What shade are you?
From not green at all (that's doing nothing, lazy-ass) to puke green (that's going overboard, granola-nut) and everything in between, we've got you colored.
Thu Jul 5 2007
Not green at all
(i.e., don't wanna lift a finger)
Illustration: Wendy Plovmand
Despite Mayor Mike’s desire for a more eco-friendly NYC, for many of you, “going green” is taking the 6 instead of the N or R. But you can still help the environment every day you’re here—even if your Coke Zero cans fall short of the recycling bin.
What to do: Keep living in New York City
What you get out of it: Besides a general air of superiority? The satisfaction of being green without doing crap. “For the laziest of environmentalists, New York is kind of the perfect place,” says Benjamin Jervey, author of The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City. “Someone who isn’t consciously doing anything in New York City is living a life of less ecological impact than someone in the suburbs who considers themselves very environmentally oriented and concerned.” Yes, that cramped little space you call home is eco-friendly.
What the environment gets out of it: The amount of energy used in your two-to-four-unit building is a quarter of that used by the couple with a single-family home in the sticks, according to the Department of Energy’s statistical bureau. So step off, Ed Begley Jr.
What to do: Go to an outdoor show or movie
What you get out of it: The chance to see the Beastie Boys in Brooklyn—or Transformers. Win-win.
What the environment gets out of it: Communal hangouts like Prospect, Corona and Central Parks—which hold events such as SummerStage, Celebrate Brooklyn and Shakespeare in the Park—are environmentally friendly simply because of the sheer numbers of people who attend, since folks’ carbon footprint is collectively reduced. Even movies can be enviro-positive—the air-conditioning for the masses offsets their units at home. “The fact that most of us don’t drive cars also helps,” Jervey says. “Somewhere around 30 to 35 percent of New Yorkers own cars—in Manhattan that number’s even lower at 22 percent.” According to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the city’s public transportation keeps 700,000 bridge-and-tunnel cars out of the city’s business areas and takes 400 million pounds of soot, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and other toxins out of the air—all for the cost of a MetroCard.
What to do: Drink beer in bars
What you get out of it: A nice buzz. Environment, seriously: I love you, dude.
What the environment gets out of it: Yeah, even buying a beer could make you the next Al Gore. Brooklyn Brewery, for one, is powered by wind energy and ships its kegs in biodiesel-fueled trucks. But just going to your neighborhood bar can help. Says Jervey: “That action alone, rather than someone driving to a store, buying a six-pack and driving home with it, helps a lot.”
Your Live Impact score
The Live Earth website (liveearth.org) features an Earth Conservation Plan, which allows you to assess your ecological impact. If you’re not green at all, live alone in Manhattan, have a one-bedroom and a $75 monthly electric bill, never drive, take the bus and subway, fly many times per year, and refuse to recycle or turn off the lights when you leave the room, you still score a 236, producing six tons of carbon annually. The average score in the U.S. is 325.
(i.e., doing the bare minimum)
Illustration: Wendy Plovmand
So you wanna be green but can’t commit to cloth toilet paper? Here’s how to do the absolute minimum and still make Sting proud.
What to do: Recycle, duh
What you get out of it: The chance to save a little face when everyone’s talking about the environment, since “Recycling is bullshit” doesn’t go over too well these days at parties. And if you just can’t bear to separate paper and plastics, consider alternative waste-defying solutions: Switch to online bill paying, buy songs from iTunes or call J. Crew and ask them to stop sending you catalogs—less clutter for you.
What the environment gets out of it: Not as much gas. Thank landfills for 36 percent of all global-warming-causing methane emissions in the U.S. For a roundup of recycling events, see Around Town.
What to do: Conserve water
What you get out of it: The chance to save the world, just by turning a knob while brushing your teeth during Conan. A running faucet can use two to three gallons per minute.
What the environment gets out of it: Fifty to seventy-five percent of all residential water use happens in the bathroom. Use less water when you take a shower by nabbing a water-conserving showerhead like the one by Oxygenics (available in the city at Bed Bath & Beyond, various locations, for $35–$60). The heads increase oxygen content in the water and self-pressurize (there’s a massage feature, too!). Low-flow showerheads use only 2.5 gallons of water per minute, compared with the standard showerhead’s 4–7 gallons.
What to do: Conserve electricity
What you get out of it: If the thought of going through your home replacing all your incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents exhausts you (even though they are available everywhere these days, even area Gristedes), don’t worry. “One of the laziest and easiest things you can do is make a five-minute call to Con Edison or look up ConEdSolutions.com to switch your apartment’s electric load to wind power,” Jervey says. “It doesn’t affect your lifestyle, and it’s less than a 10 percent premium on your bill.”
