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6 Reasons Why New Yorkers Can Congratulate Themselves on Earth Day

By Nicole Levy | April 21, 2016 6:57pm
 This planted roof at P.S. 41 in the West Village is one among a number in the city collecting excess rainwater.
This planted roof at P.S. 41 in the West Village is one among a number in the city collecting excess rainwater.
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P.S. 41/Ari Burling

You can walk long stretches of this city without seeing a single tree, but New York is more environmentally friendly than you might think.

In honor of Earth Day this Friday, we rounded up the reasons for which our metropolis — despite the millions of tons of waste it generates each year — might actually be able to call itself the "greenest city in America."

(Caveat: obviously, being greener than other cities is no reason for slack on NYC's conservation efforts. Check out these tips on how to contribute to a healthier planet.)

► The city is taking green roof initiatives — which entail growing plants on rooftops to replace the vegetation that grew there before the building was constructed — seriously.

In 2014, it ranked among the top five cities to install the most square footage of green roofs, according to a 2015 survey by the nonprofit industry association Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

Planted roofs keep the heat-absorbing surfaces of buildings cool and retain excess rainwater, which would otherwise overwhelm the city's sewer system.

New York's high population density significantly reduces its carbon footprint.

More people live in one square mile of New York — 27,000 — than a square mile of any other major city in the U.S.  

That means many New Yorkers live within walking distance of the stores at which they work and the offices in which they work. About 10 percent of city residents were walking to work as of 2012, according to U.S Census Bureau figures

The apartment buildings and other multi-family units that dominate New York's real estate market reduce its energy usage per household.

The entire state ties with Rhode Island for the least energy consumed per capita in 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

As of 2009, New Yorkers consumed about 4,700 kilowatt hours of electricity per household per year, compared with the more than 11,000 kilowatt hours per year average for households across the U.S.

We own fewer cars than city dwellers anywhere else in the country, in part because we have a strong mass transit network.

More than half of New York households, 56.5 percent, didn't own a car as of 2012. As a result, the average New Yorker uses only about a quarter as much gas as the average Vermonter.

City residents rely on mass transit, instead. They're more than twice as likely as the average American to take public transportation than drive to work. Almost 57 percent of New Yorkers reported commuting mainly by subway, train, bus or ferry in an American Community Survey published before 2010.

The average New Yorker travels more than 1,200 miles via transit every year.

The de Blasio administration has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

The first prong of its plan, announced in September 2014, was an initiative to retrofit public and private buildings for increased energy efficiency.

► We conserve water by waiting until we've run out of underwear to do our laundry and then cram all our dirty clothes into one washing machine.

The front-loading washers at laundromats can use as much as 30 gallons of water per full load.