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Earth Matters

Earth Matters: Climate Smart South Nyack

Earth Matters focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living. This weekly series is brought to you by Maria Luisa Boutique and Strawtown Studio and Summer Play Camp at Blue Rock School.
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Small but ready to be climate mighty, the Village of South Nyack has just signed on with the New York State Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program. Its sister community, the Village of Nyack, has been registered since 2013, and recently achieved CSC Bronze status, in recognition of green initiatives led by Sustainability Coordinator Marcy Denker.

According to South Nyack Trustee and scientist Andrew Goodwillie, his 0.6 square mile village is on a path to certification too, with a number of steps in the process already accomplished or planned. Earth Matters asked Goodwillie about the reasons behind this effort, the achievements already ticked off the list, and the road ahead.  — Eart Matters columnist, Susan Hellauer

by Andrew Goodwillie

The Village of South Nyack has recently registered with the New York State Climate Smart Community because it recognizes the importance of reducing its overall environmental impact.

The statewide Climate Smart Communities program is a far-reaching initiative that aims to help local governments and municipalities to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to put in place systems for adapting to a changing climate. The program outlines a set of overarching goals which dovetail with specific high-priority sustainability action items that are part of the complementary New York State Clean Energy Communities program. Certification is expected to follow registration and would make available specific grant funding opportunities and allow the village to score more highly on grant applications.

Why worry about GHGs? These gases–carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and other pollutants–come from the unrestrained human activity of burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) to generate electricity and to power our cars. Excessive GHGs warm the atmosphere and oceans, leading to long-term major impacts on climate, weather, the environment, and ecological systems. Shifting patterns of heavy rainfall are flooding inland cities; more intense hurricanes and rising sea-level are flooding coastal communities. Increasing temperatures move agricultural belts further north and change the growing seasons. Warming and acidifying oceans destabilize the delicate chemical balance of the marine ecosystem. The fine particulate matter and ozone-laced smog that accompany GHGs significantly affects human health.

LEGISLATIVE ALERT: Help us get the Climate and Community Protection Act passed and signed by Governor Cuomo before this year’s NY State Legislature’s session ends on June 19th. For more information, and how to make your voice heard now, see Rockland Sierra Club’s article in Earth Matters.

The Village of South Nyack already has in place or is undertaking various projects to reduce its environmental footprint, projects that align with the Climate Smart Communities and Clean Energy Communities programs.

community solar community choice aggregation

Community Choice Aggregation can specify clean energy sources for residents of an entire municipality who sign on. Here, an abandoned quarry becomes a community solar project for the towns of Sutton and Northbridge, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy Nexamp

Electricity Community Choice Aggregation (CCA): South Nyack is on the path to securing cheap, 100% renewable electricity for its residents. Through this Community Choice Aggregation program, the default fossil fuel-based O&R supply would be replaced by a cheaper, 100% renewable green option as the electricity supply in the village. The program is expected to be a joint effort with the neighboring villages of Nyack and Upper Nyack, and could be implemented towards the end of 2019. Switching most of the village households to a 100% renewable electricity option will avoid pumping tremendous quantities of GHGs into the atmosphere. Based upon other aggregation programs elsewhere in the state, residents should expect to see a cost savings on their monthly utility bill. There would be no fee for residents to be part of the cheaper, greener electric supply option.

outdoor LED lights dark sky

Dark sky-friendly outdoor LED lights save energy and money. And they are friendlier to wildlife, too. Photo courtesy

Street light purchase and LED conversion: Currently the village pays about $36,000 each year to rent 190 street lights from O&R, and about $4,000 a year for the fossil fuel-based electricity to power those lights. The village is in the process of buying the street lights to own them outright, saving about $25,000 per year. The lights will then all be converted from the existing very inefficient metal halide and high-pressure sodium fixtures to the highly-efficient, low-energy, downwards-pointing, dark sky-compliant, true color LED lights. That conversion is expected to avoid the consumption of about 122,000 kWh of electricity annually. In addition, the new LED fixture heads will include a smart controller device which, in the future, would allow the lights to be dimmed in the overnight hours, thus further reducing the energy consumption of the lights. The project is being done at neutral cost to the village; the annual savings pay for the project. Once paid off, the project will produce direct savings for the village.

Electronic Waste collections: Consumer electronics and appliances, such as computers, televisions, and phones, must be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste facility in Pomona. That’s a 22-mile round trip. To save all of those car trips, and to keep those items out of the landfill, the village provides a twice-a-year centralized eWaste collection at its DPW depot. One single trip to Pomona by the DPW truck avoids all of the GHG emissions from the many individual trips that residents no longer need to make. This program has been in place for five years.


Quite a haul for the Village of South Nyack’s first e-waste collection in 2014. Collecting e-waste at the source avoids numerous individual round traps to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Pomona. Photo: Andrew Goodwillie

Recycling frequency: In 2015, the village established a new weekly recycling collection—a doubling of the prior service—which has encouraged residents to recycle more. Recycling helps avoid the significant and often overlooked environmental impacts of making items from scratch.

Recycling joint service: The village is exploring a possible joint recycling service with the neighboring villages of Nyack, Grand View on Hudson, and Piermont, with the aim of gaining long-term, stable, reasonably-priced collections. The joint service could also provide efficiencies for the hauler, such as fewer trucks and fewer GHG-spewing trips to the recycling center.

Climate resilient comprehensive plan: The village is applying for grant money to employ a consultant to help update the long-term vision of the village, as captured in a comprehensive plan. Updates to the plan would incorporate ideas for coping with a changing climate and could include strategies for dealing with a range of goals, such as further reducing GHG emissions and adding resiliency-based methodologies to waterfront zoning codes.

Energy code training: More than half of the state’s entire annual energy consumption is used to cool, heat, and light buildings. Village staff shall soon be trained in best practices associated with the state’s new energy efficiency standards for new construction.

Summer shade: As Earth’s climate continues to break new high-temperature records year-after-year, the village plans to install a summertime shade structure over the children’s playground in Franklin Street Park.

Trees: Most of us are perfectly content reveling in the aesthetic beauty of majestic trees. We too easily forget the critical function of trees in our environment. Trees convert atmospheric carbon dioxide to life-giving oxygen. Indeed, trees produce about half of the entire oxygen that supports life on Earth. They also provide shade which makes us cooler, they help to bind soil which reduces ground erosion, and they act as sound absorbers. The village tree committee recently evaluated the status of trees on village property, including roadside trees, and found that much work is needed to restore the village to its former tree-lined glory. Funding mechanisms are being explored.

The Village Board members and I are very much aware of how important it is for our village to maintain effective climate friendly initiatives. It is not only the way to insure that our residents have a healthy quality of life, but also a way to sustain our village as a whole.

Back in 1955, when the Tappan Zee Bridge was built, we lost our commercial area. Today, we rely on our residential tax base to fund the services we provide to our community and the day to day operations of our village. The programs that we are putting in place were chosen to provide a positive impact on our environment, as well as reduce expenses for our residents. Both of these goals result in an improved quality of life for our community.             

                               — Village of South Nyack Mayor Bonnie Christian

andrew goodwillie

Andrew Goodwillie. Photo courtesy Andrew Goodwillie

South Nyack resident Andrew Goodwillie works in the marine geology-geophysics division at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He has served since 2014 as a Trustee on the South Nyack Village Board.

Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, Strawtown Studio, and Summer Play Camp at Blue Rock School. Read Earth Matters every Wednesday on Nyack News And Views, or sign up for the Earth Matters mailing list.


Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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