Green Tips: Eco-friendly 4th of July

The 4th of July, one of the most celebrated summer holidays in the United States, is just around the corner. Its celebration comes with many barbecues, firework shows, and family reunions that bring people together from all over the nation. Here are some ways that you can make sure your party is sustainable while still enjoying the holiday to its fullest! 

  • Alternatives to Fireworks:

Laser show 

Carpool to community firework shows 

Of course, the celebratory 4th of July fireworks are a favorite among Americans. Unfortunately, fireworks cause extensive environmental damage once the metal salts and explosives react to trigger the explosion. The smoke and gases that are released into the air after their explosion, add to the greenhouse gases already plaguing our atmosphere. Instead, opt for a laser show or carpool with your neighbors to watch public firework displays. Although the second option is not ideal, it will curb the number of people setting off fireworks for a small number of spectators. 

  • Alternatives to plastic forks and knives:

Reusable cutlery 

Biodegradable cutlery 

To serve the many guests coming over for the 4th of July, hosts often turn to plastic forks, knives, and spoons to get the job done. But plastic utensils take about 200 years to break down after ending up in a landfill. Instead, you can buy reusable cutlery made from bamboo, stainless steel, or other types of metal. There are also biodegradable cutlery options made from plant material that you can replace your plastic utensils with. 

  • Compost leftover food 

One of the biggest challenges that comes with hosting a cookout is estimating the amount of food that is needed. It is estimated that over 100 billion pounds of food goes to waste in the United States per year. This food ends up in a landfill where it releases methane during decomposition, which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Although there are many ways to prevent excessive leftovers by planning out portion sizes, you can also compost them instead. Composting reduces landfill waste and provides a natural alternative to chemical fertilizer for gardens. Here is a step-by-step guide to starting your compost at home! 

  • Alternatives to charcoal:

Organic lump bamboo charcoal 

Coconut shell charcoal 

Grilling with charcoal releases an immense amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is another harmful greenhouse gas. Many charcoal bricks also contain other byproducts like lighter fluid, which makes them release volatile compounds (VOCs) when they burn as well. This further contributes to the greenhouse gas concentrations driving climate change. Instead, you can switch to bamboo or coconut shell charcoal, which do not contribute to deforestation as opposed to grilling with wood. These types of charcoals also burn without releasing harmful chemicals found in normal charcoal.

 

By Maya Granderson

 

Plastic Free Day 2022: NYC schools show support for waste reduction

When we think about the impact of plastics on the environment, a few things probably come to mind: plastic bags drifting in the sea, animals tangled in fishing lines, microplastic particles in the soil, a water bottle that will exist on the planet longer than you will. The sheer scale of plastic pollution is almost too much to wrap our heads around, so how can we start to reduce the amount of waste we’re producing? In New York City, some organizations are beginning to work with the younger generations, connecting them with the resources they need to learn about sustainability and waste reduction. 

Cafeteria Culture, an organization that started as a grassroots project to limit styrofoam in schools, is working in partnership with the New York City Department of Education Office of Food and Nutrition Services and the Office of Sustainability to host the city’s first Plastic Free Lunch Day on Monday, May 16, 2022. 

The event was originally started by students from PS 15 in Brooklyn, who conducted surveys and gathered data on the amount of litter found in their communities in order to push for the Department of Sanitation to expand access to recycling services in the area. Through the schools’ collaboration with Cafeteria Culture, they reported having been able to reduce litter in their neighborhood by two-thirds. The class went on to testify at City Hall against plastic litter and its impact on New York’s waterways. 

 

Emphasizing the younger generation’s dedication to protecting the planet, the goal of the event is to create a lunch period with as few plastic items as possible, in the hopes of eventually eliminating all cafeteria single-use plastic. This means working with school staff to minimize the amount of single-use plastics being provided in the lunchroom, from utensils to wrappers to water bottles. According to Cafeteria Culture, over 750 elementary schools in New York City will be participating in the event. 

In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that if current trends continue, the amount of plastic waste entering the world’s oceans would triple to 32 million tons per year by 2040.  This would be the equivalent of dumping 110 pounds of plastic on every meter of coastline in the entire world. 

