In a big city like New York, it’s often easy to forget about the natural world, unless it suddenly jumps out and confronts you. Children can grow up unaware of where their food is coming from and with a sense of disconnection from nature. If you know where to look, though, you’ll find plenty of initiatives in NYC seeking to raise awareness about sustainability and the environment. From planting trees to salvaging building supplies, these are five of our favourites.
Operating in all five boroughs, GrowNYC holds weekly farmers’ markets known as Greenmarkets where you can buy seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, from asparagus in the summer to leeks and parsnips in the winter. The 50-odd Greenmarkets around the city also run cookery demonstrations and workshops on green living, providing the perfect place for local communities to get together.
MillionTreesNYC is slowly making New York a greener place to be, with a target to plant a total of one million new trees around the city by 2017. Launched in 2007, they’ve already planted some 750,000, in parks, private gardens and business premises. Local residents can obtain a tree for free, provided they plant it in one of the city’s five boroughs, and attend voluntary tree planting events. Also, if your neighbourhood requires a new ‘street tree’, MillionTrees will help you file the necessary application with the council. Nice!
Fed up with the hustle and bustle of NYC? Take a trip to Alley Pond Park in Queens: a 635-acre stretch of salt marsh, meadows and forest, and home to Alley Pond Environmental Centre. APEC teaches kids about wildlife around the city through nature trail walks and environmental workshops. Its excellent location close to the shore of Little Neck Bay is the perfect place for spotting migratory birds and around 300 species of wildlife.
Construction and demolition waste takes up too much space in public landfill sites: fact. Luckily, Build It Green! NYC addresses this issue by salvaging unwanted resources from old buildings and making them available to the public. You can pick up everything from reclaimed oak doors to slate slabs at deep discount prices from their showrooms in Astoria and Gowanus. All proceeds are invested straight back into the environment. BIG! also offers a ‘deconstruction’ service, where they will come and remove valuable materials from your property prior to demolition.
Grow to Learn NYC is doing a fine job of introducing a garden to every public school in New York. It’s hoped that by teaching kids about gardening early, they will grow up to be more aware of healthy eating and have a more positive attitude towards the environment. Grow to Learn currently offers mini-grants of between $500 and $2,000 to schools looking to start a garden or expand their existing one. They also provide help with sourcing garden materials and offer how-to guides on topics such as water conservation on their website.
I hope this post has given you an incentive to check out New York’s green initiatives. For more info, see Matador Network’s guide to green things to do. Or if you’re looking for a place to stay, you can compare New York hotels at HotelClub.