The Ultimate Guide to being Green in NYC

Living in New York City may be considered the ultimate convenience. A few taps on the phone and world-class delivery appears at your door. Entertainment options abound just down the street. Cabs will whisk you away to any destination or to an airport. Coffee shops on every corner. Flagship stores of fashion retailers line up along 5th Avenue. However, this convenience also leads to waste. A quick snack means a wrapper into the trash; the takeout lunch container can’t be recycled; fast fashion wears out and is no longer in style.

How do we combat this?

GreeNYC has a few behavioral suggestions whether at work, at home, or general lifestyle that we all can agree upon: getting a library card rather than purchasing a new book, bringing a reusable water bottle rather than buying a new plastic bottle filled with water.

Some New Yorkers may feel that they are already pretty environmentally friendly living in such a densely populated area: we don’t own cars so we take public transportation; we live in small apartments and thus we can’t own many things; we don’t have own property or land. But there is always more that can be done in this great city to reduce your impact. This list is specifically designed for the New Yorker who wants to take the next step and to take advantage of events, programs and other resources in your own neighborhood. No excuses!

NYC Resources for Food

This is the biggest section because we need to eat multiple times a day, and because there are so many options throughout the five boroughs.


Find your nearest Farmer’s Market: we all know you can get fresh produce with minimal to no packaging at a local market. You can also forge connections with local farmers and support a local economy. You can also bring compost to most of these markets – just check the website in advance. Sometimes produce is more expensive at these markets but if you compare prices you’ll see that there are staples that are a better deal, usually the seasonal produce and in my experience, always apples!

  • Grow NYC’s Green Markets: the most extensive network of markets throughout the city. There are markets every day.
  • Harvest Home Markets: not as many options but there may be a location closer to your apartment.
  • Down to Earth Markets: I used to go to the Park Slope market when I lived in Brooklyn. These markets are in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and also north in Rockland and Westchester counties.
  • Check this comprehensive 2017 farmer’s market map from NYC Gov.
CSA shares
My portion of a CSA share that I split with friends back in college.

Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture): Support a nearby farm by purchasing a share of produce! Depending on the CSA’s, you can sign up for vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs. Once the season starts, you’ll get weekly or bi-weekly bags of tasty, fresh goods.

Join your local Food Co-op: Become a member, get access to bulk goods. Simple.

Farmer’s market garlic

Buy Organic: Check out Time Out’s list of organic grocery stores, including my favorite, Westerly Natural Market, in between Times Square and Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

freezer compost
Compost in the freezer, ready to be brought to a drop-off. (Photo courtesy of my eco-friendly brother!)

Compost: I tried freezer compost at my brothers’ suggestion, but the nearest drop-off was a bus ride away (I haven’t made friends with the local gardeners just yet). But if you are located elsewhere you may have better luck. Here are some more resources:

NYC Resources for Recycling

I’ll be honest, it’s really easy to just throw everything away. But there is no AWAY, and no matter how hard you try to argue that it takes more resources to recycle, I’d say the benefits outweigh the costs.

Recycle your electronics: Bring your old electronics (whether they are working or not) to a location marked on a map made by NYC Gov’s Zero Waste initiative. Or check the calendar of the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s e-waste collection events throughout the five boroughs.

Clothes ready to be donated!

Recycle your clothing/textiles: Bring your clothing or other fabrics to one of the farmer’s markets listed above – check in advance on the website whether they have textile collection and their hours.

  • Salvation Army and Goodwill also recycle fabric scraps so as long as it’s clean, I believe you can bring ripped items to these stores and they will recycle it.
  • H&M also does this and you can get a coupon towards your next purchase – closing the loop indeed – return your clothes and buy more! However this may be a more convenient option if these stores are not nearby.
  • Bring clothing to a Grow NYC market but read their clothing regulations first.
  • See more locations on the Department of Sanitation’s resource page.

Recycle Cosmetics Containers: For items that can’t go in with the general recycling, check out these retailers who take containers back. Hint: Origins, which has a location in Grand Central, accepts any container from any brand.

Re-use anything else: Donate unwanted but usable items to a thrift store, charity shop or a GrowNYC Stop ‘n’ Swap. Or pop by one to find something you need. Bring books to a Little Free Library in your neighborhood (don’t have one? Start one!)

Little Free Library
A Little Free Library seen in Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem

NYC Resources for General Lifestyle

Have a Sustainable Holiday: save gift bags for your next gifts, shop a local market for consumable gifts such as soap, tea, honey, baked goods (or make your own). Bring your holiday tree to be chipped to NYC Parks’ MulchFest. Some other great ideas can be found on Grow NYC sustainable holiday guide or the Zero Waste initiative’s page.

Buy Sustainably: Of course, first “Use it up,wear it out, make it do or do without.” But on those occasions where that won’t suffice, check out these resources:

Volunteer: Contribute back to your city by signing up with NYC Service or New York Cares, or stop by your nearest non-profit to see if they have volunteer opportunities.

urban garden center
Beautiful plants for purchase at the Urban Garden Center on 116th Street and Park Avenue.

Become a Gardener: Volunteer at your local GreenThumb garden (there are hundreds throughoug the city) and be a part of helping the greenery in NYC stay alive and well, or start your own with a visit to the Urban Garden Center in East Harlem.

Did I miss anything? Leave your favorite NYC tip below!

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to being Green in NYC

  1. LOVE this guide! I’m a freezer composter like your brother, but I’m planning to start a vermicompost bin in my apartment soon which should be…interesting? 🙂

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