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Sustainable Staycation in NYC: 8 Great Activities

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Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Ronile

NYC has all kinds of sustainable attractions for you to enjoy. Here are some eco-friendly staycation ideas so you can have fun while limiting your carbon footprint.

With a truly world-class mix of outdoor spaces, landmarks, museums, delicious street food and vibrant multicultural quarters steeped in history, New York City offers something for everyone. Next time you get hit by wanderlust, why not ditch the trip to the airport and opt for a sustainable staycation in your own backyard? Given NYC’s sheer size and range of possible experiences, this list is by no means a definitive guide to your next staycation. Still, it’s a great foundation to work with when planning your sustainable itinerary.

1. Sustainable Shopping

Shoppers with an eye for all things sustainable with find NYC a retail paradise.
Shoppers with an eye for all things sustainable with find NYC a retail paradise. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / RyanMcGuire)

No staycation experience in NYC is complete without a few hours (or even days) dedicated to some serious retail therapy. NYC offers plenty of sustainable shopping options for those who want to avoid over-consumption and showy expensive brands. There are endless choices for the eagle-eyed bargain hunter, from upcycled homeware and secondhand bookstores to thrift outlets stocked with vintage threads and classic footwear.

A popular haunt is the Brooklyn Flea, which draws New Yorkers in from all over the city on weekends. Shoppers can support local designers and artisans, haggle for vintage antiques, furnishings and clothing, and browse through a vast selection of rare jewelry and art pieces. The Brooklyn Flea also boasts a sprawling outdoor food market where foodies can indulge in some of Brooklyn’s most iconic eats.

Buying used items and extending a product’s lifespan can often be the most sustainable choice shoppers can make. New York City has a thrift scene second to none, with hundreds of treasure troves stacked with preloved gems just waiting to be discovered.

2. Sustainable City Travel

Exploring NYC on foot is the most sustainable way to get around and will give you a real feel for the city.
Exploring NYC on foot is the most sustainable way to get around and will give you a real feel for the city. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / 12019)

Let’s face it, traffic in New York can be an absolute nightmare, so sustainable travel options are always a better option than driving around town in a car. Subways and buses will get you virtually anywhere you need to be and are low-carbon-footprint travel options. Since the NYC subway system caters to more than 1.7 billion passengers a year, the cumulative emissions offsets are noteworthy. But if you want to get from A to B even more sustainably — and work on your fitness at the same time — nothing beats exploring the city on foot or by bike.

In NYC, you’ll find hundreds of miles of greenways complemented by an extensive system of bike lanes and hiking paths. To explore some famous neighborhoods and history on foot, consider some of the many walking tours. Those who prefer pedal power can sign up for an e-bike rental service, where you purchase a one-day or three-day pass to collect a bike from one of the hundreds of stations around the city and explore the city at your leisure.

3. The Great Outdoors

NYC beaches are a real highlight in the summer months.
NYC beaches are a real highlight in the summer months. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / michasekdzi)

Despite the bustling urban landscape, New York also boasts an impressive array of lush green parks and outdoor spaces throughout its five boroughs — so remember that Central Park isn’t the only spot to relax and get closer to nature. There are plenty of safe and clean green spaces where you can picnic on the grass with friends and family, wander along shaded forest paths or play sports like soccer or frisbee. You can also head to nearby beaches and seaside attractions like Coney Island, Orchard Beach and Rockaway Beach, to name just a few. Soak up some rays, work on your tan and enjoy the fresh sea air.

4. Gardens and Wildlife Refuges

Wildlife refuges and plant conservation areas offer a welcoming escape from the NYC hustle and bustle.
Wildlife refuges and plant conservation areas offer a welcoming escape from the NYC hustle and bustle. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / 12019)

Aside from the iconic Central Park, you can commune with nature in the New York Botanical Garden. With more than 250 acres of beautiful gardens to explore, this is a must for those preferring a quieter staycation NYC experience.

