The aroma of fresh harvested produce surrounds those who pass through. Curious locals peer at the peculiar variations of produce. As they become immersed in the Union Square Greenmarket, time ceases to exist; at least compared to the fast paced New York life. However, customers are doing more than just buying groceries.
The market offers ethical, healthy and organic products that the standard supermarket wouldn’t offer. John Hayton, a cheese maker and vendor at Cherry Grove Farm, says,”Our cows are grass-fed and at our farm there is a small herd of cows that we make our cheese from. This makes the flavor more natural.”
“I come three times a week because I live in the area and it is convenient. I enjoy supporting local farmers instead of buying from large supermarkets,” says Erin Stair, a regular at the market. Many customers, like Stair, help promote small businesses and the local economy.
Buying local is better for the environment because it cuts down on the processing, packaging and shipping of food produced by large corporations. By supporting the market, customers helps cut the amount of waste sent to landfills, which also decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
Although the market is the center of consumption, it is also a big contributor to recycling what most urbanites would waste.
It offers a convenient compost collection, where locals can bring produce scraps, breads and grains, beverage waste and other compostable things. Once the compost is collected at the market, it is transported to a compost site. There it is made into fertile soil for local farming and gardening projects. This collection doesn’t only cut down city waste, but decreases the amounts of greenhouse gases released into the air.
There is also an inviting textile recycling collection, where locals can drop off unwanted clothes and textiles that would otherwise be thrown away. Instead of wasting, the collection service finds ways to reuse these items. The usables clothes are redistributed to markets with a high demand for second hand clothing and the scraps are used as cleaning rags or recycled into car door panels and insulation
Volunteers from City Harvest come at the end of the market on Saturdays to collect thousands of pounds of leftover food. You can see them in green t-shirts, talking to vendors, bagging produce or pushing around packed bins of food. All this is loaded onto the City Harvest truck parked on the corner of Union Sq West and 15th Street. All of the food is distributed to food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other food programs around the city free of charge.
People from all over New York come together four days a week to be a part of an interactive, community minded experience. What most visitors don’t realize is that this market is a model for a sustainable and environmentally conscious community.