Birds, Bugs, and Bushes: the effects of climate change on local flora and fauna

Shifting and shrinking ranges of habitat caused by climate change will have serious implications throughout our natural world. 

In fact, Audubon’s findings classify nearly half of all North American birds as severely threatened by global warming. Sea level rise will put pressure on estuarine marshes and the birds and other wildlife they support. 

Plant community shifts within the forests in our region where trees with northern range distributions are becoming locally extinct and southern ranged trees are migrating in will have impacts of this on this region’s carbon storage capacity. 

Larger and more frequent insect outbreaks may occur, but in other cases recurring outbreaks may be disrupted or diminished. 

On March 2nd at the Chappaqua Library, we were joined by over 50 attendees to hear from three experts about the effects climate change is likely to have on local flora and fauna, along with some simple action steps we can all take to help mitigate these effects. 

birdsbugsbushesspeakers

 

Birds

Eric Lind, the Director of the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center, spoke about some of the impacts of climate change on birds.

Although climate change is often presented as something that will happen in the future, we can already see some of its impacts on our wildlife:

However, there are some instances where a small group of people have been able to help out wildlife, like the bald eagle. In addition, he encouraged us to focus not just on the impacts of climate change, but also to continue appreciating the beauty of the natural world around us. Enjoying nature through citizen science, birding, and more can be a social activity!

 

Bugs

Louis Sorkin, an entomologist from the American Museum of Natural History,  pointed out that some insects actually need cold weather in order for their life cycles to progress properly. Climate change can make insects appear earlier in the spring, and, according to research by Erik E Stange, cause fewer insects to die during the winter, allowing them to spread to higher latitudes.

In addition to the direct effects that changing temperatures will have on insects, climate change can disrupt the symbiotic relationships that bugs have with other species. Here’s how that might happen:

BugsClimate
Source: Stange et al. “Climate Change Impacts.”

The changing climate could impact the other species in an insect’s food chain, which in turn would impact the populations of insects. The impacts of climate change will vary depending on a number of different factors, but it’s expected that in our region, insects will “benefit most from climate change through more rapid development and increased survival.”

Source: Stange, Erik E, and Ayres, Matthew P (Nov 2010) Climate Change Impacts: Insects. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022555]

Bushes

Angelica Patterson, a plant ecophysiologist at Columbia University, showed us how forests can actually store a large amount of carbon dioxide, acting as carbon “sinks.” Over time, the amount of temperate forests has increased while the amount of tropical forests has decreased, affecting the amount of CO2 that can be stored by trees.

Because of the increase in temperate forests in our area, they’ve been acting as a carbon sink. However, their ability to store carbon may be impacted:

Unfortunately, plants only have three options when it comes to dealing with climate change:

 

Why should we care?

One of the questions that came up is why we should care about these changes:

 

What can we do?

The speakers pointed out how important the local plant community can be:

They encouraged removing invasives and planting native species, which Eric described as a “gratifying and easy” way to help.

They also encouraged having respectful discussions with others about the environmental issues that we care about and advocating for scientific facts.

Thanks to all the speakers and audience members who came out, as well as our cosponsors: the Chappaqua Library, Saw Mill River Audubon, and the New Castle Sustainability Advisory Board.

birdsbugsbushes

 

Resources

Follow us on Twitter to see our live-tweets at future events, read the rest of our tweets from “Birds, Bugs, and Bushes,” and stay up-to-date on environmental news.

Check out your local Audubon society for more on helping birds. Here are some of our member organizations in Westchester:

Bedford Audubon Society

Bronx River Sound Shore Audubon

Central Westchester Audubon Society

Hudson River Audubon Society

Saw Mill River Audubon

If you’d like to learn more about incorporating native plants into your landscape, check out the Native Plant Center.

Enjoy this blog post? Sign up here for our monthly E-News and action alerts!

Update: Watch the complete video of the event on the Chappaqua Library’s site.

Greening our Towns – Single-Use Bag Ordinance

Whether your town is working on passing a reusable bag initiative or already has one in place, many of the ideas discussed at our recent Greening Our Towns event could be helpful!

