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Ecotourism in New York City

Updated on February 23, 2015

It seems like eco-tourism and New York don't have anything in common. However, there are ways to be an eco-tourist in the big apple. First of all, what does ecotourism really mean? The International Ecotourism Society suggests the following principles:

  • The prevention of negative influences that can destroy the character of natural or cultural environments.
  • The education of the traveler regarding the preservation and conservation of the environment. It involves the building of environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Local communities should profit from the economic benefits. That is to say, locally-owned facilities and services should be used over international giant companies.
  • Financial benefits should be provided for conservation.
  • The host country’s political, environmental and social climate should be respected at all times.

It is clear that ecotourism can only be practiced if the tourist is ready to follow these principles and if the destination offers ways to adhere to them.


Eco-friendly Transport

New York City is actually more environmentally-friendly than one might think. It has an abundant public transportation system that is used by more than 50% of all New Yorkers to get to work. In Manhattan over 75% of the people do not even own a car. One in every three public transport users in the US live in New York and its suburbs. Public transport plays an essential role in the life of the citizens of New York City. Mobility defines how we do things and what effect it has on our health and on the environment at the same time. Eco-mobility and eco-friendly construction will be the heart of development projects in megacities now and in the future as not only greater traffic densities but also growing populations have to be accomodated. MIT for instance has introduced a mind-dazzling initiative: the Green City Car, which is a stackable, electric and eco-friendly city car for metropolitan cities like New York City.

Recycling in NYC

When throwing away your bottles and cans in New York, remember that that the city recycles them. Containers for recyclabes should be used to discard them. We don't want trash to deface our cities, whether it is a metropolis or a little village. Other materials are recycled as well. The New York City Department of Sanitation provides free weekly pickups for all the different recyclabe materials that accumulate in the households.

The Barclay Bee

Eco-friendly hotels

The Benjamin is among the five hotels in the US that has been awarded the ECOTEL® Five-Globe certification. The hotel engages in reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency through energy-efficient light switches, energy-efficient thermostats, a water conservation program, recycle bins in the rooms, a linens and towels program and produce from local farms. The Benjamin also donates solid and liquid soap amenities to "Clean the World", an organization that provides poor families around the world with recycled soap products and educational material.

The Intercontinental New York Barclay uses 100% wind energy, CFL bulbs in 85% of the hotel as well as timers and dimmers in all public areas in order to reduce energy use during off-peak times. Food products are supplied by providers of local, organic and natural food, the hotel grows its own herbs on its rooftop and beehives were installed to pollinate the neighboring flora and the rooftop garden. The waste management program consists of recycling and composting, the usage of bio-degradable cleansing products and food waste is composted on-site, amongst other things. Unnecessary printing is avoided, the check-in process is paperless and Green Seal certified paper products are used in the guestrooms.
Low-flow showerheads were installed in all guestrooms. The hotel also supports various social initiatives locally, nationally and internationally.



If you think you won't find a green spot in New York City, you have mistaken. Apart from Central Park where you can marvel at interesting trails, rocks, streams and lakes and is the perfect to take in some fresh air in between city shopping and sightseeing tours. If you are looking for entertainment on the water, you will have fun at the Hudson River Park where you can go sailing, kayaking, swimming and even participate in boat building workshops. The park is amazing. Make sure to check out the Hudson River Park website for more information. Inwood Hill Park is Manhattan's last virgin forest. The forest is characterized by caves, valleys and ridges which were formed by shifting glaciers. A hiking trail and the Hudson River Bike trail are ideal for those looking for eco-friendly outside activities.


Eco-friendly Baseball

If you are a baseball fan, you will be happy to hear that attending a Mets game will make you an eco-friendly tourist. The Citi Field building of the Mets was constructed with 95% recycled steel and has ultraefficient field lighting that reduces the energy consumption by up to 50%. The irrigation and plumbing system together save around 4 million gallons of water per year. The Mets are also composting in its kitchens, suites, clubs and restaurants and even compost the grass clippings from the field. Waste oil is made into biodiesel fuel which is used for biodiesel-ready field equipment. In addition, the Mets purchase compostable utensils and they recycle cups, plates and napkins.


