Clean energy holds immense importance for nonprofits in New York City. By embracing renewable energy solutions such as solar power, nonprofits can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also strengthen their organizational resilience and deepen their impact on the communities they serve.

Read to learn more about the benefits of solar panels for nonprofits in NYC and find out if it makes sense for your organization!

Can Nonprofits get Solar Panels in NYC?

New York City nonprofits play a crucial role in serving communities and addressing societal needs. However, amidst the challenges they face, one question arises: Can nonprofits harness the power of solar energy to push their missions forward? The short answer is yes.

Now, not every roof in NYC is suitable for solar. Just like residential homes and businesses, nonprofit roofs need to be assessed. The ability to go solar depends on factors like energy usage, sun exposure, and roof space. What sets the stage for NYC-based nonprofits to make the switch to solar is the array of super-rich incentives that make solar panel adoption not only possible but highly affordable.

solar canopy installed in Manhattan for Harlem Grown nonprofit with community gardens.
Solar canopy installed for Harlem Grown in Harlem, NYC.

Want to see if your roof is fit for solar and what incentives you qualify for? Schedule a free consultation!

Benefits of Solar Panels for Nonprofits

Cost-Saving Benefits

Nonprofits often operate on tight budgets, with every dollar allocated to critical programs and services. Clean energy, such as solar power, offers a sustainable solution to reduce energy expenses. By generating electricity from renewable sources, nonprofits can lower and stabilize their utility bills, freeing up funds to invest in their core missions and better serve their communities.

Con Edison electricity bill that shows solar savings in Queens, NYC.
This is a June 2023 bill from one of our customers in Queens. Despite summer typically being an expensive season for electricity, he did not have to purchase any energy from Con Edison and only paid the $18 service charge.

Environmental Impact

In 2019, to combat the ever-looming climate crisis, New York City put in place the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA). The CMA will put NYC on the path to reducing building carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050. For NYC-based nonprofits, running operations on clean energy can substantially reduce their carbon footprint, aligning not only with their practices with sustainability goals but the city’s as well.

Enhancement of Public Image

Public perception plays a crucial role in the success of nonprofits. Embracing clean energy initiatives, such as installing solar panels, enhances the public image of nonprofits as forward-thinking and socially responsible organizations. This can attract positive attention from donors, volunteers, and the broader community, bolstering support and amplifying the nonprofit’s impact.

Raise Awareness About Sustainability

Clean energy initiatives offer nonprofits valuable educational opportunities to engage with their communities and raise awareness about sustainability. Through programs, workshops, and outreach efforts centered around renewable energy, nonprofits can empower individuals to take action towards a greener future, fostering a sense of environmental stewardship and collective responsibility.

Solar canopy on top of nonprofit in Park Slope, Brooklyn with the view of the Manhattan skyline in background.
Solar canopy on top of CHiPS in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Long-Term Stability

Investing in clean energy provides nonprofits with greater stability and resilience in the face of fluctuating energy prices and regulatory changes. By generating their own renewable energy on-site, nonprofits can hedge against future Con Edison rate increases, ensuring more predictable operating expenses over the long term. This stability fosters organizational sustainability and strengthens the nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission in the years to come.

Solar Incentives for Nonprofits in New York

Federal Investment Tax Credit Direct Pay

Nonprofits in NYC can take advantage of the Federal Investment Tax Credit, which offers a tax credit equal to 30% of the post-rebate cost. 

Unlike homeowners and for-profit businesses, tax-exempt entities like nonprofits are eligible for a direct pay option, meaning they can receive a cash payment for the value of the tax credit instead of using it to offset tax liability.

NYSERDA Solar Rebate

Nonprofits in NYC can also take advantage of the NYSERDA Solar Rebate, receiving $1.00 per watt for solar installations. This rebate further offsets the initial investment, making solar energy even more accessible for nonprofits.

Steps to Acquire Solar Panels for Nonprofits in NYC

Work with a Reputable Local Installer

Partnering with a reputable local installer, like Brooklyn SolarWorks, ensures quality workmanship, expertise in navigating local regulations, and ongoing support for your system.

solar installers standing in front of Brooklyn SolarWorks van in a neighborhood in NYC.
The Brooklyn SolarWorks Installation Crew!

Analyze Energy Needs and Potential Savings

Collaborate with your installer to analyze your organization’s energy needs and potential cost savings from solar panels. This helps in determining the optimal system size and design. You can get all of these answers and more by setting up a free consultation today!

Conduct Site Evaluation for Solar Panel Installation

Ensure your building is suitable for solar panels by conducting a thorough site evaluation with your installer. Factors such as roof orientation, shading, and structural integrity should be assessed.