On Thursday, January 19, 2017, representatives from 10 municipalities that have not yet passed single-use bag legislation came together to hear from New Castle, Hastings, and the City of Rye to learn how they passed it in their towns.

Steve Wolk from New Castle’s Sustainability Advisory Board gave a presentation on how they accomplished their Reusable Bag Initiative. We then opened up the conversation to include Haven Colgate and Coco Zordan from Hastings, and Sara Goddard from the City of Rye to answer questions from the audience on more specific issues related to passing this type of legislation. 

reusable-bag-1

 

General tips for passing a new initiative in your town

There was a ton of great advice shared about working together with elected officials and the community that could be useful for any kind of initiative:

Speak with residents and get their support by going door-to-door or tabling at a public space, like a supermarket. If you’re collecting signatures, it’s helpful to have two different petitions: one for residents who are of voting age and one for students. Get residents’ emails and ask them to write to the town/village board so that the board can see how much support there is for the initiative.

Try to collect evidence of the problem, like the litter caused by plastic bags. For instance, Greenburgh Nature Center held an exhibition of photographs taken by students of all the plastic bags they encountered in two hours. Have a group of people take photos of plastic bags seen in the environment as they enjoy a walk around their community. These visuals have a big impact.

If there are any issues within the community with this initiative, identify where the skepticism is coming from and speak directly with those groups. Dig into the sources of information that they’re using and rely on reputable sources for your research.

Discuss the initiative with businesses so that they’re not blindsided. A reusable bag initiative can help businesses by reducing the number of bags they have to purchase; stores can also make money from selling reusable bags. If you have a petition available, show the stores that they have many customers who would be happy to have a reusable bag initiative. Also, help make it clear to shoppers that it’s really an initiative coming from the town, and that it’s not “the store’s fault.”

Then, “reduce perceived risk” and “make it easy” for the town to pass it. Show the signatures of all the voters who want the initiative to be passed and will be pleased with their elected officials. In addition, point out any current costs to taxpayers: for instance, it takes the Department of Public Works time to clean up plastic bags (especially picking them out of trees!). According to one estimate in Los Angeles, it cost their waste transfer stations $1,500 to $25,000 each month to pick up bags.

Meet with individual board members to answer any questions and follow up to check that you addressed their concerns. If possible, it’s always better to meet in person. There may be questions about legal issues: for example, Hastings was sued because their law was considered “arbitrary” since it only covered plastic bags. Including paper bags in the law as well could reduce this risk (more details here).

Do all the extra work that comes along with passing an ordinance—like providing sample text—and be available to notify the public, create posters, and answer questions. Check out local online forums and respond to any concerns that arise. Most of all, keep it fun! Involve the public local schools, and community groups.

plastic-bag-costume

What are some ways to work together as municipalities?

  • Get help from each other: Reach out to other municipalities who have done what you’re hoping to do and ask their advice. If you’re part of a community that has successfully passed an initiative that someone else would like to try, consider writing a letter to the editor about what happened in your town after you passed it.
  • Share resources or presentations (or even a plastic bag outfit!)
  • Show up for each other’s public meetings
  • Keep legislators updated on what’s happening at the municipal level

Specific information for reusable bag initiatives

Why eliminate paper bags and plastic bags?

The production and distribution of paper bags can lead to higher carbon emissions than plastic bags; according to “How Bad Are Bananas? The carbon footprint of everything” by Lancaster University Professor Mike Berners-Lee, the heavier weight of paper bags means that more carbon emissions are produced to manufacture them. Therefore, decreasing the use of all single-use bags is important.

Is it better to include styrofoam containers along with plastic and paper bags?

There are a few different perspectives on this. Hastings tackled litter all at once by ending the distribution of plastic bags and styrofoam containers, which were replaced by aluminum or paper. New Castle didn’t add another material to the mix and will focus on Styrofoam later. It really depends on the constituents of each town: if they seem receptive to the idea, it can be a good idea to include styrofoam.

How do I get and distribute reusable bags?

