Living in NYC, you’re already reducing your carbon footprint by inhabiting in a small apartment and (I’m guessing?) not having a car. Three cheers for you! But if you’re looking to take the whole “going green” thing a little bit further without too much effort, here’s a few tips to get you going.
As I posted on Instagram on Earth Day, food makes up 21% of NYC’s waste. Let that sink in a minute…
I avoided composting for YEARS because I dreaded the idea of adding one more thing to my kitchen, plus I was convinced that having old food sitting around would start to smell. A few months ago, I began keeping a plastic bag in the freezer, where I toss food scraps. There’s totally NO smell, and since it’s in the freezer it really takes up zero extra space.
Composting helped me realize how much food was actually getting thrown away…it’s pretty mind blowing. Now I take better care to prepare smaller portions of food I know will get eaten in one sitting, or to actually eat the leftovers before they go bad. I also spend a lot less money on produce every week because I realized that I was WAY overbuying and we weren’t able to get through the food before it started to wilt.
All the Green Markets in NYC accept compost scraps, so you can make a weekly tradition out of dropping off your scraps before picking up your groceries.
Use An E-Cloth To Clean
There’s plenty of all natural cleaners on the market, so definitely make the switch where you can. But one thing I’ve really come to love is the E-Cloth, which lets you clean with only water. Our dining room table seems to always have something sticky or crumby on it (thanks, Augusten:-), but a quick wipe with this gets everything off, no all-purpose spray needed. After using it, I just rinse with hot water and it’s ready to go for round two!
Figure Out Ways To Use Less Plastic
Plastic is the pits when it comes to Mama Earth. And when we start paying attention, there’s just SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. EVERYWHERE. Start noticing where the plastic in your home comes from and ask yourself what small changes you can make to avoid buying the thing in plastic all together. Examples from my life: instead of body wash in plastic bottles, I switched to bars of soap. Instead of purchasing food items individually wrapped in plastic (beans, rice, dried fruit), I buy from the bulk bins whenever possible and put them straight in jars. Carrying my own re-useable cutlery rather than using plastic spoons and forks and straws. Rather than take plastic grocery bags from Duane Read every time I make a purchase, I carry a folded up tote in my bag and use that, instead. And when I do have extra plastic grocery bags lying around? I put them to use, either for compost, or liners for small garbage pails in the bathroom, or to wrap shoes in when we travel.
Give Your Items An Extended Life
When we no longer need things, what happens to them? Speaking from experience, they typically either go in the donation pile, the “to sell” pile, or the trash. There’s so much research out there about how so little of what we donate actually gets reused, so I’ve been trying to be extra careful about:
- the things I let in my house in the first place
- figuring out ways to give items extended lives
I no longer bring things home just because they are free at an event. Seriously, how many free tote bags or water bottles does a person really need? And before I stick things in a donation pile, I ask myself how I can give it a longer life. For example, Augusten’s winter pants (that I know won’t fit him by next winter) have had a quick snip at the knee and become Augusten’s summer shorts. Already read books become a part of my apartment building’s free lending library, hopefully falling into the hands of someone who will appreciate a good story. Glass jars from jams or sauces get repurposed as food storage containers and on-the-go tea cups.
And of course, if you know anyone who would actually use and benefit from any items you no longer need, giving them away directly to that person is the best way to go.
Switch To Re-useable Food Storage Solutions
If you wrap leftovers up using Saran Wrap or aluminum foil, go ahead and use up the last of those rolls and then switch to a re-useable solution. These can be free (again, use those jars mentioned above to store food) or you can replace plastic wrap with bee’s wrap wax which you’ll be able to reuse over and over again.