The Brooklyn SolarWorks team doing a routine site evaluation.

Secure Funding and Determine Incentive Eligibility

Securing the necessary funding for your solar project is essential to its success. Explore various financing options, including grants, loans, and fundraising campaigns, to cover the upfront costs of solar installation. 

Additionally, work closely with your accountant to determine your nonprofit’s eligibility for solar incentives, such as the Federal Investment Tax Credit and NYSERDA Solar Rebate. By leveraging these incentives, you can significantly reduce the financial barriers to solar adoption and accelerate your organization’s transition to clean energy.

Funding Solar Projects for Nonprofits

Funding solar projects can bring about many challenges for local nonprofits. The upfront costs for solar and assessing your financing options can be daunting. 

Luckily, NYC is a place that is rich with solar incentives. By signing up for your free consultation with Brooklyn SolarWorks, we will be able to help you navigate what government incentives you qualify for as well as different payment options available for your project.

Besides incentives and financing, nonprofits can also fund their solar projects through the means of crowdfunding, fundraising, and community partnerships. 

Getting the local community involved in fundraising for your solar project also brings many other benefits like:

1. Building Awareness

Engaging the community raises awareness about the benefits of solar energy and the importance of sustainability, garnering support for solar projects.

2. Mobilizing Support

Community engagement mobilizes financial contributions, volunteer efforts, and in-kind donations to support solar initiatives, helping nonprofits reach their fundraising goals.

3. Fostering Collaboration

Collaborating with local stakeholders fosters partnerships and collective action, enabling nonprofits to pool resources and leverage community support for solar projects.

4. Demonstrating Impact

Community involvement demonstrates grassroots support and showcases the positive impact of solar projects, enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of nonprofit initiatives.

Find Out if Solar is Right for Your Nonprofit

The benefits of solar panels for nonprofits in NYC are ever-growing, ranging from cost savings to environmental stewardship and enhanced public image. With a wealth of incentives available and a clear roadmap for implementation, nonprofits can harness the benefits of solar energy to advance their missions and create a brighter, cleaner future for all. 

Take the first step today by securing your free consultation and join the clean energy revolution!

The Gowanus Canal, a waterway that goes through the heart of Brooklyn, is famous for its rich history and copious amounts of industrial pollution. However, recent efforts have been underway to clean up the canal’s murky waters and revitalize its surrounding ecosystem. 

In honor of Earth Month, we’re highlighting environmental issues that hit close to home (so close we can smell it from our office). Read on to learn about the canal’s past, present, and future and how you can contribute to a cleaner NYC.

History of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn

Dating back to the 1860’s, the Gowanus Canal was built to extend the industrial transportation route of the Erie Canal and New York Harbor into Brooklyn (the third largest city in America at the time). Businesses began to populate around the canal. Some of the popular industries around the canal included cement works, chemical plants, ink and paint factories, incinerators, and Manufactured Gas Plants (MGP).

Historic Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NYC in the 1870's. Filled with boats and surrounded by different industries.
Photo Credit: Gowanus Canal Conservancy

This rapid industrialization of the canal led to rampant pollution (untreated industrial waste, raw sewage, surface water), turning the canal into one of the most polluted waterways in the United States.

To try and combat the growing pollution in the waterway, a “Flushing Tunnel” was created in 1911 to replace the stagnant canal water with fresh, oxygen-rich water to improve water quality. This plan worked well until the 1960s when a mechanical failure caused it to shut down. The New York City Dept. of Environmental Protection restored and reactivated the Flushing Tunnel in 1999. Upgrades were last made in 2014.

What’s the Current State of the Gowanus Canal?

Over the years, industrial runoff, sewage discharge, and other pollutants have accumulated in its waters, leading to high levels of toxins and heavy metals. The canal’s murky waters are devoid of marine life, and foul odors often permeate the surrounding area. Despite efforts to mitigate pollution, the Gowanus Canal remains one of the most polluted water bodies in the United States.

Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NYC surrounded by trash and construction, present day.
Photo Credit: Newsweek

In April 2009, the US EPA proposed that the Gowanus Canal be placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). NPL is a roster of hazardous waste sites in the United States that are eligible for long-term remedial action (cleanup) under the Superfund program.

Impact of the Canal’s Environmental Contamination in NYC

Over decades of industrialization and neglect, the Gowanus Canal has become heavily contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including heavy metals, PCBs (man made chemicals), coal tar, and raw sewage. As a result, its environmental impact extends beyond the canal itself to its surrounding area in various ways.

Water Quality

The canal’s water quality is severely degraded, with high levels of toxins and pollutants. This contamination poses risks to aquatic life and public health, affecting both the canal ecosystem and nearby water bodies connected to it.

