For the next article in our ‘Westchester Going Green’ series we examine the energy preservation and sustainability efforts of the town of Bedford. The Town of Bedford has undertaken a unique initiative entitled “Bedford twenty by 2020”, the goal of which is to reduce the town’s carbon emissions and energy consumption by 20% by the year 2020. While this may seem like a huge goal, Bedford town Supervisor Lee Roberts, thinks that by collectively focusing on a few small things, the town can make big strides toward its goal. The town established an advisory panel to help spearhead the effort to reach these goals entitled the Bedford Energy Advisory Panel (BEAP). The BEAP led and completed a town wide Green House Gas inventory and developed a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to serve as a roadmap to meeting the town’s 20% Green House Gas reduction goals. Supervisor Roberts strongly supports the comprehensive plan stating; “This effort affects everything that we do from the food we eat, to the cars we drive, to the houses we build. It is about changing behavior, conserving energy and saving money and it is about making Bedford and Westchester a better place in which to live.” The CAP was created following three years of community engagement and research into best practices for green house gas reduction. In February of 2010, the town board voted unanimously to adopt the CAP and add it to the Bedford twenty by 2020 plan. This made Bedford the first town in New York to link its Climate Action Plan to its comprehensive plan.
The Bedford twenty by 2020 initiative is currently being implemented by the Bedford local government and the BEAP with partnership with the Bedford 2020 (B 2020) coalition, a 501c3 nonprofit organization of Bedford citizens whose mission is to organize, facilitate and assist Bedford residents in carrying out the towns goals set forth in the climate action plan. Bedford 2020’s fourteen member board is comprised of BEAP members, town officials, and Bedford residents. The coalition established nine committee task forces; including five that are in line with the goals of the Bedford CAP to focus on important issues such as energy, waste and recycling, transportation, food and agriculture and land and water management. The other four task forces focus on engaging different community groups such including businesses, religious organizations, schools and civic organizations. All nine committees are actively working on various goals established in the town’s CAP.
To reach the 20% reduction of Green House Gases, the BEAP along with B 2020 provide recommendations and information to town leaders and citizens on how to reduce carbon emissions. Community members are encouraged to use these resources to educate themselves on how they can reduce their own energy use and help the town achieve its goal. The program works to educate residents on the benefits of reduced carbon emissions by helping them understand how these simple changes can save them money, conserve energy and provide cleaner and safer air to breathe in their community.
The “tips” page on the Town of Bedford’s website (http://www.bedfordny.info/html/green_tips.htm) provides Bedford residents with valuable resources and information on how to reduce their own household’s carbon emissions. The tips include; changing your light bulbs to energy efficient CFL “energy star” brands, purchasing energy star rated appliances when replacing old ones, purchasing locally produced food which is not shipped to the area for consumption, reducing thermostat temperatures by two degrees in the winter and raising them by two in the summer, turning off appliances, chargers, and computers immediately after use, and driving one’s car in a efficient manner by reducing speeding and quick acceleration which produces additional carbon emissions and reduces energy efficiency. Information is also provided on “green” building and energy technologies so that residents will perhaps consider in investing in these when building or renovating their homes. Residents are encouraged to obtain an “energy audit” of their home to identify areas of improvement. The Town of Bedford has delivered these tips to their residents in a variety of creative ways including WebPages, YouTube videos, and links to other sites such as Energy Star and NYSERDA’s green building page as well as other helpful resources. By providing these sources the town hopes to empower residents to make simple changes to reduce their own carbon emissions.
The “tips” page also encourages residents to reduce consumption of various products which are harmful to the environment and which raise carbon footprints. These tips include reducing or not ordering print catalogs, using tap water or filtered tap water instead of bottled water, carrying school and work lunch’s in reusable containers and reducing junk mail by signing up for services which help stop its delivery to your home. A link is also provided to a website where residents can analyze their own “carbon footprint” and thus assess their own ways to reduce it. Bedford residents are also encouraged to walk or ride bicycles to reduce emissions by leaving their cars at home.
Residents of Bedford are encouraged to join the twenty for 2020 campaign by signing a pledge on the “Green Page” of the Bedford website (http://www.bedfordny.info/html/green_pledge.htm). Residents who sign on to take the pledge receive a Bedford twenty for 2020 decal and additional resources on how to begin to reduce their household carbon emissions. Residents who take the pledge will also receive email updates on the town’s activities.
B 2020 Task Forces
The energy task force is exploring the viability of smart grid and metering technologies to reduce community energy usage. The town is also working to reduce green house gas emissions from municipal buildings, which currently account for approximately 74% of the town’s emissions. Municipal vehicles account for 20% of these emissions. The B 2020 transportation task force is working to promote a local shift to electric and fuel efficient vehicles and vehicles that emit fewer pollutants. They hope to accomplish this goal by working with local government and police to enforce anti-idling laws, and by promoting carpooling and encouraging residents to use public transportation. The land and water preservation task force of B 2020 is another large piece of the town’s efforts to achieve their CAP goals. The task force works to preserve the water quality and supply for the town, monitor land use and conservation, and plant and protect local trees. This task force routinely holds public meetings to address water quality issues particularly focusing on the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, which could contaminate water supplies. The task force has partnered with the Bedford Garden Club’s BRANCH OUT program to preserve and plant trees on city streets and municipal areas. They have also created a partnership with the New York State Watershed Agricultural Council to plant and preserve trees in watershed areas.
The Town of Bedford has had multiple recent successes in developing this Climate Action Plan. Recently, Bedford was awarded two separate grants to fund further development and programs for the plan. The first grant was awarded in April 2012 by the U.S. Department of Energy to Bedford and its partners NWEAC and NYSERDA. This grant will help to develop best practices for increasing Home Performance with Energy Star upgrades in Bedford and NWEAC communities, which will hopefully become a model for other small or medium sized municipalities. In June, Bedford and NWEAC were awarded an additional $1.26 million dollars to specifically fund the town’s Energize program and create specific finance and marketing tools to promote residential energy efficiency; building upgrades and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) benefit funding options. Honorable Lee Roberts believes that community energy use could be reduced by 15% if every homeowner signed up for the Energize Bedford upgrade program. The Energize program has used grant funds to engage marketing experts and spread the initiative to additional residents and NWEAC communities, as well as to develop a comprehensive web-based tool for estimating scaling demand for Home Performance upgrades of existing buildings. Bedford hopes that a successful reduction of energy usage and carbon emissions will help the town and region serve as a model for similar programs throughout the nation.
Bedford has furthered their efforts by joining multiple collaborations to share ideas and work with other organizations on sustainability and climate change. These include ICLEI, a membership organization of local governments and national organizations that are committed to sustainable development as well as “Cities for Climate Protection” (CCP) a flagship campaign, designed to empower local governments to take action on climate change issues. The CCP program is a performance-oriented campaign that helps local governments establish frameworks for addressing climate change issues.