NYC expands Carbon Challenge initiatives

A Nissan Leaf electric car is plugged into

A Nissan Leaf electric car is plugged into a charging station at the Seward Park Co-op apartments on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (May 6, 2011) (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

New York City regularly tops the rankings of the most environmentally conscious big cities in the world, with its massive public transit system, efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions and recycling push.

And New York is taking it a step further, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced the expansion of the Carbon Challenge, which calls on city organizations to cut their environmental impact.

"The Carbon Challenge is an essential partnership between the city and our businesses, universities and organizations who share our commitment to a greener, greater New York," Bloomberg said Thursday.

The challenge is part of the city's larger PlaNYC initiative, started in 2007. That established goals of cutting emissions in municipal buildings 30 percent by 2017 and reducing citywide emissions 30 percent by 2030. Just six years in, the city is more than halfway to that goal, having achieved 16 percent in citywide emissions cuts.

Expansive as PlaNYC is, it is only one part of the city's move to be as green as possible. In his final State of the City address in February, Bloomberg laid out a number of plans to improve the environment, including the addition of 10,000 parking spots for electric cars over the next seven years, 50 new electric cars to the municipal fleet, the city's bike-sharing program, a new food waste-recycling program and the now-infamous ban on foam plates and cups.

These "will help us achieve one of PlaNYC's top goals: giving New York the cleanest air of any big city in the country," Bloomberg said during his State of the City. "Even if you don't care about climate change, cleaning our air is good for your health."

A proposal to bring more than 100 new public charging stations into and around the city awaits action, and as electric cars are more widely deployed -- in the municipal fleet, among taxi fleets, a pilot electric bus and among consumers -- the city hopes to make them the focus of green transportation, alongside Citi Bike, set to launch in May.

New York also is well into its Zone Green effort, which aims to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings by changing zoning regulations to allow for greener conditions. The sweeping program, adopted last year, has already been recognized nationally. Earlier this year it won the American Planning Association's 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Environmental Planning.

The city's green efforts aren't all on such a broad scale: the first green food truck hit the streets earlier this year. The Neapolitan Express pizza place on wheels launched in February, running on compressed natural gas.

Here are some of the major green efforts in New York City:

Electric car

charging stations

In his final State of the City address, Bloomberg announced that the city is working to create 10,000 parking spots for electric cars over the next seven years, and there is a proposal to bring about 100 public charging stations to the city by 2014, which is part of a larger statewide plan.

Zone Green

This is an initiative to fit new and existing buildings with energy-saving technology. Adopted last spring, the program ended zoning rules that restricted green developments. The changes enacted under Zone Green make it easier for builders to implement green technology, like solar panels, rooftop gardens and wind turbines. Zone Green improvements also allow for increased heat-retention in walls, cutting carbon emissions while taking in natural energy.

Composting

New composting programs might convert your leftovers into fertilizer for city parks, and starting this spring, the city is piloting a compost program on Staten Island. "We bury 1.2 million tons of food waste in landfills every year at a cost of nearly $80 per ton. That waste can be used as fertilizer or converted to energy at a much lower price," Bloomberg said. If the program is successful on Staten Island, it may be expanded to other boroughs.

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