More than 100 restaurants have signed on to New York City's Food Waste Challenge, the city's first attempt at a commercial composting program.
The goal is to divert 75% of all solid waste from landfills by 2030 - organic waste accounts for about a third of that and over 70% of restaurant waste. As food waste degrades in landfills, methane is released, a very potent greenhouse gas.
San Francisco currently diverts 80% of its waste from landfills. NYC recycles only about 15%. Bloomberg wants to double that by 2017.
He's also looking to ban Styrofoam and just announced that all kinds of rigid plastics - including toys, hangers and food containers - can now be recycled because a plant dedicated to that is opening in Brooklyn. The extra 50,000 tons recycled each year will save the city $600,000 in avoiding long truck trips to landfills in other states.
Sims Municipal Recycling is opening the largest household recycling plant in North America in Brooklyn, topped with one of the city's largest solar arrays. Because it takes 70% less energy to make plastic from recycled plastics rather than from raw materials, it will further reduce NYC's carbon footprint.
Sims Group (SGM.AX; NYSE: SMS) is the world's largest metals and electronics recycler.
NYC's climate change target is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 31% by 2017 - since 2007, they are down 17% (from 2005 levels), more than half way there.
Participating restaurants are pledging to cut their food waste by half by composting and other waste prevention strategies. A residential compost-pickup program starts next month in Staten Island and will be extended to all schools over the next two years.
Chipotle, Union Square, Juice Generation, Blue Hill and Clearver Co. are among the participating restaurants.
Another program, Gardens for Healthy Communities, is also launching, which sets aside 9 acres of under-used City-owned for 20 community gardens, making healthy, fresh food more widely available as well as access to green space.
Non-profit and community groups will be encouraged to apply, and projects will be evaluated for their ability to promote fresh food access and awareness as well as sustainability initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and neighborhood composting activities.
"We know community gardens are often hubs for healthy activity -hosting weekly farmers markets, working with school groups, or donating produce to pantries," says Kim Kessler, Food Policy Coordinator of NYC. "Many also compost - making their contribution to reducing food waste. These announcements advance both sustainability and health goals by addressing both the production and disposal stages of the food cycle."
A third initiative, the Carbon Challenge, is being taken up by 10 companies pledging to cut carbon emissions 40% in the next 10 years. Participating universities have cut emissions 13% and hospitals 6% over the past three years.
Among the 10 companies that signed are: Google, JetBlue Airways, American International Group, BlackRock, Bloomberg LP, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and top coal financiers Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. They join 17 universities with more than 35 campuses and the 11 largest hospital organizations - together they have 120 million square feet of space, representing 3.5% of the city's emissions.
If these organizations meet their goals, NYC's emissions will drop by 1%.
Emissions from buildings are the city's biggest source of greenhouse gases, 75%. The focus is on reducing emissions in interior office spaces and leased spaces.
"When choosing the home of our new support center in Long Island City, we purposefully selected a building that certified LEED Silver. We're reducing our energy, controlling our HVAC, lights and appliances and using green cleaning methods, says Dave Barger, JetBlue CEO.
"We are proud that our global headquarters in New York City is the world's largest LEED Platinum-certified renovation of an existing office building," says Frank Bisignano, Co-Chief Operating Officer, JPMorgan Chase.
Four universities and one hospital have already met their goals: Barnard College, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), New York University (NYU), Rockefeller University and New York Hospital/ Queens have reduced emissions by an average of 33.3% and cut energy consumption 22%.
FIT is installing its second green roof and NYU met its goal of 30% by 2017 six years early thanks to its state-of-the-art co-generation plant, energy efficiency projects and campus wide engagement campaigns. Its new target is a 50% cut by 2016.
For New York Hospital in Queens, the key to cutting emissions 31% in just three years was replacing a natural gas-driven chiller with an electric chiller. The hospital is also installing a green roof and has recycling and energy reduction programs.
Municipal buildings are also contributing, having cut emissions 12%.
Last year, New York City adopted Zone Green, an impressive initiative that amends the city's zoning regulations to foster green buildings.