Local companies may be willing to sponsor reusable bags, and students can compete to design the artwork that will go on the bags. Reusable bags can be sent out with students or distributed at stores, community events, or farmers’ markets. In addition, reusable bags can be swapped within the community; for instance, there may be some households that have many extra bags and would be willing to donate them for a “Leave a bag, take a bag” table. Materials like old t-shirts can be upcycled into reusable bags (here’s an example of how to make a bag in ten minutes without sewing).

Dispelling common misconceptions:

Although there may be objections that come up to a reusable bag initiative, the good news is that they usually fall into a few categories:

Objection: “But we use our bags as trash liners or for picking up after dogs.”

Solution: Produce bags are still available in supermarkets, which can be used to pick up after dogs or as trash liners for small containers. In addition, there are still many things that come in plastic covers (newspapers, items delivered in the mail) that can be collected in a basket in the kitchen. Many people likely already have a stockpile of plastic bags in their homes that can last for quite a while.

If people are worried about having to pay for bags, bags that were once provided for free aren’t anymore. Even if people need to buy bags, they will be using less plastic overall, which has made a difference in countries like Rwanda that have banned plastic bags.

Finally, these bags are relatively new. According to “How the Plastic Bag Became so Popular” in The Atlantic, “Plastic grocery bags were introduced in America in 1979; Kroger and Safeway had picked them up in 1982. But relatively few stores were using them…By the end of 1985, 75 percent of supermarkets were offering plastic bags to their customers.” According to the New York Times, plastic bags “were first put at check-out stands in 1977.” Before these bags were distributed in stores, people were lining containers with paper or wiping wastebaskets clean.

Objection: “Can’t we recycle plastic bags?”

Response: Although large stores have recycling facilities for plastic bags, the process can be inefficient. For instance, many bags are transported long distances (Shoprite’s facility is in Elizabeth, New Jersey), emitting greenhouse gases. According to this interview with the manager of a recycling facility in Brooklyn, the profitability of recycling plastic bags depends on the price of oil, and “When the price of oil gets really low, using recycled plastic can actually be more expensive because it has to be sorted and cleaned…Outerbridge says he can find a buyer for his plastic bags about half the time. The other half of the time, the bags go to a landfill.”

Objection: “Aren’t reusable bags a public health hazard (ex: by spreading salmonella)?”

Solution: Food needs to be washed first no matter whether you use a plastic bag or a reusable one, especially after being placed in a shopping cart.

reusable-bag-initiative-1

What’s happening at the County and State level?

As of today, it does not seem as if the Westchester will go through with a county-wide initiative unless there’s a lot of pressure.

As for New York State, Senate Bill S362 was introduced that “Establishes a prohibition on the imposition of any tax, fee or local charge on carry out merchandise bags in cities having a population of one million or more.” (A “fee” is a charge that a store must keep and print on the receipt). It was passed in Assembly earlier this month, and unfortunately on February 14, one day before a law in New York City charging a 5-cent fee on plastic bags was set to go into effect, Governor Cuomo signed a bill,effectively killing the law.

Read the complete bill here.

While the law does not directly affect any Westchester County towns since it’s for municipalities with over 1 million in population, it certainly does impact what we are trying to achieve in encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags to stores and reducing our addiction to single-use bags.

We still encourage residents to call Governor Cuomo to express your displeasure to him over signing this bill at (518) 474-8390.

Resources

Plastic Bags and Our Environment: What You Can Do to Help – by FCWC: This handout covers some of facts about plastic bags and their impacts, and includes tips on what residents can do about them. Additional information is available on our “Reusable Bag Initiative” page.

FAQ’s on Retail Shopping Bag Ordinances – by Rye Sustainability Committee: This covers questions about the need for an ordinance, the impacts on stores and consumers, and more.

Plastic Bag Laws – by Jennie Romer: “In an effort to facilitate research for cities and states interested in adopting plastic bag laws, we have compiled the text of laws, related litigation, and relevant studies.” There’s also a series of short videos available about bag ordinances.

Update: Read our report of the event here. Includes links to posters, petitions, talking points, and other resources for passing your own initiative, as well as contact information for leaders in local communities who have successfully passed reusable bag initiatives.