Ecosystem Degradations

The Gowanus Canal’s polluted waters have led to the decline or absence of many species of plants and animals. Habitats along the canal’s banks have been degraded, reducing biodiversity and ecological resilience.

Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NYC. Present day, using a barrier to stop pollution on the water's surface.
Photo Credit: Riverkeeper.org

Soil Contamination

Pollutants from the canal can seep into the surrounding soil, posing risks to human health and limiting land use options for nearby properties. Soil contamination may also affect urban agriculture and gardening initiatives in the area.

Health Risks

Exposure to pollutants from the Gowanus Canal can pose serious health risks to humans, including respiratory problems, skin irritation, and long-term health effects such as cancer. Residents and workers in the vicinity of the canal are particularly vulnerable to these risks.

Benefits of Cleaning Up the Gowanus Canal

Despite the challenges, efforts to clean up the Gowanus Canal offer numerous benefits for the community and the environment.

Reduce Pollution

Cleaning up the canal will significantly reduce pollution levels, improving the quality of water and air in the surrounding area.

Habitat Restoration

Restoring the health of the Gowanus Canal will create a conducive environment for diverse plant and animal species to thrive once again.

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

By mitigating pollution and restoring surrounding ecosystems, cleaning up the Gowanus Canal will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Local Gowanus businesses and residents are also helping to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by installing solar power and reducing their use on fossil fuels.

Multiple businesses surrounding the Gowanus Canal with solar panels of roofs.

Safer Recreational Activities

A clean and healthy Gowanus Canal will provide residents with safer opportunities for recreational activities such as boating and fishing.

Increased Property Values

Revitalizing the Gowanus Canal area will lead to increased property values, benefiting homeowners and local businesses.

Increased Public Access

A cleaner canal will enhance public access to waterfront spaces, creating opportunities for community engagement and enjoyment.

Ongoing Gowanus Canal Clean-Up Initiatives and Projects

Numerous initiatives are currently underway to clean up the Gowanus Canal and restore its ecological integrity.

Superfund Site Dredging and Capping

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, facilitating dredging and capping activities to remove contaminated sediments and prevent further pollution. Goodbye Black Mayonnaise!

Black sludge found on the bottom of the Gowanus Canal after dredging. Also called "Black Mayonnaise."
Photo Credit: Brownstoner

Turning Basin Restoration

Efforts are underway to restore the historic turning basins of the Gowanus Canal, enhancing its navigability and ecological function. Contaminated material will be removed from the 1st Street turning basin and a portion of the 5th Street turning basin will be dredged and restored.

Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Control

Efforts to address the issue of combined sewer overflows in Gowanus include infrastructure upgrades, such as the construction of storage tanks and green infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater before it enters the sewer system. By addressing the problem of combined sewer overflows, stakeholders hope to mitigate pollution and restore the ecological health of the Gowanus Canal.

Community Involvement and Education

Community involvement and education initiatives play a crucial role in raising awareness about the importance of cleaning up the Gowanus Canal and engaging residents in restoration efforts. The Gowanus Canal Conservancy has a lot of educational resources pertaining to the canal including curriculums that teach the history, health, and ecology of the canal, green infrastructure design, and more.

Plans for the Gowanus Canal after Cleanup is Complete

Once the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal is complete, plans include transforming the area into a vibrant waterfront destination with parks, green spaces, and mixed-use developments that prioritize sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Rendering of headhouse for the first underground storage tank located near Nevins Street, Butler Street, and Degraw Street. Future cleanup plan for Gowanus Canal.
Rendering of headhouse for first tank. Photo Credit: nyc.gov

Rendering of headhouse for the first underground storage tank located near Nevins Street, Butler Street, and Degraw Street. It will hold 8 million gallons of combined sewage during rainstorms.

Contribute to a Cleaner NYC Today!

You can play a part in cleaning up the Gowanus Canal and contributing to a cleaner New York City by supporting local environmental organizations, participating in community clean-up events, advocating for sustainable practices, and spreading awareness about the importance of protecting our waterways. By working together, we can ensure that future generations can enjoy a cleaner, healthier Gowanus Canal and a more sustainable city for all.

Are you a local Gowanus resident looking to make an impact on your neighborhood? Solar could be the solution! Find out if solar’s right for you by scheduling a call with our team.

A $23 billion market opportunity incites increased NOI driving cap rates and real estate values in NYC

Mayor Adams’ City of Yes zoning initiatives are modernizing New York City’s zoning regulations to move the city towards more equitable and sustainable living. The landmark legislation, which features a Carbon Neutrality zoning amendment (COYCN), was passed into law this week relaxing restrictions on solar developments, furthering both the city and state’s efforts toward carbon neutrality.