These threats are especially poignant to the younger generations, many of whom have joined the youth climate movement to speak out against climate inaction. May 25th also marks the newest iteration of international Youth Climate Strike protests, according to reports from Fridays for Future

Looking at the numbers associated with widespread pollution and climate change, with the new reports showing that we may be entering the “now or never” territory of rising temperatures, it can be easy to become discouraged. To combat that, Cafeteria Culture outlines several reasons to participate on their website: 

  • First and foremost, the first steps towards climate action can, in turn, inspire more action, in schools or at home in students’ communities.
  • Plastic Free Lunch Day allows schools and their students to see what change can look like, so they can see how they can also help. 
  • Collective action builds community and generates a positive, inspired mentality.
  • Students can collect before and after data/photos and use them to inform and persuade, as the PS 15 students did previously. 
  • Collective action, especially that which is interactive and offers visible results, helps to bring joy and relieve climate anxiety, a trend which has already been affecting the nation’s youth populations. 

When it comes to combating climate change, waste reduction is one of the most effective ways to participate on a personal level. According to the EPA, not only does waste reduction limit greenhouse gas emissions, but it also saves energy, saves money, and takes more strain off of waste systems. 

Due to their limited political power, youth activists organize and participate in events like the Youth Climate Strike and Plastic Free Lunch Day to raise awareness about the climate crisis and show the authority figures around them that this is an issue they care deeply about. So, don’t worry, the kids are alright — and they’re fighting for their futures every day. 

The New York League of Conservation Voters encourages students and parents to get involved and see if they can organize waste reduction or climate awareness events in their communities, because every child deserves a clean, safe future, and the only way we can achieve that is through community action. 

Green Tips: A Sustainable Summer

As the weather is warming up, the sun-fueled fun of summer makes it one of the most anticipated seasons of the year. As you get ready for longer days and warmer nights, there are many ways to reduce your environmental impact to ensure you have an eco-friendly yet exciting summer. 

  • Use eco-friendly/reef-friendly sunscreen

With the UV index of the summer season being so high, it is important to protect your skin with sunscreen. While your sunscreen will undoubtedly protect you, many sunscreens will contain harsh chemicals that endanger the ocean and beach. In fact, one drop of toxic sunscreen can poison coral reefs the size of six Olympic-sized swimming pools. To ensure that your sunscreen won’t damage coral reefs, make sure that it’s oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free. Also, try to avoid other chemicals, parabens, and nano-particles. A good way to get started is trying mineral sunscreens that are less harmful and just as effective. Check out this article for great eco-friendly sunscreen recommendations: The Best Reef-Safe, Eco-Friendly Sunscreens

  • Reduce air conditioning use

While the summer heat can get intense, you should resist the temptation to crank up the air conditioning to its maximum capacity in order to assist with grid resiliency. While it might feel good, doing so consumes a significant amount of energy. AC usage also emits greenhouse gasses and leaks hydrofluorocarbons, which perpetuates climate change. If you need to use the AC, try to turn it on intermittently and use a fan to cool your living space when your AC is resting.

  • Use a reusable water bottle 

With the weather getting so warm, staying hydrated becomes an important task. Carrying a reusable water bottle ensures that you’ll always have a container to refill with water while also reducing the amount of single-use plastic waste. 

  • Shop and eat locally 

A great way to stay healthy and save on emissions whilst boosting the local economy is eating locally produced food. While you can do this year around, the local farmers’ markets are always buzzing when the weather warms up with vendors and patrons. In order to have a sustainable meal, shop for vegetables and other foods at your local farmers’ market. Due to the short food supply chain, locally-sourced foods generally have less of a carbon footprint compared to importanted processed foods. 

  • Avoid disposable plates and utensils 

Barbeques and picnics are common activities in the summer. An often unintended side-effect of eating outdoors is creating a lot of waste. When going on picnics or hosting cookouts, don’t use disposable plates, cutleries, napkins, or cups and opt for reusable alternatives instead. Check out this article for more information.

  • Walk or use public transport 

With the weather being so nice, you should opt for walking or biking instead of driving! If you need to travel somewhere far, using public transportation instead of driving is a great option as it eases congestion and reduces emissions. 