Westchester Joins March For a Clean Energy Revolution

By guest writer: Ellen Weininger -Director, Educational Outreach, Grassroots Environmental Education   www.grassrootsinfo.org

On a blistering hot day at the end of July, scores of diverse Westchester residents swelled the ranks of more than 10,000 people headed to Philadelphia to march for a Clean Energy Revolution, flooding the streets of Philadelphia on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. More than 900 endorsing organizations representing health, environmental, student, faith, labor, indigenous, justice and other groups nationwide sponsored the event, sending the urgent message that we must keep fossil fuels in the ground and make a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy if we are to avert further exacerbation of our climate crisis. Displaying colorful and creative props and banners bearing bold messages, marchers conveyed the imperative of aggressive climate action.

Powerful speakers called for consistent policies and leadership as they marched to Independence Hall Park and declared independence from fossil fuels. Messages highlighted that more fracking, mining and other fossil fuel extraction, along with increasing buildout of infrastructure to transport more and more fossil fuels further accelerates climate change and undermines climate action goals. Others implored decision makers to aggressively commit to achieving 100% renewable energy within the next twenty to thirty years.

One of the most inspiring speakers was the daughter of slain environmental leader, Berta Caceres. Berta was killed for defending the rivers that supported the life of the Lenca Indigenous People of Honduras. Marchers were reminded of her profound exhortations which continued to reverberate throughout the day in Philadelphia in the Earth’s hottest month on record, “ Wake up humanity, time is running out!” Indeed, time is running out. Last year, world leaders at COP21 recognized the imperative of limiting global warming to a 1.5 degrees Celsius cap instead of the 2 degree goal if we are to avert further catastrophic acceleration of climate change. The best science tells us we have the next 10 years to fully implement meaningful climate action and that we cannot continue to promote and perpetuate the burning of fossil fuels which fill the atmosphere with heat trapping gases that are destabilizing the climate, acidifying the oceans and significantly escalating air pollution and growing rates of chronic disease.

The proposed Clean Power Plan is a case in point of the shortcomings of federal initiatives to address the climate crisis. The Plan includes a buildout of over 300 natural gas power plants, a direct contradiction of its stated intent to create clean energy. Natural gas is methane, which is 86X more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Research by Dr. Robert Howarth at Cornell University and other leading scientists reveals significant methane leakage at every point in the supply chain from natural gas extraction and production sites, in transport along pipelines, at compressor stations and along distribution lines that deliver to our homes, schools, and businesses. Those studies have measured methane leak rates as much as 7.9%. Their findings demonstrate that the greenhouse gas footprint across the full life cycle of natural gas is about the same as or even worse than coal. Dr. Howarth warns that total greenhouse gas emissions, after dipping slightly in 2007, have been rising since at their most rapid rate ever, due to shale gas development and large methane emissions. Although carbon dioxide emissions must be significantly cut, reducing carbon dioxide alone will not slow global warming in the next few critical decades. The climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane emissions.

The oil and gas industry is the single largest source of methane pollution in the U.S. and a recent EPA report indicates that methane pollution is 34% higher than previously reported.

Furthermore, the Public Service Commission’s recent approval of New York State’s Clean Energy Standard fails to address our climate crisis because of its continued support for and reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power. Steep nuclear power subsidies will draw precious resources away from critical funding for expeditious deployment of renewable energy.

On the home front, climate change and pollution issues are right at our own doorstep in Westchester. Time is running out as completion and operation of the massive Spectra Algonquin (AIM) pipeline expansion approaches in just over 2 months, on November 1st. The AIM project includes the construction of a new 42” wide, high-pressure gas pipeline 105 feet from critical safety structures at the Indian Point nuclear power plant located in a major seismic zone. The siting of the AIM pipeline at this location further endangers Indian Point and more than 20 million people who live and work within the 50 mile radius. According to safety experts, a pipeline rupture at that location could result in a nuclear catastrophe worse than the Fukushima nuclear disaster. A pipeline rupture would significantly impact millions of people even if Indian Point is permanently shut down with 40 years of highly radioactive spent fuel stored on site.