Eco-friendly Construction

7 World Trade Center is an excellent example of eco-friendly construction. It recycles rainwater for use in toilets and for irrigation and also features computer-controlled heating and lighting. According to the United States Green Building Council, 3.000 new eco-friendly apartments were built in NYC since 2001. Construction companies allow eco-friendly developers to profit from a green building tax credit that was introduced in the year 2000. Since 2005, nonresidential public buildings that cost more than $2 million are to be built in consistence with the standards determined by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Eco-friendly Relaxation

A place where you can get excellent facial treatments, massages, body, hands & feet treatments, waxings or even enjoy yourself at the hair salon or juice bar you have found the right place at the great jones spa. The products used consist of natural ingredients such as tropical nut oils, fig, coffee, lemon, and olive stones as well as plant and marine-based ingredients in brands like Dr. Alkaitis, Jurlique, and Naturopathica.


Eco-friendly Museums

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is New York City’s first LEED certified museum. The Museum is already using carbon dioxide sensors to control the level of oxygen and CO² in the room. When less visitors are in the room, the ventilation system slows down and thus reduces energy costs. Occupancy sensors control the light in the rooms depending on the people inside. If there are no people in the rooms, the lights are off. In addition, the museum uses efficient, cool-burning low-energy light bulbs. Daylight sensors regulate the artificial lighting needed inside the museum depending on the amount of natural light available. Materials inside the museum are renewable and recyclable such as bamboo, cork, rubber and linoleum floors and carpets. Photovoltaic systems are integrated in the building desin and convert solar energy into electrical power and also serve as visual demonstrations for renewable energy systems. The museum also uses a geothermal heating and cooling system. Last but not least, the day-to-day activities are gradually converting to green operations which includes the usage of green tableware, recycled paper products and biodegradable cups and plates. Recent plans include a new transparent rooftop canopy made from a heat-resistent ETFE skin covered in a dot matrix fused glass material.

Eco-friendly Entertainment

Have you evern been to an eco-friendly club? Me neither! But one actually exists, and in fact in New York City. The Greenhouse Club NYC is the first LEED certified club. It was built with recycled or recyclable material and even the décor is eco-friendly. The walls are covered with bamboo, LED lights give the club a great atomsphere and its electricity is generated 100% by wind power. And if you think you won't have fun at this eco-friendly nightclub, you will be impressed to hear that many celebrities come here frequently. And those coming for the drinks can enjoy their delicioius cocktails that are made from freshly-squeezed juice.

Eco-friendly Restaurants

ABC Kitchen is one of the greenest restaurants you can find in New York City. The restaurant uses local, sustainable, organic and fair-trade seasonal produce that has not been chemically treated through pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, insecticides or GMOs. The meat stems from animals that have been pasture-fed, were humanely treated and free of antibiotics and hormones. In addition, it uses recycled building materials, bread baskets made from the indigenous mapuche people in Patagonia, it uses organic cleaning products and it grows herbs and greens on its rooftop, amongst other environmentally friendly measures.

Address: 35 East 18th Street New York, NY 10003


Eco-friendly Shopping

If you are looking to purchase haircare, skincare, bodycare and petcare products that mostly consist of organic content, don't use genetically modified organisms, weren't tested on animals, don't use artificial colors, fragrances or fillers and of which the ingredients were harvested in an eco-friendly way and are bio-degradable, then you will find what you are looking for at john masters organics. The flagship store is located at 77 Sullivan Street between Spring & Borne and is open seven days a week from 11am-6pm.

Eco-friendly Ecommerce

Eco-friendly clothing for men and women, fair trade coffee and chocolate, handbags and accessories as well as cleaning products are offered at EcoPlum, an online shop where recycled, reusable products and products made from bamboo or organic cotton amongst other things are available for purchase.

If you are still doubtful about the eco-friendliness of New York City, maybe you will think it is worthwile checking out other eco-friendly destinations such as the Portuguese island Madeira.


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    • zenpropix profile image


      6 years ago

      Well done! You help us to see NYC in a new light.

    • jericho911 profile image

      Kenneth Claude 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      I had no idea that the term Eco-Tourism even existed ! Very interesting article. I've never been to NYC. My only trip to New York was a modelling gig in Buffalo for my stepdaughter. NYC is definitely in the future. Thanks for a brilliant hub.


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