher concentrations of two common air pollutants – fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3). Both of these pollutants are linked to serious illnesses and deaths, especially from respiratory and cardiac diseases. Despite regulatory improvements, air pollution contributes to 6 percent of deaths in NYC annually.
NYC is a city full of waste – simply taking a walk around your neighborhood on garbage day is proof of that! Our city sends millions of tons of waste to landfills and incinerators every year, which in turn releases tons of emissions. In 2015, Former Mayor De Blasio set a goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, a goal which necessitates the development of stronger recycling and composting programs in order to divert waste. However, due to limited and stagnant efforts from City Hall, the city has not made much progress. Recycling rates are at the lowest they’ve been in years, and unfortunately, earlier this year Mayor Adams decided to cut the budget of the Sanitation Department’s Curbside Composting program.
What is NYC doing about climate change?
Former Mayor Bloomberg kicked off his initiative for a greener city by implementing the PlaNYC in 2007. PlaNYC was implemented to support efforts to reduce waste with recycling, to create parks within every neighborhood, to adopt renewable energy sources, and to improve air quality.
This plan was absorbed into OneNYC in 2015. OneNYC takes PlaNYC’s goals further by promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. With the former Mayor De Blasio issuing an executive order to adopt the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, New York City established itself as a city that takes climate action.
Another plan in action is the NYC Climate Mobilization Act (CMA), passed by the City Council in 2019. This legislative package is a set of sustainability laws that put NYC’s buildings on a path toward lower greenhouse gas emissions. Local Law 92 and 94 are a pair of laws mandating the installation of “sustainable roofing zones” – a green roof, solar panels, or a combination of the two – on all rooftops undergoing major construction. Local Law 95 requires buildings to display their energy efficiency grades on for the public to see. Local Law 96 established Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to help building owners fund energy efficiency upgrades.
Considered the cornerstone of the CMA, Local Law 97 set emissions limits for buildings greater than 25,000 square feet. These buildings are required to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2024 and then by 80% by 2050. Owners of these buildings must submit their yearly emissions reports starting in May 2025 or they will face heavy penalties.
6 Ways New Yorkers can Positively Impact NYC’s Environment
Although our city officials are implementing plans to help the environment, there’s ways New Yorkers can positively contribute to the fight against climate change and reduce their carbon footprints too.
1. Invest in Solar Energy & Switch to Electric Appliances
If you’re a homeowner in NYC, one of the best ways to make an impact is by investing in a rooftop solar system. Solar panels allow you to harness the sun’s energy to power your home, reducing, or eliminating, your reliance on fossil fuels coming from the grid. Once you install solar, you have access to clean, reliable, and free energy for decades.
Many of our customers choose to take their impact even further by electrifying their homes. Making all-electric upgrades to your home, such as air source heating and electric water heating, after going solar allows you to run your home completely clean. Upgrading to electric appliances not only helps you save on energy costs, but it also supports a cleaner and healthier environment for you and your loved ones.
Want to learn more about installing solar on your NYC home? Get in touch with us.
2. Support Local Agriculture
Urban farming is crucial to NYC’s sustainability efforts. Buying produce locally helps to cut down on waste and on emissions from transportation, and supports local biodiversity. Local farming also improves air quality and gives communities access to affordable, fresh food.
Farmer’s markets are an excellent way to support local agriculture – GrowNYC hosts Greenmarkets every week at locations throughout the five boroughs, including Union Square in Manhattan and Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. Some Greenmarket events also offer textile recycling and composting opportunities.
Depending on where you live or work, rooftop gardening is something you can take up on your own. In fact, Brooklyn SolarWorks’s HQ now has its very own rooftop garden! Our garden has a variety of fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, peppers, eggplants, edamame, carrots, watermelons, bok choy, and more.
3. Shop Local & Second Hand
Shopping locally benefits the local economy and the environment. It reduces waste and cuts down on transportation emissions. Purchasing clothing or home goods second hand from thrift stores, consignment shops, or stoop sales can help to reduce waste (and help you find something unique!).
Composting is the practice of recycling organic waste, like leftover food, into fertilizer for soil or energy. Composting does wonders for the environment – it cuts down on methane emissions from food waste, reduces the need for chemical fertilizer, and aids in water retention in soil.
Though citywide composting is limited, there are opportunities in certain neighborhoods. If you live under community boards Brooklyn 1, 2, 6, and 7, Manhattan 6 and 7, and Bronx 8 you can sign up for Curbside Composting. There are also a number of food scrap drop-off sites throughout the city.
5. Use Alternative Forms of Transportation
Fortunately, we live in a city that provides plenty of transportation alternatives. With the subways, buses, and bike shares available, there are now many ways to get around without using a car. When you choose to utilize these means of transportation as opposed to cars, you can significantly reduce your personal carbon footprint.
6. Educate Others on Sustainability
Sustainability efforts spread by word of mouth. Choosing to make sustainable lifestyle changes can have a ripple effect. By encouraging your friends, family, and neighbors to take public transportation, recycle more often, or install solar on their homes, you can make an impact within your very own community.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint One Day at a Time
NYC sustainability efforts are moving a positive direction, with New Yorkers pitching in on both legislative and individual levels. New York City deserves to become a city that is cleaner, safer and more sustainable for you, your loved ones and the next generation thereafter.
If you’re a homeowner in NYC, switching to clean energy is one of the best ways to make a difference. After installing solar, you’ll be able to say that you are making a difference on our planet and our city.
Ready to make the switch? Contact us to get started.
In 2015, Brooklyn SolarWorks landed in Gowanus with a mission to bring affordable flat roof solar to local homeowners. We’ve overcome barriers to develop industry-leading approaches to permitting, design, and…