The AIM pipeline and its compressor stations and other components, many of which are in this immediate area, push the gas through and spew millions of tons of greenhouse gases and hazardous air pollutants each year accelerating climate change, polluting our air, water and soil and negatively impacting our health. Westchester is already classified as a non-attainment zone for air quality standards with excessive levels of particulate matter and ozone pollution that are linked to adverse health effects. In just the last few months alone, Westchester residents have been subjected to an unprecedented number of days with air quality health advisories for alarmingly high levels of ozone pollution. For more information about the Algonquin pipeline expansion, please visit www.sape2016.org

Locally, Westchester groups have been actively mobilizing deployment of solar installations and energy efficiency improvements. Much more still needs to be done to conserve energy altogether. Thankfully, advances in renewable energy technology are broadening and accelerating the scope of possibilities for our fossil fuel free energy future. To learn more about these timely solution tools, Grassroots Environmental Education is presenting the Sustainability and Renewable Energy Conference on Tuesday, September 27, 8:30 am – 12 noon at the Jacob Burns Film Center, which is co-sponsored by Federated Conservationists of Westchester County and New Yorkers for Clean Power. Save the date and stay tuned for more details. www.grassrootsinfo.org

 

 

Solarize Westchester Outshines Expectations

By Nikki Coddington, Abundant Efficiency

Over 400 homeowners and commercial property owners in Westchester County are going solar, thanks to Solarize Westchester, a community program created to encourage the growth of solar power by lowering the cost and simplifying the process.

These solar contracts represent over 3.7 megawatts of solar power capacity and will produce clean, renewable energy, significantly reducing electric bills and demand from the electric grid.

Solarize Westchester ran a total of eight campaigns in partnership with sixteen municipalities. The residential portion of campaigns in Hastings-Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Somers-New Castle, and Rye Brook ended in March, and the commercial portion of those campaigns concluded at the end of April. Campaigns in Bedford-Mt Kisco, Cortlandt-Croton, Larchmont-Mamaroneck, and Ossining-Briarcliff concluded in June of last year.

Solarize is designed to dramatically accelerate the adoption of solar technology in participating communities. Contracts signed through the most recent 20-week residential campaigns represent an average 190% increase compared to solar energy systems installed during the prior 12 years in those communities.

And the value of a Solarize campaign lies not only in the contracts signed, but also in the broader impact of community education and awareness about solar. The Solarize campaigns received an enthusiastic response, generating more than 2,700 requests for solar evaluations during the eight campaigns.

Research shows that after a Solarize campaign ends, homeowners continue to install solar at higher rates than prior to a campaign. The more that homeowners see solar on neighborhood roofs and talk to the solar homeowners, the more likely others are to think about getting solar themselves, so continued growth in solar adoption in Solarize communities is expected.

Nina Orville, Program Manager of Solarize Westchester, said, “The results of Solarize Westchester have surpassed our expectations. We are thrilled with the number of installations as well as the deep community engagement that has made these campaigns such a success. Elected officials, community volunteers and municipal staff partnered with the selected installers and the Solarize Westchester team to provide their communities the opportunity to to install high-quality solar from vetted installers at a lower cost. There is clearly strong demand in Westchester County for the low cost clean energy that solar installations provide.”

One element key to the success of the campaigns was the support of the chief elected officials. Rob Greenstein, Supervisor of the Town of New Castle, said, “Our incredibly successful Solarize Somers-New Castle campaign has come to an end.  88 homes signed up!   This is another example of both communities taking positive steps to reduce long-term energy costs and preserve the environment.  Residents realize that when something is good for the environment, it’s good for them. That’s exactly why I enrolled!”

In addition to the Solarize campaigns, the Solarize Westchester program included outreach to all municipalities in Westchester to encourage adoption of solar-friendly permitting and zoning practices to reduce barriers to solar installation. Seventeen municipalities have made improvements and many others are considering them.