  • Shop second hand 

Some of the fun activities of the summer may require or even be shopping. Thrift stores or yard sales are a great eco-friendly activity that gets you what you need. Through second-hand shopping, you give life to products that the original owners no longer need. It also slows down the production chain and allows products in circulation to be used to their highest potential. The warmer seasons make yard sales popular so the summer can also be a great time to host a yard sale to declutter your home!

 

Earth Day 2022: How you can get involved

Despite the recent cold weather in New York, the coming spring provides an opportunity to get out of stuffy offices and cramped rooms and appreciate the flora and fauna right outside our doors. Not only has regular exposure to green been found to be beneficial for mental health, but taking the time to familiarize yourself with nature can also give you a greater appreciation for the Earth and the resources it provides. 

It’s time again for Earth Day, an opportunity to take the time to spend time in nature, learn about climate change, and educate ourselves about the role each of us play in protecting the planet. 

A brief history of Earth Day

Earth Day was brought about in the 1960s by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, in the hopes of uniting environmental thinkers and advocates of the time. With the help of Harvard University graduate student Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day was organized on April 22, 1970, shedding light on the importance of environmental conservation and protection, specifically for college students. 

The organizing on college campuses soon spread across the country, inspiring around 20 million Americans to go out and participate in Earth Day marches and demonstrations. According to a National Geographic report, the initial event strengthened support for environmental legislation in the United States such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act (1973). The day would become an international holiday later in 1990. 

How can you celebrate this year? 

If you’re from the concrete jungle, it can be hard to feel connected to the environment. For parents in particular, teaching the younger generations about the natural world is of the utmost importance in the fight to protect the environment. 

One close-to-home option can help kids learn about the role of local pollinators at the Queens County Farm Museum for their Bee-A-Pollinator Earth Day Service Day, where attendees will learn about composting, gardening, and beekeeping! Or, if farming isn’t your style, the New York City Parks Program has a full calendar of events to expose you to the city’s green spaces, such as tree planting, river cleanups, nature walks, and opportunities to learn about native NYC plants.

By extension, the New York Botanical Gardens not only offer tours of the grounds, but will also be hosting local scientists and horticulturists to talk about their work in protecting, studying, and preserving local plants. For those who prefer crafting, visit the Wave Hill Gardens for their Family Art Project: Gratitude Garden program, which aims to teach kids their abilities to help the planet, in addition to several horticultural lectures. 

On a larger scale, the Earth Day Initiative is again hosting its Earth Day Festival and Virtual Stage event in Union Square, which presents an assortment of exhibitors, including leading environmental and climate groups, actors, U.S. representatives, and youth activists. Additionally, for those more interested in connecting with the community directly, the Grand Bazaar NYC is hosting an Earth Day event, putting attendees in touch with local artisans who work with recycled materials.

Even if you don’t live near the city, there are plenty of ways to give back in your own backyard. Organizations like EARTHDAY.ORG offer databases you can use to find a cleanup near you, a volunteering experience that puts you directly in contact with the natural world and the pollution that affects it. 

How else can you get involved? 

If you can’t find an Earth Day event near you, there’s plenty of ways to celebrate the planet at home! Consider the amount of waste you generate every day, or the amount of energy you consume. How much paper and plastic is thrown away, or how many lights are left on? 

Try to challenge yourself to see if you can go paperless or plastic-free for a whole day. Making an effort to be a conscious consumer can put the scale of the world’s waste problems into perspective. Sure, it’s one plastic bag you opted to not keep from takeout; but how many other people are making the same decision to throw their bags away? Around 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, adding to the already-heavy strains that plastic pollution and microplastics place on fragile marine ecosystems. So, take a moment to question how much plastic you use and dispose of on a regular basis, and see if you can shift away from these practices for Earth Day 2022. 

If cutting all paper and plastic sounds too overwhelming, there are numerous other ways to consider your environmental impact. For example, how environmentally-friendly are your clothes and shopping habits? The fashion industry contributes to deforestation, pollution, and accounts for 35% of all microplastics found in the ocean. Therefore, be conscious about the clothes you’re buying and how you treat them once you have them! Shop secondhand when possible, avoid fast fashion, and try not to over-consume to match current trends. 

When all else fails, stick to the basics: reduce the amount you are consuming, reuse what you have rather than buying new where possible, and recycle what can no longer be used. Even the smallest steps towards environmental consciousness can add up when done on a large scale, so be sure to encourage your community to get involved as well.

