Saving Green While Going Green 2: Hii Highlights NYC Sustainability Incentives for Businesses

In a new series on Sustainable Business, the Human Impacts Institute will be highlighting our favorite sustainability incentives for New York City Businesses, Consumers, and Beyond. Do you know of a great incentive? Send it our way


With increasing awareness of environmental degradation in recent years, the list of options for businesses to “green” their operations have grown in scope and in application. Today, many companies and organizations offer financial incentives to motivate businesses to ensure sustainability in their practices. However, some of these incentives are hard to find or understand for small business owners or busy consumers, strapped for time and personnel. This week the Human Impacts Institute (Hii) will be highlighting our favorite incentives for water conservation, sustainable transportation, and food donations in NYC.

Preventing Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) with the NYC DEPMonitoring the circulation of water is crucial for the health and safety of people, especially in an area like New York City. Supervising a city’s water system can help to save money, conserve water, keep drinking water clean, and prevent Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). CSO’s are an overflow of sewage and storm water. They occur as a direct result of storm water entering the sanitary sewer system. Storm water entering the sanitary sewer system uses the available system capacity and as the pipes fill and waste water pump stations reach their capacity a CSO event can occur. In NYC, we dump over 27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater into our Estuary per year!

CSO’s not only make for unpleasant days at the beach, but they also present health hazards for people, wildlife, and ecosystems due to high levels of suspended solids, toxic chemicals, floatable material and other pollutants. CSO events also lead to beach closures, shellfish bed closures, algae blooms, and depressed levels of oxygen in the water.

Most CSO events are caused by heavy rainfall, but their frequency is also impacted by consumer choice and water useage patterns. All of us in NYC have roofs, where one inch ofrainfall on a 1,000 square-foot roof generates 623 gallons of runoff! Green infrastructure such as green roofs and the increase of impervious pavement in the city, as well as tree stewardship are key to reducing this runoff in the City. Additionally, consumers can easily reduce CSO events by limiting water usage during rain events. Even though many New Yorkers don’t have lawns or gardens, those who do can devote as much as 40% of their total water usage to watering their gardens or lawns. Rainwater harvesting reduces rooftop runoff and helps conserve water by diverting rooftop runoff from the sewers and into collection barrels for use for green space stewardship.

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) both manages our water system for the city and provides incentives for New Yorkers to conserve water resources and prevent CSO’s from occurring. Through its Rain Barrel Giveaway Program they will provide you with the rain barrels, an easy-to-use installation kit and basic training. After that, all you need to do is use the water via the spigot. The more water you use, the better, as this will ensure that the barrel is always able to capture storm water and help relieve pressure on the city’s sewer system.

If you are a single-family or attached two-family homeowner and would like to participate in this exciting, new pilot program:

For other tips from DEP on how small businesses can reduce their water usage and energy costs, see their publication at:

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with the NYC DOTTransportation is one of the leading causes of air pollution in the United States and many other countries worldwide. As the global economy continues to grow, the demand for local transportation increases and with it, pollution occurs.

Fortunately, through New York City’s Department of Transportation, there are incentives to promote the use of bicycles in New York City. CityRacks is a program that provides free sidewalk bicycle parking racks throughout New York City to encourage cycling for commuting, short trips and errands. Businesses can expand their client base and improve customer satisfaction by providing convenient “parking” nearby. Also, the availability of CityRacks parking discourages cyclists from parking at mailboxes, parking meters, trees, and other sidewalk structures. Request a bike rack in your neighborhood today!

Waste Management and Food Donations with City HarvestMore than 270,000lbs of food is wasted in NY each day, while thousands of residents don’t have enough to eat. On a larger scale, Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, which is about 12 percent of the total waste stream. Most Americans are not aware of the impacts of our consumption patterns or waste rates. Reducing food waste is a key component to a healthy community and sustainable future.

There are many ways for consumers and businesses to reduce food waste, while saving money, including: planning out meals, reusing leftovers, preparing to order, taking to go, composting, growing and/or purchasing locally. For NYC businesses, there is also a way to donate much of their unused food items to a good cause!

City Harvest–“the world’s first food rescue organization”–rescues food from all segments of the food industry including restaurants, wholesalers, green markets, bakeries, caterers, hospitals and corporate cafeterias, as well as canned food drives. Donors who consistently have 50 lbs. of food or more may be put on a truck route for weekly or daily pick-ups. Not only can businesses reduce their food waste, they also reduce their waste hauling fees by donating to City Harvest, help New York’s hungry, and are often eligible for a tax deduction for the donation! Do you qualify? Become a Scheduled Donor today!

By Ron Comstock, 2011 Human Impacts Institute Sustainable Business Intern

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