by Marcy Denker, Village of Nyack Sustainability Coordinator
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In 2018 Climate Change was in the news and on our minds. The reporting of extreme weather events—devastating fires, hurricanes, flooding, and droughts–has started to shift public awareness and understanding of the way climate change already affects our lives. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October warns that we have only 12 years take the aggressive actions needed to avert calamity, and a U.S. Government report released in late November details the massive toll on the economy if we fail to act.
So, what actions should we take? Can anything an individual’s actions possibly matter? Many of us already have changed the way we eat, what kind of car we drive, how we heat our homes, wash our clothes, and dispose of our trash. And as we make these individual moves, so important in our day to day lives, we sense their futility, given the global scale and complexity of the problem.
But individual actions every day do create awareness and understanding that we can together build effective community action. Working together in groups and coordinating among groups, we tie our efforts, create a fund of knowledge, and widen our sphere of influence. We can support each other in finding new openings and opportunities.
We can also work together to reduce carbon emissions. We can buy fossil-free energy for less money as a whole community by aggregating our purchasing power. We can work together as a community to help residents take advantage of generous incentive programs to make Nyack homes—both single and multi-family—more energy efficient. We can encourage owners and renters who can’t install solar panels to adopt locally produced clean energy from a community solar project. We can create pilot projects for small- and large-scale composting to make it easier for the community to adopt new ways of managing food and yard waste. There are plenty of ways that as a community we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while trying new things, sharing information, building knowledge and new relationships that will magnify our potential to make change.
Green actions Nyack will take in 2019
In 2019, Nyack will do two things to help bring people together to address climate change: Create a Climate Action Plan and, at the same time, accomplish at least one concrete project addressing community-wide energy use. For the Action Plan, community members, public officials, and village staff will set emission-reduction targets and goals for improving community preparedness, and outline strategies to achieve them on schedule. The more meaningful commitments there are from the individuals involved, the more ambitious the targets can be.
Really? More plans? Sometimes community members suspect that writing plans leads to nothing but more plans and paperwork. But consider this: The village has just submitted an application to become a Bronze-level Climate Smart Community, and some of the most significant accomplishments to Nyack’s credit from the past several years are major planning efforts—the Comprehensive Master Plan, the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, and the Greater Nyack Bike/Walk Masterplan. This kind of planning is productive because it lays the groundwork for community-wide actions that address climate change at many levels. The recommendations in these plans will be a great place to start when we set to work on tangible projects for adaptation and emission reductions.
Beyond developing the plan, concrete steps for 2019 on the municipal side will include replacing all of the streetlights with LED fixtures, instituting a measures to improve recycling and use of recyclables in municipal buildings, and developing a green power purchasing policy for municipal properties.
On the community side there is much to discuss and decide. The village’s Sustainability Committee, Nyack High School students, and the Nyack Farmers Market are now in the first stage of planning for a campaign to reduce and/or regulate the use of single-use plastic bags, with strong support from Mayor Don Hammond. Another kind of project—which many communities in Westchester have adopted–is Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to purchase green energy. CCA allows the local government to procure energy for its residents from alternative suppliers at lower cost.
There are many, many ways for community members to lend support, time, and expertise. We are looking for residents and business owners to help create the Climate Action Plan and to contribute to other efforts throughout the year.
Let the village hear from you. If you would like to find out how to get involved and bring your ideas and energy to the table, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marcy Denker has been the sustainability coordinator for the Village of Nyack since 2014 as a volunteer and part time consultant. She is responsible for incorporating sustainability into village operations and community life. The sustainability coordinator aims to keep the village focused on opportunities for improving environmental quality in Nyack and working toward to the goal of balancing equity, economy and environment in all decision-making.
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Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, Dying to Bloom, Strawtown Studio, and Blue Rock School.