Solarize Westchester (www.SolarizeWestchester.com) is one of several clean energy initiatives of Energize NY and is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) under NY-Sun, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s $1 billion initiative to advance the scale-up of solar energy and move the state closer to having a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry. In his 2016 State of the State address, the Governor called for additional solar projects to be installed at 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020.

John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), said, “The Solarize Westchester campaign is a great example of how communities are working to make solar energy affordable for residents and businesses, while advancing New York’s clean energy goals. The success of this program builds on the significant growth of solar under Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative and will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and better protect our environment.”

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About Solarize Westchester: Solarize Westchester is one of several clean energy programs offered by Energize NY. The program includes two rounds of Solarize campaigns, each with four pre-selected communities (or coalitions of communities). In addition, Solarize Westchester includes a Solar-friendly Permitting and Zoning

Long Island Sound Study Updates

By Tony Sorrell, FCWC Board Member
The Long Island Sound Study-Citizen’s Advisory Committee (LISS-CAC) Quarterly Meeting was held on March 10, 2016 in New York City. Seventeen representatives from member organizations in Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut attended as well as representatives from the EPA and the NY DEC. The conversation at this meeting focused on nitrogen in Long Island Sound. Generally, nitrogen levels in the Sound are on a downward trend, which is the good news.
Mark Tedesco of the EPA LISS office  presented on a Nitrogen Reduction Strategy overview and then James Tierney of the NY DEC  presented the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.  Participants were informed about nitrogen reduction outreach programs that took place  in Galveston Bay, Tampa Bay and Puget Sound. It is suggested that best practices used in these areas could be implemented for an outreach and marketing program in the LIS region.

Hypoxia 20 year average

Hypoxia over past 20 years
In Westchester, our sewage treatment plant upgrades are helping to reduce nitrogen levels, however more work needs to be done to address non-point sources of pollution such as storm water, septics, and turf fertilizer.  Remediation alternatives like aeration and bio extraction still need to be explored to understand how they can help improve water quality in LIS.
Upcoming meetings and events
  • 2016 Long Island Sound Research Conference on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • 25th Annual Long Island Sound Citizens Summit on Friday, June 3rd at Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center
  • LISS-CAC Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) in NY, June 17, at Stony Brook.
  • LISS-CAC quarterly meeting June 23 with be held in CT

Westchester Power Program launches first-in-state energy aggregation

Something remarkable happened when the Sustainable Westchester team working on the community choice energy aggregation program opened the energy supply bids from leading energy service companies last month.

Clean energy won BIG!

In February 2015, the New York State Public Service Commission approvwestchester-map4ed Sustainable Westchester’s petition to pilot a municipal energy aggregation program in Westchester County with an order that enabled this first-in-New-York effort.

What is a community choice or municipal energy aggregation program?

In states with deregulated energy supply markets, energy service companies m
ay sell electric or gas supply to consumers. New York deregulated about twenty years ago. About seventy energy service companies are authorized to sell supply as a commodity to New York customers. Some are more scrupulous than others. Acquiring retail supply customers one at a time is expensive for the supply companies. As individuals, customers have no bargaining power with the suppliers.

When all the homes and small businesses in a city bid out their combined electric supply together, suddenly, economies of scale help both the customer and supplier reduce costs and increase rate choices. Community choice programs have been commonplace and successful in six other states, but now for the first time, in New York State as well.

Ever since the February order, the Sustainable Westchester’s team hit the road to visit with dozens of city, town and villages all across the County. Municipalities that were interested in joining the aggregation program needed to adopt local legislation enabling them to proceed. Benefitting from great pro-bono advisers, the team prepared draft legislation and resolutions to assist the municipalities.

Next, the team pre-screened energy service companies to identify those that best fit our criteria, such as transparent business practices, good customer service, creditworthiness and ample experience supplying community choice aggregation programs in other states. In addition, the team developed a comprehensive Electric Service Agreement with ample protections for the municipalities and consumers and worked with attorneys from twenty municipalities to finalize all the language.

