This post was originally published on Selva Beat, which is an environmental lifestyle magazine based in Austin, Texas, USA.
In the spirit of Paris Versus New York, Florine Hofmann of The Wasted Blog and Elizabeth Stilwell of The Note Passer wanted to compare markers of sustainability in their respective cities (Elizabeth lives in New York and Florine is studying in Aarhus). They chose to look at access to things like bulk shopping, as well as city funded programs like green markets and transportation — necessarily, some industries like energy fall to state management. Read on to see how the two cities stack up!
Finding Bulk options like rice, pasta, nuts and beans is quite a challenge in Aarhus and close to impossible if you don’t want to spend your day going from store to store for only one bulk item. Aarhus used to have its very own bulk pop up store that would provide people with bulk options once a week, but it closed down 4 months ago. Løs Marked, a Zero Waste shop from Copenhagen, is planning on expanding to Aarhus in the following years but there is no concrete plan in place. Supermarkets occasionally offer coffee and tea in bulk but when it comes to other dried goods it’s pretty much håbløs, as the Danes would say. There has been a Zero Waste experiment with the supermarket chain Føtex, where people could bring their own bottles and fill up their milk- but sadly this concept was not successful.Organic health food stores, however, are moving towards providing more sustainable Zero Waste items like stainless steel straws, glass jars, wooden alternatives to plastic and more and more things are sold in recyclable packaging.
- RenKost – they have a little bulk section with dry goods, sell 2 kinds of bamboo toothbrushes and have a great selection of delicious bulk candy.
- Ganefryd – my favourite place to shop for gluten free bread (I am not gluten free but the bread is so good that I buy it anyway), delicious sugar free vegan sweet treats, and ingredients to make my homemade products.
- Ingerslevs Boulevard Marked – in my opinion the best market in town.
They have a fantastic range of fruit and vegetables and you can even find dried tomatoes, filled olives, cashews, almonds etc. in bulk.
Bulk options are not excessively difficult to find in New York City, but may require a trip to a shop a little farther away for just those items. Many co-ops, health food stores, and bigger stores like Fairway and Whole Foods have bulk bins of items like grains, nuts, flour, beans, and granola. Some shops even have bulk soap, maple syrup, spices, teas, and oils available. As with many things, there is more access in Manhattan and Brooklyn than the other boroughs.
- The Health Nuts
- Gary Null’s Uptown Whole Foods
- Integral Yoga Natural Foods
- 4th Street Co-op
- Fairway Market
- Foragers Market
- Westerly Natural Market
- Sullivan Street Tea & Spice
- Park Slope Co-op (requires membership)
- Bushwick Food Co-op
- Flatbush Food Co-op
- Perelandra Natural Food Center
- Foragers Market
Even though recycling has recently been made possible all around Aarhus and has been highly requested and very well received, it is still not a common thing to do here. According to the Danish Minister for the Environment almost 80% of the household waste in Denmark has been incinerated. Most people recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans, as there is pant on almost all of them but generally, most things get thrown into one trash can. In the past few months, Denmark has put up new recycling bins all over the city for glass, plastic, paper, steel and batteries, which has been highly requested and very well received, yet, still not enough people have jumped on the bandwagon of actually using these new options of cutting down on waste.Something I wish we could have more of are composting bins. In Aarhus, if you don’t have your own garden, the only way to compost your food scraps is either to start a worm compost in your apartment or compost at the closest community garden, which is what I do.
In my building, I only have access to trash and recycling. Depending on your superintendent or building management, your options may include compost and even textile recycling. The city is expanding their compost program slowly, but compost drop off is already available at most GrowNYC greenmarkets (textile recycling too). I just drop my food scraps off every Sunday when I go to the market. GrowNYC also runs borough-wide Stop n’ Swaps for other unwanted, but useable items. Building materials can be donated to Big Reuse or Habitat for Humanity.
For their every day commute, most Danes choose to go by bike. There are clear rules and hand signs for bikers and the bike tracks are very well structured and therefore safe and convenient to ride on. The city also provides free city bikes in every public place that work with a shopping cart-like system. According to the Cycling Embassy Denmark, the average person in Aarhus cycles 2.5 km a day. As most people in Aarhus don’t own a car, as the tax on cars is currently at 180 %, carsharing is getting more and more popular and shared rides are the go-to for many students if they want to go to other cities as train rides are very expensive.Aarhus also just added a light rail to its public transport options, which is also a really good and efficient way to get around.
I have never lived anywhere with so many transportation options. I do not own a car and use the subway or walk to most destinations. Trains can get you around the northeast corridor via the Metro North, Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, PATH, and New Jersey Transit. We have city buses as well as private ones for getting to other cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and D.C. Access to city taxis and car services abound in Manhattan and get more sparse as you get further out in the boroughs. Bicycling on your own bike or with a membership to Citi Bikes is becoming more popular. New Yorkers walk an average of about 8,800 steps daily in the summer and 7,700 steps daily in the winter, according to a study by Fitbit.
In terms of sustainability within the energy department, Denmark is at the forefront of the spectrum worldwide. Especially with wind power which takes up almost 45 % of the total electricity consumption.Denmark plans to be 100 % fossil fuel free in 2050.
Even in common households, energy efficient living is encouraged and every new building is designed with environmental sustainability in consideration.
In 2015, 64 natural gas plants produced almost half the electricity in the state. Another third was produced by 4 nuclear plants (one of those, Indian Point, is set to close by April 2021). One hundred and eighty hydroelectric facilities produce 19 percent of our electricity. Less than a quarter of our electric energy comes from renewables, a number Governor Cuomo wants to increase to half by 2030 — it would be produced here or imported from places like Canada and New England. Thirty wind farms are already planned for upstate, along with the nation’s largest offshore wind farm built off Long Island. The 2014 Draft State Energy Plan reports that in 2011 most of New York’s renewable electricity (approximately 80 percent) was generated by hydroelectric stations, with 9 percent from wind and the remainder from biomass, biogas and solar. Con Edison allows you to purchase renewable energy through their grid, which is as simple as enrolling through your account.
Written by Elizabeth Stillwell and Florine Hofmann; Illustrated by Elizabeth Stilwell
Elizabeth is a freelance writer, designer, and illustrator based in NYC. She uses her blog, The Note Passer, to nerd out on sustainability. She also co-founded the Ethical Writers Coalition. Her work hangs out on the internet and you can see more of it here.