Green Tips: Sustainable Spring Cleaning

As Spring approaches, spring cleaning is on everyone’s minds. Unfortunately, many conventional cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to humans. Most cleaning products come in plastic and non-renewable containers, only creating unnecessary waste. They can also be extremely expensive. 

 

Here are some tips to keep your 2022 spring cleaning healthy for the environment, your family, and your wallet. 

 

  1. Make your own cleaning products.
    • Making your own products is a great way to save money and create less harmful cleaning products. Some common DIY products are laundry detergent, all purpose cleaner, and stain remover. Most of the ingredients in these homemade products are common items that you already have in your home. Make sure when making your own products you use reusable containers like mason jars, etc. You can find a plethora of mason jars or other glass containers at your local second hand store. Checkout this article for more DIY cleaning product inspiration.

 

  1. Buy eco-friendly products from eco-friendly companies. 
    • Purchasing from eco-friendly companies is another great way to support these businesses and get reliable products. Some examples of eco-friendly cleaning companies are Seventh Generation, Grove Collaborative, and Blueland. Checkout this article for more inspiration on which companies to buy from. Bonus points if the companies are a part of initiatives that raise money for the environment like 1% for the Planet

 

  1. Recycle when you can.
    • If you need to buy products that come in plastic containers, make sure the container is recyclable. It is also important to check with your local recycling program to figure out how the containers should be cleaned before recycling. This is especially important when dealing with chemicals like the ones in cleaning products. 

 

  1. Start composting! 
    • Spring cleaning is the perfect time of year to reset your everyday routines. Introducing composting into your routine will not only reduce your food waste, but if done correctly, it will also eliminate gross odors from rotting food in your trash can. Check out this article to learn how to get started! 

 

We hope you’ll follow some of these tips and have a clean, healthy, and happy Spring! 

Green Tips: Sustainable Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day gifts usually include flowers, greeting cards, presents, and nice dinners. This year, we encourage you to celebrate Valentine’s Day more sustainably. Check out the tips below for a greener Valentine’s Day!  

 

Here are some green tips for having a sustainable Valentine’s Day:

 

  1. Giving flowers has become a hallmark of Valentine’s Day. Consider giving a potted plant instead which will outlive flower bouquets. The plant will also absorb carbon dioxide, and can freshen your space. If you do end up buying flowers, consider ordering from a florist that sells organic varieties and buy from local shops to reduce your bouquet’s carbon footprint.

 

  1. In addition to flowers, Valentine’s Day is one of the most common holidays for purchasing cards.  According to the Greeting Card Association and Hallmark, it’s estimated that 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year. You can explore sending an electronic valentine’s day card or e-card to save paper, but there are also a bunch of eco-friendly greeting card options as well. 

 

  1. Whichever gift you choose can be carried in an eco-friendly shopping bag, or wrapped in a recycled magazine, newspaper, or used wrapping paper. Please refer to our previous Green Tips on choosing sustainable wrapping paper.

 

  1. A typical Romantic Valentine’s Day, of course, is a dinner for two. If you’re trying to treat your loved one to a special meal,  choose to cook a meal with local and organic ingredients.  For those who like to eat out, consider restaurants that also use organic and local ingredients. Organic food, which uses fewer  chemical pesticides, is not only better for your health, but the organic farming process produces less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional farming and food production.

 

We wish you a safe, happy and eco-friendly Valentine’s Day! Thank you for reading this special Valentine’s Day’s green tip! See you next time. 

NYLCVEF’s Offshore Wind Webinar Recap

On Wednesday, January 12th, 2022, NYLCVEF and our partner, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, hosted a webinar with special guests Orsted and Eversource to learn more about their ongoing offshore wind projects, South Fork Wind and Sunrise Wind. We heard from speakers Jennifer Garvey, New York Market Affairs Manager for Orsted, and Ken Bowes, Vice President of Offshore Wind Permitting and Siting for Eversource Energy. The speakers presented the goals and state of the current projects. 

South Fork Wind is New York’s first offshore wind farm and will be located 35 miles east of Montauk Point. South Fork Wind will help the Town of East Hampton meet its 100 percent renewable energy goals by generating enough clean electricity to power 70,000 homes. It will be operational by the end of 2023. 