What the environment gets out of it: Power from wind means no evil air emissions. ConEd also suggests unplugging appliances like computers and TVs when you aren’t using them, because the International Energy Agency estimates they still use power responsible for 1 percent of the world’s carbon monoxide emissions, even if they’re turned off. And one last nag: Keep those air conditioners at 72 degrees—or turn them off and open a window. You’ll save money and emit less CO2.
What to do: Eat green
What you get out of it: Eating green produce is healthier (less travel time equals fewer lost nutrients), and supporting local farmers means fewer trucks come into the city. There are 44 Greenmarket locations in New York. For a schedule and locations, visit cenyc.org, and for an interview with the Greenmarket founder, see “The Hot Seat.”
What the environment gets out of it: See above. There are also a number of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the city, which boost local farms that deliver fresh produce to people who buy shares in the farmer’s harvest. For more information, visit www.justfood.org. Or join a neighborhood co-op like the one in Park Slope (782 Union St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, 718-622-0560).—Lisa Murphy
Your Live Impact score
If you live in a Brooklyn one-bedroom, switched to ConEd Solutions, never drive, take the bus and subway, fly rarely, recycle and buy local, your score would be 193 and your annual carbon output three tons.
(i.e., getting into it)
Illustration: Wendy Plovmand
If you’re really committed to Gaia pride, be prepared to make some major changes, whether you’re overhauling your body, your kitchen or your wardrobe (put down that artificial spandex!).
What to do: Join the chain gang
What you get out of it: According to bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, 40,000 New Yorkers are riding their bikes to work each day—and that doesn’t include pedicabs. Besides shortening your commute—the average cyclist rides 30 minutes each way, 15 minutes less than straphangers—you’ll also save money. The operating cost per mile for a bike is 9.75 cents compared with 15.1 cents for a car, and that’s in addition to the cash you’ll save on a gym membership, since cyclists burn an average of 440 calories a day riding to and from work.
What the environment gets out of it: “Commuting by bike results in zero carbon emissions,” Vance Wagner of Transportation Alternatives says. “This is one area in which people have direct control over their carbon footprint.” In comparison, each person riding the subway creates 750 pounds of CO2 emissions per year, and bigwigs riding around in SUVs create 4,000 pounds. Think about that while hitting one of Metro Bicycles’ six Manhattan locations (metrobicycles.com); there, you can score a Trek hybrid for around $300.
What to do: Reduce, reuse, renovate
What you get out of it: In a town where everyone’s a foodie, it’s important to have a top-of-the-line kitchen—even if you never cook. You’ve got to keep the leftovers from Vegetarian’s Paradise 2 (144 W 4th St between Sixth Ave and MacDougal St, 212-260-7130) somewhere, right? Buy your kitchen materials at Build It Green! (3-17 26th Ave between 3rd and 4th Sts, Astoria, Queens; 718-777-0132, bignyc.org). Offering overstock materials donated by builders, BIG sells items like Viking stoves, Sub-Zero refrigerators, cabinetry, office furniture and lumber at 50–75 percent off their regular prices. “It’s an opportunity to do the right thing and to save money,” says program director Justin Green (yes, really, that’s his name!).
What the environment gets out of it: By putting these wares back in the market, Build It Green! keeps them out of landfills, which produce that aforementioned methane gas. In the two years they’ve been operating, Build It Green! has prevented more than 500 tons of material from going into landfills, and Green figures that installing a reused kitchen will reduce your greenhouse emissions by almost one ton. Additionally, all profits are donated to SolarOne, an environmental education program.
What to do: Get some green in your closet.
What you get out of it: Eco-chic has come a long way. Stop by Kaight (83 Orchard St between Broome and Grand Sts; 212-680-5630, kaightnyc.com), which opened last year on the Lower East Side, and you’ll find hip and hemp with fashion-forward green lines. The store’s owner, Kate McGregor, says that by buying green clothing, “You’re not wearing toxins; you’re doing something healthy for yourself.” For more green fashions, see Seek, page 52.
What the environment gets out of it: Approximately 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of pesticides are consumed by cotton production, according to the Organic Cotton Exchange. By supporting designers who use organic materials, you lessen the use of these chemicals. And wouldn’t you love a pair of summer sandals for that newly slim carbon footprint?—Adam Rathe
Your Live Impact score
If you’re two people living in a two-bedroom, average $50 a month in electricity, use energy-efficient CFL lighting, never drive, take the subway and bus, rarely fly, recycle and turn off your computer monitor (and lights) at night, your score is a 178, with an annual carbon output of two tons.
