Sustainable is defined as maintaining ecological balance or using natural resources in a way that does not disrupt the natural balance or permanently deplete them. Seems like a difficult task here in New York City’s concrete jungle, however you would be surprised at what we can do as individuals to become more sustainable and make a positive difference in our everyday lives.
If each of us takes steps to reduce our impact and improve the areas surrounding us, environmental conditions will improve as the world becomes more sustainable.
Go #plasticfree and support the local farmers and economy by buying in bulk and shopping at the farmer’s markets. Plastic is a petroleum product and limiting the amount of plastic we use reduces our dependency on harmful fossil fuels. By saying no to plastic bags, straws and containers you will be amazed at how much less waste you create and how much you are contributing to a cleaner ocean and land. Remember, just because its recyclable does not mean its right. Recycling wastes tons of fossil fuels and is a lot more work than we are lead to believe.
Transportation is the number one greenhouse polluter in the United States. Bicycling, walking, carpooling or riding the train and bus are the best ways to commute sustainably. Inflating your car tires, driving slower, and combining trips will all help you save gas when driving is necessary. And for long distance travel, take the train or purchase carbon offsets which invest your money into alternative energies. Lastly conserve energy by turning your lights off when you're not home, using LED lights and not leaving the door open when the air conditioner is on. Also choose green electricity providers.
We must also become less dependent others for our needs, especially with food. Often times food is trucked across the country or shipped across the globe before it reaches the dinner table and this is very unsustainable. We need to focus on eating local and even growing our own food.
By growing our own and knowing where the food comes from, we can avoid dangerous chemicals and pesticides that are used to grow commercial crops and that destroy the environment and disrupt ecological stability. Healthy, fresh alternatives will also help you avoid processed and packaged foods that are bad for our health and the planet. Make sure to compost and have as little food waste as possible. Food waste is a huge contributor to greenhouse pollution.
I know its hard not to shop as we pass by all the amazing stores and boutiques here in NYC, but we should all make an effort to limit new purchases and and start upcycling and repurposing our old stuff. Everything you buy in a store required fossil fuels to get there. The more we shop, the faster fuel is burned which ultimately destroys the environment.
Make an effort to start selling or giving away old stuff on Craigslist, at neighborhood swaps or secondhand and thrift shops. You would be amazed at all the awesome stuff you can find around the city at stores like Buffalo Exchange, Beacon’s Closet, People of Tomorrow and so many others that are left to discover. Not to mention buying secondhand, you can avoid the exposure to harmful chemicals and toxic formaldehyde, which can lead to allergic reactions and illnesses. If you choose to buy something new, support your local designers and smaller boutiques to keep a strong local economy.
We can also make an effort to simplify our personal care by using natural products that can be found at the farmers market or your local pharmacy. Take sink baths to reduce water, use organic products or no products at all. And remember, healthy foods leads to healthy skin and body.
It may be a big battle, but NYC can become a sustainable city. It’s just going to take a little bit of work and a lot more self reliance!
Written by Vanessa Upegui
Photography by Megan Martin