New Paltz is attempting to heighten their environmental consciousness by achieving silver certification as a Climate Smart Community (CSC), which would lead to an eligibility for larger grants from New York State.
Both the Town and Village need 300 points to achieve silver certification, which they are both more than halfway to. The two municipalities qualify separately for certification.
Points are awarded when the community promotes green energy or eco-friendly programs in the community. This process began in 2010 when both municipalities signed the Climate Smart Communities Pledge.
Past projects included hosting a climate change vulnerability workshop on Dec. 4, and completing a community greenhouse gas emissions inventory and a climate change vulnerability assessment.
New Paltz does not officially have the status of a bronze certification as a CSC, but they applied for certification on Jan. 10 with more than the required 120 points. Since the Town has 184 points and the Village has 156 points, Coordinator for New Paltz Climate Smart, Janelle Peotter, has suggested they both strive to achieve silver certification.
According to the New York State CSC, there are only two communities in New York that have achieved silver certification: Tompkins County and Ulster County. There are 32 bronze certified communities.
“This will not be an easy feat,” Peotter said. “But I believe it is necessary that all of us on this planet do everything we can to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is imperative because we are now in a climate crisis and the sixth extinction. Municipalities such as ours should be a model for what can be done at the community level.”
In order to achieve silver certification, the Town and the Village must continue to promote and implement environmentally conscious programs in order to gain points from CSC.
In New Paltz, transportation is one of the largest factors impacting the community’s carbon output. According to Peotter, Climate Smart is working on a “Complete Streets Policy” to promote pedestrians and the use of bicycles, while discouraging the use of cars in New Paltz.
The community is also considering putting solar panels on a current landfill to promote more green energy use.
Alexandria Wojcik, the Village board liaison for the Environmental Board, says the Village is working to “create more at-home Electric Vehicle charging opportunities for renters,” and will be taking part in the Community Choice Aggregation program, which “allows all residents and businesses to receive 100% renewably-generated New York state electricity supply.”
If the Town or Village were able to qualify for silver certification, they would be more eligible to receive grants from the CSC.
These grants, often with specific instructions on how they must be used, would go towards increasing the amount of green energy and environmentally conscious projects in the community.
“Grants may help pay for more electric charging stations,” Peotter said. “Green infrastructure projects are very expensive but necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
Peotter said the current town hall is “extremely energy inefficient” and hopes that grants may be used to combine the town hall and village hall into one building that is more energy efficient.
While these projects could greatly help New Paltz reduce its carbon footprint, Peotter suggests helping in any way you can by moving to a plant-based diet, buying appliances with a low Global Warming Potential, and supporting organizations like New Paltz Climate Smart to pressure policy makers into being more environmentally conscious.