Another major attraction is the Queens Botanical Garden, a lush green oasis with 39 acres of rose, herb and perennial gardens. In 2001, it launched the Sustainable Landscapes and Buildings Project, which aims to teach and practice sustainability using a variety of innovative strategies. Interested visitors can hear how Queens Botanical Garden works to improve its sustainability while also learning how to be more sustainable at home.

Nature enthusiasts will love the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the northeastern United States and the best place in NYC to observe migrating species in action. The park comprises several rare native habitats such as salt marshes, fields and woodlands as well as fresh and brackish water ponds, an open bay and islands. You can hike the trails on your own to discover the landscape and wildlife, but there are also regular guided tours.

5. Eco-friendly Eats

NYC is has an eclectic dining scene and numerous farmers markets.
NYC is has an eclectic dining scene and numerous farmers markets. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Leonhard_Niederwimmer)

You can definitely work to reduce your carbon footprint and still please your palate. NYC enjoys an ever-growing array of sustainability-focused restaurants that celebrate the delicious flavors of regionally grown food. Many even plate up delicious ingredients cultivated from their own rooftop gardens.

Farmers markets are another must-see in New York, where hungry shoppers with an eye for organic, sustainable produce can indulge in a plethora of locally grown foods. Eating local can significantly reduce emissions generated by food transportation, and some farmers markets even repurpose your compost scraps as organic fertilizer.

Union Square is arguably the most famous farmers market in the city. In the high season, more than 140 local farmers, fishers and bakers can be found selling fresh goods. If Union Square is too out of the way for your NYC staycation, Greenmarket runs 50 farmers markets all over the city, so you’re sure to find one nearby.

6. NYC’s Green Landmarks

The Empire State Building has been retrofitted to be more energy efficient.
The Empire State Building has been retrofitted to be more energy efficient. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / wiggijo)

The best way to see NYC is from above, and in many instances, sightseeing from the rooftops is an eco-friendly and sustainable experience. For example, you can take in the iconic and breathtaking views of downtown from the Javits Center, which has a 6.75-acre green roof that visitors can tour.

Architecture in NYC is also starting to incorporate sustainability, with buildings like 10 Hudson Yards embracing an eco-friendly and energy-conscious aesthetic. Meanwhile, timeless architectural classics like the Empire State Building show how older structures can also go green — a 2009 retrofit increased the iconic skyscraper’s energy efficiency by almost 40 percent.

7. Explore The High Line

NYC is spectacular from above, especially when explored using The High Line.
NYC is spectacular from above, especially when explored using The High Line. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / kokygonzalez)

Speaking of views from above, The High Line is one of the most enjoyable places to visit on a sunny day in NYC. This linear park is built on a former elevated freight rail line that runs from the Meatpacking District through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard. Take a stroll through wildflowers and grasses while enjoying panoramic views of the Hudson River and the bustling street life below. The High Line is a perfect example of how NYC can turn an unsightly industrial area into a green recreation space for everyone. This innovative project was made possible thanks to community residents who worked hard to preserve and repurpose the old train tracks as a public space.

8. Rooftops Go Rural

NYC continues to innovate and explore new ways to increase its sustainability.
NYC continues to innovate and explore new ways to increase its sustainability. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / 12019)

For city slickers, visiting a farm no longer necessitates a trip to the countryside. You can see first-hand the local and sustainable food production made possible by rooftop farming within the city limits. Three rooftop farms offer visitors the chance to acquaint themselves with this sustainable practice. One option is Brooklyn Grange, which operates one of the world’s biggest rooftop soil farms, where you can visit the farm and even take part in a tour or workshop. Another choice is Eagle Street Rooftop Farms in Brooklyn, which offers tours and educational workshops and sells produce directly from the rooftop during growing season.

Once you decide on a staycation in NYC, do some online research. There is no end to the exciting eco-friendly and energy-conscious activities available for locals in “The City That Never Sleeps.”

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