The new zoning regulations abolish the coverage and setback restrictions for rooftop solar installations which have historically hampered the expansion of clean energy developments. With the setback regulations pardoned for solar installations, huge swaths of real estate which were not previously viable for solar development will be made available – in some cases as much as doubling the square footage available on one rooftop. This will result in millions of additional kilowatt hours of clean electricity over the lifetime of systems. In addition, the law will allow for solar canopies to be installed over the city’s 8,500 acres of parking lots, adequate space hundreds of additional megawatts of clean energy production – enough to power tens of thousands of homes and apartment units in New York City.

Provisions to the zoning laws also offer a boon to property owners in the city. Lower utility costs associated with the installation of solar which will increase profits and drive real estate values.

Commenting on passage of City of Yes Brooklyn SolarWorks’ founder and CEO, T.R. Ludwig said, “This is a landmark moment in New York’s effort to boost green technologies and support carbon neutrality. Solar energy’s potential will now be fully realized as a renewable energy resource for all New Yorkers. By removing zoning restrictions that held back installation of solar panels on many homes, thousands more New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy. We applaud Mayor Adams and City Council for taking this historic step forward towards a greener and more energy efficient future.” 

T.R. Ludwig is a clean energy leader with over a decade of experience in various management and executive roles within the solar industry. He is the CEO and co-founder of both Brooklyn SolarWorks and Brooklyn Solar Canopy Co. and serves as Treasurer for New York Solar Energy Industry Association (NYSEIA), a trade group representing the solar industry. He has led solar companies both large and small, with a focus on sales, marketing, and finance, and helped pioneer solar lending in the Northeast market. T.R. received his MBA from the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands and was among the first solar professionals in the United States to become NABCEP Technical Sales certified.

To learn more about Brooklyn SolarWorks, contact us at info@brooklynsolarworks.com.

If you’re a property owner wondering how these zoning updates affect your solar potential, schedule a consultation with us!

New York City has a food waste problem. But luckily, one of the best solutions is already within reach: composting! Composting is an easy, sustainable way to dispose of organic material, and with a growing network of composting services available, it’s more accessible than ever for New Yorkers.

In honor of curbside composting coming to Brooklyn this month, we’re doing a two-part series on food waste reduction in NYC. Follow along to learn more about how you can do your part! Read Part 1: How to Reduce Food Waste in NYC here.

What is composting?

Composting is the process of recycling organic waste into an enriched fertilizer for soil. Compost offers a host of benefits, including:

  • Diverts organic waste from landfills and incinerators, reducing GHG emissions
  • Prevents soil degradation and improves soil health
  • Promotes healthy plant growth and biodiversity
  • Aids in stormwater management
  • Enhances carbon sequestration

Disposing of food waste and other organic material in the garbage means it’ll eventually end up in a landfill, where it’ll decompose and produce methane. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that’s responsible for retaining heat in the atmosphere and warming the planet. 

Composting is a sustainable way of diverting food waste from landfills that supports future plant growth and the circular economy.

Importance of Composting in NYC

Food waste is a major problem in New York City. It’s responsible for 20% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions (placing it third behind buildings and transportation), and it’s a major factor in the city’s growing rat population.

Our city produces a lot of waste, but the majority of it is divertable materials like organics, recyclables, e-waste and harmful household products. As of 2017, around 34% was organic material suitable for composting, meaning there’s a major opportunity for landfill diversion.

Composition of NYC's residential waste
A major portion of NYC’s residential waste is made up of organic materials, meaning there’s a big opportunity for landfill diversion. Credit

Composting is a simple, yet very important way to help our city reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and support green spaces.

Is composting mandatory in NYC?

Composting food and yard waste in Queens and Brooklyn is mandatory. Queens was the first borough to receive the NYC Department of Sanitation’s curbside composting service in the fall of 2022. Brooklyn has followed suit this fall, becoming the second borough to get curbside as of October 2023.

In June 2023, the city council passed the Zero Waste Act, making composting mandatory for all NYC residents beginning in October 2024 – when Manhattan will become the last of the boroughs to get curbside composting. 

If you live in Manhattan, Staten Island, or the Bronx, here’s when you can expect curbside composting:

  • Staten Island: March 2024
  • The Bronx: March 2024
  • Manhattan: October 2024

Mandatory composting requires New Yorkers to separate yard waste, food scraps, and food-soiled paper from their garbage and dispose of it in compost bins. Compost should be set out on the curb just like trash and recycling, and DSNY will pick it up on your recycling day. Fines for non-compliance will not begin until around six months after the program goes into effect, but you can expect enforcement to be similar to recycling.