The Westchester Power Program introduced a few conditions that went well beyond the February Order to benefit the consumers. First, the energy bid required that bidders accept the Electric Service Agreement terms and conditions verbatim. Second, bidders needed to provide a basic supply rate for a fixed period of no less than 24 months that would be lower than the benchmark of the average 2015 basic supply rate from the default local distribution utility (ConEdison or NYSEG). Third, bidders needed to provide a 100% renewable energy supply rate as well for that same period. Fourth, bidders had to allow individual customers in a participating municipality to leave or enter the program or switch between the two rates with no added fees or penalties.

By the time, the team sent out the Request for Proposals to the pre-screened supply firm, over 110,000 homes and businesses in twenty cities, towns and villages were included as potential customers. This buyers group represents four out of ten county residents, a remarkable feat of collective action all by itself.

The day the bids were opened led to a startling realization that both the basic supply rate and the 100% renewable supply rates were below the 2015 benchmarks from ConEdison and NYSEG.

“Suppliers who really wanted to enter the New York aggregation market stepped up,” notes Glenn Weinberg, the lead consultant. “In the end, buying 100% renewable energy green supply for the next two or three years will cost less than buying the basic, brown supply last year.”

By the time the program goes live in May, over 70,000 homes and small businesses will be buying 100% renewable energy supply in the fourteen cities, towns, and villages that chose to make that option the default for their jurisdiction. These customers “going 100% green” represent three out of ten county residents and, astoundingly, two-thirds of the entire 110,000 consumers in the program.

“Collectively, our consumers choosing the green option will buy 650,000 megawatt-hours per year of certified renewable energy credits,” states Leo Wiegman, Sustainable Westchester’s Executive Director, “That amount is the energy output equivalent to adding 84,000 residential solar systems in the county overnight.”

“Our instant market for clean, non-fossil, non-nuclear energy supply is the largest collective action in New York to date to address climate change and create real market demand for clean energy.” concludes Weinberg.

For more information, visit www.westchesterpower.org.

 

Happy Healthy Lawns

By: Larry O’Connell FCWC Board Member
It is spring and in a few weeks summer will be here, and we celebrate these seasons by inviting friends and family to outdoor barbecues and festivities.  We serve them delicious food and drink.
Other guests have already arrived at our banquet doorstep: crocuses, daffodils 8010448820_6644af638e_mand tulips as well as squirrels, songbirds, robins, blue jays and  butterflies and bees.  “How are do we provide their meal?”  Often with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other toxic materials via fertilizing lawns and gardens with commercial products.
As many of us realize, the chemicals in formulated, commercial fertilizers and pesticides are unhealthy, to  us, our pets and the wildlife that depend on our responsibility to be stewards to our environment.
So, this spring and summer, let’s go natural – let the dandelions flower – if ever drive along an upstate parkway and see the bright yellow dandelions contrast against the green grass – it is a wonderful and breathtaking sight.  OK – if do not like dandelions, then bend down and trowel them out – good exercise!
At FCWC, along with universities and conservation centers, we suggest the best natural fertilizer is from mulch taken from past years’ leaves, vegetable peelings, coffee grinds, etc. (no meat or egg products).  You can ensure this fertilizer is healthy – “You served it to your children!”
The science on the toxicity of these chemicals is well known, but often hidden from us, the public by the manufacturers and marketers.  As just one example, Professor Tyrone Hayes, of The University of California – Berkeley, studied the relationship of the herbicide atrazine on frogs.  He found the chemical altered the endocrine system of male frogs that feminizes the male frogs, while the company that manufactured the herbicide claimed no ill effects – for frogs or people.
Other studies demonstrate that grass or lawns develop an addiction to fertilizers, requiring more and more each year, much like a heroin addict, to maintain their greenery, but are less hardy and sustainable.  Other research show that sandy soil may require fertilizer; but the majority of Westchester County is not composed of sandy soil – so, wasting your money and time.
Let us become stewards of our natural environment where the flowers, birds and bees want to come to our banquet without the worry of being sickened – just like our human friends and family.  Let’s not purchase commercial products – the wondrous land has been long before us without our assistance.
In closing, let us welcome our friends and neighbors to a healthy and bountiful banquet, just as we do for ourselves – by avoiding commercial chemical treatments to our soil and lawns.