Sunrise Wind will be located over 30 miles away from Montauk and will generate 924 MW of renewable energy for over 500,000 New Yorkers each year. This project is projected to create over 2,000 jobs. Production will start in 2025. 

Offshore wind is critical to meet New York’s renewable energy goals, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and rebuild around a green energy economy, which will provide family-supporting jobs and improve public health. Currently, New York has committed to 70% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2040, including 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035.  Sunrise Wind  and South Fork Wind are critical to meeting these unprecedented goals set by the state. 

The webinar ended with a very active question and answer session. Attendees asked about the projects’ permitting processes, impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat, cost to ratepayers, and more. Checkout the recording of the webinar to hear from the experts on these questions and to learn more about the ongoing projects!

Check out the recording of the webinar here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi8dgFSEw3c

Check out Orsted and Eversource’s presentation here: ??https://nylcvef.org/wp-content/uploads/FINAL_SFW_SRW-Update-1.pdf

 

Green Tips: Takeout

As COVID cases are spiking and the weather is getting colder, many are opting for takeout rather than dining in. Plastic containers and excess packaging can make takeout a less eco-friendly option, but there are many ways to still be environmentally conscious.

  • When choosing what to order, stick to in-season foods such as root vegetables and winter squash. Studies have found that eating in-season foods reduces the amount of energy necessary to artificially grow, store, or transport out-of-season produce, reducing your carbon footprint. 
  • Research where your favorite restaurants source their ingredients, and try to opt for ones that use local ingredients to support nearby businesses and lower transportation emissions.
  • Be sure to ask the restaurant to not include plastic utensils or unnecessary packaging, and instead use your own at home.
  • If you do receive plastic utensils or any to-go containers, recycle or reuse them when possible.
  • When possible, pick up take-out yourself and bring your own bags to avoid disposable paper bags.
  • Try to order from restaurants that use environmentally conscious packaging, such as biodegradable containers.
  • Try to avoid getting dressings or sauces on the side to avoid extra plastic waste, and ask for them to be mixed in instead.
  • Eat your leftovers the next day for lunch, or incorporate them into a home-cooked meal for dinner to avoid food waste.

Thanks for reading this week’s Green Tips! We hope these tips will help you to stay environmentally conscious while enjoying takeout during the winter months! 

 

Go Electric in 2022!

Go electric in 2022! Owning an electric vehicle (EV) has many advantages over owning a gasoline-powered car including lower maintenance costs, fewer emissions resulting in less pollution, and lower fuel costs. 

More and more New Yorkers are buying electric vehicles because of the cost savings. For example, the average yearly cost of fueling an EV in New York is $708, while its gas-powered counterpart is $1,200 per year. Additionally, EV maintenance costs are lower than conventional cars because they have fewer moving parts (e.g., belts, crankshaft, fuel pumps, pistons) resulting in fewer mechanical failures. 

Adoption of electric vehicles can also reduce pollution-related health outcomes and greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector is the largest source of GHG emissions in the United States. In New York State, transportation accounts for over one-third of total GHG emissions. The average carbon footprint of an electric car is much smaller than that of a conventional car. As our electric grid shifts to renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower, electric cars will become a cleaner way to get around.

One common misconception of purchasing an EV is the lack of accessible charging, which creates range anxiety. Range anxiety is the fear that a vehicle doesn’t have enough energy/fuel to reach its destination and would leave its occupants stranded. In reality, most New Yorkers could drive an EV for days without needing charging. At home chargers and charging EVs overnight also help to ensure that your vehicle is always fully charged and ready to go. New York is also building charging infrastructure all over the state to address the increasing number of EVs on the road. Increased public charging will eventually lead to decreased range anxiety. 

For all of these reasons, EVs are the future of transportation. Want to check out an EV today? Take our pledge! You can simply fulfill the pledge by attending a virtual or in person event focused on EVs, or by visiting an EV in person, and even take one for a test drive. Let’s go electric in 2022! 

If you’re still feeling uncertain about EVs, hear from some EV owners! Click here to read testimonials from EV drivers across New York

Make sure to check out more information about EVs and NYLCVEF’s EV Campaign on our website at https://nylcvef.org/plugitinny/.

 

By Miaojun Pang and Caroline Hahn. 

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