What is the NYC Compost Project?

The NYC Compost Project is a citywide composting education and outreach program founded in 1993 by the Sanitation Department. It works with several nonprofit organizations and botanical gardens to provide composting resources and workshops to residents, businesses and institutions. It offers the Master Composter Certificate Course with the goal of building a network of advanced composters who can help support DSNY’s community composting initiatives. 

Sanitation department's graphic showing what can and cannot be composted
DSNY’s curbside composting and smart bin services accept the items above. Drop-off sites, however, may restrict certain items like meat and dairy.

What can be composted in NYC?

Depending on where and how you compost in NYC, there may be different requirements for acceptable items. It’s always best to confirm with the host of the composting program, but here are some general guidelines.

What You CAN Compost

Whether you compost via curbside composting, community drop-off sites, or Smart Composting bins, you can always compost the following items:

  • Food scraps, including fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and tea bags, nuts, bread, rice, and pasta 
  • Plant waste, including leaf and yard waste and houseplants

Food scrap drop-off sites can generally only accept the above items. But for curbside composting and Smart Composting bins, you can also compost the following:

  • All food scraps, including the above PLUS meat, bones, dairy, and prepared foods
  • Uncoated food-soiled paper, like pizza boxes or used paper plates

What You CANNOT Compost

Most community drop-off sites cannot accept meat, fish, bones, dairy, prepared foods, or food-soiled paper.

No matter your composting location, there are some items that can never be composted. These include:

  • Garbage, including diapers, personal hygiene products, animal waste, wrappers, non-paper packaging, and foam products
  • Recyclable materials, like bottles and cans

How to Compost in New York City

Getting started with composting in NYC is fairly simple, and it’s becoming even easier as DSNY expands its composting network. Follow the steps below to get started. 

Step 1: Learn About NYC’s Composting Programs

The NYC Department of Sanitation provides composting services a few different ways, depending on your location:

  • Curbside Composting: compost is collected by sanitation workers every week along with your recycling. No sign-up is required once it’s in your area – it’s currently available in all of Queens and Brooklyn, and select areas of Manhattan and the Bronx.
  • Drop-Off Composting: many community gardens and farmer’s markets throughout the city host composting sites where you can drop-off your compost on certain days and times.
  • Smart Composting Bins: these are public composting bins located in select neighborhoods throughout the city where you can drop-off your compost any time of day. To use these bins, you’ll need to download an app which will allow you to view bins on a map, see which ones are available, and unlock the bins.

Step 2: Select a Composting Bin

In order to start composting, you’ll need somewhere to collect and store your compostable materials in between pick-ups or drop-offs. It’s important to consider both how much space you have and how much you’ll be composting regularly. 

There are many bin options out there – from electronic composters to worm bins – if you’d like to begin your own compost pile, but these aren’t necessary for those of us who don’t have the ability to garden at home. 

The average person who wants to participate in the city’s composting programs doesn’t need anything fancy – any kind of airtight container or even Ziploc bag will suffice for collecting food waste in your home between drop-offs.

For curbside composting, DSNY provides free brown bins at the start of service. But you can also use any labeled bin, 55 gallons or less, with a secure lid. You can line this bin with any type of bag.

Step 3: Collect Compostable Materials

To begin composting, you’ll need to start separating your food and yard waste from your other trash. Rather than disposing of organic matter in the garbage can, you should instead collect them in your composting bin. 

Your compost bin can sit out on your kitchen counter, or you can store it in your fridge or freezer to avoid bugs or prevent any smells from developing.

Step 4: Know What Not to Compost

Depending on where you’re dropping off your compost, there may be restrictions on what you can and cannot add to your compost. Community drop-off sites generally don’t accept meat, bones, dairy, or prepared foods, but you can double check with the host. 

If you have curbside composting or drop-off at a Smart Composting bin, you can generally compost any food waste, uncoated food-soiled paper, and plant waste.

Just remember: don’t put any trash or recyclable materials in your compost! This includes hygiene products, animal waste, and bottles and cans.

Step 5: Set Out or Drop Off Your Compost

Time to dispose of your compostable waste! 

If you’re participating in curbside composting, you should set out your brown bin every week at the same time as your recycling pick-up. 

If you’re dropping off at a Smart Composting bin, you can access the bins 24/7 using the app, provided they’re not at capacity – check the app to make sure. 

If you’re dropping off at a community site, double check its hours to make sure it’s open.

Where are compost drop-off locations in NYC?

You can check DSNY’s website to find a community drop-off site or Smart Composting bin near you. For drop-off sites, you can view the site’s hours and details regarding what items are accepted.

