Sustainable City Livin’

Either you know or could probably figure that densely populated areas produce less CO2 per capita than suburban areas produce. A study by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser shows that households use more gasoline if they’re in communities of fewer than 10,000 people. Therefore, we city dwellers are potentially greener than residents of the suburbs. There are, of course, a lot of qualifiers to this statement. Your CO2 emissions depend on the size of your home and your mode of transportation, but, generally speaking, urbanites don’t have large homes to heat and cars to drive. This, however, doesn’t mean that city dwellers are doing everything they can to be green. If you’re living in a city, there are plenty of additional easy steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

There is the obvious step of using public transportation, but many urbanites already ride the subway. What else can we do? Let’s start with composting.

To those of us living in apartments, composting doesn’t seem like a viable option. We don’t have big back yards, or even soil with which to compost. Though, there is a way! When my roommate was on a bike ride in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, she noticed a big sign which said ‘Composting’ and a man collecting food scraps. Upon talking to him, she learned that he works for Evolutionary Organics, an organization that collects compost from residents of the area. What a great idea—an organization that does the composting for you! Now, how exactly does one collect and store compost to give to this organization? It’s easy! Take your food scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds, vegetable peels, corn husks, seeds, grains, and the sort—remember, no meat, dairy, or oils—put them in a gallon size bag, and store them in your freezer. You’re storing this waste for composting, but keeping it in the freezer also prevents foul smells and bugs in your garbage!

Every Saturday, my roommate and I bike down to Prospect Park and deliver our weekly compost. We drop the waste in the bin and save the bag. Evolutionary Organics suggests you donate $1 per bag, a small price to pay to ensure that your compost biodegrades. If it isn’t composted, this waste will either sit in landfills, because the necessary bacteria aren’t present to break it down, or rot, releasing methane into the atmosphere. If you live in Central Brooklyn, you can take your compost to Evolutionary Organics, which is located at Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, on Saturdays from 8 AM to 3 PM. You think there aren’t any organizations in your area? Think again. Here is a list of the other Greenmarkets in NYC which collect compost. Do a little bit of research and see where there are compost collection sites in your area!

Okay, what else can we city dwellers do? Let’s look to Prospect Park for more ideas. While on another bike ride at the park, my roommate and I learned about sustainable energy options from a representative of the electricity provider Con Edison of New York.

Alongside fossil fuel power, Con Edison offers wind energy and green energy (a combination of wind and hydroelectric power). The representative said that wind or green energy would give us a slightly lower electricity bill in the summer and a slightly higher bill in the winter. Basically, their sustainable energy is as economical as non-renewable energy. What did we do? We made the switch to green energy, and we haven’t seen an increase in cost. Ask your local electricity provider about renewable energy options! It’s definitely a step worth taking.

Now that we have our composting system and our sustainable energy, what else can we do? The answer: laundry by hand. As I mentioned in my previous blog article, The Great War of the 21st Century, to become more sustainable, we need to rethink our “little conveniences.”

Most apartments in New York City don’t have washer and dryer units; therefore, we drag our dirty laundry to the laundromat. My roommate and I, however, have decided to cut-out the “convenience” of laundromats and wash our clothes by hand. We fill up our laundry bucket with water, pour in the appropriate amount of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day laundry detergent (an eco friendly brand), and scrub. We have clothes lines set up in the bathroom and in the courtyard. It’s rather convenient. More convenient, I’d say, than hauling a heavy bag to the laundromat. Also, hand washing clothes saves money, electricity, and water!

It doesn’t take long for the actions I mentioned to become habitual. They will save energy, waste, bugs, smells, water, and, most likely, hassle. More importantly, these steps make you feel good. We city dwellers may have given up some of the conveniences of the suburbs, but more steps remain to be taken. Go on, take them. Take these steps for you and for your community.

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Author / Autor: Ian LoPresti 

 Date / Fecha: 07/07/11

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