Updated: Jan 9
By Alexander Powers
Spring has arrived, and with Arbor Day and Earth Day just around the corner, now is as good a time as any to reassess your environmental footprint while going about your spring cleaning. While sustainable living can seem intimidating and expensive to some, particularly in a metropolitan area like New York City, there are plenty of ways you can live a "greener" lifestyle with minimal effort and/or expense. As a matter of fact, you could even end up saving money along the way.
BHS NYC Agent and impassioned environmentalist Leigh Wallace regularly counsels clients looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly, be it through home design or daily lifestyle habits. From air-filtering plants to easy ways to compost, here are her tips for making your home life more sustainable.
Plants, Plants, Plants!
"Plants are the best way to filter air in your home. For New Yorkers looking to save precious windowsill space and not block the entire window view, try hanging them from the ceiling or add a plant-hanger bracket to the wall of any room."
Along with creating a relaxing environment and preventing the winter blues, there are plenty of inexpensive, apartment-friendly, and easy-to-care-for plants that act as nature's air purifiers, allowing you to avoid purchasing a manufactured one while adding a touch of natural beauty to your home.
Find a few macrame hangers and use them to showcase your string of pearls plants, bird's nest ferns, or the powerfully detoxifying rubber plants. The result could end up being an in-home oasis that offers a green escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC.
There are several gadgets and systems you can take advantage of to reduce your footprint. Among Wallace's top suggestions was the Nest, a hi-tech thermostat that can be controlled remotely, thereby preventing overuse when you are out and about in the city.
Solar-powered phone and laptop chargers are also readily available online and relatively expensive.
"I have two of these in my home and it really helps charge my phone, iPad and bluetooth speaker," said Wallace.
"For your next kitchen renovation, think electric and cut the gas. Electric stoves, washers, and dryers are the way of the future."
Other options include powering your home with wind or solar power, both of which can be accessed through local agencies. New York City residents can pursue wind power through ConEd and solar power through Brooklyn Solarworks, which offers free consultations.
Companies like these help streamline the process and allow you to take advantage of these innovative technologies while saving money down the road. Project Sunroof, for instance, estimates that the average NYC resident can save up to $17,000 over the course of two decades following implementation of solar power.
Compost with Ease
Composting is not just a passing trend, it is an easy and sustainable way to reduce waste while nourishing plants in your home, yard, or community, all while diminishing the need for dangerous chemical fertilizers. Many towns now have community composting centers, some of which provide pickup services, making it that much easier for you to contribute to your local ecosystem.
"NYC has critters. Use a freezer bucket and either paper bags or compostable plastic to separate all your food scraps from your garbage and store it in the freezer," said Leigh. "This will reduce your regular garbage and keep your compost organized."
"If you are in an apartment, ask your building about the brown bin for city composting. If they do not have one available, check your local green market for a compost drop off. Take the freezer bucket with you for easier transport."
Coffee grinds, she noted, are particularly beneficial for plants and grass. Toss your used filters right into your compost bag/container or reuse the grinds to fertilize your greenery.
Donate, Don't Throw Away
NYC has long been known to have issues with waste surplus. To minimize your contributions to the city's waste system, look for local philanthropic organizations accepting donations. There are also plenty of social media resources you can explore.
A quick search on Facebook, for example, will uncover various, neighborhood-specific "Buy Nothing" groups throughout NYC where you can lend, donate and share items for free. For furniture, Wallace recommends the ever-popular @stoopingnyc and @stoopingbrooklyn accounts on Instagram, where locals can advertise furniture the leave on the sidewalk for free pickup.
There are also plenty of drop-off locations for clothing and other items throughout the city.
"Your local Saturday green market should have a drop off point, for fashion, bedding, bags and shoes. Check the Grow NYC website for a drop off point near you"