DSNY composting map in Brooklyn
Here’s a look at DSNY’s compost drop-off map. Orange represents Smart Composting Bins, and green represents Food Scrap Drop-Off Sites.

Future of NYC Composting

It’s safe to say that the future of NYC composting is bright, thanks to the efforts of DSNY and composting advocates all over the city. Within the next year, curbside composting will be available in all five boroughs, in addition to community drop-off sites and smart composting bins becoming more accessible. 

Awareness surrounding the importance of composting and supporting green spaces is continuing to grow amongst New Yorkers. We look forward to a future with less food waste in our city!

Start Composting in the City Today!

Composting is one of the best things you can do as an individual to help lower the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and support green spaces. We encourage you to follow the resources above to find a composting service near you and get started today.

If you’re a homeowner interested in learning about other ways you can become more sustainable, consider going solar! Schedule a free consultation with us to find out if your home is right for solar energy.

Food waste has taken center stage in New York City’s sustainability efforts, and for good reason. Food makes up a major portion of NYC’s waste, contributing significantly to landfill emissions. But there’s better, more sustainable ways for New Yorkers to consume and dispose of food.

In honor of curbside composting coming to all of Brooklyn this month, we’re doing a two-part series on food waste reduction in NYC. Follow along to learn more about how you can do your part! Read Part 2: How to Get Started Composting in NYC here.

Is food waste a problem in NYC?

In a city as densely populated as ours, there are lots of things that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. But you may be surprised to learn that food waste is a major contributor, making up 20% of the city’s emissions. That makes it the third largest contributor, behind buildings and transportation.

When food and other organic waste is sent to landfills, it emits methane as it breaks down. Not only that, but black trash bags full of food on our sidewalks provide nourishment for the city’s rampant rat population. Food waste is a big problem, but it’s one that can easily be turned into a sustainable solution. 

Composition of NYC's residential waste
A major portion of NYC’s residential waste is made up of organic materials, meaning there’s a big opportunity for landfill diversion. Credit

Environmental Consequences of Food Waste

Food waste is a problem that has a number of consequences for the climate, environment, and public health.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Globally, the food supply chain generates a significant amount of GHG emissions. The production, processing, storing, and transportation of food makes up about a third of the world’s emissions. Of these emissions, about half are attributed to waste.

When food and other organic material is sent to landfills, it decomposes over time. The byproduct of the decomposition process is methane, which is a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide. It traps a lot of heat in the atmosphere and contributes to the warming of the planet.

Resource Depletion

Producing food requires lots of natural resources, namely water and energy. When food is wasted, we waste the resources that went into producing it. 

Research shows that wasted food accounts for a quarter of the agriculture industry’s water supply. At a time when many areas of the world, including parts of the U.S., have been facing severe droughts and water shortages, water conservation should be a priority.

NYC Department of Sanitation's "Send Rats Packing" campaign poster
In April 2023, DSNY changed garbage set out times in an attempt to alleviate the city’s growing rat population.

Public Health

Since the pandemic, rat populations in cities have been booming. The main reason is garbage: where there’s food, there will be rats. As any New Yorker knows, walking down the sidewalk on trash night means you might stumble upon one (or a few). Leaving trash bags full of food waste outside multiple times a week gives rats plenty of opportunity to feast. 

The NYC Department of Sanitation has implemented several policies aimed at decreasing the rat population, including mandated trash containerization, limited hours for putting trash out, and curbside composting. Reducing and diverting food waste is a solution to a major public health issue.

7 Ways NYC Homeowners Can Reduce Food Waste

Food waste is a big problem for New York City, but it’s a problem that can largely be mitigated when individuals make simple lifestyle changes.

1. Plan Meals and Shop Intentionally

One of the best ways to reduce food waste within your household is to only buy what you are actually going to eat. Planning your meals and portion sizes and making a list ahead of your grocery run takes just a few extra minutes, and it’ll save you from picking up items that you may not eat. This not only prevents you from creating waste, but it saves you time and money too.

2. Store Food Properly

Using airtight containers to store fresh food in your refrigerator and freezer can help it last longer. You can organize your refrigerator and cupboards so that older food is in the front and newer food is in the back. Add date labels to refrigerated and frozen items to help keep track of how old each item is. This is a food storage practice called First in, First Out (FIFO) – the oldest food (first in) should be the next to be used (first out).

3. Understand Expiry Dates

There is a difference between “Best Before” and “Use By” dates on food. Foods with “best before” dates may still be safe to eat after that date, whereas “use by” dates indicate that the item is no longer safe to eat. Double check before you discard it!

4. Embrace Leftovers

If you cook or order too much food for dinner, refrigerate or freeze it to eat at a later date. Same for ingredients: if you only need half an onion for a recipe, save the other half and repurpose it the next time you cook – just make sure to store it properly!