(i.e., going too far)
Illustration: Wendy Plovmand
Your life is like that movie Say Anything…, except instead of obsessing over Ione Skye, you’re into hydrofluorocarbons, and instead of a boom box, you’re holding up reusable tampons. We’re not judging. It’s all good. It’s just a little…intense.
What to do: Take care down there
What you get out of it: That feeling of being close to nature—really close. Start a green day by eschewing synthetic clothing and donning 2(x)ist’s soy underwear, available at Bloomingdale’s (1000 Third Ave between 59th and 60th Sts, 212-705-2000). Besides being 95 percent soybeans, it’s also naturally antimicrobial—not that your knickers are dirty or anything, after all those easily digestible whole grains and seitan. Speaking of stains: Consider washable sea-sponge tampons ($13 each, when ordered at Columbus Natural Food, 725 Columbus Ave between 95th and 96th Sts; 212-663-0345, gladrags.com) for you and/or the women in your life. Besides saving valuable space in landfills taken up by the millions of tampons disposed in the U.S. every year, you’ll add a new monthly “disinfect the tampon in the sink” ritual (don’t use bleach—it’s bad for the environment!). And before you leave the house, use a urine-separating toilet ($929 at ecovita.net).
What the environment gets out of it: Regarding those panties, cotton production alone uses 55 million pounds of pesticides in the U.S. every year, while synthetic “permanent press” fabrics are often treated with formaldehyde to achieve that “no-iron” ease—which is fine as long as you don’t mind being slowly embalmed by your clothing. And urine is responsible for 80 percent of nitrogen and 45 percent of phosphate in wastewater. This commode allows you to turn your own waste into compost, kinda like in Waterworld, except you don’t drink it (we think).
What to do: Shop at…Wal-Mart
What you get out of it: Big-box items without the big-box guilt, if you believe the company line. After setting a goal of achieving zero waste in their stores, Wal-Mart became the little green megastore that could. Hop on the 320 bus at Port Authority for a 15-minute ride to the Secaucus Wal-Mart (400 Park Pl, 201-325-9280). While you’re making a statement in support of their lofty goals, note the attempts at decreasing packaging sizes on low-priced plastic knickknacks.
What the environment gets out of it: Wal-Mart’s newest green campaign has included saving 800,000 gallons of gasoline and emitting 11 million fewer pounds of greenhouse gas by using corn-based packaging. Of course, the retailer is still responsible for violating the Clean Water Act in nine states per store per day, paying the largest settlement for storm-water violations at construction sites in EPA and DOJ history. Its newest “green” push is “definitely a publicity stunt,” says Paul Blank, campaign director for Wake-Up Wal-Mart, a grassroots organization. “What’s unknown now is how much of the talk will turn to action; thus far they’re only talking about doing things that also save them money.”
What to do: Protest the Man
What you get out of it: As any college sophomore will tell you, protesting is the purest form of environmentalism, plus a great way to meet outdoorsy chicks and dudes. You can trek up to Canada to take part in a tree-sit (ingmarlee.com), but there are environmental disasters close to home. Pack your Nalgene and camp out in front of the demolition site where work has already begun on the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn—Ratner-free ’hoods are New York City’s redwoods.
Think passive resistance reeks of wussiness? Access to ecoterrorist cells can be difficult, what with them being illegal; start by making friends in the forums at the Animal Liberation Front (animalliberationfront.com). But aboveboard organizations like the ASPCA (424 E 92nd St between First and York Aves) are much tamer, and you can flyer without fear.
What the environment gets out of it: Your activism just may be what stops the Atlantic Yards project from increasing carbon monoxide levels at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues from 5.4 to 5.8ppm by 2016, as the Environmental Impact Statement predicts they will.
What to do: Screw ConEd
What you get out of it: As the sun sets, gaze upon your worm-composting unit (see “The worm churns,”) by eco-friendly candlelight. A make-your-own soy candle kit ($12, at wicksworks.com) gives you 120 hours of burn time.
What the environment gets out of it: A mere $800 later, the clean-burning light of the candles will have matched a single energy-efficient lightbulb’s 8,000 hours—almost completely soot-free. Head to bed on 100 percent hemp sheets ($329–$499 at rawganique.com), with duvet buttons made of sustainably harvested Amazonian tagua nuts, secure in the knowledge that you’re greener (and possible broker) than anyone else you know.—Allison Williams
Your Live Impact score
If you live in Manhattan (with three others) in a single-family home with two bedrooms, have an electric bill under $20, use energy-efficient CFL lighting, have 100 percent of your energy coming from renewable resources, walk or bike everywhere, never fly, and always recycle and buy local, your score is 153, with an annual carbon output of 0.1 tons.