5. Reduce Portion Sizes

It’s important to only cook or order as much food as you plan to eat. When your portion sizes are too large, you’ll likely have leftovers – and if you’re not keen on eating leftovers, you’ll likely create waste.

6. Donate Surplus Food

If you have a surplus of non-perishables sitting in your cupboards, you can find a food pantry or soup kitchen near you and donate them. If you’re in Park Slope or Gowanus, our friends at CHiPS are always accepting donations. 

7. Compost Your Food Scraps

Let’s face it: even if you practice all of the tips above, you’re still going to create some waste. But rather than throwing your food in the garbage, you can make a meaningful impact by composting it instead. 

Generally, you can compost all food, anything that grows in the dirt, food-soiled paper products, and yard scraps through the city’s curbside composting program. However, some community drop-off sites may not want things like meat, bones, or dairy – double check this before you drop off.

Composting is a food waste solution that provides all sorts of benefits:

  • Diverts organic waste from landfills and incinerators, therefore reducing GHG emissions
  • Prevents soil degradation and improves soil health
  • Promotes healthy plant growth and biodiversity
  • Aids in stormwater management
  • Enhances carbon sequestration

If you’re a resident of Brooklyn or Queens, curbside composting is now available to you. If you live in Manhattan, the Bronx, or Staten Island, you may have food scrap drop-off sites, smart compost bins, or community gardens near you. Learn more from the NYC Compost Project.

NYC's smart compost bins
NYC Smart Compost Bins Credit

Do NYC residents have to compost food scraps?

In June 2023, the city council passed the Zero Waste Act, making composting mandatory for all NYC residents beginning in October 2024 – when Manhattan will become the last of the boroughs to get curbside composting. 

This law requires all New Yorkers to place all of their food and yard waste into compost bins, which will be picked up by DSNY along with their recycling. Fines for non-compliance will not begin until around six months after the program goes into effect, but you can expect enforcement to be similar to recycling.

Make a Positive Impact with Food Waste in NYC

Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, and it’s a problem for the health of our city too. However, it’s a problem that’s relatively easy for individuals to tackle. By making simple changes to the way we consume and dispose of food, we can make a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions in our city.

If you’re a homeowner who’s interested in other ways to reduce your carbon footprint, clean energy could be another great option for you. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

Brooklyn SolarWorks was founded in 2015 with the goal to make solar appealing and accessible for Brooklyn homeowners. But we understand that homeowners aren’t the only Brooklynites who want to reduce their use of fossil fuels. That’s why we look to support local non-profit organizations, like CHiPS, by providing solar energy for them. 

Last month, we installed a solar canopy on the rooftop of CHiPS’s building on 4th Avenue – right down the street from us! Continue reading to learn about the wonderful work that CHiPS does and how our organizations collaborated on this project.

What is CHiPS?

CHiPS (Community Help in Park Slope) has been serving the Park Slope-Gowanus community since 1971. The organization is committed to cultivating equity and resilience through its free-of-charge food distribution and housing programs. 

The CHiPS Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen serves hot, nutritious meals to around 150 New Yorkers everyday. Last year, the organization provided over 100,000 meals to those in need, along with clothing, toiletries, and other necessities.

The organization’s Frances Residence Program provides shelter to expecting or single mothers and their infants, as well as pre and postnatal care. The program offers year-long housing in fully furnished studio apartments. It also offers counseling and other services to help mothers secure permanent housing and employment and learn parenting skills.

Prior to the pandemic, CHiPS welcomed over 100 volunteers to support the Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen. The organization has also built a broad network of schools, churches, synagogues, organizations, and donors throughout the community.

How did BSW help?

For this project, we installed a six truss solar canopy consisting of 52 LG 380 panels. This is a 20 kW system that we expect will produce around 23,000 kWh of energy per year. This equates to electric savings of around $6,000 a year.

“We started Brooklyn SolarWorks because we wanted to build solar where we lived,” Brooklyn SolarWorks President and Founder Gaelen McKee said. “We’re a very community driven company and the community has been good to us, so we wanted to give something back. 

The CHiPS project was a great opportunity for us to help a local non-profit save some money on their power bill while also giving us the satisfaction of seeing an awesome solar canopy every time we drive down 4th Ave.”

How will CHiPS use its solar?

CHiPS will be using its new solar system as an independent energy source to power its facilities. This includes its soup kitchen and its transitional apartments for mothers and their babies. 

“In 2021, our focus has been all about ‘moving forward’ at CHiPS, in every possible way,” said the administrative staff at CHiPS. “We looked to solar as a way to update our operations to a greener, forward-thinking energy source that would also support our desire to be responsible stewards and citizens of the Park Slope and Gowanus communities.”

We’re incredibly proud of this project and so appreciative of the opportunity to continue spreading solar in our community. We look forward to continuing to connect with and provide solar to other community based organizations like CHiPS.

Questions? Reach out to our team at 347-318-4771 or schedule your free consultation here.

Company launched in 2015 also expands solar rooftop footprint beyond Brooklyn into Manhattan and Queens with 80+ installs.

It is extremely fulfilling to know that we’ve installed 1000 solar systems here in NYC – each one has been a gratifying experience of “flipping the switch” to clean solar energy,” said T.R. Ludwig, CEO and Founder, Brooklyn SolarWorks.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PRWEB) SEPTEMBER 01, 2021

Brooklyn SolarWorks, a leading residential solar system design and installation provider, today announced the completion of its 1,000th installation with many hundreds of those installations custom designed to meet stringent landmark property rooftop codes in New York City (NYC). Originally developed as a NYC-specific product to make solar viable on the most challenging townhome roofs, the company’s patented, award-winning solar energy systems are now available everywhere in the U.S. through its subsidiary Brooklyn Solar Canopy.

Launched in 2015 with a hyper local focus on Brooklyn, Brooklyn SolarWorks has since expanded its “solar rooftop footprint” into Manhattan and Queens with 80+ installations. The company has also been a consistent jobs generator and made a significant impact on the “new economy” in NYC by employing more than 50 local team members.

“It is extremely fulfilling to know that we’ve installed 1000 solar systems here in NYC – each one has been a gratifying experience of “flipping the switch” to clean solar energy, said T.R. Ludwig, CEO and Founder, Brooklyn SolarWorks. “Our customers are the cornerstone of our business and we are so thankful for their support and engagement with their projects. Our amazing team of solar warriors brave the NYC landscape daily and have changed this city one rooftop at a time. We look forward to this new chapter of Brooklyn SolarWorks by spreading solar power throughout NYC and making it as accessible as possible for all New Yorkers. We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the clean energy transition now and in the future.”

In addition to the 1,000th installation and strategic expansion into the other boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn SolarWorks also announced the following significant milestones and key initiatives:

  • Providing ongoing support for local non-profit organizations like CHiPS, a soup kitchen and shelter for homeless mothers located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Brooklyn SolarWorks installed a rooftop solar energy system at the organization’s location as part of New York State’s Inclusive Community Solar Adder program
  • CEO/Founder T.R. Ludwig provided solar industry thought leadership in a New York Times column on ways individuals and households can reduce their carbon footprint(s).
  • Ludwig also co-authored a bylined article “Urban Solar Can Interconnection Can Be Modernized, Simplified and Standardized” that was featured in Solar Power World.

Brooklyn SolarWorks’ expansion into the other four boroughs of NYC included installations and educational efforts on the benefits of solar power in the world famous Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan.

“Harlem, one of NYC’s most culturally rich and historic neighborhoods, is full of flat roof residential buildings and homeowners that are interested in switching to clean energy,” said Ludwig. “It is well known that communities of color, like those found in Northern Manhattan, are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels. Replacing conventional energy sources, one building at a time, can impact the entire city. That’s why our canvass team has been regularly speaking with individuals in Harlem to spread information regarding the process of going solar in NYC and the rebates that can be claimed during tax season.”

Brooklyn SolarWorks has also been an active participant in New York State’s “CarbonZero” initiative, which aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions across the state by the year 2050. To date, Brooklyn SolarWorks has produced more than 12 million kilowatthours (kWh) of clean energy, which is equal to:

  • The carbon sequestered by 3,438 acres of US forest in one year
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from 7,502,994 miles driven by a passenger vehicle
  • Co2 emissions from 3,101,848 pounds of coal burned
  • Co2 emissions from 341,375,807 smartphones charged
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy
  • brooklyn solar, climate, clean energy

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please visit https://www.brooklynsolarworks.com.

About Brooklyn SolarWorks

Founded in 2015 Brooklyn SolarWorks is the borough’s leading residential solar system design and installation provider with 1,000+ systems completed. Our continued success owes to our skilled and energetic team; a locally tailored approach to design and construction; an unparalleled mastery of city codes and regulations; and our hyper-local focus on the unique needs and expectations of the New York homeowner and sophisticated real estate markets. For more information, please visit https://www.brooklynsolarworks.com.

Read the full press release here.


QUESTIONS? GET IN TOUCH WITH A MEMBER OF OUR TEAM NOW.

ARE YOU READY TO FLIP THE SWITCH TO SOLAR? SCHEDULE YOUR FREE CONSULTATION TODAY.